Smithsonian Digital Library


The Smithsonian Libraries promotes new ideas through knowledge sharing. We play a dynamic role in advancing scientific and cultural understanding and in preserving America’s heritage. Our expert staff and extensive collections are a crucial resource for research and education communities at the Smithsonian, within the United States, and around the world. – Fact Sheet.

  • Name: Digital Library
  • URL:
  • Purpose & Audience: The purpose of the Smithsonian is for “the increase and diffusion of knowledge”. The Smithsonian, created by an 1848 Act of Congress and begun with the bequest by an English scientist, James Smithsonian. Its current purpose is to be the, “world’s largest museum and research complex, on expanding its educational outreach to encompass the nation in the 21st century” (Gwinn 2007). The intended audience is the United States and the world.
  •  Info Sources & Services:”Our digital collections include over 27,000 digitized books and manuscripts (available on our site and at the Biodiversity Heritage Library) as well as photo and illustration collections, seed catalogs, trade literature, and much more” (Digital Library, “About Our Collections”,2017).


  • Primary sources centered around topics, such as expeditions to New Guinea
  • Seed and nursery catalogs act as artifacts and primary sources of agricultural business and as  artistic advertising artifacts.
  • Trade publication primary sources



  • Smithsonian Research Online offers a host of services to laypersons and scholars alike that facilitate the free flow of information.
  • The Smithsonian Digital Library offers virtual services via Twitter.
  • OneSearch is a portal that enables access to multiple resources, both within and outside the organization, all with one search box .



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Distinctive Features

Because the Smithsonian houses a vast array of collections, browsing their digital exhibitions and collections leads to the joy of serendipitous discovery. In ten minutes I encountered three random and interesting topics and materials. Some were very narrow in scope, while having wide-ranging implications for American history topics, others were very specific collections of rare manuscripts. These resource could offer artistic inspiration, windows onto forgotten history and insight into social history.

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-10-04-17-pm Samuel P. Langley: Aviation Pioneer

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-10-17-27-pmDesign Digitized led me to this out of copyright work titled the Grammar of Ornament.


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screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-10-05-00-pm The Making of a Homemaker Online Exhibit.