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National Museum of American History

Hot Topics in Archival Research

Smithsonian Institution Archives

When asked what the Smithsonian Institution Archives collects, we say we hold records about the history of the Smithsonian and its people, programs, research, and activities. While accurate, this doesn't really give anyone a clue about what is actually in those records.

The Smithsonian Institution Archives Reference Team handles an average of around 6,000 queries per year, and if you ask us what people have been researching at the Archives recently, you'll get some pretty interesting responses. Although not comprehensive, here's a snapshot of the diverse range of information encompassed by the history of the world's largest museum complex!

Samuel P. Langley studying flight of birds, 1901, Record Unit 95: Photograph Collection, 1850s- , Smithsonian Institution Archives, neg. no. MAH-21444.

Over the past three months, researcher queries have included:

Thaddeus Lowe's balloon test of the "Intrepid" at the battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia, 1862, by Brady & Co. Lowe's balloon was used for reconnaissance for the Union Army during the Civil War. The test was supported by Smithsonian Institution Secretary Joseph Henry, who served as President Abraham Lincoln's scientific advisor during the war. The photo will be published in the childrens’ book, "No Way, Way Road Trip!" Record Unit 95: Photograph Collection, 1850s- , Smithsonian Institution Archives, neg. no. SIA2011-0961.

Permissions to upcoming publications using our photos or documents include:

  • Wouter Montfrooij,  Astronomy! A conceptual introduction from the Big Bang
  • Anthony Burton, The Locomotive Pioneers, 1801-1851
  • Norton & Co. for Glenda Gilmore's These United States
  • Edward R. Landa, Assessment of Atmospheric Sulfate Deposition and its Historical Roots in Soil Science
  • Left/Right Productions, The History Channel's Search for Lost Giants
  • Michael G. Littman, Journal of the Washington Academy of Science
  • The Avemco Insurance Co., for its digital newsletter On Approach
  • Penguin Books, No Way, Way Road Trip!

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Hot Topics in Archives Research

Smithsonian Institution Archives

Winter’s arrival brings the annual increase of requests for photos by Wilson A. "Snowflake" Bentley (Record Unit 31 - Office of the Secretary, Correspondence, 1866-1906), Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. No. SIA2013-9128.

When asked what the Smithsonian Institution Archives collects, we say we hold records about the history of the Smithsonian and its people, programs, research, and activities. While accurate, this doesn’t really give anyone a clue about what is actually in those records.

The Smithsonian Institution Archives Reference Term handles an average of around 6,000 queries per year, and if you us what people have been researching at the Archives recently, you’ll get some pretty interesting responses. Although not comprehensive, here’s a snapshot of the diverse range of information encompassed by the history of the world’s largest museum complex!

Over the past three months, researcher projects have included:

  • National Museum of American History’s upcoming 50th anniversary
  • Theodore Roosevelt’s African expedition
  • Post-Modern historicism in exhibits
  • History of the American Society of Icthyologists and Herpetologists
  • Plant geography
  • The Paleontology Hall at the National Museum of Natural History, for renovations to the  Dinosaur  Hall
  • Collecting & interpreting objects relating to George Washington
  • William Healey Dall
  • The history of tropical research in the US
  • Zoological imagination in America

The Smithsonian's pilot aluminum-can recycling program started early in February 1990 when forty-four containers like the one pictured were placed at the National Museum of American History The US Department of State will use this photo on its internal website. Accession 98-015 - Office of Public Affairs, The Torch, 1989-1994, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. No. 89-21916-8.

