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. Some of those collections are available via  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.

Our digital collections include over 27,000 digitized books and manuscripts (available on our site and at the Biodiversity Heritage Library) as well as photo and illustration collections, seed catalogs, trade literature, and much more.  

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, 1912, showing a woman kneeling painting the words "Columbia" while crowning a bicycle with a laurel wreath.
This collection of manufacturer issued catalogs is internationally known as an important source for the history of American business, technology, marketing, and design.
red orange and yellow flowers surround a small aerial photo of a farm and the words 1898 Burpee's farm annual
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.
image of a three-masted ship sailing through icy seas
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 men in old fashioned flying gear sitting in and loading a two-person prop plane
A fascinating look back at a historically important scientific expedition to New Guinea told through diaries, photographs and original film footage.
illustration of a blue tufted Rococo revival love seat
The beautifully illustrated mid-19th century periodical that helped the French cement their position as taste-makers in furniture and interior design.