Digital Collections

Collections by Discipline
Building the Panama Canal

"Make the Dirt Fly!" Building the Panama Canal

For hundreds of years people dreamed of linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans across the narrow neck of land connecting North and South AmericaÑthe Panama Canal. In 1904, the U.S. government embarked on the largest civil engineering project in history, and today, after more than eight decades...

A Jules Verne Centennial- 1905 - 2005

A Jules Verne Centennial: 1905 - 2005

The Smithsonian Institution Libraries is fortunate to have a few early editions of Verne's works with the original engraved illustrations which made his works so popular. Verne and his publisher Julius Hetzel paid acute attention to the details of these illustrations, so that they are almost an...

An Odyssey in Print- Adventures in the Smithsonian Libraries

An Odyssey in Print: Adventures in the Smithsonian Libraries

Throughout time, explorers have drawn readers to faraway places through stories and songs, maps and drawings, manuscripts and books. Their intriguing accounts of the new and unknown have brought the world closer to those left at home. As you explore six centuries of rare books, manuscripts, art...

Archive of African Artists

Archive of African Artists

The National Museum of African Art Library maintains a fast-growing collection of more than 2,000 files on contemporary African artists. No other library in the United States is developing or maintaining this type of collection. Although most of these artists are living and working in Africa,...

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

The Smithsonian Libraries' Art and Artist Files are an exceptionally valuable resource for art historical research done on emerging regional and local artists and often are the only obtainable sources of information on those artists. Spread over seven branches, the art and artist files contain...

Artists' Books Collection

Artists' Books

Artists’ books exist at the intersections of printmaking, photography, poetry, experimental narrative, visual arts, graphic design, and publishing. They have made a place for themselves in the collections of museums, libraries, and private collectors. They have caught the interest of art...

graphic with headshot of a woman from the 1940s in a circle looking at a plane

Bella C. Landauer Collection of Aeronautical Sheet Music

Early development in aeronautics has been accompanied by great popular interest and media coverage. This widespread fascination with flight has inspired an enormous output of historical drawings, paintings, advertisements and illustrations for publications. Some of the most colorful...

photo of men in old fashioned flying gear sitting in and loading a two-person prop plane

By Aeroplane to Pygmyland: Revisiting the 1926 Dutch and American Expedition to New Guinea

This online publication, By Aeroplane to Pygmyland: Revisiting the 1926 Dutch and American Expedition to New Guinea, aims to "revisit" a historically important scientific expedition from today's perspective of 80 years later. It does this through interpretive essays accompanied by the...

Celebrity Caricature- Selections from the Smithsonian Institution Libraries

Celebrity Caricature: Selections from the Smithsonian Institution Libraries

In the late 1990's the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery Library (AA/PG Library) made a special effort to collect materials on caricature and cartoon in conjunction with the National Portrait Gallery's 1998 exhibition "Celebrity Caricature in America", curated by...

Chasing Venus- Observing the Transits of Venus 1631-2004

Chasing Venus: Observing the Transits of Venus 1631-2004

For ages, astronomers looked for a way to measure the distance between Earth and the Sun. This distance, called the astronomical unit was a yardstick that could measure the entire solar system. Since the astronomer Johannes Kepler had determined the relative distances among the planets and the...

Czech Book Covers of the 1920's and 1930's in the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum Library

Doodles, Drafts & Designs- Industrial Drawings from the Smithsonian

Doodles, Drafts & Designs: Industrial Drawings from the Smithsonian

How do ideas evolve into reality? Doodles, Drafts, and Designs: Industrial Drawings from the Smithsonian offers a fascinating glimpse into inventors' sketchbooks, engineers' mechanical drawings, and architects' renderings from the 1830s to the 1990s, to show the origins of some of the...

Drawing from Life- Caricatures and Cartoons from the American Art Portrait Gallery Collection

Drawing from Life: Caricatures and Cartoons from the American Art / Portrait Gallery Collection

The Smithsonian Institution Libraries has a substantial collection of cartoon and caricature books. While these materials can be found in several branch libraries - such as the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Library or the National Museum of American History Library - the largest...

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 the Post Office Department files of the Third Assistant Postmaster General; the Panama Canal Zone Post Office collection; the Aerial Mail Service collection; and other USPO department publications....

From Horses to Horsepower- Studebaker Helped Move a Nation

From Horses to Horsepower: Studebaker Helped Move a Nation

Studebaker's long standing commitment to quality and value made it one of the automotive giants prior to the Great Depression, often being among the first manufacturers to introduce new technology or safety features, such as four-wheel hydraulic brakes in 1925. Barely surviving the 1930s,...

