Unearthing an 18th-Century Librarian-Gardener

Rare book cataloging can require some detective work. A recent case for me involved a record of ancient coins in the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford, transferred to the Smithsonian’s Dibner Library for cataloging from the National Museum of American History’s National Numismatic Collection. This is also a tale of how a book can reveal unexpected histories.

Filed away: Office equipment of the late 19th century

Today, in the 21st Century, it is commonplace to find a computer on a desk in an office. In the late 19th Century, workers did not have the convenience of our modern office equipment. So how did they file papers, write documents, or make copies of documents?

A behind-the-scenes tour for Preservation Week

This week, April 23-29th 2017, is Preservation Week, a week set aside by the American Library Association to highlight the importance of conserving and properly caring for books, papers and other media,  in both institutional and personal collections. This year, we’re celebrating Preservation Week with a live, behind-the-scenes tour of our Book Conservation Lab, via Facebook Live. Viewers will have a chance to meet our conservation staff, learn about what they do more »

A Zinnia Grows in Space

National Garden Month blasts off with zinnias, written by Robin Everly and Julia Blakely. Smithsonian Libraries, most days, is like a typical library system — we assist staff and visitors with information needs, purchase books, check in journal issues, digitize, catalog, and of course, shelve books. However, the Smithsonian being the Smithsonian, sometimes your ordinary day turns upside down into something else. It’s what makes working here so fun and interesting. Such a day occurred November 10, 2016, when a Smithsonian Gardens’ horticulturist contacted our librarian in the Botany and Horticulture Department about attractive 19th-century books featuring information about zinnias. He was working with a National Air and Space Museum (NASM) film crew on an educational program about Astronaut Scott Kelly’s growing zinnias on the International Space Station (ISS). The botanical librarian, along with our catalog librarian in the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History, came up with some stunning botanical illustrations and set up a display in the rare book reading room for the filmmakers. From these more »

Musical stuffed bunnies still sing it…..

“Easter Parade” is still a popular song- lots of little kids today know this old tune from their musical animal toys. You might know the lyrics and tune to sing along with the first 2 lines of the chorus of  “In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it…”  Written by Irving Berlin in 1933, the song was also the basis of the iconic 1948 movie musical starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire. The song was introduced by Marilyn Miller and Clifton Webb on Broadway as part of the musical revue As Thousands Cheer (1933), in which musical numbers were strung together on the thematic thread of newspaper headlines and the lives of rich and famous people.

Help advance scientific discovery with the National Museum of Natural History Library

Scientists, scholars, and curators at the Smithsonian and around the world consider the National Museum of Natural History Library to be indispensable and critical to their work. The Natural History Library and the Smithsonian Libraries at large provide an irreplaceable resource for researchers like me who need to access to original literature, in print, often from centuries ago, as well as digital versions, such as those online at the Biodiversity Heritage Library. Sometimes more »

Ad-hoc Reporting and Use of SRO

Since the earliest days of the Smithsonian Research Online (SRO), we have sometimes thought of the program as a distinct branch library just like any other. The notable exception is that SRO items are not printed materials but rather digital, and we use a different catalog or finding aid for the items. But other than that, the SRO processes materials in much the same way as a typical library by selecting, acquiring and cataloging items as the program has grown.

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