Smithsonian Libraries and Archives (SLA)

Research Center Website

Tamar Evangelestia-Dougherty, Director


The Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA) is the institutional memory of a unique American cultural resource and a steward of the national collections. In order to ensure institutional accountability and enhance public appreciation of a great national treasure, we are committed to serving the Smithsonian community, scholars, and the general public by: appraising, acquiring, and preserving the records of the Institution and related documentary materials; offering a range of reference, research, and records services; and creating products and services which promote understanding of the Smithsonian and its history. For information on SIA visit

Institutional History

The Institutional History staff is dedicated to advancing knowledge and understanding of the history of the Smithsonian Institution. Historians conduct research, prepare reports, scholarly and popular publications, website resources, educational and public programs, and exhibits, and respond to public and scholarly inquires on the history of the Institution. The Oral History Program supplements existing documentation in the Archives through audio and videotaped interviews with administrative and scholarly staff. The Smithsonian Video History Collection documents the history of American science and technology.

Historians serve as advisors to scholars interested in the history of the Smithsonian, legal history of the Smithsonian, American social and cultural history, history of science, history of women in science, history of museums and oral history, and to interns interested in public history and oral history. For information on Institutional History programs and the history of the Smithsonian, go to For detailed information on Smithsonian events, images, legal documents, bibliography and Board of Regents, visit the History of the Smithsonian catalog at

Archives and Information Management

As the Smithsonian Institution Archives proper, the Archives section serves several major functions. It is a repository for records and papers of historic value about the Smithsonian and the fields of science, art, history, and the humanities, serving as the official memory of the Smithsonian and as a resource for scholars. The Archives team also engages in research and training in the administration of archives and manuscript collections.

The Smithsonian Archives was organized in 1967 to collect, preserve, and make accessible the official records of the Smithsonian. The archival collections document the full range of Smithsonian activities, including American history, art history, science and art related exhibitions, astrophysics, botany, ecology, tropical biology and zoology, and though particularly strong in nineteenth-century American science the team also documents the role the Institution played in twentieth-century astrophysics, biology, museum administration, research, and exhibitions.

The Archives contains a diverse collection of papers, which include Robert Goddard’s early work in rocketry and the papers of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, founder of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, as well as all Smithsonian secretaries. Secretarial records and papers include significant collections for Joseph Henry, Spencer F. Baird, Charles D. Walcott, and Alexander Wetmore, representing such scientific fields as physics, meteorology, ornithology, and paleontology.

The Archives has a number of collections that complement the official records of the Smithsonian concerning expeditions, international expositions, scientists, collectors, professional societies, projects and institutions. It also contains a substantial collection of photographs and small collections of architectural drawings, scientific illustrations, moving images, and sound recordings. It manages the historic photograph negative archives of the Institution, including arranging, describing, making accessible, and preserving the collection.

The Archives sponsors students interested in gaining experience in archival administration. Staff provides guidance and supervision in the full range of archival practices, including accessioning and appraisal, arrangement and description, preservation, and reference services. The Archives also supports research associates, fellows, and interns interested in scholarly research in its holdings in such areas as the history of science, cultural history, the history of art, and museology.

The Smithsonian Archives is open to all researchers. Descriptions of the Archives holdings are available electronically in SIRIS (Smithsonian Institution Research Information System), which is accessible at Detailed finding aids to collections can be searched on the Archives’ web site at The staff offers research assistance and refers scholars to relevant sources of information elsewhere in the Smithsonian and Washington, D.C.

Collections Care 

The Collections Care team provides support within the SIA and to research centers, museums, education and outreach programs, and administrative staff of the Smithsonian Institution in the preservation of analog records in all formats. Its purview includes concerns for the environment and security of archival collections, proper housing and shelving of records, reformatting of selected materials, and training.

Collections Care staff act as liaison to facilities maintenance at the various SIA locations, especially regarding collections areas. It also provides the liaison support for the Smithsonian’s nitrate roll and sheet film collections housed by the Library of Congress.

Collections Care staff expertise is available to any Smithsonian archival unit in need of conservation advice or treatment, offering a full range of preservation services to the Smithsonian archival community. This includes consultation and training and conducting condition survey assessments. The conservators on this team take in archival objects for conservation treatment, which includes examination and documentation, exhibit preparation, cleaning, deacidification, mending, and other stabilization efforts.

The Collections Care team hosts interns and fellows, works with national and international organizations to advance research in the proper preservation of records in all formats, and conducts workshops and other training opportunities.

Digital Services 

The Digital Services team addresses the Smithsonian Institution Archives’ digital preservation, digital curation, online collection accessibility and crowdsourcing for cultural heritage. Staff are concentrated into three areas: Electronic Records Program; Web, New Media and Outreach; and Digitization Services.

