The Smithsonian Institution has vast archival research collections that measure over 156,000 cubic feet, which, if laid out in boxes end to end, would extend for nearly twenty-six miles, making its holdings among the largest collections of historical document resources in the United States.
The scope of the collections is equally staggering and covers nearly every facet of our nation's history—from the history of the Institution itself to the history of American, African American, and Latin American art, culture, music, and design; science and technology; landscapes and gardens, and native and indigenous world cultures.
The archival collections include technical drawings, photographs, letters, field notebooks, diaries and journals, sketches and sketchbooks, scrapbooks, manuscripts, rare printed materials, motion picture film, video and sound recordings, and much more. Many of the archival units are repositories within the Smithsonian's museums, libraries, and other larger divisions, and two are independent collecting units. Nearly all have online collections and resources where visitors will find more detail about the scope of collections, collection guides and finding aids, and digitized content.
The Smithsonian Institution Archives and Special Collections Council (SIASC) is a forum for open discussion regarding experiences, interests, and concerns of the Institution's numerous archives and special collections. It prepares archival management policies, procedures, manuals, and other guidance for those at the Smithsonian who manage archival collections. Each year, SIASC plans special activities for American Archives Month, including collaborative events with archives across the metropolitan area.