The Archives of American Gardens (AAG), managed by Smithsonian Gardens, offers landscape designers, historians, preservationists, and garden enthusiasts access to a collection of approximately 65,000 photographic images and records that document historic and contemporary gardens throughout the United States. Representative collection images are available online at collections.si.edu.
Over 6,500 gardens and landscapes are currently documented in the archives; they illustrate the work of hundreds of landscape architects and garden designers including Marian Coffin, Beatrix Farrand, Jens Jensen, Warren Manning, the Olmsted Brothers, Charles Platt, Ellen Biddle Shipman, Alice Recknagel Ireys, and Thomas Church. While AAG is primarily a photographic archives, a wide range of written information for each garden may also be available, including plans, planting lists, published articles, bibliographic citations, business records, and correspondence. Images in the Archives, which date from the 1890s to the present, showcase all manner of garden design styles as well as a considerable range of garden features such as furniture and ornamentation, sculptures, and garden structures.
At the core of the Archives is a collection of over 3,000 glass lantern slides from the 1920s and 1930s along with approximately 35,000 35mm slides that were donated to the Smithsonian by the Garden Club of America in 1992. This organization helps support AAG with ongoing research and documentation activities. Through its national network, GCA volunteers continue to expand the collection by photographing and documenting scores of gardens each year.
Other major collections in the Archives of American Gardens include photographs, plans, and papers documenting the work of landscape architects Thomas Warren Sears and Perry Wheeler. Also of note are the photographs of author, publisher, and horticulturist Dr. J. Horace McFarland whose company, Mount Pleasant Press, was a major publisher of nursery catalogs during the first half of the twentieth century as well as the historic business records for a number of nurseries and seed companies including W. Atlee Burpee & Company (Pennsylvania), H. Weber & Sons (Maryland), and Bedman Brothers (New Jersey). Archives staff also manage the images of Smithsonian Gardens' own gardens, artifact and living plant collections, operations, and activities.