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Doing Archives Research

Visiting the Archives

Archives' holdings are available for use by galleries' staff, scholars, and the general public. Most collections are open to researchers although access to some material may be subject to restrictions.

It is crucial that researchers first call the Archives to arrange an appointment. Please phone 202.633.0533 or send us an email to make an appointment. The research room is open Monday through Thursday, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and closed on national holidays.

Upon arrival, all researchers are asked to present photo identification such as a driver's license or student I.D. Researchers are required to review the Archives' rules governing access and use and agree to abide by them by completing and signing a registration form.

Smoking, eating, and drinking are not permitted nor are coats, briefcases, and similar materials allowed in the research area. The Archives provides researchers with lockers for storage of personal items. Laptop computers and other recording equipment are permitted in the research area only to the extent that their use does not unfairly intrude upon the concentration of other researchers.

Duplication Services

Researchers are permitted, with the approval and under the supervision of the archivist, to duplicate those documents not likely to be damaged by the process. A photocopier is available for researcher use with a charge of $.10 per copy. Researchers may bring a handheld digital camera into the Archives to digitally photograph items provided the flash is turned off. The Archives will provide researchers taking digital photographs with a transparency stating the Archives' ownership of the item. Researchers must place this transparency over the item to be photographed.

For users unable to travel to the Archives, the staff will provide up to 20 photocopies. For larger photocopy requests, it is the responsibility of the researcher to either travel to the Archives him or herself or to contract a private researcher to come in to the Archives and photocopy the desired documents. Archives staff will also take low-resolution digital images of documents for personal study use. Researchers are charged $.50 for each digital file, which includes photographing, correcting, formatting and emailing. CDs can be made for $1.00 each. Researchers must agree to limit use of digital images solely to personal research use. (Copyright information)

Reference Services

E-mail Reference

The Archives accepts brief reference queries via our online query form. Please state your request as clearly and specifically as possible. Include names, locations, or dates relevant to your research.

Please note that the Archives does not house any items from the galleries' permanent art collections. All inquiries regarding art objects should be directed to asiainfo@si.edu.

Reference Letters or Faxes

The Archives accepts brief reference queries sent by mail or fax. When sending a reference letter, please include names, locations, or dates that are particularly pertinent to your research. Remember to include your full postal mailing address and telephone number. Reference letters may be faxed to 202.357.4911 or mailed to:

Reference Archivist, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives Smithsonian Institution PO Box 37012 Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Room 2062, MRC 707 Washington, D.C. 20013-7012

Telephone Reference Service

The Archives also accepts brief reference queries over the phone. Please call 202.633.0533 to speak to an archivist or to leave a voicemail message. When leaving a voicemail, please state your query as specifically as possible and leave any names, locations, or dates pertinent to your query.


There are a number of publications describing Archives collections. In 1992, Smithsonian Institution Press published the Guide to Photographic Collections at the Smithsonian Institution, volume III, to describe the photographic holdings of the Archives. Further description of the Herzfeld Papers appeared in the Bulletin of the Asia Institute 6 (1992): 131-141, in an article by Colleen Hennessey entitled, "The Ernst Herzfeld Papers at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives." Lily Kecskes described rare images of Cixi, the Empress Dowager of the Qing dynasty in her article, "Photographs of Tz'u-hsi in the Freer Gallery Archives" for the Committee on East Asian Libraries Bulletin 101 (December 1993): 87-92.

Citation and Copyright Rules


The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specific conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be "used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research." If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use," that user may be liable for copyright infringement. The Archives often does not own rights to the material in its collections. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions (such as donor restrictions, privacy rights, licensing, and trademarks) when publishing or otherwise distributing the materials. The web site of the United States Copyright Office at the Library of Congress contains valuable and extensive information regarding United States Copyright Law.


Permission to reproduce and publish an item from the Archives is coordinated through the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery's Rights and Reproductions department. Please contact the Archives in order to initiate this process. In order to facilitate your order, please have the following information:

  • Collection Name
  • Title or description of item
  • Photographer and negative number, if applicable


All citations must include information in the following format:

Collection Name
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Donor(s) or source(s) of collection, year(s) of acquisition (when appropriate)
Photographer and negative number

The following is an example of the correct format and content for a citation to a collection in the Archives:

Myron Bement Smith Collection
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.
Gift of Katharine Dennis Smith, 1973-1985
Photographer: Antoin Sevruguin, negative number 2.07

Online Resources

Herzfeld Resource Gateway
An online resource gateway that consists of all cataloged material from the Ernst Herzfeld Papers.

Sevruguin Resource Gateway
Sevruguin was one of the most successful commerical photographers in Iran.

Alice in Asia Resource Gateway
Photographs from the 1905 Taft Diplomatic Mission to Japan, China, Korea and the Philippines from the collection of Alice Roosevelt Longworth.

Smithsonian Collections Search Center The Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS) is a public database with archival and library holdings.

Smithsonian Collections Blog
Posts featuring collections across the Smithsonian's Archives, Libraries, and Special Collections.

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