Happy 45th Birthday, Warren M. Robbins Library!

The Warren M. Robbins Library at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art celebrates its 45th anniversary this year. From a collection of a few hundred books in Mr. Robbins’ personal collection in 1971, the Library has grown to a remarkable 50,000 volumes. It enjoys the reputation of being the premier library in the United States for the research and study of the visual arts of Africa. Our collection of 5,000 African more »

Batter Up: Early Twentieth Century Baseball Equipment

This post was written by Rebecca Durgin and Shayla Wheat, graduate students in the Smithsonian-Mason History of Decorative Arts Masters Program. Rebecca and Shayla were also Graduate Research Assistants in 2015-2016 at the National Museum of American History Library. Play ball! With baseball season underway across the United States, let’s take a look at early baseball equipment featured in a catalog from the Trade Literature Collection at the National Museum of American more »

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..

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