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.
Programs and activities carried out by the staff of the Smithsonian Institution Archives are organized around core roles, responsibilities, and areas of expertise. Teams work together to provide seamless services to offices across the Smithsonian and to the public.
The Reference team provides access to records held by the Archives to any visiting researchers, and responds to queries that come by phone, mail, or online. To contact the reference team, please send a request via the reference form.
The Archives and Information Management (AIM) team works with museums, research centers, and other units across the Smithsonian to identify and acquire official records that document the activities and research output of the organization. They determine what records have long-term historical value and therefore must be preserved, and they advise on what records may have only temporary value and can be discarded after they are no longer useful to a unit. For contact information see the AIM team Staff Directory. You can also consult the records management guidelines available on the web site.
This group of experts preserves paper, photographs, audio, and visual records held by the Archives. Other units across the Smithsonian also rely on the Archives’ shared laboratory facilities, special equipment, and professional expertise. Ensuring appropriate security and environmental control for housing archival collections, reformatting of materials as needed, and repairing artifacts that are in danger of becoming unusable are all activities covered by the Preservation team. To contact the Preservation team, please send a question online.
This group addresses a full range of digital resource management issues including the preservation of born-digital records and the digitization of analog collections for access online. Staff provides professional leadership in the preservation of electronic records and continues to develop expertise in this area. To reach the Digital Services team, send a question online.
Historians in this group research the history of the Smithsonian for internal and external purposes. The history of the Smithsonian reflects the history of science, technology, art, and culture, both nationally and internationally. Queries come from offices across the Smithsonian, and from around the world. Historical research is also conducted in support of public programs, publications, and exhibitions. In addition, staff experts conduct oral and video histories that further document important figures and events in the history of the Institution. The research conducted by the staff is often used to tell important stories about the Smithsonian and help the public to gain a richer understanding of the role the Smithsonian has played in historical exploration, innovation, and discovery. To contact the Institutional History team, please send a query via the reference form.