Skip to main content

About SLA

Smithsonian Libraries

People walking in the Natural History LibraryAt the center of research across the Smithsonian are the specialized branches and librarians of the Smithsonian Libraries. The collections and staff of the Libraries play a key role in helping the Smithsonian’s research and curatorial staff make sense of the museums’ almost innumerable, often unique, objects and their cultural and historical contexts. The Smithsonian Libraries are a hidden national treasure, where experts come to test and expand knowledge and where America and the world can turn for authentic answers.

The network of 21 specialized research libraries that make up the Smithsonian Libraries provide the Institution’s museums and research centers with resources and services that are as diverse and deep as the collections, exhibits, and scholarship they support. They truly span the range of scientific and cultural pursuits of humanity from aerospace, anthropology, and art history to business history and botany, cultural history, design, philately, zoology, and much, much more.

While sharing the values, methods, and efficiencies of a unified network, each library in the system supports the work of its own community of interest comprising specialized researchers and museum curators, as well as visiting scholars, educators, students, and others pursuing or advancing knowledge in their fields.

Individually each of these libraries is among the world’s greatest repositories of knowledge for the specialized fields they support. Collectively they are among America’s greatest scientific and cultural treasures. They belong to the nation, and through their expanding on-line presence and digitization initiatives more and more people from across the country and around the world are able to access their vast resources.

Smithsonian Institution Archives

The Smithsonian Institution Archives captures, preserves, and shares with the public the history of this extraordinary Institution. From its inception in 1846 to the present, the records of the history of the Institution—its people, its programs, its research, and its stories—have been gathered, organized, and disseminated so that everyone can learn about the Smithsonian and its role in American history, scientific exploration, and with the promotion of international cultural understanding.

In the earliest organizing documents of the Smithsonian, the importance of maintaining archival records was explicitly mentioned. Throughout the years the record-keeping practices of the Archives have evolved into a highly professional program that serves the staff of the Smithsonian as well as an international audience of researchers. The evolution of the Archives is a fascinating story that reflects the growth and development of the Smithsonian as a whole.

Internally, the Archives’ staff helps to manage records created throughout the Smithsonian and identify those materials that have long term value for research and for institutional accountability. Preservation experts ensure that archival records are maintained and cared for using state of the art standards and practices. Historians and reference specialists provide expert service to researchers and the general public. Increasingly, our digital archivists and web and outreach staff are making the archives more accessible by taking advantage of current technologies.

Throughout this web site you will find the treasures of the Archives and the stories of the Smithsonian’s amazing contributions to the history of science, technology, art, and culture. Come and learn more about the Archives and how you might work with us to further our mission.