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 »

Bringing Beautiful Gardens Indoors — Landscape Garden, Design, and History Collections at the Libraries

While the Smithsonian Institution Libraries (SIL) comprises 20 branch libraries, some branch collections naturally overlap when meeting the needs of their library users. That’s the situation with one of our art libraries, the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum Library located in New York City, and one of our science libraries, the Botany and Horticulture Library located in Washington D.C. It may surprise you to learn both collect books and journals on landscape design and history and the decorative arts.

The First American and Colonial Woman Botanist

In honor of Women’s History Month, I decided to acquaint myself more with early American women naturalists. Luckily, for me, author Tina Gianquitto has written a book about such a subject

Orchids Through Darwin’s Eyes Exhibit at NMNH

For this year’s annual orchid exhibit, which celebrates Charles Darwin’s 200th Birthday, the Smithsonian Institution Libraries (SIL) has played a small, but pivotal role.  In the middle of the exhibit room, you will find a beautifully displayed first edition of Darwin’s book, On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilized by insects and on the good effects of intercrossing published in 1862.  It is bound in a plum cloth with an orchid gilt on the front cover.  You’ll also find quotes from this book on several of the interpretation panels. In this book, he describes the relationships between orchids and the insects that fertilized them.  The observations Darwin made by studying orchids and their pollinators, gave support to the theory of natural selection that he describes in his more famous book “On the Origins of Species”.  “Fertilization of Orchids” was praised at the time by his contemporaries in natural history and botany.  However, initially, the book was not a bestseller, selling only six thousand copies by more »

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