Adopt-a-Book from the Smithsonian Libraries

At the heart of every Smithsonian Museum, there’s a library…

Often hidden to the public, these archives hold a vast wealth of information. But what happens to these books when time takes its toll? The Smithsonian puts them up for adoption.

Book adopters make a donation to preserve the work, and in return they receive a plaque at the front of the book and can visit their book in whichever library it’s housed in. The Smithsonian Libraries hosted an event showcasing these works, among others, for visitors to adopt. Read on to learn the stories behind them!

Check out our interview with Adopt-a-Book ambassadors and best-selling writers Steve Berry, Katherine Neville, and Jeffery Deaver to find out more about the program and their writing. We’re also uploading one-on-one interviews with these authors to our podcast, which you can find on Soundcloud and iTunes. Join the conversation by using #AuthorImprint.


A Shopping Guide to Paris, Thérèse Bonney, 1929. Courtesy Smithsonian Libraries.

Photographer and journalist Thérèse Bonney, documented life in Paris from 1925-35. Published in 1929, she and her sister Louise created this guide for the “350,000 Americans who visit Paris every year.” The foreword says, “dozens of books have been written telling you what to see, but we are writing about where to buy, … buying is as important as sightseeing in this enchanting city.”



The Art Work of Louis C. Tiffany, 1914. Courtesy Smithsonian Libraries.

Dedicated to Louis Comfort Tiffany’s children, this biographical account features painted portraits and landscapes completed as Tiffany traveled the world. The cover’s unique embossed squares visually allude to the  designer’s metalwork.


Bostwick Gate Company Collection, 1900-1905. Courtesy Smithsonian Libraries.

A rare collection of items related to the Bostwick Gate and Shutter Company. Highly regarded for its ingenious folding gate design, The British Architect Journal, July to December 1889 cites the Bostwick Gate as “one of the very best methods of protecting door and window opening.”


History of the Indian tribes of North America, Thomas Loraine McKenney, 1838-1844. Courtesy Smithsonian Libraries.

Part of a three-volume collection of Native American biographies and portraits, this publication contains some of the finest American lithography of the 19th century, and was created by Thomas McKenney, The US Superintendent of Indian Trade. He wanted to preserve “in the archives of the Government whatever of the aboriginal man can be rescued from the destruction which awaits his race.” His enlightened view that American Indians ought to be “looked upon as human beings, having bodies and souls like ours” was unfortunately shared by few at that time.


Pyrotechnics, Alan Brock, 1922. Courtesy Smithsonian Libraries.

The author, Alan Brock, dedicated this book to his brother, Frank Arthur Brock, who was killed in World War I. The brothers were from a famous family of fireworks makers who staged the celebrated Crystal Palace fireworks shows and used their factory to help provide special government war requirements during WWI.


Also, book lovers – check out The Great American Read, PBS’s new 8-part series about the power of books and the joy of reading. What’s America’s favorite novel? This series aims to find out. Vote for your favorite book and learn more here.