About SOVA

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.
Finding Aids

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.