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East Coast earthquake affects Botany-Horticulture Library at Smithsonian

It made national news! A rare 5.8 magnitude earthquake on the East Coast which has caused the closing of some of Washington D.C.’s  iconic structures such as the Washington Monument and the National Cathedral.  What is less known, is the effect it has had on the interior of the Botany-Horticulture Library located in the National Herbarium and one of the 20 Branch libraries in the Smithsonian Institution Library system.



While the only Natural History library in the building to have extensive damage, the Botany-Horticulture library had eight shelf ranges or an estimated 1600 linear feet destroyed beyond repair due to the August 23rd quake.  Many shelves, filled to 100% capacity with books, shifted severely and ended up leaning on the windows, which line one side of the library.   Luckily, no window panes were broken and nobody was hurt.  Many Smithsonian staff, including Smithsonian Institution Libraries’ Director, Nancy Gwinn, came in the same evening following the afternoon quake and carefully removed books most likely to cause further damage if there were aftershocks.  




Although the books were supporting the shelving structure instead of the reverse, there was very little damage to the books.  Approximately, 18,000 books are now being housed on shelves in our new Natural History East Court Library.  Luckily, there was a moving company finishing up moving the collection from the Smithsonian Naturalist Center from Leesburg.  They were able to step in and quickly moved the books and journals to our other library so the damaged shelving could be removed and the collection could be made once again accessible to SI staff and visitors.  New shelving has already been reinstalled and plans are being made to bring the books and journals eventually back to the Botany-Horticulture Library. 

Robin Everly

Photos courtesy of Martin Kalfatovic:


  1. Well the latest Tsunami attacks in Japan and earthquakes in Turkey have been far worse then just tremors… It’s far better in the US than those countries – gosh I can’t even imagine what I’d have done, if i were in their shoes!

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