Upcoming publications using the Archives' photos or documents include:

  • Wright Brothers National Memorial, State of the Park Report
  • Leslie Bedford, The Art of Museum Exhibitions
  • Ted Binnema, Enlightened Zeal: The Hudson’s Bay Co. and Scientific Networks
  • The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, The Clark: the Institute and its Collections
  • Robert Kett, "Ornithologists in Olman," The Museum Journal, April 2014
  • Julian Zelizar, A Great Society: The Fight for Liberalism, 1963-1968

Annual List of Publications by Smithsonian Institution ArchivesFellows and Interns

  • Gibson, Abraham H. 2013. "Edward O. Wilson and the Organicist Tradition," The Journal of the History of Biology, 46 (3)
  • Gibson, Abraham H., Kwapich, Christina L. and Lang, Martha. 2013. "The Roots of Multilevel Selection: Concepts of Biological Individuality in the Early Twentieth Century." History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, 35 (4)
  • Henson, Pamela M. 2013. "O Instituto Smithsonian: Arquivos e a Historia da Ciencia." Acervo, Revista Da Arquivo Nacional, 26 (1): 113-122.
  • Leventhal, Richard M. and Daniels, Brian I. 2013. "'Orphaned Objects,' Ethical Standards, and the Acquisition of Antiquities." DePaul Journal of Art, Technology, and Intellectual Property Law, 23 (2): 339-361.
  • Takarabe, Kae. 2013. "Bibliographical Essay on The History of Science and Technology at the Smithsonian Institution: Focusing on women in science and technology." The History of Science of Tokai, 5: 43-51.
  • Takarabe, Kae. 2013. "Essay on B. S. Lyman's Collecting Ainu Objects: Focusing on General Instructions to the Assistants of the Geological Survey of Hokkaido." Bulletin of the Historical Museum of Hokkaido, 41: 147-152.
  • Takarabe, Kae. 2013. "Research on Technological Innovation in Science Museums and the Use of its Results: A Case Study of the Smithsonian Institution." Lectures and Reports of 31th Symposium-Range and Scope of History of Technology in Japan: Learning about the History of Technology, and Technological, 3: 24-39.
  • Takarabe, Kae. 2012. "Study on the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation: Science Communication at the Smithsonian Institution." Journal of the Museological Society of Japan, 37 (2): 135-159.

Most Unusual Reference Inquiry: Does the Smithsonian have Radar's teddy bear from the TV show, M*A*S*H?

Most people assume the teddy bear owned by Radar (actor Gary Burghoff) came to the Smithsonian when the program ended. After all, we received the donation of a large collection of  M*A*S*H memorabilia that was displayed in a 1983 exhibit at the National Museum of American History.

A "Radar's Teddy bear" file in Record Unit 360 - National Museum of American History, Office of Public Affairs, Records, circa 1970-1985contains several 1984 memos planning an event at the National Museum of American History for the proposed donation. However, there's nothing that indicates that such an event ever occurred. The registrar's office at the National Museum of American History confirmed that the teddy bear had not been accessioned. Something must have happened to prevent the teddy bear donation.

Online research revealed that the teddy was missing until 2005, when it brought $10,000 at auction. In a  2007 Orlando Sentinal interview, Burghoff confirmed that the bear was never at the Smithsonian, had disappeared 30 years earlier, and was purchased at the aforementioned auction by a medical student who then sold the bear to him.

Now where was that bear between 1984 and 2005?

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Hot Topics in Archival Research

Smithsonian Institution Archives

Allergy sufferers can thank biochemist and bacteriologist, Ruby Hirose, for her research in pollen extracts. Accession 90-105 - Science Service, Records, 1920s-1970s, Smithsonian Institution Archives, image no. SIA2008-3224.

When asked what the Smithsonian Institution Archives collects, we say we hold records about the history of the Smithsonian and its people, programs, research, and activities. While accurate, this doesn't really give anyone a clue about what is actually in those records.

The Smithsonian Institution Archives Reference Team handles an average of around 6,000 queries per year, and if you us what people have been researching at the Archives recently, you'll get some pretty interesting responses. Although not comprehensive, here's a snapshot of the diverse range of information encompassed by the history of the world's largest museum complex!

After the death of the famous racehorse Lexington in 1875, his owner donated the horse's bones to the Smithsonian Institution. The pioneering taxidermist Henry Augustus Ward was called in to supervise the preparation of the skeleton, which is displayed outside the Castle Building in this cyanotype. Record Unit 7074 - Leonhard Stejneger Papers, Smithsonian Institution Archives, image no. SIA2015-004061.

