Smithsonian Institution Archives

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Smithsonian Secretaries Information

Close Browse records and papers of the Smithsonian Secretaries, from 1846 until today. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by individuals who have held that office.

Expeditions Information

Close Browse records and papers documenting scientific and collecting expeditions either affiliated with the Smithsonian, or with which Smithsonian researchers participated. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by geographic regions predominantly represented in expedition records.

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Close Browse records of professional societies closely associated with the Smithsonian, that focus on areas of scientific research and museum studies. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by major topics and disciplines.

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Smithsonian Institution


Although the first Smithsonian Secretary, Joseph Henry, had seen the need for an archives to preserve the records of the Institution, the Smithsonian Institution Archives had its real origins in 1891, when William Jones Rhees, who had been Chief Clerk since 1852, was given the title Keeper of the Archives. Rhees served in the post until his death in 1907. For the first half of the twentieth century, the administrative staff of the Office of the Secretary cared for the historical records while maintaining the current files. In 1958 John F. Jameson III was hired by the Secretary's Office to maintain the archives while also working with the current files. In 1960 Jameson was succeeded as Archivist by John DeGurse, Jr., who remained in the position until 1964. The mission of the Archives became more research-oriented in 1965, when Samuel T. Suratt was appointed Smithsonian Archivist. His hiring was accompanied by the charge to engage in the "development of the Archives as a facility for historical research in American Science" by making the Archives' resources more readily accessible to historians through better identification, preservation, and cataloging of Smithsonian documents. Within two years the Smithsonian Institution Archives was no longer funded by the Office of the Secretary and became a separate line item in the Institution's budget. The Archives moved into new quarters within the Smithsonian Castle during Suratt's tenure. The Archives Division was comprised of three teams until FY 2007. The Records Management (RM) Team is responsible for the appraisal and acquisition of all permanent and temporary records into the Archives and its Records Center. The Team also provides records management guidance and advice to offices, and creates records disposition schedules for institutional records. The Arrangement and Description Team created descriptive tools for SIA collections, including finding aids, bibliographic records, and agency histories. The Reference Team receives visiting researchers into the Archives and answers other inquiries from remote researchers. In 2007 the Arrangement and Description Team was disbanded, and the RM Team has assumed those responsibilities.


  • Smithsonian Institution Archives. (February 8, 2011). "Contact Us". Retrieved from
  • Smithsonian Institution Archives. (January 11, 2008). " About SI Archives." Retrieved from





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