Seeking the Ferns of Southern Mexico: on Oliver Sacks neurologist, bestselling author, and botanist

This post was written by Robin Everly, librarian in the Botany and Horticulture Library, with Spencer Goyette, contractor in the National Museum of Natural History’s Department of Botany. Working in the Botany and Horticulture library, I’m still surprised by the books I come across that I haven’t heard about. So when I came across Oaxaca Journal what caught my eye was the author’s name on the book’s spine- Oliver Sacks. Immediately, I more »

Director’s Message: Looking Forward

This piece was written by Nancy E. Gwinn, Director, Smithsonian Libraries, for our summer 2015 printed newsletter magazine. To obtain a copy of our printed newsletter, email  The Smithsonian Libraries has an updated look, as you may have noticed.  Recently, we simplified our name, dropping the word “Institution” for simplicity’s sake and because people always say “institute” instead.  So we are now Smithsonian Libraries. And we’ve rolled out our new brand, more »

The Short, Soaring Life of Lieutenant Selfridge

One does not readily associate “firsts” in aviation history with either Washington, D.C. or with the Scottish-born scientist and engineer Alexander Graham Bell. Alas, the first fatality in a powered aircraft connects both the nation’s capital and the inventor of the telephone. The Smithsonian’s collections give testament to many aeronautical and military milestones, including the brief but significant life of Thomas E. Selfridge. 

Surrealism for the Masses: Finds from the Art and Artist Files

    The world of modern art is at times criticized for a certain reputation of exclusivity and mystery in which the more inaccessible a certain artist or artwork may be, the more valuable and reputable the art becomes. Salvador Dali, the most famed member of the twentieth century avant-garde movement, Surrealism, on the other hand, challenges this perception that artistic creation is a closed-off affair for an elite few. Sure, Dali was no more »

“Priority!” awarded Thackray Medal

A recent book to which Leslie Overstreet, the Smithsonian Libraries curator of natural-history rare books, contributed has been awarded the John Thackray Medal by the Society for the History of Natural History for “significant achievements in the history and bibliography of natural history.”

Published Open Access Papers Set to Increase Soon

The Smithsonian will soon develop procedures for complying with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s directive on public access to federally funded research. That means that most papers authored by Smithsonian staff and affiliates will be made available to the public at no charge, some after an embargo period. There are several methods being developed by other federal agencies to meet this requirement and the Smithsonian has kept abreast of these policies. But aside from the White House mandate, it is clear that Smithsonian authors are increasingly making their scholarship freely available via publishing with an open access (OA) publisher. On average, there are about 350* OA papers published each year by Smithsonian scientists. This represents nearly 15% of research output.

More Than Pictures of Lizards: The Value of Librarians and In-Person Instruction

This post was written by Kendra Hurt, an Instructional Design Intern at the Biodiversity Heritage Library & Smithsonian Libraries. Kendra is graduating this May from the University of Maryland with a Master of Library Science. This semester I have worked with Bianca Crowley and Trina Brown as an Instructional Design intern, and I’ve been creating videos, writing instructions, and conducting sessions on using Prezi and how to search the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) via advanced search.

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