From the Director

Picture of Nancy GwinnThe Smithsonian Libraries
Promoting research and education, preserving America’s heritage 

When the Smithsonian Institution was founded in 1846, both the Act of Congress and the newly formed Board of Regents called for “the gradual formation of a library” that was to be at the heart of enterprise. They knew that without a library to document and provide context for scientific specimens and museum objects, the collections would be of little value. That vision has resulted in a network of libraries, an extensive collection of 2 million volumes, a treasure house of rare volumes and manuscripts, a multitude of digital databases and over 100 expert staff that supply the Institution’s knowledge foundation and serve a global audience. We are the largest museum and research library system in the world.

With its wealth of knowledge, the Smithsonian Libraries feeds the mission of the Smithsonian to spark discovery and inspire lifelong learning, tell America’s story and reach people everywhere. Library experts focus on science, history, culture and the arts to assist the Smithsonian’s curatorial and research staff, as well as their peers around the world. Our imprint is on everything that comes out of the Smithsonian. The Libraries also serves a broader audience – students, researchers, and other members of the public who are on a quest for knowledge. All benefit from the Smithsonian Libraries’ combination of exceptional, priceless resources and expertise.

We must preserve our treasures--whether a letter in Galileo’s own hand, the first hand-colored illustrations of the flora and fauna of North America, or an artist’s book made out of lead – to provide future generations with the knowledge and icons of the past. At the same time, we must meet the demands of today’s students for digital information at their fingertips on IPads and mobile devices.

The demands on the Libraries to collect, preserve, share and educate are continually increasing, but the public resources available to support the system are not keeping pace. They are inadequate to preserve America’s heritage and create a 21st century library that operates comfortably in the digital world.

This reality requires commitment and generosity from those who wish to ensure that this American treasure remains a strong and indispensable resource for future generations. We need the help of those who value the work of the Libraries in forwarding the pursuit of knowledge and the preservation of our heritage.

Your action today will generate lasting and positive dividends for generations to come.

Nancy E. Gwinn
Director, Smithsonian Libraries