Digital Collections

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 21 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 corporate library. If you're with an organization interested in using one of our collections items in an exhibition, please see the Exhibition Loan Services page.

  • Additional details of the collections housed in the various library locations can be found on the branch web pages.  
  • To see if a specific book or journal is in our collection, search our catalog.

Digital Collections

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

Many of our physical collections have not yet been digitized. Some of the resources listed below - such Trade Literature and Art and Artist Files - are portals for searching the inventories of those collections.

List of bibliographies, indexes, photo and ephemera collections.
Artists' Books Collection

Artists' Books

Works of art, like paintings or sculpture, in book form - artists’ books exist at the intersections of printmaking, photography, poetry, visual arts, and graphic design.
a boy in breeches and high waistcoat draws on the floor with a quill. the alphabet is behind him written on a horizontal scroll

Art & Artist Files in the Smithsonian Libraries' Collections

Search the database of over 150,000 files on artists, art collectives, galleries, and museums held in our Art and Design and History and Culture libraries.
stamp collector's page with labeled stamps

Finding Aid to Postal Files at the NPM Library

Inventory of archival files in the Library of the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum including Panama Canal Zone and Aerial Mail Service material.
Hirshhorn Museum Library Audio Archive

Hirshhorn Museum Library Audio Archive

Index and samples from event recordings and artist interviews dating back to the founding of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in 1969.
Index Animalium

Index Animalium

Compiled over 43 years by one man this index to every living animal discovered between 1758 and 1850 is still considered the essential reference for zoologists and paleontologists.
Cover of The Scientific Shop showing a microscope

Instruments for Science

A collection of uniquely valuable trade literature that tells the history of 19th c. science through instrument catalogs.
Library and Archival Exhibitions on the Web

Library and Archival Exhibitions on the Web

Curated by Libraries staff, this guide to online exhibitions from libraries, archives, and manuscript collections around the world is one of a kind.
Modern African Art-  A Basic Reading List

Modern African Art: A Basic Reading List

An annotated bibliography that dispels the notion that nothing has been published on contemporary African art. Updated regularly.
Monographs on African Artists- An Annotated Bibliography

Monographs on African Artists: An Annotated Bibliography

A bibliography that separates the polished gems from the stones - a list of substantive monographs and exhibition catalogs on 20th-21st century African artists.
red orange and yellow flowers surround a small aerial photo of a farm and the words 1898 Burpee's farm annual

Seed and Nursery 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.
Sewing Machines- Historical Trade Literature in Smithsonian Collections

Sewing Machines: Historical Trade Literature in Smithsonian Collections

A popular collection of catalogs, manuals, and brochures showing the range of material published by and about American sewing machines companies from the 1840s to the early 20th c.
Shedding Light on New York

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.
book spines from Taxonomic Literature 2

Taxonomic Literature 2 online

Online version of Taxonomic Literature 2, the premier guide to the literature of systematic botany.
Cover of Columbia bicycle catalog, 1912, showing a woman kneeling painting the words Columbia while crowning a bicycle with a laurel wreath.

Trade Literature Collection

This collection of manufacturer issued catalogs is internationally known as an important source for the history of American business, technology, marketing, and design.