Over the past three months, researcher queries have included:

  • Harry Ladd and the Great Barrier Reef
  • History of computers at the Smithsonian
  • The Handbook of North American Indians
  • National Museum of Natural History construction
  • Enola Gay exhibition
  • The racehorse Lexington
  • Galapagos Islands colonists
  • Influence of Smithsonian on bird egg collecting
  • The Columbian Institute
  • Impact of nuclear isotopes on the coral structures
  • Smithsonian Meteorological Project
  • Society for Marine Mammology
  • David Griffiths cactus photos
  • American Encounters exhibition
  • Elk migration

Permissions to upcoming publications using our photos or documents include:

  • Smithsonian Journeys Quarterly - Publication of Smithsonian Journeys which organizes tours around the world used our image of archaeologist, Ephraim George Squier.
  • E.  Samantha Cheng used our image of Ruby Hirose in a public service announcement for Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month.
  • Susan Bullers, images of women scientists for promotional material for The Buddy Study.
  • Australia’s Wildbear Entertainment used our image of French inventor, engineer and chemist Georges Claude in a documentary film on the history of neon.  
  • The Linnean Society of London used our image of Martha, the last passenger pigeon, in their newsletter, Pulse.

May Preston Slosson organized a series of Sunday afternoon lectures for the prisoners at the Wyoming State Penitentiary in Laramie. In 1899, the position of chaplain at the nearly all-male prison became vacant and Slosson was appointed to the position at the request of the inmates. Accession 90-105 - Science Service, Records, 1920s-1970s, Smithsonian Institution Archives, image no. SIA2009-3435.

Most unusual lreference  request

We were contacted by Wyoming State Prison for a photograph of Mary Preston Slosson that will be featured in a permanent exhibit at the Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site.

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Hot Topics in Archival Research

Smithsonian Institution Archives

"Sunrise after a long winter." A man and his dogs gaze at the sun seen by the Rasmussen expedition for the first time after the winter. Photograph taken on Kent Peninsula, on Dease Strait, Northwest Territories, Canada, by Lee Hansen, photographer of Knud Rasmussen expeditions. Image # 2005-8640 

'AIt’s been an exciting year at the Smithsonian Institution Archives. Reference and Photo Fulfillment merged to form an expanded Reference Team, streamlining the process of ordering photos and obtaining permission to publish them.

In addition, the photo collections housed at the former Smithsonian Photographic Services spaces in the National Museum of American History have been moved to a newly completed Cold Vault storage facility at the Smithsonian Institution Support Center in Landover, Maryland. This is the culmination of six years of planning, building and moving.

Researchers will have access to these images through our website. This quarter’s Hot Topics illustrations are examples of seasonal photographs currently available online. 

When asked what the Smithsonian Institution Archives collects, we say we hold records about the history of the Smithsonian and its people, programs, research, and activities. While accurate, this doesn’t really give anyone a clue about what is actually in those records.

The SIA Reference Term handles an average of around 6,000 queries per year, and if you ask us what people have been researching at the Archives recently, you’ll get some pretty interesting responses. Although not comprehensive, here’s a snapshot of the diverse range of information encompassed by the history of the world’s largest museum complex!

'WinterOver the past three months,  researcher projects have included:

  • The Smithsonian’s SITES program
  • Smithsonian Castle façade
  • Handbook of the North American Indian
  • Scopes Trial
  • The Curies
  • History of computers at the Smithsonian Institution
  • The Fines Arts Commission and the National Gallery
  • Data collection practices at the Smithsonian
  • Egg collecting in the nineteenth century
  • Weather observations
  • Museum dioramas
  • George Gibbs
  • Smithsonian expeditions
  • The Roosevelt expedition
  • Marine research
  • The Smithsonian’s railroad locomotive collection
  • Atomic testing sites

'Walcott Upcoming publications using our photos or documents include:

