Magnificent Obsessions: Why We Collect

November 7, 2018 – July 1, 2020

National Museum of American History
14th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC

1st Floor, West Floor Plan

The impulse to collect is human. We collect for many reasons: to gather information about the world, to preserve the past, and to follow our interests and desires. For some, it is a lifelong pursuit. Pioneering collectors 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. Our collections are living and breathing. What will we collect next?