Looking Closely: Two Women in Book History

The Smithsonian Libraries does not contain an overwhelming number of notable bookbindings in its collections. Unlike some other research institutions, fine or interesting covers are not a collecting focus or reason for acquiring a title. Many of our books have had a hard life, well-used over the decades by staff and researchers in the museums’ departments. These survivors have often been rebound in library buckram (sturdy but oh so boring) or been slapped with labels and barcodes (from an earlier time of library practice). So it is always a thrill to come across a striking specimen of an original binding.

The Wondrous Winter Wonderland that was 16th-Century Sweden

An entry into this magical season can be gained through the Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus (History of the Northern Peoples) by Olaus Magnus, first published in Rome in 1555. It is a work greatly valued by Smithsonian curators and researchers and other scholars, since the author – a true Renaissance man – wrote down his geographical, anthropological and naturalistic observations of a land unknown to much of Europe of the time. In more »

Celebrating Our Man of Many Hats: William Henry Holmes

December 1st is the 170th birthday of William Henry Holmes, the Smithsonian’s own Renaissance man. Early in the Smithsonian’s history, Holmes served as the head of the Anthropology Department and later the first director of what would become the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Starting today, we’re celebrating his legacy.

“Every one knows what a bird is.” Or do they?

This post was written by intern Becca Greenstein. Becca is currently pursuing her Master’s in Library Science at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.  She has always had a passion for research, teaching/helping others and seeing the direct impact of her work, and collaboration across departments and institutions (and, of course, reading), so library school has been a good fit for her.  After she graduates, she hopes to continue honing these skills while more »

The Biodiversity Heritage Library celebrates 10 years!

2016 marks the 10th anniversary of the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL, www.biodiversitylibrary.org)!   Since 2006, the Biodiversity Heritage Library has transformed the way scientists, researchers, and librarians around the world access knowledge about and study life on Earth. In order to document Earth’s species and understand the complexities of swiftly-changing ecosystems in the midst of a major extinction crisis and widespread climate change, scientists need something that no single library can provide more »

Tired of Poinsettias? Bah, Humbug!

  Our friends at The Biodiversity Heritage Library asked this question in social media last year and offered up vibrant, joyful portraits of the amaryllis instead. But one commentator declared “Poinsettias rule!” And indeed poinsettias do reign as an economic powerhouse of the nursery industry, cultivated all over the world. The public areas of the various Smithsonian museums and the neighboring Botanic Gardens on the Mall in Washington now have abundant, seasonal more »

Beyond Shells: The Birth of Malacology

Until the late 18th century, the study of mollusks was based largely on shells. Very little research or published information existed about molluscan anatomy and soft tissues. Giuseppe Saverio Poli, recognized by many as the father of malacology, changed this with his monumental publication, Testacea utriusque Siciliae eorumque historia et anatome (1791-1827).

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