The Smithsonian is one of the world’s foremost research centers in science, the arts, and the humanities. In addition to research pursued by the museums, the following facilities specialize in areas of inquiry spanning the globe and the farthest reaches of the universe.
The Archives of American Art is the world’s largest and most widely used resource dedicated to collecting and preserving the papers and primary records of the visual arts in America. Collections consist of more than 20 million letters, diaries and scrapbooks of artists, dealers, and collectors; manuscripts of critics and scholars; business and financial records of museums, galleries, schools, and associations; photographs of art world figures and events; sketches and sketchbooks; rare printed material; film, audio and video recordings; and the largest collection of oral histories anywhere on the subject of art.
The Museum Conservation Institute is the Smithsonian’s center for specialized technical collections research and conservation where knowledge of materials and the history of technology are combined with state-of-the-art instrumentation and scientific techniques to provide technical research studies and interpretation of artistic, anthropological, biological, and historical objects.
The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), founded in 1890, is a research center of the Smithsonian Institution with the mission to advance our knowledge and understanding of the universe through research and education in astronomy and astrophysics. Affiliated with the Harvard College Observatory, SAO created the world’s first satellite-tracking network, establishing the organization as a pioneer in space science research. In 1973, the Smithsonian and Harvard created the joint Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian.
Key areas of research include exoplanets, the sun and solar weather, asteroids and comets, and "The Extreme Universe" that includes the study of black holes, pulsars, supernovae, white dwarfs, neutron stars, and magnetars.
The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) plays a leading role in the Smithsonian’s global efforts to save wildlife species from extinction and train future generations of conservationists. SCBI spearheads research programs at its headquarters in Front Royal, Virginia, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and at field research stations and training sites worldwide. SCBI scientists tackle some of today’s most complex conservation challenges by applying and sharing what they learn about animal behavior and reproduction, ecology, genetics, migration, and conservation sustainability.
The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) leads the nation in discovering the links between land and water ecosystems in the coastal zone. Researchers investigate questions related to fisheries, climate change, invasive species, mercury pollution, water quality, ozone depletion, and more. SERC research is urgent. The world’s coastal zones are home to more than 70 percent of the global population and experience intense economic activity. The rate of environmental change is accelerating at an alarming rate. Since its creation in 1965, SERC has been conducting peer-reviewed research to understand the causes and consequences of rapid change in Chesapeake Bay and around the world.
The Smithsonian Libraries and Archives is an international system of 21 library branches and an institutional archives. It maintains a collection of almost 3 million volumes and 44,000 cubic feet of archival materials. The Libraries and Archives serves as an educational resource for the Smithsonian Institution, the global research community, and the public. Locations are in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, New York City, and the Republic of Panama.
The Smithsonian Marine Station (SMS) at Fort Pierce, Florida, is a research center specializing in marine biodiversity and ecosystems of Florida. The SMS, a facility of the National Museum of Natural History, focuses on the Indian River Lagoon and the offshore waters of Florida's east central coast, with comparative studies throughout coastal Florida.
The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama is the world’s premier tropical biology research institute, dedicated to increasing the understanding of the past, present and future of tropical biodiversity and its relevance to human welfare.