National Museum of American History Library

As a premier American history collection and one of 21 libraries in the Smithsonian library system, the National Museum of American History (NMAH) Library supports research in the following areas:

  • all areas of American history, including social, cultural, political, and economic events and development, along with their impact on everyday American life
  • advances in technology, including machinery and transportation
  • scientific and medical history

The NMAH Library is open to all Smithsonian affiliated staff, researchers, volunteers, interns, and fellows, and to visiting researchers by appointment. Books and journals are arranged by the Library of Congress classification system, and some stacks are open to visiting researchers. The Trade Literature Collection is arranged by company name, but it is stored in a restricted area and is not open for browsing by visiting researchers. Library staff can retrieve trade literature materials for use in the NMAH Library Reading Room.

About the Library

Originally located in the Arts and Industries Building, the library collection complemented object collections. Library materials in the former Office Library, Arts and Industries Library, and sectional libraries (departments of civil history, military history, science and technology, arts and manufacturing) came together to form the Library. It moved to the new Museum of History and Technology in 1964, in its current 5th floor location. The museum’s name changed in October 1980 to the National Museum of American History (NMAH) to better reflect its mission -- the collection, care, and study of objects reflecting the experience of the American people.

The NMAH Library collection includes:

  • over 120,000 book titles
  • almost 500,000 trade catalog items, representing over 40,000 companies
  • 500 microfilm titles (approx. 8,000 reels of microfilm)
  • 20,000 microfiche

NMAH Library holdings are listed in the library online catalog, and the Trade Literature Collection webpage provides a search box to look specifically for trade catalogs.