Volunteer! O Volunteer!: A Salute to the Smithsonian's Unpaid Legions

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Brief, popular introduction to the role of volunteers at the Smithsonian. Opens with a discussion of James Smithson and his bequest. Traces the early history of volunteerism at the Smithsonian, from Spencer Fullerton Baird's donation of his natural history collections to the meteorological observers of the 1850s. Details the many years of unpaid service by retired staff and honorary curators. Discusses the Moonwatch Program of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, docents, Behind-the-Scenes Volunteers, and the Visitor Information and Reception Center. Emphasizes the important role volunteers have played in the history of the Institution since its founding.


  • Baird, Spencer Fullerton 1823-1887
  • Smithson, James 1765-1829
  • Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
  • Visitor Information and Associates' Reception Center
  • Meteorological Project


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography

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Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520, SIHistory@si.edu




  • Moonwatch Program
  • Benefactors
  • Behind-the-Scenes Volunteers
  • Museum docents
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • Gifts
  • Museums
  • National Collections
  • Astronomy
  • Volunteers

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