Smithsonian Collections Blog

Highlighting the hidden treasures from over 2 million collections

Collections Search Center

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Many Jobs of Joseph Henry

Joseph Henry by T. W. Smillie, 1873,
SIA, SIA2009-1254
Joseph Henry, the first Smithsonian Secretary, served on many committees as one of America’s leading scientist during his lifetime. Among some of the more interesting committees Henry served on was a committee tasked with the challenge of preventing the counterfeiting of the national currency in 1863. A problem since the release of coinage and paper money, counterfeiting became even more of an issue for the United States Treasury Department during the Civil War. The commission investigated ways to prevent counterfeiting, and by 1865 was officially appointed the Committee on Prevention of Counterfeiting.

This interesting factoid is just one of the many stories that can be learned on the Smithsonian Institution Archives‘(SIA) new web resource exploring the life, science, and Smithsonian career of the Institution’s first Secretary, Joseph Henry.  One of the main goals of the new Henry pages was to make original collection materials more accessible for our researchers. SIA staff, interns and volunteers scanned and catalogued over 1300 documents, letters, and photographs relating to the first Secretary and the early years of the Institution. The new pages help highlight these wonderful collection materials in a new way. In order to provide researchers with the ability to feel like that they had the documents physically in front of them, we chose to display the letters and documents in a dynamic viewer. The viewers, constructed by the wonderful staff who manage the SIRIS database and Collections Search Center, allow researchers to zoom in and out and move from one page to the next with ease. Additionally, the pages, highlight the various Henry materials in other archives and libraries around the Institution.

So from counterfeiting, to electromagnets and the founding of the Smithsonian, check out all of the great resources that can help you write a paper or look even smarter at your next dinner party.

No comments:

Post a Comment