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Smithsonian Libraries Presents: 50th Anniversary Lecture Series


In 2018, the Smithsonian Libraries will celebrate 50 years as a unified library system. In honor of this special anniversary, the Libraries will host a lecture series celebrating the history of the Smithsonian and the role that books and literature have played in its growth over the years. These lectures are free and open to the public with the first on January 18th, 2018 (details below). We invite you to come learn with us!

Stipple Engraving of Portrait of James Smithson at Oxford. Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives, MAH 9077.


James Smithson and His Library

Heather Ewing
Author, The Lost World of James Smithson

Leslie Overstreet
Curator, Natural History Rare Books, Smithsonian Libraries

Thursday, January 18th, 2018. 6:30pm
National Museum of American History
Coulter Performance Plaza

Free and open to the public. RSVP here: 

James Smithson (c.1765-1829), an 18th-century gentleman of science, included his library with his bequest to the United States, and those books now reside in the vault of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries’ Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History. The collection consists of 126 titles, primarily scientific monographs and journal articles, but also history and memoirs, political pamphlets, travel books and museum guides, and a few household items like cookbooks.

In honor of the Smithsonian Libraries’ 50th Anniversary, Heather Ewing, author of The Lost World of James Smithson, will offer a brief biography of the fabled Smithsonian donor, with discussion of how the library reflected the man. Leslie Overstreet, Smithsonian Libraries Curator of Natural History Rare Books, will follow with a few words about the history of the books at the Smithsonian and how these books relate to the formation of the Smithsonian Libraries. The presentation will include a display of selected books from Smithson’s collection.


S. Dillon Ripley Views Quadrangle. Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives, SIA2007-0157.

And save the date . . .

Writing Dillon Ripley: From Archive to Book
A talk with Roger D. Stone and Stephen T. Moskey

Friday, February 23rd, 2018
Ripley Center Lecture Hall.

Additional details coming soon!



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