Smithsonian Institution Archives

The Megatherium Club a group of young naturalists who often collected for the Smithsonian during the mid-nineteenth century

The Smithsonian Institution Archives collects, preserves, and makes available the official records of the Smithsonian Institution, the papers of Smithsonian scholars and other staff members, and the records of related professional organizations. The Archives provides reference services to the general public, scholars, and to staff of the Smithsonian. It carries out a program of records management for Smithsonian offices, advising them on the disposition of records and pertinent documentary materials, and operates a records center for the storage of temporary records.

Collection Highlights: The Archives maintains over 36,000 cubic feet of holdings, which include institutional records, personal papers, and special collections. Official records provide a comprehensive history of the development and activities of the Smithsonian; its role in 19th century American science, especially natural history; Smithsonian involvement with cultural and social issues; and the development of museums as cultural institutions. Frequently used collections are listed on the Archives website.

Holdings include the records of the following current and former Smithsonian museums and bureaus: Anacostia Community Museum, Cooper-Hewitt/Smithsonian Design Museum, Freer Gallery of Art, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of African American History and Culture, National Museum of African Art, National Museum of American History, National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of the American Indian, National Portrait Gallery, National Postal Museum, National Zoological Park, Renwick Gallery, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and the United States National Museum.

A broad range of Smithsonian special programs and projects are also documented in the collections including the Smithsonian Institution-Peace Corps Environmental Program, the International and Environmental Programs, the Office of Program Support (documenting international exhibitions including the Sao Paulo and Venice Biennials), the International Exchange Service, and the International Whaling Conference and International Whaling Commission.

In addition, the Archives maintains the personal papers of Smithsonian scientists and historians; papers of scholars and researchers affiliated with the Institution; records of professional organizations; and oral and video histories of Smithsonian staff and research. Highlights include the papers of past Smithsonian secretaries, such as Joseph Henry, Spencer F. Baird, and Charles D. Walcott; the papers of Riccardo Giacconi, Farouk El-Baz, William H. Dall, George Brown Goode, Joseph H. Hirshhorn, Fielding B. Meek, and Fred L. Whipple; special collections such as the Harriman Alaska Expedition Collection, field reports of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Vail Telegraph Collection; and the records of Science Service, the American Association of Museums, the American Ornithologists Union, the History of Science Society, the Museum Computer Network, the National Institute, the Society of Systematic Zoology, the Society of American Mammalogists, the Smithsonian Science Information Exchange, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Searching Smithsonian Institution Archives Holdings: Collections; images; oral and video histories; as well as Smithsonian history databases including a chronology, bibliography, legal citations, and biographies of the Board of Regents. Search at

Smithsonian Institution Archives
Capital Gallery Building, Suite 3000
600 Maryland Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20024-2520

Mailing Address
Smithsonian Institution Archives 
P.O. Box 37012, MRC 507
Washington, DC 20013-7012

202.633.5927 fax


Appointment Required

Metro Stop: L' Enfant Plaza