October 9, 2015 First Collection of Materials Acquired by Smithsonian Is Subject of Discussion

European Engravings and Art Books Comprised Collection

Press Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217
Public Contact: Center for the Book (202) 707-5221

In 1849, the Smithsonian Institution purchased the Marsh Collection – a group of European engravings and art books that formed part of the library of Vermont Congressman George Perkins Marsh. It was the first collection acquired by the institution and was the first public print collection in the United States.

Author Helena E. Wright has just published “The First Smithsonian Collection: The European Engravings of George Perkins Marsh and the Role of Prints in the National Museum” (Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2015). Wright will discuss and sign her work on Thursday, Oct. 22, at noon in the Mary Pickford Theater, located on the third floor of the Library of Congress James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. This Books & beyond event is co-sponsored by the Library’s Center for the Book and its Prints and Photographs Division. It is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.

“The First Smithsonian Collection” explores the cultural value given to prints in the 19th century, including their prominent role in national and international expositions and their increasing importance in the visual culture of the period. Ultimately, this book is the story of how the Smithsonian became a national institution.

Helena E. Wright is curator of graphic arts at the National Museum of American History of the Smithsonian Institution. Her research focuses on the role of graphic media in expanding visual culture.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s first-established federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs, publications and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov.

The Library’s Center for the Book, established by Congress in 1977 to “stimulate public interest in books and reading,” is a national force for reading and literacy promotion. A public-private partnership, it sponsors educational programs that reach readers of all ages through its affiliated state centers, collaborations with nonprofit reading-promotion partners and through the Young Readers Center and the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress. For more information, visit read.gov.


PR 15-182
ISSN 0731-3527