The Art of African Exploration presents a selection of drawings, book illustrations, and other objects from the The Russell E. Train Africana Collection in the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History. The compelling images that emerged from the early european exploration of Africa tell the story of Africa as it was first seen by Western eyes, and the impact it had on a fascinated public.
Early development in aeronautics has been accompanied by great popular interest and media coverage. This widespread fascination with flight has inspired an enormous output of historical drawings, paintings, advertisements and illustrations for publications. Some of the most colorful illustrations are those which adorn sheet music. In the Bella Landauer collection, you can find illustrations that range from the bizarre to the commonplace, from the humorous to the mundane. But most are colorful and interesting.
The National Museum of African Art Library maintains a fast-growing collection of more than 2,000 files on contemporary African artists. No other library in the United States is developing or maintaining this type of collection. Although most of these artists are living and working in Africa, the Library also collects information on African artists internationally. The individual files may contain gallery brochures, exhibition announcements and invitations, price lists, resumes, press releases, reviews, and newspaper cuttings.
In the late 1990's the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery Library (AA/PG Library) made a special effort to collect materials on caricature and cartoon in conjunction with the National Portrait Gallery's 1998 exhibition "Celebrity Caricature in America", curated by Wendy Wick Reaves.
For ages, astronomers looked for a way to measure the distance between Earth and the Sun. This distance, called the astronomical unit was a yardstick that could measure the entire solar system. Since the astronomer Johannes Kepler had determined the relative distances among the planets and the Sun in the early 1600s, the Earth-Venus distance could be used to calculate the Earth-Sun distance. Observing the transits of Venus across the surface of the Sun would help to find the value of this measurement.
During the period between the two World Wars, the Czechoslovak Republic was an important and prolific center for avant-garde book design. Signed, limited editions showcased experimental design techniques, high-quality materials, and specially commissioned graphics. Book design for the general public, although mass-produced and much more affordable, was similarly innovative and attentive to questions of design.
How do ideas evolve into reality? Doodles, Drafts, and Designs: Industrial Drawings from the Smithsonian offers a fascinating glimpse into inventors' sketchbooks, engineers' mechanical drawings, and architects' renderings from the 1830s to the 1990s, to show the origins of some of the most familiar sites and devices of modern-day life.
The Smithsonian Institution Libraries has a substantial collection of cartoon and caricature books. While these materials can be found in several branch libraries - such as the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Library or the National Museum of American History Library - the largest concentration is at the Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery Library (AA/PG). The collection at AA/PG includes general collections, rare, and special collections titles which date from 1800. Currently numbering over 600 volumes, this growing collection has a strong focus on the works by American artists - the oldest dating to the Civil War period.
Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) left an indelible mark on the history of photography in his 20-volume life's work, The North American Indian.
Part photographic essay, part ethnographic survey, and part work of art, Curtis' North American Indian Project represented an attempt to capture images of American Indians as they lived before contact with Anglo cultures. The photogravure prints in The North American Indian reveal peoples whose traditional ways of life were coming to an end as the U.S. frontier began to fade.
Thirty years of grueling work on the North American Indian Project cost the artist his marriage and his health. It also yielded an American legacy that is an artistic masterpiece.
The Heralds of Science are 200 books and articles selected by Bern Dibner from his collection, as the most significant titles in the formation and development of Western science and technology.
The Smithsonian Institution Libraries is fortunate to have a few early editions of Verne's works with the original engraved illustrations which made his works so popular. Verne and his publisher Julius Hetzel paid acute attention to the details of these illustrations, so that they are almost an integral part of the story. Later reprints usually omitted these engravings, and since the original woodcuts and early printing plates are long gone, all that remains are these images from the early books
Sustaining a home and healthy family was a full time job for middle class women in late nineteenth century America. Daniel Wise articulated the popular sentiment when he proclaimed, "Home is woman's world, as well as her empire".1 Cooking, cleaning, and child rearing were seen as women's work. To some, "Comfort for her family is provided even at the expense of many an exhausted nerve, and an aching heart". How did they handle the daunting work without the aid of microwave ovens, vacuum cleaners and carpools? Wealthier women might rely on servants while other matrons bore the brunt of work themselves. However, to almost all, a comprehensive domestic guidebook could be indispensable.
