About the Collection
Part of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries, the Dibner Library contains rare books and manuscripts related to the history of science and technology. In 1995-96, the Smithsonian Libraries and the Washington Project for the Arts held a groundbreaking exhibition, “Science and the Artist’s Book.” Curators Diane Shaw and Carol Barton invited book artists to create new works inspired by the historical Dibner collections, and then exhibited the new works alongside the rare books that inspired them. These new pieces from the exhibition form the basis of the Dibner’s artists’ book collection, along with a few other acquisitions.
Finding Artists’ Books
To find artists’ books at the Dibner Library use SIRIS, the Smithsonian’s online public access catalog. Under the Search tab at the top, click “Combined.” When the “Search by” page comes up, enter “artists’ books” under “Subject Keyword.” Also, under “Limits” select “Special Collections Dibner Library” in the right-side menu. Click the arrow to perform the search. This will create a list of books located at the Dibner that have been marked as artists’ books. You can also easily find a list of all the artists’ books from the “Science and the Artist’s Book” exhibition: enter “Science and the Artist’s Book (Exhibition)” into the “Author Browse” field on the main SIRIS search page. Click on the first link in the results.
How to Get There
14th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20004
The Dibner is located on the first floor of the National Museum of American History, on the National Mall. To get there by Metro, take the Orange or Blue line to Federal Triangle. Walk south on 12th Street NW toward the National Mall. The National Museum of American History is across Constitution Avenue to the right.
What to Expect
Make an appointment to do research at the Dibner by calling 202-633-3872 or emailing . You can schedule your appointment Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, except federal holidays. When you get to the Dibner, fill out a reader registration form, present your ID, and sign the log. Leave your bags, coats, and pens in the lockers. Complete a request form for each book you’d like to see. You will be able to view up to three books at a time. The Special Collections Department Access Policies page has more information about researcher expectations and access.
Science and the Artist’s Book Exhibition
Smithsonian Special Collections Department Access Policies
Smithsonian Special Collections