Search for artifacts and archival records in the collections of the National Museum of American History.

About the Collections

The National Museum of American History collects artifacts of all kinds—from gowns to locomotives—to preserve for the American people an enduring record of their past.

The Museum has more than 1.8 million objects in its collection, and more than three shelf-miles of archival collections. Information and photos of selected objects are available in the online collections database. The database is a work-in-progress and new items will be added regularly.

Museum collections reflect the breadth, depth, and complexity of the experiences of the American people, from social and cultural history to the history of science, medicine, and technology. The Museum collects the ordinary as well as the extraordinary and is interested in how objects are made, how they are used, how they express human needs and values, and how they influence society and the lives of individuals. Our focus is on the history of the United States, including its roots and connections with other cultures. As sources for research, the Museum offers not only historical objects but significant collections of oral histories, prints, photographs, business Americana, trade literature, and engineering drawings.

Searching our Online Collections

As you use the online collections database, please keep the following points in mind:

  • The searchable collections database is not complete. The objects available for viewing on the website are only part of the Museum's total collections. We are working to expand and improve electronic access to the collections.
  • The search includes material from multiple sources. By default the search returns items held in the Museum's curatorial divisions, Archives Center, and Libraries. Filter controls in the right column allow you to limit your search by data source or other criteria. Or, click the "Results from All Smithsonian Collections" tab to see objects housed at other Smithsonian museums, archives, and libraries.
  • Most collections are not on public display. Only a small percentage of the Museum's collections can be displayed at any given time. In some cases the display status is indicated in the individual artifact record, but the status is subject to change and online information may not be current.