Choose Your Own Adventure With Smithsonian Collections Online

While working on the 3rd floor Reference Desk, I was recently asked to find an article from the Smithsonian magazine. The only information the patron provided was that the article was titled Flying on a Wing and a Prayer and dated Sept 1988. First I tried using the magazine database EBSCO and Google Scholar with no luck. Then I went back into the databases and looked under Science & Technology. Within that section lives the most wonderful database!! It is the Smithsonian Collections Online . It’s a database provided for us by the University of Wyoming.

Since I know you’ll be dying to check this gem out for yourself, here are the steps:
1. First go to
2. Click on Library Catalog
3. Click on Databases
4. Click on Science & Technology

5. Within the Science & Technology section you will find the Smithsonian Collections Online . The database contains the Air & Space Magazine and all Smithsonian’s. You can look at the magazines one-by-one, search by title, author or subject or you can click on the collections and view some of the articles and magazines that Smithsonian has grouped together.

6. Type a subject, an article title or an author, into Search Primary Sources. To begin my search, I typed in: “Flying on a Wing and a Prayer”. Using the “Limit By” I narrowed my search by using the options on the left hand side. You can “Limit By” Smithsonian Magazine or Air & Space Magazine. If you do not put a check in one or the other the database will search both titles.

You can also “Filter by Date” which lets you pick the specific month and year you want to look at. You will notice I clicked on Smithsonian Magazine and used the dates of April 1988 – September 1988.

7. Here it is. The article is 11 pages long. The citation is listed for your convenience. The patron gladly paid the $1.10 to print all 11 pages off. You are also given the option to bookmark the page from your own device, share it to Facebook, Twitter, or put it on your Pinterest page. You could also e-mail it to yourself.

Now let’s create your own adventure! For example, Look for the month of your birth, the first man to walk on the moon, or a historic article about Napoleon. There is something for everyone since this database covers magazines from April 1970 – July/August 2017.

Were you born in July 1979? Have you ever seen “Kinetic Sculptures?”

In May 2017, the Ringling Brothers Circus closed its doors forever. But are circuses really gone??
Check out the July/August, 2017 magazine that features articles on the New American Circus!

I want to show you one more feature for those who want to browse. Let’s go back to the home page and click on Collections. The Smithsonian has developed 8 collections so far. By clicking on any of the images, you can access materials that have been collected concerning these subjects. I hope they will continue to develop more.

I clicked on Larry Zim World’s Fair Collection. This will take you inside the image where you will find 3 tabs for each subject. The first is an Overview, giving a brief history and explaining what items Mr. Zimmerman had collected. I learned that Mr. Zim’s collection of world fair memorabilia includes 6 artifacts, 456 manuscripts, 918 newspaper articles, photos and more.

The second tab was Collection Facts. I could look at the books, newspaper articles and photos. I looked at a Kodak camera picture display from 1936.

There was also a collection of 6 postcards available from the San Francisco World’s Fair in 1939. Let me share 3 of them.

Thanks for coming along with me as I explored the database.

~Retired Reference Librarian, Sharon Mikesell