The Season of Caps and Gowns

Graduation season is upon us! Some students have already graduated. Others are just about to graduate. Ever wonder if academic regalia looked any different in the past? Let’s take a look at caps, gowns, and hoods in a Cotrell & Leonard trade catalog from the early twentieth century. 

Upcott and the Early History of Aeronautics

This post was also featured on the blog of the National Air and Space Museum. Among the treasures found within the special collections of the DeWitt Clinton Ramsey Room, a branch of the Smithsonian Libraries located at the National Air and Space Museum, is a collection of oversized scrapbooks with an interesting and complicated history. Originally bound in one volume, William Upcott’s Scrapbook of Early Aeronautica captures the history of lighter-than-air aircraft more »

For Camping Month: How to Share a Tent with a Smithsonian Secretary

What are your plans for National Camping Month? Thinking of bringing along a sketchbook? You’d be in good company. Mary Vaux Walcott (1860-1940) was undoubtedly a pro at camping. The naturalist and botanical illustrator spent the summers of her youth in the Canadian Rockies with her well-to-do family, where she became an active mountain climber, outdoorswooman, photographer, and started her first forays into botanical illustration. It was later in life, in her mid more »

And a Book is Made…in 1892

It’s easy to take a book for granted and not think about the machines and time it took to make the book, especially in the nineteenth century. The Trade Literature Collection includes catalogs for bookbinding and printing machinery. Some of those machines are shown in this 1892 Montague & Fuller trade catalog.

#DigIntoDyar: Discover the secrets of Harrison Dyar

Important entomological work.  The Bahá’í faith. Secret tunnels under Washington, DC. What do all of these elements have in common? Curiously, Smithsonian scientist Harrison Gray Dyar, Jr..

The Challenge of Shelving Books

April 10-16 is National Library Week! In honor of the event, we invite you to explore some of the tools of the trade, circa 1894. Running out of space for your books? More books than space to shelve them? In the late nineteenth century, the Yost Circular Case Co. had just the thing for you. A revolving circular bookcase which allowed for the storage of more books in less space! This circa more »

Unearthing History: Mary Anning’s Hunt for Prehistoric Ocean Giants

This post was written by L.K. Ward and was originally published on the Oceans Portal blog on March 21st, 2016. You may not have realized it, but you’ve been acquainted with Mary Anning since you were young. “She sells sea shells by the sea shore.” Remember this grade school tongue-twister? What you probably didn’t know is that this nursery rhyme is based on a real person who not only sold seaside curiosities more »

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