Illustrations of the nests and eggs of birds of Ohio was published in the small town of Circleville, Ohio, over a period of eight years (from 1879 to 1886) through the dedicated efforts of the family and friends of a young woman named Genevieve Jones. Despite being produced not just by amateurs but largely by women, far from the publishing houses and intellectual centers of 19th-century America, the book was hailed as an extraordinary achievement from the moment its first few plates were published. Elliott Coues, one of the foremost American ornithologists of the period, praised the book as its parts came off the press and were distributed.
Travel literature is an increasingly popular research tool for anthropologists, natural scientists, and social historians, as well as an informative and entertaining subject for the armchair traveler. The works displayed here focus on the American travel experience in Egypt, a popular destination for travelers from the time of Herodotus (ca. 420 B.C.). American travel accounts displayed a brashness and a paradoxical tendency to praise Egypt for being a fresh new travel destination while criticizing it for not being enough like home.This online presentation brings together selected travel account by Americans who visited Egypt in the nineteenth century. Many of the volumes, or their authors, have special associations with the Smithsonian. Additionally, a sampling of guidebooks and handbooks to Egyptian antiquities are presented.
Throughout time, explorers have drawn readers to faraway places through stories and songs, maps and drawings, manuscripts and books. Their intriguing accounts of the new and unknown have brought the world closer to those left at home. As you explore six centuries of rare books, manuscripts, art, and artifacts from the Smithsonian Institution, you'll learn how Smithsonian staff use these resources in their everyday work.
For hundreds of years people dreamed of linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans across the narrow neck of land connecting North and South America—the Panama Canal. In 1904, the U.S. government embarked on the largest civil engineering project in history, and today, after more than eight decades of efficient operation, the Panama Canal remains a symbol of human creativity, persistence, and achievement.
The National Postal Museum Library has a rich collection of books concerning the history of parcel post in the United States. The establishment of parcel post in 1913 had a tremendously stimulating effect on the national economy; it opened a world of opportunities for both farmers and merchants alike.
In addition, farmers were able to ship eggs and other produce directly to the consumer, saving them both time and money. A staggering variety of goods was mailed by parcel post through the years. Prior to World War I, before the practice was banned, even children were sent parcel post. In 1916, an entire bank – probably the largest and heaviest object ever sent by parcel post – was dismantled and shipped from Salt Lake City, Utah to Vernal, California. This display provides a brief history of parcel post with appropriate illustrations from the collections of the National Postal Museum Library.
Through historic illustrations, viewers of the exhibit are able to see what inspires and drives graphic art. Andreas Vesalius, an early physician and progressive scientist, wrote the book “De Humani Corporis Fabrica” (1543) with illustrations of the human body showing muscles pulled back to see what was underneath. The illustrations of Vesalius changed the way people looked at the human form and helped develop modern medicine. Letters have been shown to be inspiration for some writers, as seen through the graphic images from children’s alphabet books; and pictures drawn with a calligraphic style add a degree of artistry to poems about birds in Armand Monjo’s “Tu l’as vu l’oiseau?” (1993)
The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum Library, Smithsonian Institution Libraries, has a rich collection of vibrantly colored illustrated books and periodicals that were created using the pochoir stenciling process. The pochoir process, characterized by its crisp lines and brilliant colors, produces images that have a freshly printed or wet appearance. This display provides a brief history and description of the pochoir process along with select examples of pochoir images from the library's collection that illustrate costume, interior, and pattern designs produced in France from 1900 through the 1930s.
