New “World’s Fairs” Collection in our Digital Library

Explore one of our newest collections in our digital library containing books, catalogs and ephemera from 19th and 20th century World’s Fairs and Expositions. The majority of the items in this collection were digitized by an outside vendor as part of a special project. Pieces in this collection date from the mid 1800’s to the early 1900’s, highlighting experiences from different fairs that took place all over the world, from America to Europe and more »

Curing an Obsession: Dating a Manuscript on Hydrodynamics

Obsession is a tricky word. Any bibliophile can sense it coming, when they read a new dealer description or see that perfect binding. We’re using the word in our upcoming exhibit, entitled Magnificent Obsessions, in honor of the Smithsonian Libraries 50th anniversary , to describe the incredible collections built by private individuals and donated to the institution. The passion and sweat equity put into building these collections lives on as researchers and more »

Painted Backgrounds for Turn of the Century Photographers

They’re all over social media – frames, filters, and special camera effects on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and other platforms to help you add pizzazz to your selfies and other photos. But is anything really new these days? We found something that may be the grandfather (or at least great uncle) of social media filters – hand-painted backgrounds for photography studios dating from the early 1900s.

Rockwell Kent: “A house is not a home. Not until you decorate.”

According to the author’s text in The Home Decorator and Color Guide (1939), the images in this booklet,   “are not meant to be examples of what in any absolute sense is best in architecture and decoration. Some of them are houses that I’d like to live in; some,  that I’d like to visit; all are houses I’d like to see. They suit my fairly average taste. That may be summed up as more »

Information Matters lecture with Dr. Carla Hayden – July 19th

Please join the Smithsonian Libraries for a talk with Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden as part of our Information Matters Series (with the Smithsonian Institution Archives and the Smithsonian’s Office of Chief Information Officer) and 50th Anniversary Lecture Series. Thursday, July 19th, 2pm ET Meyer Auditorium, Freer Gallery of Art Free and open to the public. RSVP here. This lecture will be recorded and webcast (viewing details to come – event more »

Myrtle: The Provenance and Meaning of a Plant

A version of this post first appeared on the Biodiversity Heritage Library blog. Provenance can be defined as the chain of ownership of any type of object from its creation to the present day. Co-organized by the Smithsonian Libraries, the Smithsonian’s Material Culture Forum recently held a lively session of presentations and discussions on this topic, with speakers from across the Institution: the National Zoo; Natural History Museum scientists and researchers in more »

Cultivating America’s Gardens Coming to a Close – Come Visit Before It Ends!

Come visit the Cultivating America’s Gardens exhibition in the National Museum of American History before it closes this August! The exhibition officially opened in May 2017 and will be saying goodbye at the end of this summer. The exhibition highlights the establishment of botanical gardens and the history of gardening in America. On show are a collection of books and other objects from the Smithsonian Libraries and Smithsonian Gardens collections. Here you more »

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