About Our Collections

The Libraries physical collections comprise 1.5 million books and manuscripts, along with over 400,000 pieces of ephemera, microfilm, photo collections and a/v material, housed in over 20 locations in Washington, Maryland, New York, and Panama.

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For more information about using our collections in person, please visit the appropriate branch library page for contact information, hours and to determine if you need an appointment.

If you would like to borrow a book, please make an inter-library loan request through your local public, school, or organizational library.
If you're with an organization interested in using one of our collections items in an exhibition, please see Exhibition Loan Services.

Shedding Light on New York

Shedding Light on New York : Edward F. Caldwell & Co.

The E. F. Caldwell & Co. Collection at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum Library, Smithsonian Institution Libraries, contains more than 50,000 images consisting of approximately 37,000 black & white photographs and 13,000 original design drawings of lighting fixtures and other fine metal objects that they produced from the late 19th to the mid-20th centuries.

Instruments for Science

Cover of "The Scientific Shop" showing a microscope

Scientific trade literature is a unique and uniquely valuable category of historical evidence. But it has not always been so highly regarded. Being commercial documents, catalogs have traditionally had a hard time fitting into library or archive collections. Even the companies that printed these catalogs expected their usefulness to end as soon as the next edition was printed. That's why so many of them were printed on the cheapest paper available. In many ways it's not surprising that so few of them have survived - or that when they have survived, their existence has gone unnoticed.

Galaxy of Images

Detail from Burritt's Geography of the heavens

Explore a rich library of over 15,000 images from our scanned collections grouped into dozens of categories like "Society and Culture", "Plants and Flowers", "Portraits", and "Technology and Innovation." 

Cover of Columbia bicycle catalog
This collection of manufacturer issued catalogs is internationally known as an important source for the history of American business, technology, marketing, and design.
seed catalogs
Colorful collection of catalogs that document the history of the seed and agricultural implement business as well as ornamental and edible plants in the U. S.
United States Exploring Expedition
After four years at sea, the U.S. Exploring Expedition returned with a bounty of data, specimens and artifacts that would later come to the Smithsonian.
Photo of the Sterling New Guinea expedition plane
A fascinating look back at a historically important scientific expedition to New Guinea told through diaries, photographs and original film footage.
Le Garde-meuble, ancien et moderne
The beautifully illustrated mid-19th century periodical that helped the French cement their position as taste-makers in furniture and interior design.