Explore our nation's historical legacy by accessing the Smithsonian's vast, rich, and varied archival collections.
The primary sources of the Smithsonian document the history of art, culture, music, design, flight, space exploration, science and technology, landscapes and gardens, and native cultures in the United States, as well as the long history of the Smithsonian itself.
Smithsonian Online Virtual Archives (SOVA)
The Smithsonian Online Virtual Archives (SOVA) provides integrated access to descriptions and detailed inventories of thousands of primary resource collections maintained by archival units across the Smithsonian.
Discover archival collections related by topic and/or by names of persons, families, businesses, and organizations regardless of where the collection lives within the incredibly vast resources of the Smithsonian.
Explore digital content from archival collections, such as letters, manuscripts, diaries and journals, ledgers and stock books, photographs, scrapbooks, sketchbooks and drawings, technical drawings and blueprints, field notebooks, log books, rare printed materials, sound recordings, videos, and much more.
Connect with an archivist to learn more about and gain access to the physical materials.
Archival finding aids, also sometimes called collection guides, are the key to unlocking information in SOVA. Each unique archival collection has a finding aid that provides the user with varying levels of descriptive detail about the collection, such as creator, biographical or historical note, content, subjects, names, forms of materials, how the collection is arranged, the context in which the collection was created, related collections in individual repositories and across the Smithsonian, provenance, where the collection is housed, and how to access the collection. Digitized content from each collection is also accessed via links provided in the collection's finding aid.
Finding aids are essential research and discovery tools that will help you understand the content and context of an individual collection and whether that collection will satisfy your research needs.
National Air & Space Museum Technical Reference Files: Equipment
The Technical Reference Files comprise an artificial collection that currently contains 1,900 cubic feet of aviation and space related materials, organized in 22 subject series. File materials include photographs, press releases, clippings, correspondence, reports, and brochures, on individuals, organizations, events, and objects.
The majority of the Archives Department's public reference requests can be answered using material in these files, which may be accessed through the Archives Reading Room at the Museum in Washington, DC. More specific information can be requested by contacting the Archives Reference Desk.