For Educators

At Smithsonian Libraries and Archives, we are eager to help teachers and homeschooling educators find the resources you need for teaching preK-12 students across the nation and for your own professional development.  Through our rich collections and collaborations across the Smithsonian, we offer engaging content in the arts, sciences, history and culture, and museum pedagogy that will meet your curriculum needs. The quality of our digital resources allows for their ready use and distribution, and they provide an opportunity to teach research techniques to students of all ages in a world where it’s difficult to source and vet information. Check out what we have below. 

Classroom Resources from Smithsonian Libraries and Archives

Information Literacy

The Smithsonian Libraries and Archives wants to help students gain a better understanding of information literacy and further their skills in this crucial area. In an age where there are myriad sources of information, unending news coverage, and a vast, often unregulated digital world, how can you tell which sources to trust to give you reliable information? Our interactive, online collections are dedicated to helping students think critically about how they identify, find, evaluate, and use information effectively. These can be helpful to learners of all ages but are geared toward grades 6-12 and highlight the following learning standards: understanding primary sources, author point of view or bias, fact versus opinion, summarizing/synthesizing/analyzing text, citing textual evidence, paraphrasing versus plagiarizing, researching with various media/sources, and assessing credibility and accuracy of text.

Traveling Trunks

Traveling Trunks is a resource-lending program from the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives. These multimedia library kits are packed full of resources from across the Smithsonian Institution that deliver immersive experiences. Through touch, tech, sound, and sight, Traveling Trunks creates a screen-free, sensorial-rich environment. The program is a free resource for middle school learners and their educators. Traveling Trunks can be sent to libraries, schools, community centers, and other learning sites for a month-long lending period, with the option to renew, anywhere in the United States. All costs, including shipping are covered; we just ask that users have access to a FedEx office. 

From This to That

From This to That is a series of digital collections that explore interdisciplinary connections through history. Each one starts with an image from the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives collection and connects it to other surprising artifacts across the Smithsonian to tell a unique story across art, history, science, mathematics, and culture. 

Social and Emotional Learning

Smithsonian Libraries and Archives and National Portrait Gallery offer social and emotional learning tools anchored in kindness to help navigate the impact and feelings of living through big moments in history. Collections are available on the Smithsonian Learning Lab for grades K, 1, 2, and 3. 

Smithsonian History

The Smithsonian Libraries and Archives Institutional History Program has developed several resources that can be used in the classroom. These units include an overview of the topic, classroom guides, and downloadable scans of primary source documents with transcriptions and photographs. Additional resources are available on the Smithsonian History website.

  • Snowflake Bentley: For over forty years, Vermont farmer, Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley (1865–1931) photographed thousands of individual snowflakes and perfected innovative photomicrographic techniques. He sent 500 of his precious glass plate negatives to the Smithsonian for safekeeping in 1904. His story and snowflake images can be used in science, art, and history lessons.
  • Smokey Bear: Smokey Bear was an American Black Bear cub found clinging to a tree after a forest fire in 1950 in Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico. He became the official symbol of a campaign launched by the U.S. Forest Service to reduce human-caused forest fires. He came to the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park and soon was receiving so much mail, he needed his own zip code. Forest fires have been on the rise again in the 2020s, and Smokey’s story is as relevant as ever. His story includes photos, fan mail, US Forest Service ad campaigns, and even songs about him. Smokey’s story can be used in science, history, and even English classes to discuss the impact of the “Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires” campaign.
  • Lincoln’s Assassination: How did the public learn about Abraham Lincoln’s death? Students can read the diary account of a young woman who lived in the Smithsonian Castle and was told about his last moments by her minister, Rev. Henry Gurley, the next day. Mary Henry faithfully recorded the story, which has proved much more accurate than newspaper accounts or visual depictions of Lincoln’s last breath. She also provides first person accounts of battles raging near Washington, D.C., and the celebration of the end of the Civil War. Students can read her diary and see images of her world. The documents can be used in history and English lessons.
  • Solomon Brown: Solomon Brown worked at the Smithsonian from 1852 to 1904, the first free Black employed by the Institution. From the Castle, he also observed the Civil War rage around him, and wrote his reflections on the war, Union and Confederate soldiers, and the effects of the war on the capital city.  His unit includes letters and images, providing an African American perspective on that war.  The documents can be used in history and English lessons.

Smithsonian Libraries and Archives Digital Collections

The Libraries and Archives has digitized rare books (pre-1924), journals, and manuscripts on subjects ranging from advertising and aeronautics to zinc sculpture and Zuni cuisine. Our Digital Library include images from illustrated books, digitized drawings and photos, as well as indexes to some of our special collections such as art and artist vertical files, trade catalogs, postal history ephemera and more!

Smithsonian Libraries and Archives Online Exhibitions

Thematic, Online Exhibitions featuring items from our collections, from Artists’ Books in Africa to Zoos: A Historical Perspective.

Research Guides

Guides developed by our library subject experts offer a collection of vetted resources. Check out our Art and Design Resources, History and Culture Resources, Interdisciplinary Resources, and Science Resources.

Smithsonian Libraries Blog Unbound

Explore our blog Unbound to find amazing items and ideas highlighted in our collections.

Color our Collections

Free, downloadable coloring packets based on images in our collection. Three packets are available, Color our Collections, Coloring Pages: Volume II, and Color in New Light .

Classroom Resources from across the Smithsonian Institution

Smithsonian Learning Lab

Smithsonian Learning Lab puts the treasures of the world's largest museum, education, and research complex within reach. The Lab is a free, interactive platform for discovering millions of authentic digital resources, creating content with online tools, and sharing in the Smithsonian's expansive community of knowledge and learning. As a focused extension of Learning Lab, Smithsonian Distance Learning Resources are committed to supporting teachers and their students around the globe.

Smithsonian Open Access

Download, share, reuse, and remix millions of Smithsonian images—right now, for free from Smithsonian Open Access. Access nearly 3 million 2D and 3D digital items from our collections—with many more to come. This includes images and data from across the Smithsonian’s nineteen museums, nine research centers, twenty-one libraries, numerous archives, and the National Zoo.

Biodiversity Heritage Library

The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) provides free and open access to over 250,000 volumes from the 15th-21st centuries on a wide range of biodiversity subjects. Find primary resources, images, thematic collections, and citizen science projects. Learn more about BHL Resources to Support Distance Learning. Also check out the BHL Flickr feed for stunning sets of illustrations. 

Visit the Libraries and Archives

For Educators

We encourage educators to visit our libraries to take full advantage of our resources. Most of our libraries are in the DC Metro area, but we also have branches in New York City and Panama. Please see our list of Library Locations for available hours. Because we are located behind-the-scenes, most locations require an appointment; please make contact us in advance. Not sure which locations may have the material you are interested in using? Browse the list of Library Locations, search our Library Catalog, or Contact Us to find where collections are housed. For more information, see Borrowing and Access Privileges.

For Classes

Contact Us to discuss options for field trips to engage with our library resources or learn about what we do. Let us know about your interests and plans, what you’re hoping to discover.

Have a question?

Contact Us at any time with questions, and we will get back to you within a few days.