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The National Air and Space Museum Archives Division acquires for public and curatorial use materials documenting the history of air and space flight. These documentary materials include a wide range of visual and textual materials, many emphasizing the technical aspects of air and space craft and their propulsion systems. The archival collection contains approximately 12,000 cubic feet of material including an estimated 2 million photographs, 700,000 feet of motion picture film, and 2 million technical drawings. Researchers are encouraged to inquire initially by mail or email to determine availability of materials pertinent to their interests. Most materials, except those restricted by copyright and those items that might be damaged by copying, may be duplicated for a fee.
Highlights: The archives holds more than five hundred collections and many other accessions too small to be treated as collections. Personal and professional papers document the professional activities of their creators as well as personal matters. Corporate and organizational records reflect the activities of those entities. Artificial collections compiled by someone other than the creator consist of documentary materials gathered from a number of sources to form reference files around one or more topics. Descriptions of many of these collections are available to the public at www.siris.si.edu. Finding aids to some recently processed collections are available at
Collections_Index.cfm. Most of these collections are housed at the Paul E. Garber Facility in Suitland, MD.
A major attribute of these collections is their visual representation of air and space craft through photographs and technical drawings. The latter vary from three-view drawings to detailed engineering plans, many of which are on microfilm. The Archives also holds many technical manuals that document the design, construction, and performance of air and space craft and the engines that powered them. These documents assist aircraft restorers and modelers as well as historians of technology.
The NASM Technical Files located in the Museum on the Mall contain 1,300 cubic feet of aviation and space-related materials arranged as vertical files. The files are organized by subject in twenty-two series and include photographs, press releases, clippings, correspondence, reports, brochures, and many other materials on individuals, organizations, events, and airplanes and space craft.
The archival film and videotape collection consists of approximately 20,000 titles. Copies of these films and tapes are generally available for a fee. Reference service in the film and video collection is also subject to a fee.
The U.S. Army's first powered aircraft — Signal Corps No. 1, a dirigible designed and built by Thomas Baldwin — in flight over Fort Myer, VA. August, 1908. Photo by Carl H. Claudy (SI 7A45593).
Mailing Address (both locations)
National Air and Space Museum Archives Division
P.O. Box 37012
Washington, DC 20013-7012
6th & Independence Ave SW
Washington, DC 20560
Tuesday – Friday
10am to 4:30pm
Metro Stop: Smithsonian
or L'Enfant Plaza
Paul E. Garber Preservation & Restoration Facility
3904 Old Silver Hill Road
Suitland, MD 20746
Metro Stop: Suitland