From Smithson to Smithsonian- The Birth of an Institution

From Smithson to Smithsonian: The Birth of an Institution

This online exhibition was originally produced by the Smithsonian Libraries with the collaboration of the Smithsonian Institution Archives for the Smithsonian's 150th anniversary and hosted on the Libraries' website. It was revamped in 2017 and moved to the SI Archives' site.


Frontier Photographer- Edward S. Curtis

Frontier Photographer: Edward S. Curtis

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) left an indelible mark on the history of photography in his 20-volume life's work, The North American Indian.
Part photographic essay, part ethnographic survey, and part work of art, Curtis' North American Indian Project represented an attempt to...

Heralds of Science

Heralds of Science

The Heralds of Science are 200 books and articles selected by Bern Dibner from his collection, as the most significant titles in the formation and development of Western science and technology.

Hirshhorn Museum Library Audio Archive

Hirshhorn Museum Library Audio Archive

The Hirshhorn Museum Library's Audio Archive is a repository of 306 digital audio files reformatted from audio cassettes ranging in date from 1969 to 2004 containing event recordings and interviews dating back to the founding days of the Hirshhorn...

colorful map of the heavens illustrated with images depicting the constellations

Image Gallery

Explore nearly 20,000 images from our illustrated rare books, photograph collections, and past exhibitions. Selections include the Thérèse Bonney Photographs, cartes de visites of 19th century European and American artists, the furniture catalogs of Kimbel & Cabus, and portraits of...

Incunabula in the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology

Incunabula in the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology

The Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology has 320 incunabula in its collection. Incunabula (from the Latin meaning swaddling clothes or, figuratively, infancy) are European books printed with movable type during the fifteenth century.

Index Animalium

Index Animalium

Sherborn's Index Animalium is a compendium of zoological taxonomic species nomenclature from 1758 to 1850. For each species described in this period it clearly lists the genus name, author, publication, pages, and date. A crucial tool for taxonomists, Index Animalium contains...

Cover of The Scientific Shop showing a microscope

Instruments for Science

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...

illustration of a blue tufted Rococo revival love seat

Le Garde-meuble, ancien et moderne

Le Garde-meuble, ancien et moderne (Furniture repository, ancient and modern), a bimonthly periodical published in Paris, exerted an enormous influence throughout the world by promoting French styles in furniture, fabrics, and interior decoration for a nearly a century, beginning in...

Library and Archival Exhibitions on the Web

Library and Archival Exhibitions on the Web

Library and Archival exhibitions on the Web features links to over 2,500 online exhibitions sponsored by libraries, archives, and manuscript collections from around the world. Search for exhibitions by keywords in titles, subjects, and/or institutional names. "Editor's Pick," Choice:...

Modern African Art-  A Basic Reading List

Modern African Art: A Basic Reading List

Modern African Art: A Basic Reading List" is an Internet version of a bibliography that was originally compiled in 1990 and is being updated continually. This reading list is intended to dispel the notion that nothing has been published on modern African art. It consists primarily of books and...

Monographs on African Artists- An Annotated Bibliography

Monographs on African Artists: An Annotated Bibliography

This bibliography is limited to substantive monographs and exhibition catalogs about 20th-21st century African artists. Focusing on a single artist, these texts are usually written by a scholar or critic who has conducted art historical research on the artist and/or who has gathered for...

Nile Notes of a Howadji- American Travelers in Egypt, 1837 - 1903

Nile Notes of a Howadji: American Travelers in Egypt, 1837 - 1903

Travel literature is an increasingly popular research tool for anthropologists, natural scientists, and social historians, as well as an informative and entertaining subject for the armchair traveler. The works displayed here focus on the American travel experience in Egypt, a popular...

Parcel Post- Delivery of Dreams

Parcel Post: Delivery of Dreams

The National Postal Museum Library has a rich collection of books concerning the history of parcel post in the United States. The establishment of parcel post in 1913 had a tremendously stimulating effect on the national economy; it opened a world of opportunities for both farmers and merchants...

Picturing Words: The Power of Book Illustration

Ramelli's Machines- Original drawings of 16th century machines

Ramelli's Machines: Original drawings of 16th century machines

The military engineer Agostino Ramelli produced a remarkable illustrated book in 1588 describing a large number of machines that he devised. Called Le diverse et artificiose machine del Capitano Agostino Ramelli (The various and ingenious machines of Captain Agostino Ramelli), this work...

Samuel P. Langley- Aviation Pioneer

Samuel P. Langley: Aviation Pioneer (Part 1)

Very few people today realize that Samuel P. Langley almost succeeded with inventing the airplane before the Wright brothers. Who was Langley and what did he do?

