The Archives Center supports the mission of the National Museum of American History by preserving and providing access to documentary evidence of the American past. The Archives Center's collections complement the Museum's artifacts and are used for scholarly research, exhibitions, journalism, documentary productions, school programs, and other research and educational activities.
More than 1,200 collections occupy some 30,000+ feet of shelving in the American History building and in several off-site storage locations. In addition to paper-based textual records, many Center collections contain photographs, motion picture films, videotapes, sound recordings, and digital materials.
The topics of technology, advertising, and music offer one way to categorize the Center's varied holdings, and the collections are rich in important historical themes and topics that cut across these lines. For example, collections in each category are sources for understanding the roles and activities of women in the American past. Many Center collections document entrepreneurial activity in which invention and marketing are inextricably linked. The creation of nationally recognized brands and corporate identities and commercial depictions of gender, ethnicity, and other cultural categories are well represented in the holdings.
Brief, indexed descriptions of Archives Center collections are found in SIRIS (Smithsonian Institution Research Information System), an on-line catalog shared with other Smithsonian archives and libraries (www.siris.si.edu). Collection descriptions can also be found on the Smithsonian portal at collections.si.edu. The Archives Center's web pages include on-line versions of many finding aids for Center collections, information about research use of the Center, and virtual tours and displays of select Center holdings.