The military engineer Agostino Ramelli produced a remarkable illustrated book in 1588 describing a large number of machines that he devised. Called Le diverse et artificiose machine del Capitano Agostino Ramelli (The various and ingenious machines of Captain Agostino Ramelli), this work had a great impact in the field of mechanical engineering. The book contains 195 superb engravings of various machines along with detailed descriptions of each one in both French and Italian. The Dibner Library has original drawings of seven of the machines and this web site has been developed to further research on these artworks. We have on display here each of the drawings along with their counterparts in the printed book.
Very few people today realize that Samuel P. Langley almost succeeded with inventing the airplane before the Wright brothers. Who was Langley and what did he do?
Science and the Artist’s Book takes its inspiration from the Heralds of Science (1955; rev. ed. 1980), Bern Dibner’s bibliography of 200 landmark works in the history of science and technology. In 1995-1996, the Smithsonian Institution Libraries and the Washington Project for the Arts hosted an exhibition of works by more than two dozen artists, who re-interpreted various scientific ideas, methods, and discoveries through their imaginative use of the book form.
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.
This site provides a listing of those 126 titles, along with selected digitized images from some of the titles.
This exhibition highlights the life of James Smithson, the English scientist who bequeathed his fortune to the United States to establish an institution "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge." The exhibition tells of the retrieval of the bequest from Great Britain, and describes the controversy this bequest provoked in the United States, up until the 1846 founding of the Smithsonian Institution. It concludes by tracing the early years of the Institution as it grew and developed under the leadership of its first two Secretaries.
Studebaker's long standing commitment to quality and value made it one of the automotive giants prior to the Great Depression, often being among the first manufacturers to introduce new technology or safety features, such as four-wheel hydraulic brakes in 1925. Barely surviving the 1930s, Studebaker resumed its innovative heritage with some of the first new designs to follow World War II. Postwar Studebaker automobiles, largely due to their association with Raymond Loewy, are still considered to be classics of modern industrial design. Both functional and elegant, Studebaker's are highly prized by car collectors and enthusiasts throughout the United States. In addition to a national museum devoted to Studebaker in South Bend, Indiana, the national chapter of the Studebaker Drivers Club includes more than 13,000 members of Studebaker owners and admirers.
A century and a half ago, the world suddenly became smaller when an underwater telegraph cable joined two nations divided by the sea. From that first link, a vast web spread across the globe.
Voyages of discovery can be of many kinds: a physical journey to an unknown place, a mental exploration of new or familiar territory, or a wholly new episode of creative thought. All three are explored in Voyages, an exhibition spanning five centuries of rare books, manuscripts, art, and artifacts from the Smithsonian Institution Libraries.
Why are centuries-old natural history books vital to scientific research? Our scientists consult early printed materials to compare historical descriptions with modern specimens. These researchers use the rare book collection of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries' new Joseph F. Cullman, 3rd, Library of Natural History.
Wonder-rooms and curiosity cabinets appeared in the 1500s, as wealthy Europeans displayed objects and specimens collected during trading voyages and exploring expeditions. Books-such as these-allowed scientists and collectors to share their observations.
On December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers were the first men in history to make powered, sustained and controlled flights in an airplane. The machine, engine and propellers were all of their own design and construction. It was bitterly cold that morning and a gusty 27 mile-per-hour wind scoured the sand dunes.
Did you know the Smithsonian has a library? Actually, the Smithsonian has 20 libraries combined into one system and supported by an online catalog of the combined collections of: Over 1.5 million books, 50,000 rare books, 10,000 historic manuscript and over 2,000 electronic journal titles
A collection of pamphlets and guide books published by zoos over the past century has been collected by the National Zoological Park branch of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries. This online sample of these items, which includes maps, drawings and photographs of zoos from over 30 states and 40 countries is intended to highlight the value of this resource for both zoo and cultural historians. Few libraries or archives today contain materials showing the evolution of zoos in the modern era to the extent that this collection does.