Science and the Artist's Book

Science and the Artist's Book

Science and the Artist's Book takes its inspiration from the Heralds of Science (1955; rev. ed. 1980), Bern Dibner's bibliography of 200 landmark works in the history of science and technology. In 1995-1996, the Smithsonian Institution Libraries and the Washington Project for...

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

The Smithsonian Institution Libraries have a unique trade catalog collection that includes about 10,000 seed and nursery catalogs dating from 1830 to the present. Many of the trade catalogs were part of the Burpee Collection donated to the Horticulture Services Division by Mrs. David Burpee in...

Sewing Machines- Historical Trade Literature in Smithsonian Collections

Sewing Machines: Historical Trade Literature in Smithsonian Collections

This guide illustrates the range of materials published by and about sewing machine companies in the United States, starting in the 1840s. Sewing machine catalogs and other industry materials are just one portion of the remarkable collections of manufacturers' trade literature held in the...

Shedding Light on New York

Shedding Light on New York

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...

Wright Brothers First Flight at Kitty Hawk

Taking to the Skies: The Wright Brothers & the Birth of Aviation

On December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers were the first men in history to make powered, sustained and controlled flights in an airplane. The machine, engine and propellers were all of their own design and construction. It was bitterly cold that morning and a gusty 27 mile-per-hour wind scoured...

image showing the spines of the print version of TL-2

Taxonomic Literature 2 online

TL-2 is the premier publication of the International Association for Plant Taxonomy (IAPT).  In its print form, TL-2 is a 15 volume guide to the literature of systematic botany published between 1753 and 1940. TL-2 is the standard by which authors' names and titles should be abbreviated in works...

The Art of African Exploration

The Art of African Exploration

The Art of African Exploration presents a selection of drawings, book illustrations, and other objects from the The Russell E. Train Africana Collection in the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History. The compelling images that emerged from the early European exploration of Africa tell...

The Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Birds of Ohio

The Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Birds of Ohio

Illustrations of the nests and eggs of birds of Ohio was published in the small town of Circleville, Ohio, over a period of eight years (from 1879 to 1886) through the dedicated efforts of the family and friends of a young woman named Genevieve Jones. Despite being produced not just by...

The Making of a Homemaker

The Making of a Homemaker

Sustaining a home and healthy family was a full time job for middle class women in late nineteenth century America. Daniel Wise articulated the popular sentiment when he proclaimed, "Home is woman's world, as well as her empire".1 Cooking, cleaning, and child rearing were seen as women's work....

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

The trade literature collection of the Smithsonian is internationally known as an important source for the history of American business, technology, marketing, consumption, and design. Manufacturers issued trade catalogs to promote and sell their products. The present collection contains more...

Underwater Web- Cabling the Seas

Underwater Web: Cabling the Seas

A century and a half ago, the world suddenly became smaller when an underwater telegraph cable joined two nations divided by the sea. From that first link, a vast web spread across the globe.

image of a three-masted ship sailing through icy seas

United States Exploring Expedition

In one very important way, the work of the United States Exploring Expedition was only beginning when the ships returned to Washington after almost four years at sea. In addition to Captain Wilkes himself who recorded ocean and weather data and surveyed island groups and coastlines, the...

Pochoir Prints in Cooper-Hewitt

Vibrant Visions: Pochoir Prints in the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Library

The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum Library, Smithsonian Institution Libraries, has a rich collection of vibrantly colored illustrated books and periodicals that were created using the pochoir stenciling process. The pochoir process, characterized by its crisp lines and brilliant colors,...

Voyages- A Smithsonian Libraries Exhibition

Voyages: A Smithsonian Libraries Exhibition

Voyages of discovery can be of many kinds: a physical journey to an unknown place, a mental exploration of new or familiar territory, or a wholly new episode of creative thought. All three are explored in Voyages, an exhibition spanning five centuries of rare books, manuscripts, art,...

Illustration of shells from the collection of Albertus Seba

Wonder Bound

Why are centuries-old natural history books vital to scientific research? Our scientists consult early printed materials to compare historical descriptions with modern specimens. These researchers use the rare book collection of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries' new Joseph F. Cullman, 3rd,...

Your Smithsonian Libraries

Your Smithsonian Libraries

Did you know the Smithsonian has a library? Actually, the Smithsonian has 20 libraries combined into one system and supported by an online catalog of the combined collections of: Over 1.5 million books, 50,000 rare books, 10,000 historic manuscript and over 2,000 electronic journal titles

Zoos- A Historical Perspective

Zoos: A Historical Perspective

A collection of pamphlets and guide books published by zoos over the past century has been collected by the National Zoological Park branch of the Smithsonian Libraries. This online sample of these items, which includes maps, drawings and photographs of zoos from over 30 states and 40 countries...