  • Anthony Burton, The Locomotive Pioneers 1801-1851
  • Xiaofei Kang & Donald Sutton, Contesting the Yellow Dragon: Ethnicity, religion and the State in the Sino-Tibetan Borderland
  • Andrew Kirk and Kristian Purcell, Doom Towns: The Contested Landscapes of Atomic Testing
  • Michael Glazer, Crystallography: A Very Short Introduction
  • Richard H. Robbins, Mark Nathan Cohen, Darwin and the Bible: The Cultural Confrontation
  • The Liberty Science Center, "Beyond Rubik's Cube" exhibit

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Reference services at the Smithsonian Institution Archives

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Himba Research Film 1972-1973

Human Studies Film Archives
Supplementary materials: 1,3,5 title supplied by Archives staff (unpublished work) -- archival collection Cataloging supported by Smithsonian Institution Women's Committee Full film record of a research film project documenting the Himba, a pastoral Bantu people of southwestern Angola and northwestern Namibia. Footage features documentation of a rainmaking ceremony with animal sacrifices to the ancestors and the annointing of stones (rain shrines), the tending of cattle herds and the problems of drought, various musical performances, a baby-naming ceremony, and techniques of female hairdressing and braiding. Edited films THE HIMBA and HIMBA WEDDING were produced from this project.

Hot Topics in Archival Research

Smithsonian Institution Archives

Cortege Bringing James Smithson Remains to Smithsonian, 1904, Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives, neg. no. 82-3337.

Appropriately funereal for approaching Halloween, this military cortege accompanied James Smithson's remains from the Washington Navy Yard to the Smithsonian, on January 23, 1904. James Smithson (c.1765-1829) died in Genoa, Italy, and was buried there. However, after the turn of the century, the Smithsonian was notified that the graves were to be moved to allow quarrying on the cemetery site. Smithsonian Regent Alexander Graham Bell and his wife Mabel traveled to Italy to oversee the disinterment of Smithson's remains and their transportation to the Institution that his bequest created.

This photo will be used in an Explorer at Large internet documentary.

When asked what the Smithsonian Institution Archives collects, we say we hold records about the history of the Smithsonian and its people, programs, research, and activities. While accurate, this doesn't really give anyone a clue about what is actually in those records.

The Smithsonian Institution Archives Reference Term handles an average of around 6,000 queries per year, and if you ask us what people have been researching at the Archives recently, you'll get some pretty interesting responses. Although not comprehensive, here's a snapshot of the diverse range of information encompassed by the archives of the world's largest museum complex!

Over the past three months, researcher projects have included:

  • African American history at the Smithsonian
  • History of Tropical biology in the 20th century Caribbean
  • Philippine collections at the Smithsonian
  •  World’s Fairs and Expositions
  • William Whewell and Pre-Darwinian systematics
  • The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
  • Exploration and settlement of the American West
  • History of African-American museums
  • Tropical biology in the Pacific
  • The Wilkes Exploring Expedition
  • Smithsonian presentation of science to the public
  • Botanical exploration in Lower California

Upcoming publications using our photos or documents include:

Mary Jane Rathbun at Woods Hole, 1890, Record Unit 7256, Smithsonian Institution Archives, neg. no. 78-10629.

Mary Jane Rathbun, carcinologist at the United States National Museum, at left with Katherine J. Bush of Yale University, second from left, Charlotte Bush and Eloise Edwards at the Marine Biological Laboratory and United States Fish Commission Station at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, probably in the 1890s.

This photo will appear in Richard Conif’s projected book on the history of the Peabody Museum of Natural History . 

Most unusual reference inquiry:

T. Dale Stewart Examining Skull, 1950, Record Unit 9521, Smithsonian Institution Archives, neg. no. 85-8066.

Fox Television was given permission to use Archives images as set dressing for its popular television series Bones. Among them was this photo of T. Dale Stewart, physical anthropologist, Department of Anthropology, United States National Museum. The photograph was most likely taken in October 1950 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Stewart often examined skeletons for the FBI and pioneered the field of forensic anthropology.

