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Magnificent Obsessions - Why we collect

decoration01 Nov. 2018|30 June 2020

Curated by: Stephen H. Van Dyk
and Mary Augusta Thomas,  Smithsonian Libraries

The impulse to collect is human. We collect for many reasons: to gather information about the world, to preserve the past, or to follow our interests and desires. For some, it is a lifelong pursuit.

Pioneering collectors have long shaped Smithsonian Libraries. Each had their own unique passions, from hot-air balloons to seashells, from Japanese prints to world’s fairs. Together, these diverse collections form a vast network of knowledge.

Smithsonian Libraries continues to build upon the work of these curious collectors. We preserve historic treasures and everyday items to provide a window onto the past. We seek out new sources and collections to advance research and scholarship. And we share our collections with the world to inspire curiosity and spark new ideas. Like a modern day cabinet of curiosity, Smithsonian Libraries collections span eras and disciplines, enabling discovery, inspiring creativity, and illuminating history.

Our collections are living and breathing. What will we collect next?


01 Nov. 2018|30 June 2020
Smithsonian Libraries Exhibition Gallery
in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History
14th St and Constitution Ave NW, DC 20001
10:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Smithsonian Libraries
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