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Online Museum Collections in the Mathematics Classroom – Smithsonian Collections Database

Author(s): 
Amy Ackerberg-Hastings (University of Maryland University College) and Amy Shell-Gellasch (Montgomery College)

Smithsonian online collections database.

The home page for the Smithsonian's Collections Search Center on October 27, 2014, with “adding machines” entered into the search box.

The National Museum of American History (NMAH) website may also be searched by subject, with various filters suggested in a text box on the right side of the page, or for types of objects, or for individual items. Additionally, all of these objects are included in a parent database that covers the entire Smithsonian Institution of 19 museums and galleries and 20 libraries. For instance, when searching the term “slide rules,” after a few pages of scrolling through the approximately 230 objects that can also be viewed in the NMAH Slide Rules Object Group, the user encounters the slide rules that are housed at the National Air & Space Museum. To use the Collections Search Center, enter a keyword, such as a type of object, in the box and click on “Search.” If cataloguing and uploading has been completed for the desired mathematical instrument or computer, the search box will auto-fill the term for you. Users can limit searches to museum objects or library materials, but note that objects from NMAH are not included in the Science & Technology category. Similarly, the Browse by Category feature does not contain any of the mathematics records, and Items on Exhibit excludes NMAH.

Collections Search Center search results.

The top results from our “adding machines” search.

Individual catalog record from Collections Search Center.

The expanded view of the catalog record for this Burroughs adding machine.

The Collections Search Center website also has a blog that features individual items in the Smithsonian collections, an About page that provides some history of the Smithsonian's experience with online collections databases, and a Tutorial page that covers basic searching techniques. Additionally, NMAH maintains a blog, O Say Can You See, which occasionally features items from the mathematics collections. See, for instance, the Convergence article, “Celebrating a Mathematical Miracle: Logarithms Turn 400,” which was reprinted from this blog.

Amy Ackerberg-Hastings (University of Maryland University College) and Amy Shell-Gellasch (Montgomery College), "Online Museum Collections in the Mathematics Classroom – Smithsonian Collections Database," Convergence (December 2014)

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