Smithsonian Info

Smithsonian Info


The Archives of American Gardens, housed in the Smithsonian Gardens, includes a collection of approximately 60,000 photographic images and records that document historic and contemporary gardens throughout the United States. The images, which show views from colonial times to the present, include a considerable range of garden features such as furniture and ornamentation, as well as all manner of design styles.

The lantern slides had been created by Garden Club of America members in the early 20th century for use in lectures and presentations, and are a valuable record of hundreds of early 20th century American gardens. They had been stored in the offices of the GCA and were nearly disposed of and lost in the 1960s, before GCA Bulletin photographic editor Harriet Jackson Phelps realised their historical value.

After many failed attempts to get them housed in museums or institutions at the time, they were divided and stored by members until the Archives agreed to house them. Much of their importance lies in the documenting of many gardens that no longer exist or have fallen into disrepair.

The nucleus of the Archives is the Garden Club of America Collection. Other collections include photographs, plans, and office files documenting the work of landscape architects Thomas Warren Sears, Perry Wheeler, and Robert M. Fletcher; publisher and horticulturist Dr. J. Horace McFarland; the Lewis and Valentine Nursery of Long Island, NY; and the Horticulture Services Division’s own artifacts and activities.


Community of Gardens is a new educational initiative from Smithsonian Gardens. Share your story by contributing video, text, and images to the digital archive! Your participation will help others to better understand the meaning and value of gardens to American life – today and in the future. Community of Gardens is the Smithsonian’s digital home for sharing and preserving stories of gardens and the gardeners who make them grow.

Community of Gardens