detail from an archival photo showing several figures walking in the street

The National Museum of Asian Art Archives strives to be a premier resource for the study of Asian art provenance and scholarship. It collects, preserves, and makes available documentary and visual materials related to the histories of our collections and of Asian arts and cultures.

The Archives Collection

The Archives includes over one thousand cubic feet of material dating from the sixteenth through the twenty-first century. Rich and diverse materials include the personal and professional papers of preeminent art historians, archaeologists, artists, dealers, and collectors, plus major collections of nineteenth- and twentieth-century photography and audiovisual media of Asia and the Islamic World.

Explore Our Online Resource Gateways

  • in an archival photo, a man in a suit kneels and looks at a handscroll on the floor and draped over a table.

    Freer Resource Gateway

    An online resource gateway to the Archives' collection of letters, papers, and photographs related Charles Lang Freer.

  • A man in suit and hat standing in stony ruins.

    Herzfeld Resource Gateway

    An online resource gateway to the Ernst Herzfeld Papers.

  • detail view of a pool with scalloped edges

    Moynihan Resource Gateway

    An online resource gateway to the Archives' Moynihan Papers. Learn more about her pioneering research of Mughal gardens.

  • detail, fighting peacocks in the Peacock Room

    Sevruguin Resource Gateway

    Antoin Sevruguin was one of the most successful commercial photographers in Qajar-era Iran. Explore his work’s presence in several of our collections.

  • archival photo with a crowd of well-dressed men and women and a conductor.

    Alice in Asia Resource Gateway

    Photographs from the 1905 Taft Diplomatic Mission to Japan, China, Korea, and the Philippines from the collection of Alice Roosevelt Longworth.

Accessing the Archives

The Archives’ holdings are available to scholars and the general public. Most collections are open to researchers, although access to some material may be restricted. The Archives is open for research by appointment only. To arrange an appointment or for further information, please contact us via email ( or telephone (202.633.0533). Prior to contacting the Archives, we encourage you to first review our finding aids and online records in the Smithsonian Online Virtual Archives.

Archives Visitor Policies

Upon arrival, all researchers are asked to present photo identification, such as a driver’s license or a student ID. Researchers are required to review the Archives’ rules governing access and use and are then to agree to abide by them by completing and signing a registration form. Smoking, eating, and drinking are not permitted in the research area; coats, briefcases, and similar materials are also not allowed. The Archives provides researchers with storage for personal items. Laptop computers, cameras, and other recording equipment are only permitted in the research area if they do not disrupt other researchers.

Researchers are permitted, with the archivist’s approval and supervision, to photograph documents. The flash must be turned off. Staff may be able to provide up to fifty digital images for researchers who are unable to visit the Archives. For larger requests, the researcher (or a proxy) must visit the Archives to photograph the desired documents or a reproduction request must be submitted. Fees may apply to reproduction requests.

Permission to reproduce and publish an item from the Archives is coordinated through the National Museum of Asian Art’s Rights and Reproductions Department. Please contact the Archives to initiate this process. Please provide the following information:

  • collection name, box number, and folder number or name
  • title or description of item
  • photographer and image number, if applicable

Text citations should include the following information:

Item title, date. Folder number, box number, collection name, collection number. National Museum of Asian Art Archives, Washington, DC


This is an example of a Chicago Manual of Style text citation:

Myron Bement Smith Letter to the Principal, University of London, 10 September 1945. Folder 11, box 4, Myron Bement Smith Collection, FSA.A.04. National Museum of Asian Art Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.


All image credit lines must be in the following format:

[Photographer Name] / National Museum of Asian Art [Archives], Smithsonian Institution, [Collection Name], [Donor Info], [Image Number]


Here is an example of an image credit line:

Antoin Sevruguin / National Museum of Asian Art Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Myron Bement Smith Collection, Gift of Katharine Dennis Smith, 1973–85, FSA_A.04_2.12.GN.07.01

The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specific conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be “used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research.” If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of “fair use,” that user may be liable for copyright infringement. The Archives often does not own rights to the material in its collections. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions (such as donor restrictions, privacy rights, licensing, and trademarks) when publishing or otherwise distributing the materials. The web site of the United States Copyright Office at the Library of Congress contains valuable and extensive information regarding United States Copyright Law.

Contact the Archives

Query Form

For inquiries about the National Museum of Asian Art’s art collections please contact


We welcome donations that support the collecting mission of the Archives. If you are interested in offering materials, please mail a brief description, including the size of the collection, the media (photographs, letters, films, etc.), photographs of the materials, and any relevant background information.

Materials that archivists deem significant to the museum’s collections can be donated, but we cannot accept unsolicited donations. Items received either by mail or delivered in person without prior approval may be disposed of, returned, or retained at the museum’s discretion. Please contact the NMAA Archives at for more information.

The Archives cannot provide appraisals. Prospective donors who require or desire a monetary assessment are encouraged to contact an independent appraiser or an appraisal society, such as the American Society of Appraisers (800.272.8258).