One of twenty-one libraries in the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives system, the National Museum of African American History and Culture Library is devoted to collecting and providing access to resources that support research in African American history, culture, and the African Diaspora. The library also supports research in genealogy and family history.

The library’s primary mission is to provide support for the research, exhibition, and programmatic endeavors of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. It does this by collecting, preserving, and providing access to resources and scholarship in the subjects of African American history and culture.  The broader mission is to assist in supporting the scholarly needs of the Smithsonian Institution as a whole, as well as the independent research community who also utilize the library’s resources and services.

The Library Collection

The library collects documentation of the African American and African Diaspora experience in the Western Hemisphere of the Americas.  The coverage includes topics in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

The collection includes books, journals, and electronic resources.  The library also collects media and microfilm in modest amounts.

English is the prevailing language collected by the library, however other languages that dominate in the African Diaspora and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, such as Spanish, French and Portuguese, may also be collected on a limited basis if the resource meets all other criteria for the collection.

Large curved white display wall with 47 enlarged images of book covers.

Using The Library

Room with a narrow table against the wall on the left with 4 computer screens and desk chairs. In the back of the room our several movable stacks storing the library collection. On the right are two tables.

The Library features a reading room with public computer stations, stack space for 11,000 volumes, scanning and copying equipment, and a space for exhibitions of items from the library collection.

The Library catalog is available through the Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS) and through the Smithsonian Collections Search Center. Smithsonian Libraries and Archives' holdings are also included in WorldCat, an international database of library and research collections.

Onsite researchers will also have access to the complete collection of databases, electronic journals, and other online resources provided through Smithsonian Libraries and Archives.

The library is open to public researchers by appointment.

To request an appointment for research in the NMAAHC Library, please complete this form:

NMAAHC Library Research Appointment Request Form

Contact Information

Hours: Research appointments are scheduled weekdays between 10:30am and 4:30pm (excluding Federal holidays).
Phone: 202-633-7498

Mailing Address:
National Museum of African American History & Culture Library
Smithsonian Institution
PO Box 37012, MRC 1415
Washington, DC 20013-7012

Additional Contacts

For genealogy/family history assistance, please send an email to the Genealogist:

For assistance with archival research, please send an email to the Archivist:

For general queries for Smithsonian Libraries and Archives, please send an email to:

How to Support the Library


The library appreciates your support of our ongoing research and resource needs.  Visit the Smithsonian Libraries’ Donate page for various ways to contribute, and please specify that your gift is for the National Museum of African American History and Culture Library.

Book Donations

The library accepts a limited amount of book donations each year on a case-by-case basis.  Acceptance into the collection is based on scholarly value and reputation of source, as well as, physical condition and rarity.  Other criteria that may impact the decision to include or exclude a potential resource are:

  • Relevance and duplication to existing collections 
  • Publication date 
  • Size of the potential audience 
  • Potential preservation needs 
  • Housing/storage space concerns

Please contact us if you have items that you think will fit our collecting criteria. We ask that you please do not send books or items before hearing from us. We are unable to return unsolicited items.

Share this page