Through the Electronic Records Program, the staff curates born digital records and preserves objects from a wide variety of formats for permanent retention and enduring access. It assists in the development of records disposition schedules and records appraisals. It contributes to the advancement of digital preservation best practices and technology through a variety of collaborative research projects.

The work of the Web, New Media and Outreach group promotes and enhances the Internet-based accessibility of our collections through websites, blogs, social media and mobile applications. This group works to facilitate both wider and deeper use of our collections by researchers and scholars, as well as inspiring new audiences to learn. Staff also provide leadership to pan-Institutional projects seeking to make the treasures of the Institution available to people all over the world.

The Digitization staff specializes in the digital preservation of textual, still image and video primary source materials. The team hosts interns and works with national and international organizations to advance research and standardization in the proper preservation and retention of digital records. It works with other units to develop strategies, standards and policies for Smithsonian-wide digitization and digital curation, a necessity for the successful retention of our digital cultural heritage.

Research Staff

Henson, Pamela M., Historian. B.A. (1971); M.A. (1975) George Washington University; Ph.D. (1990) University of Maryland. Research specialties: History of the Smithsonian; history of science; history of museums; American Studies; oral history. Contact:

Conservation Staff

Lockshin, Nora, Senior Conservator. B.F.A. (1992) Rhode Island School of Design; M.L.I.S., with Advanced Certificate in Conservation Studies (2002) University of Texas, Austin. Research specialties: Archive and library preservation and conservation, including: books, paper, photographic and recording media. Contact:

Affiliated Research Staff

Christen, Catherine A., Research Associate. A.B. (1983) Harvard/Radcliffe Colleges; M.A. (1990), Ph.D. (1995) Johns Hopkins University. Research specialties: Environmental history, especially history of conservation biology, of Smithsonian science (STRI, NZP), and of GIS/remote sensing; Latin American history; oral history. Contact:

Daniels, Brian I., Research Associate. B.A. (2000) , M.A. (2003) San Francisco State University, M.A. (2006), Ph.D. (2012) University of Pennsylvania. Research specialties: nineteenth- and twentieth-century American cultural and intellectual history; history of museums; cultural heritage policy. Contact:

Ewing, Heather Peale, Research Associate. B.A. (1990) Yale University; M.A. (1998) Courtauld Institute of Art, London. Research specialties: Biography of James Smithson; history of the Smithsonian. Contact:

Ferrante, Riccardo, Information Technology Archivist & Digital Services Program Director. B.S. (1987) Northwestern University. Research specialties: digital archives; digital curation and preservation; crowdsourcing for cultural heritage. Contact:

Keiner, Christine, Research Associate. B.A. (1993) McDaniel College (formerly Western Maryland College); Ph.D. (2001) Johns Hopkins University. Research specialties: History of ecology and environmental politics; history of American science and technology.

LaFollette, Marcel C., Research Associate. B.S. (1967) Little Rock University; M.S. (1968) Boston University; Ph.D. (1979) Indiana University. Research specialties: History of science communication; history of science popularization; ethics and policy of scientific and academic publishing. Contact:

Peters, Tammy L., Chief Archivist. B.A. (1990) Bethel College; M.A. (1994) Purdue University. Research specialties: Smithsonian Institution history. Contact:

Pruna Goodgall, Pedro, Research Associate. M.S. (1967) Moscow State University; Ph.D. (1980) U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences. Research specialties: History of natural history, especially in Cuba; history of biology (systematics and evolution); institutional history of science (Cuba); history of yellow fever.

Rothernberg, Marc, Research Associate. B.A. (1970) Villanova University; Ph.D. (1974) Bryn Mawr College. Research specialties: Documentary editing; history of astronomy; American science. Contact:


The Smithsonian Libraries is a network of 21 specialized research libraries supporting each of the Institution’s museums and initiatives. The Libraries’ collections of approximately 2 million volumes is available to Smithsonian staff, interns and fellows, visiting researchers, and other scholars working in Smithsonian facilities in Washington, DC, Maryland, New York City, and the Republic of Panama. Users who visit the Libraries’ online research page ( and ejournal and database pages ( have access to over 301 databases, 28,388 electronic journals, and over 200,000 electronic books. In addition to providing customary library services, the Smithsonian Libraries serves the Institution and the general public through education and outreach programs, including exhibitions, lectures, and publications, and through internship and volunteer programs.

Library collections are particularly strong in natural history, tropical biology, ecology and environmental management, wildlife conservation, American ethnology and culture, American history, the history of science and technology, aviation history and space flight, postal history, design and decorative arts, African art, American art, modern and contemporary art, Asian art, horticulture, conservation, and museum administration. Collections in African American and Latino history and culture are growing steadily. In addition, the Libraries holds a distinguished collection of 50,000 historically important rare books and manuscripts and 500,000 examples of manufacturer’s commercial trade catalogs, representing 30,000 companies, dating from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Smithsonian Libraries is the leader of the Biodiversity Heritage Library (, a consortium-built digital library, which contains over 140,000 volumes of natural history and botanical texts.

The Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS) includes the online catalog of library collections as well as the automated acquisitions, circulation, and other library functions. Holdings are accessible at Records of the Libraries collections are also accessible through OCLC, and the Libraries maintains access to collections through Resource Sharing.  The Smithsonian Libraries website presents a constantly increasing variety of content in science, American history, art and design, and industry and technology. SI researchers demand continuous, instant access to information, and the Libraries’ staff delivers reliable information to internal and external users when and wherever it’s needed, from whatever source. See  Digital offerings include full texts of rare books, collections of unique research resources, online exhibitions, resource guides, newsletters, and other SI Libraries publications, and links to other web resources in Smithsonian areas of interest.  The Smithsonian Libraries’ Image Gallery ( is a growing collection of individual images from digitized books with enhanced metadata.

The Smithsonian Libraries offers three programs for Resident Scholars to use Special Collections: The Dibner Library Resident Scholar Program, the Spencer Baird Society Resident Scholar Program, and the Margaret Henry Dabney Penick Resident Scholar Program. Dibner Library Resident Scholars conduct research using rare works from the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology. The core of the holdings of the Dibner Library consists of approximately 11,000 rare books and 1,600 manuscript groups that were generously donated to the nation by the Burndy Library (founder, Bern Dibner) on the occasion of the nation’s Bicentennial (1976). The strengths of the Dibner Library collection are in the fields of mathematics, astronomy, classical natural philosophy, theoretical physics (up to the early 20th century), experimental physics (especially electricity and magnetism), engineering technology (from the Renaissance to the late 19th century), and scientific apparatus and instruments. The rare books, which date from the 13th to the 20th centuries, include significant holdings of works by Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, Euclid, Carl Friedrich Gauss, Leonhard Euler, René Descartes, Pierre Simon, Marquis de Laplace, and Aristotle. Scientists represented by significant manuscript papers include Dominique François Arago, Humphry Davy, John William Lubbock, Isaac Newton, Henri Milne-Edwards, Hans Christian Ørsted, Henry Hureau de Sénarmont, Benjamin Silliman, Jr., and Silvanus P. Thompson. The Dibner Library collections support the scholarly interests of Smithsonian staff in the National Museum of American History, and provide valuable resources for other Smithsonian and external researchers worldwideThis program is supported by the Dibner family.

Baird Society Resident Scholars undertake research in Special Collections located in Washington, D.C. and New York City. These special collections include printed materials on world’s fairs in the Dibner Library (19th and early 20th centuries); trade  literature in the National Museum of American History Library used to study American industrialization, mass production, and consumerism; natural history rare books in the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History (pre-1840 works on topics such as  botany, zoology, travel  and exploration, museums and collecting, geology, and anthropology), as well as James Smithson’s library; air and space history in the National Air and Space Museum Library (ballooning, rocketry, and aviation, late 18th to early 20th centuries); and European and American decorative arts, architecture, and design in the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum Library (18th to 20th centuries).

The Margaret Henry Dabney Penick Resident Scholar Program was founded by a bequest of Mrs. Margaret P. Nuttle.  The Penick Resident Scholar Program supports scholarly research into the legacy of Patrick Henry and his political circle, the early political history of Virginia, the history of the American Revolution, founding era ideas and policy-making, as well as science, technology, and culture in colonial America and the Early National Period. The Libraries also provides guidance and contact information to relevant historical collections in the Washington, DC area, especially regarding the holdings of Patrick Henry materials and resources of the pre-American Revolution and the colonial era.

The Libraries also offers the Neville-Pribram Mid-Career Educators Award, which allows mid-career educators to be in residence and utilize the Smithsonian Libraries distinctive collections, focusing on science, history, culture and arts.  The awards are open to middle and  high school teachers, college teachers, and museum educators working on curriculum development or publications in print or electronic form. Recipients are awarded a short-term residency in the host branch, which rotates each year. The Libraries offers excellent resources for developing curricula relating to Common Core, Core Arts Standards, and Advance Placement curricula.

The Libraries’ active internship program hosts roughly 30 students per year. The program places high school, undergraduate and graduate students in appropriate projects throughout the Libraries, giving them valuable experience in library and information science as well as related fields. Several internship programs, such as the Kathryn Turner Diversity and Technology internship and Professional Development internship, carry stipends. 

Additional information about academic programs may be found on the Libraries webpage:

Research Staff

VEKERDY, Lilla, Head & Curator, Special Collections Department. B.A. (1982) Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary; M.A. (1984) and M.L.S. (1984) Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary. Research specialties: Rare book studies, History of Medicine and Science, Paracelsus (1493-1541), medieval manuscripts. Contact:

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