The Smithsonian Institution Libraries enjoys a unique and dual role within the Smithsonian Institution. On one hand, the Libraries is an internal service provider, meeting the needs of the Institution’s curators and researchers. On the other hand, it is a public educator through its active exhibition program and its progressive Digital Library initiative, which brings important, rare and valuable works from the Libraries’ collections to the widest audience possible through the World Wide Web.
The Smithsonian Libraries, though a plural noun, is consistently followed by a singular verb, because it is considered a ‘system’ of libraries, with individual locations operating under the aegis of a central administration and adhering to a common mission.
About the Collection
The Libraries collection exceeds 1.5 million volumes, of which more than 40,000 are rare books, complemented by 10,000 manuscripts. The nation’s largest collection of commercial catalogs is housed by the Libraries and numbers 430,000, representing more than 32,000 companies dating from the 1810s. More than 180,000 microfilm and microfiche are also accessible for research in disciplines of science, history, art and technology.
The Libraries’ online catalog, called the Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS) is available 24 hours a day, internationally at www.siris-libraries.si.edu.
The Libraries’ collections reflect the scholarly interests and disciplines of the Institution’s research and curatorial community. Holdings are especially strong in:
• African art
• African American history and culture
• American art
• American history
• Asian and Middle Eastern art
• Aviation history and space flight
• Design and decorative arts
• Environmental management and ecology
• History of science and technology
• Latino history and culture
• Materials research
• Modern and contemporary art
• Native American history and culture
• Natural history
• Postal history
• Tropical biology
• Trade literature
• World’s Fair ephemera
Education and Exhibitions
The Libraries is committed to providing entertaining, educational materials and services to the widest audience possible. The key to success is a two-pronged approach with the Libraries’ exhibition program and its Web site, Galaxy of Knowledge, both of which are described below. Beneficiaries include members of the international scholarly community, students from K-12 and those beyond post-graduate education, as well as serious and simply curious Web surfers.
Smithsonian Libraries’ exhibitions are thematic, feature books and special collections from its extensive, multifaceted holdings and are organized by guest curators from around the Institution. The Smithsonian Libraries Gallery is located on the first floor of the National Museum of American History, Behring Center.
Websites: Galaxy of Knowledge and Galaxy of Images
The Smithsonian Libraries website, Galaxy of Knowledge, offers ease of use in navigating the Libraries’ extensive resources, including a virtual bookshelf of digital editions and individual library homepages.
Smithsonian Libraries have been actively involved in digital library building since the 1990s. Nearly 500,000 pages of text have been digitized representing over 2,000 volumes. Though currently only a small portion of the overall collections, it represents a growing and important addition to the world’s online content. Significant collections that have been made available online include the Smithsonian Contributions Series (nearly 1,000 titles), portions of the trade literature collections (sewing machines and scientific instruments), and taxonomic literature.
A key partner in the Biodiversity Heritage Library (www.biodiversitylibrary.org), Smithsonian Libraries will contribute over 4 million pages of taxonomic literature to this global initiative.
With each physical exhibition it mounts, the Smithsonian Libraries creates a corresponding digital exhibition. While conceptually true to their physical counterparts, digital exhibitions ultimately extend the depth, breadth and longevity of their physical counterparts and remain online after the gallery exhibitions have closed. Such online formats provide international, 24/7 access to the show and other related featured objects--particularly important for those who may be unable to travel to Washington. The Smithsonian Libraries’ Galaxy of Images contains thousands of images browse-able by various categories. Additional images and collections are added regularly.
• Director’s office, Room 22 of the National Museum of Natural History
• Anacostia Museum & Center for African American History and Culture Library
• Botany and Horticulture Library
• The Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology
• Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Library
• Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Library
• John Wesley Powell Library of Anthropology
• Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History
• Museum Studies Reference Library
• National Air and Space Museum Library
• National Museum of American History Library
• National Museum of Natural History Library
• National Postal Museum Library
• National Zoological Park Library
• Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery Library
• Warren M. Robbins Library, National Museum of African Art
• Museum Support Center Library
• Vine Deloria, Jr. Library, National Museum of the American Indian
• Smithsonian Environmental Research Center Library
New York City
• The Doris and Henry Dreyfuss Study Center, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Library
Republic of Panama
• Earl S. Tupper Library, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
history of science and technology, space exploration, natural history, anthropology, african art, aviation, portraiture, philately and postal history, asian art, american art, botany and horticulture, decorative arts and design, tropical biology, museology, native american history and culture, african american history and culture