Smithsonian Institution Archives

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Smithsonian Institution Archives
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Smithsonian Institution Archives
Location600 Maryland Ave SW, Washington, DC
Coordinates 38°53′10″N77°01′17″W / 38.886089°N 77.021413°W / 38.886089; -77.021413
Type Archives
Public transit access L'Enfant Plaza (Washington Metro)

The Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA) is the archives of the Smithsonian Institution. SIA is located in Washington, D.C., United States, and maintains the archives related to the history of the 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park, 9 research facilities, and the people of the Smithsonian.



SIA's collections consist of archival material related to art, history, science and the humanities. This includes document, image, audio-visual, electronic, oral history and videohistory collections about expeditions, biographies, and general history about the Smithsonian Institution. [1]


In 1891, William Jones Rhees, Chief Clerk of the Smithsonian Institution, became Keeper of the Archives. He served until 1907. Current records and historical files were maintained by Office of the Secretary's administrative staff through the middle of the 20th century. John F. Jameson III became Archivist in 1958. His successor, John DeGurse, Jr., served from 1960 to 1964.

Beginning in 1965, Smithsonian Archivist Samuel T. Suratt was charged with "development of the Archives as a facility for historical research in American Science by making the Archives' resources more readily accessible to historians through better identification, preservation, and cataloging of Smithsonian documents." [2] The Archives were physically relocated to the Smithsonian Castle, and received separate line-item funding.

Nathan Reingold, the editor of the Joseph Henry Papers Project, served as Acting Archivist from 1969 to 1970. In January 1970, Richard H. Lytle began a tenure as Archivist which included the 1973 establishment of an oral history program, and the 1976 relocation of the Archives to the Arts and Industries Building. Most of the Smithsonian museums increased acquisitions and conducted surveys during this period; new guides were issued 1971 and 1978. In 1981, William A. Deiss became Acting Archivist, upon Lytle's departure to head up the Smithsonian's computer services. 1983 saw yet another new guide to the expanding repositories, and the appointment of William W. Moss as Director.

By fiscal year 1988, the stacks in the Arts and Industry Building had filled up, and about 5,000 cubic feet of records were sent to leased warehouses at Fullerton Industrial Park, South Springfield, VA. New developments included the Smithsonian Archives and Special Collections Council, The Smithsonian Videohistory Program, which collected interviews focused on American science starting in 1987, and an "exhaustive survey" of the photographs housed in Smithsonian facilities.

Moss continued as director of the reorganized Office of Smithsonian Institution Archives in 1993, which contained an Archives Division, an Institutional History Division, and a National Collections Program. Pamela M. Henson succeeded Moss as Acting Director in 1993, followed by John F. Jameson Fr. in 1994. In 1994, Edie Hedlin became Director. She served until 2005, presiding over the transition to electronic information and the creation of the first websites. The "fourth (and last) printed Guide to the Smithsonian Archives ... described over 1,100 record units comprising some 15,500 cubic feet of archival material," and appeared in 1996. [2] Many archival records were moved to a storage facility, Iron Mountain, in 1997. Acting Director Thomas Soapes served from 2005 to 2007, followed by the present (as of 2012) Director, Anne Van Camp.

The Archives division consisted of three divisions: a Records Management (RM) Team, the Arrangement and Description Team which created "finding aids, bibliographic records, and agency histories." and the Reference Team responding to visits and remote queries from researchers. The Records Management Team took over the work of the Arrangement and Description Team in 2007.

The Preservation Team, responsible for long-term preservation of Smithsonian Archives materials, consultation, and outreach, is part of the larger Technical Services Division. It offers services on a fee basis to other archives and repositories, including offsite storage at the Boyers, PA facility. The Smithsonian Center for Archives Conservation was created with initial funding of $100,000, provided by Eleanor McMillan, which supported the salary of a paper conservator.

The Institutional History Division has authored an online history of the Smithsonian, and provides web access to over 3,000 digital images. The 12-volume Joseph Henry Papers Project, a history of the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, was published in 2007.

The Electronic Records Division has held digital records since the mid-1990s, and works with "risk management, preservation and conservation" of data in current and obsolete formats, including archiving of the Smithsonian websites. It has also conducted joint research on e-mail record preservation with the Rockefeller Archive Center.

The Smithsonian Institution Archives moved into the Capital Gallery Building in August 2006, and has "a state-of-the-art storage facility; a reading room; several special viewing/listening rooms; processing and preservation space; digital imaging and audiovisual processing facilities; an oral history interview studio; and a conservation lab." [2]

In March 2012, the Smithsonian Institution Archives became the second Smithsonian unit to become directly involved in Wikipedia through the Wikipedia GLAM-wiki initiative., [3] including appointing the Archives' first Wikipedian in Residence, Sarah Stierch. [4]

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  1. Archie R. Crouch (1989). Christianity in China: A Scholars's Guide to Resources in the Libraries and Archives of the United States. M.E. Sharpe. p. 78. ISBN   978-0-87332-419-9 . Retrieved 20 April 2012.
  2. 1 2 3 Cox, William E. (Jan 11, 2008). "A Brief History of the Smithsonian Institution Archives".Missing or empty |url= (help)
  3. "Smithsonian Institution Archives Hosts Wikipedian in Residence and Outreach Events with Wikipedia Volunteers" (PDF). Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
  4. "Meet Sarah Stierch: The Archives' Wikipedian in Residence". Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved January 20, 2013.