Smithsonian Secrets

You may have heard it said that the Smithsonian is the nation’s attic. Did you know it’s also the nation’s bookshelf? It’s true! Each museum has its own library, and you–yes YOU–can visit and look at the rare, ancient, weird and invaluable collections. Just get an appointment and one of the army of dedicated (and awesome) librarians will show you around. How do I know this?

Reader, I was there.

I took a day off from demons and unicorns and spent an afternoon with authors Katherine Neville and Carmen Agra Deedy in the secret library stash. I WENT IN THE VAULT. I TOUCHED THINGS. Here’s what it looked like.

Our day began at the Cullman Library, tucked in the Museum of Natural History.  This is the Rare Book Room, also known as HEAVEN. Say hello to the gang there in the back–Alexandra Newman and Leslie K. Overstreet, the Curator of Natural-History Rare Books, which is now all I ever wanted to be. Like all librarians, they are fearsome warriors in the battle to preserve the page.It smelled deliciously of antique books in there.Here are Book Sherpa Alexandra, Katherine, and I believe an armadillo in the background.Put down the camera, we're reading!Then we went into THE VAULT.

Carmen was the second most excited person to be looking at this incredible handmade leather cover of this GIANT book which was full of pics of all the (you guessed it) orchids in the Botanical Gardens. (Not pictured, me flipping out.)
There were like twenty of these GIANT plant books in a huge case. Sadly this one did not fit in my purse.This was just sitting on the shelf. Isn’t it gorgeous?It was shiny and I am a magpie.Leslie is showing Carmen and Katherine a print from the Richard Burton collection. I didn’t see anything belonging to Liz Taylor, and believe me, I looked!You can tell it's a vault by the STEEL WALL!


I have been informed that Richard Burton, actor and Richard Burton, explorer, are two completely different people. IT WAS AN HONEST MISTAKE!

Carmen really digs Richard Burton.

After that we walked over the Museum of American History, the home of the Dibner Library, where all the cool sciencey stuff is kept.

Not gonna lie, I don’t know what any of this is, it just looks amazing. Tiny science books!

This was safely behind glass because they saw me coming.

You guys, this is a page from the notebook of ISAAC NEWTON which I TOUCHED with MY HANDS
Let me repeat---with my HANDS.

We saw loads of interesting, strange, and irreplaceable books, but this was my favorite. Best book title or best title ever?I am just a poor boy, nobody loves me except this Bolton dude.


Many thanks to our guide, Lilla Vekerdy, who is the head of the Special Collections at the Dibner, and to Katherine, who drags me to all kinds of cool places. Here we all are–me, Lilla, Carmen and Katherine–looking very chic in black and white.

To find out more about the Smithsonian Libraries, click here. See you in the stacks!


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