Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the Smithsonian Libraries?

The Libraries have collections and staff in most of the museums and research centers at the Smithsonian. Please see our visiting the libraries page for more information.

I would like to plan a visit to the Smithsonian Institution, whom should I contact for more information?

For more information about visiting the Smithsonian Institution and its various museums and offices, please visit the SI Web site.

How much is my old book worth?

Please see the Smithsonian Institution Libraries' Information on Old Books page.

Though the Smithsonian Institution does not endorse these companies, you might also utilize web-based used book services such as:

Does the Smithsonian Institution offer free appraisals of personally owned artifacts?

The Smithsonian Institution does not, as a matter of policy, offer monetary evaluations. Please see this helpful list of Frequently Asked Questions posted by the Smithsonian's Visitor Information & Associates' Reception Center

The Museum Conservation Institute also has a web page with more information and resources on artifact appraisals.

How do I find out what is in the Smithsonian Libraries' collection?

Our catalog, which contains records on the majority of our collection, is here . Items from our collection may also be found by searching the Smithsonian's cross-collection search center

How can I borrow material from the Libraries?

If you are not Smithsonian staff or an affiliated user, please utilize the inter-library loan services of your local public or academic library. For more information on our inter-library loan policies see

How can I access the Smithsonian Libraries' databases and electronic journals from my personal computer at home?

Subscription databases and electronic journals listed on the Smithsonian Institution Libraries' web page are available only to Smithsonian Institution staff and affiliated users while on the Smithsonian campus. SI staff should contact their closest branch library, or email for information on how to access these resources while off-campus.

If you are not a Smithsonian staff member, please inquire with your local or affiliated library for information on how to access databases you are interested in.

Can you help me research my family history with the Smithsonian Institution's resources?

The Smithsonian Institution Libraries does not specialize in genealogical materials. Two helpful web resources for genealogy are:

The National Archives
Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet

How do I treat personal books and paper I would like to preserve?

For information on how to care for your books and family papers, etc., please see the Museum Conservation Institute's Paper-Based Materials Guidelines:

The Library of Congress' Preservation Directorate also has good information on this topic:

Do your libraries have resources about local post offices and/or postmasters?

For information regarding the history of individual post offices and postmasters, please see:

Can you send me more information on the following art or artist?

If you have found information about an artist in our Art & Artist Files inventory project and would like more information, please note where the file is located (at the bottom of the record) and contact that library directly, or contact us via email

For inquiries on art and artists that are not related to American art, please utilize other resources outside of the Smithsonian Institution, such as the National Gallery of Art. . Other suggested resources can be found on our subject guides page.

How did the Smithsonian Institution come to be?

For the history of the Smithsonian Institution, please see the Smithsonian Institution Archives' Institutional History Division web site

Another resource is the From Smithson to Smithsonian: The Birth of an Institution Exhibition web site

Another excellent site related to this topic, about the last 150 years of Smithsonian research in Latin America, is the Natural History Museum Anthropology Department's Smithsonian Exhibitions web site

How can I get an article from the Smithsonian magazine?

Recent issues of Smithsonian magazine can be seen at:
For earlier issues, see your local or affiliated public or academic library. The magazine has a large circulation and is widely available.

Who do I contact if I am having problems with my Smithsonian magazine subscription?

Please see the Smithsonian magazine's web page for contacts.

I would like to make a donation to the Libraries, whom should I contact?

For more information about contributing to the Smithsonian Institution Libraries, please contact:

Director of Advancement
Smithsonian Libraries
PO Box 37012 MRC 154
Washington, DC 20013-7012
Fax: 202.786.2861

I have a media-related inquiry about the Libraries, whom should I contact?

For more media related information about the Smithsonian Libraries, please contact:

Elizabeth O'Brien
Public Information Officer
Telephone: 202.633.1522

I would like to work for the Libraries, whom should I contact?

For more information about Employment Opportunities with the Smithsonian Institution Libraries, please go to the Smithsonian Institution's Office of Human Resources site.

We also have many unpaid, and some paid, internship opportunities available throughout the year. 

I would like to volunteer for the Libraries, whom should I contact?

Volunteering is managed centrally by the Smithsonian's Office of Visitor Services. Their site has more information about how to become a behind-the-scenes volunteer, which includes volunteering for the Libraries.

What kind of fellowships or research grants are available through the Smithsonian Libraries?

Please see our internships and fellowships page for more information on paid and unpaid opportunities at the Libraries.

Who do I contact for permission to use a Smithsonian Institution published image or photograph in a publication?

There are over a hundred different departmental sources of photographs at the Smithsonian Institution. If possible, please try to determine what subject area is appropriate to the photograph (for example, for airplane photographs, see the National Air and Space Museum), find and then contact the appropriate Smithsonian department archives by starting with the Institution's main web page

For information on copyright rules covering Smithsonian content, please see:

I would like to reuse an image I have found on the Libraries' website. What are your usage terms, and how can I get permission to use the image?

Our licensing and terms of use information can be found on the Galaxy of Images permissions page. You will also find a FAQ and contact information for image licensing.

Which Smithsonian Institution office produces recordings for purchase?

How do I purchase or find information on Smithsonian-branded products?

Please see The Smithsonian Store online

For all other inquiries please Ask a Librarian by filling out our email form.