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Romare Bearden, Bopping at Birdland (Stomp Time), from the Jazz Series. 1979. Smithsonian American Art Museum

Romare Bearden, Bopping at Birdland (Stomp Time), from the Jazz Series, 1979. Smithsonian American Art Museum

Imagine you’re a curator at the American Jazz Museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate in Kansas City, Missouri.  You’re putting together a future exhibit and trying to find objects to include that are both new and fresh while complementing your collections.  How do you begin to explore what the Smithsonian might possibly have to contribute to this project?   Instead of having to search each individual collection at the Smithsonian you can now utilize the Collections Search Center where over 2 million object records from across the Smithsonian are catalogued.

A quick search on “Jazz” yields over 1,600 documents throughout the Smithsonian.  Perhaps you’re looking for something artistic, like any of Romare Beardon’s Jazz Series paintings, housed at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.  Maybe you’re looking for some classic photographs of Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, or Ornette Coleman which can be found in the National Portrait Gallery.   The Postal Museum’s collection of stamps may lead you to illustrate how jazz is commemorated in this country through the issue of stamps depicting famous jazz musicians like Ella Fitzgerald or Duke Ellington.  Even the collections of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries could lead you to some materials on the life of jazz legend Nina Simone.  One of the best aspects of this search capability is that it may lead you to museums you might not have thought would have jazz-related collections.   For example, the Hirshhorn Museum’s collections focus on modern and contemporary art and sculpture, but there you find a fantastic portrait of Big Joe Turner, a blues singer from Kansas City.

Within minutes of searching the Smithsonian’s vast collections utilizing this one-stop searching environment, you have found sculptures, paintings, drawings, photographs, interviews, sound recordings, sheet music, stamps, medals, letters and correspondence – all pertaining to jazz and legendary jazz performers.

So… try it out!  And let us know what you find.

Included in the Collections Search Center are records from the following Smithsonian units:

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
National Air and Space Museum
National Museum of American Indian
National Museum of Natural History
National Portrait Gallery
National Postal Museum
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Archives of American Art
Archives of American Gardens
Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives
Human Studies Film Archives
National Anthropological Archives
Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies
Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
Smithsonian Institution Archives
Smithsonian Institution Libraries
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory – Chandra X-ray Observatory

Thanks to Christopher Teed, Program Coordinator at the Visitor Information Center in the Smithsonian Castle for this guest post.