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National Postal Museum Research Resources

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Links compiled by the National Postal Museum to aid research projects, such as past and upcoming symposiums and lectures, industry white papers, and finding guides for navigating the collections, Arago (the museum's research and education website), the museum library, online articles, articles from EnRoute newsletter, photographic archives, videos, topical reference pages, Smithsonian magazine, and external research links.

Research collection of pollen grains given to Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Smithsonian Insider

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama was recently given a collection of more than 25,000 different pollen grains and spores, each mounted on a microscope slide and labeled according to the plant that produced it. “The collection is worldwide in coverage with an emphasis on plants of the Americas,” explains collection donor Alan Graham, professor emeritus at Kent State University and curator at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

The post Research collection of pollen grains given to Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute appeared first on Smithsonian Insider.

United States Fish Commission Research Station

Smithsonian Institution Archives
United States Fish Commission research station and hatchery.

United States Fish Commission Research Station

Smithsonian Institution Archives
United States Fish Commission research station and hatchery at Wytheville, Virginia.

United States Fish Commission Research Station

Smithsonian Institution Archives
United States Fish Commission research station and hatchery at Wytheville, Virginia.

United States Fish Commission Research Station

Smithsonian Institution Archives
United States Fish Commission research station and hatchery at Wytheville, Virginia.

Research Vessel "Mollie" at Woods Hole, Massachusetts

Smithsonian Institution Archives
United States Fish Commission research vessel, the sailing yacht "Mollie," used by Spencer Fullerton Baird, second secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries, for collection of specimens.

Boat-billed Heron at Bocas Research Station

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Video showing a Boat-billed heron, Cochlearius cochlearius, at STRI's Bocas del Toro Research Station, Panama. Video by: Jim Roper, Edited by: Rachel Collin For more information about the Bocas del Toro Research Station, see /www.stri.org/bocas To follow Bocas del Toro Research Station's activities on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bocas-del-Toro-Panama/Bocas-del-Toro-Research-Station/52954902197?ref=search&sid=806740301.3119397756..1

Bocas del Toro Research Station Tour

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
A brief tour through the installations at STRI's Bocas del Toro Research Station. You can also find Bocas Research Station on FaceBook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bocas-Del-Toro-Panama/Bocas-del-Toro-Research-Station/52954902197?ref=ts

Bocas del Toro Research Station Housing Accommodations

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
A quick tour through the housing accommodations of STRI's Bocas del Toro Research Station. You can also find Bocas Research Station on FaceBook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bocas-Del-Toro-Panama/Bocas-del-Toro-Research-Station/52954902197?ref=ts

Teaching Moment: Research Takes a Right Turn

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

by Philip Kiefer In the messy world of science, real progress often happens when experiments don’t go as planned. It’s in these moments that scientists learn that the world doesn’t work like they expected. This year, two teaching fellows at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) had a taste of that during a summer project […]

The post Teaching Moment: Research Takes a Right Turn appeared first on Shorelines.

BOCAS DEL TORO RESEARCH STATION. PROGRAMA PUBLICO

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

BOCAS DEL TORO RESEARCH STATION. PUBLIC PROGRAM

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Hummingbirds at Bocas del Toro Research Station

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
STRI's Bocas del Toro Research Station is home to many species of plans and animals. Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds (Amazilia tzacatl) are often seen flying from flower to flower, and then hurrying of to their nests. In this video, hummingbirds are seen caring for their young and guarding the feeder.

BRS Research Site: Casa Blanca, Isla Colon

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
This video shows the diversity of underwater habitats you can see in just 4 or 5 minutes along the protected coast of Isla Colon. Bocas del Toro is a global hotspot for sponge diversity and still hosts healthy stands of staghorn and elkhorn coral.

BRS Research Site: Crawl Cay (shallow)

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
This short video shows the diversity of habitats you can see at Crawl Cay in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

The Journal of research on the lepidoptera

Smithsonian Libraries
Chemical abstracts 0009-2258

Biological abstracts 0006-3169

Bibliography of agriculture 0006-1530

Available also via the World Wide Web; access available via SIL PURL.

Also available online.

Elecresource
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