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

This massive archive of photographs show the variety of lighting fixtures E. F. Caldwell & Co. produced for wealthy clients like Carnegie, Morgan, and Astor.

Instruments for Science

A collection of uniquely valuable trade literature that tells the history of 19th c. science through instrument catalogs.

Galaxy of Images

Explore a rich library of over 15,000 images from our scanned collections.
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.