As the regular season for Major League Baseball comes to a close, Washingtonians may not be the happiest fans in the league. But here in the Smithsonian Institution Archives, we received a recent reference request that had me digging into the hidden connections between America’s favorite pastime and America’s national museum.
Unsurprisingly, the answer to this question begins with the sports history collection at the National Museum of American History. This collection begins with the museum’s first acquisition of sporting equipment in 1882. In that acquisition was a selection of baseball equipment from Peck & Snyder, a seller of mass-produced sporting goods for the American public. Collecting sporting equipment, especially contemporary, mass produced equipment, was unusual for a nineteenth century museum. However, its collection was representative of Secretary Spencer Baird and George Brown Goode’s vision of a museum that reflected contemporary American culture and ideals.
|Baseball players in the National Portrait Gallery collections|
From that first accession, baseball related materials have spread to a variety of Smithsonian Museums. From portraits of Mark McGuire, Pete Rose, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, Sammy Sosa, Lou Gehrig, and many others at the National Portrait Gallery to photos of young boys playing ball in Greenville, Mississippi in the newly gathered collections of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, baseball is deeply embedded in the Smithsonian collections.
|Outdoor Group Shot of Children Wearing Baseball Uniforms, Little League. NMAAHC #2007.1.69.15.39.D|
|1979 SI baseball team, The Torch, September 1979, photo by Richard Hofmeister|
Connections to baseball appeared throughout the Smithsonian, touching on our founding collecting mission, spanning the diversity of our subjects, and highlighting how we interact with our community. What seemed like a simple question about America’s favorite pastime lead to unexpected places and brought to light hidden connections throughout the Smithsonian.
Lisa Fthenakis, Program Assistant
Smithsonian Institution Archives