Comments: Research Opportunities

National Museum of American History [General]

From the beginning (when it opened in 1964 under the name Museum of History and Technology) the museum had a strong commitment to research. This was reinforced institutionally by the creation within the Smithsonian of a fellowship program and special research funds, and externally by the coincidental emergence of academic programs in history of science and technology which were supplying potential curators and academic users. Visiting scholars are welcome for periods of a day or less to a year or more. Anyone contemplating such a visit should generally check with appropriate staff member(s) as well as become familiar with resources by examining the website.

Collections. In recent years the museum has made notable progress in digitizing information about its collections, and in many areas basic catalog information is available internally in computerized form for a large percentage of the items held. Some of these have been assembled into groups, with detailed descriptions, and can be found at Searching by key words at this same site may also yield useful listings.

An additional source, covering objects located in all sections of the Smithsonian Institution, is the Smithsonian Collections Search Center For more about these objects, or for those records not yet available on the web, enquiries should be made to the appropriate curators.

Library. The library housed in the museum is a branch of the Smithsonian Libraries (; the catalogs are merged and available online

Archives. The Archives Center has extensive holdings related to the museum’s overall mission. It is included as a division in the “departments” site mentioned above; a direct link is Here you will find a list of holdings (including, in many cases, detailed finding aids) as well as contact information.

A separate entity, the Smithsonian Archives, preserves records of the activities of the Institution

Exhibits. As products of original research, exhibits can be of considerable value to historians—even more so if the source material is available. Unfortunately there is no convenient list of exhibits that have appeared in the museum, nor of the catalogs that sometimes accompanied them. However, primary source material—scripts, designs, photographs, correspondence, etc.—for many exhibits are available in the Smithsonian Archives (referenced above). Information about current, traveling and recent (back to 2006) regular exhibits, as well as numerous on-line exhibits (which are usually taken from on-the-floor versions) can be found at

The Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology (located in the museum) has sponsored several exhibits which are available at Some include background material on sources.

Fellowships. The Smithsonian fellowship program covers all disciplines of interest to the Institution, including history of science and technology. An overview, including staff directory, is available in Smithsonian Opportunities for Research and Study; a pdf version may be found at, with the NMAH section for the current (2018) edition on pages 47-64. For details on how to apply see

In addition, the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation and the Dibner Library, both in NMAH, offer grants. See and

Before proceeding with any fellowship application it is highly advisable to contact one or more staff members, both to discuss the availability of resources and to obtain general advice.

Staff. For staff members go to “Staff” lists people alphabetically, with links to further details (including contact information). “Departments <Office of Curatorial Affairs” provides lists of curators by administrative divisions; again, with links for in-depth coverage. A list in a slightly different format can be found in the felloowship booklet (SORS) mentioned above.

B. Finn, September, 2017