Archives of American Gardens

Over 100,000 photographic images documenting historic and contemporary American gardens

Buttrick Mansion Sculptural OrnamentsThe mission of the Archives of American Gardens: To collect and make available for research use unique, high quality images of and documentation relating to a wide variety of cultivated gardens throughout the United States that are not documented elsewhere since historic, designed and cultural landscapes are subject to change, loss and destruction. In this way, AAG strives to preserve and highlight a meaningful compendium of significant aspects of gardening in the United States for the benefit of researchers and the public today and in the future.

The Archives of American Gardens (AAG) currently documents over 7,500 gardens throughout the United States. Images in the collection, which show views from 1870s to the present, include such features as garden furniture and ornamentation, fountains, sculptures, fences and gates, parterres, and garden structures to name a few. The design styles represented range from large Italianate estates to herb and rose gardens, cottage and patio gardens, and urban parks.

Old GardenThe core of the Archives is a collection of nearly 3,500 hand-colored glass lantern slides dating from the 1920s and 1930s along with approximately 37,000 35mm slides of gardens that date from colonial times to the present. The gardens documented in this extensive collection illustrate the design work of dozens of landscape architects including Marian Coffin, Beatrix Farrand, Lawrence Halprin, Hare & Hare, Umberto Innocenti, Gertrude Jekyll, Jens Jensen, Warren Manning, the Olmsted Brothers, Charles Platt, Ellen Biddle Shipman, and Fletcher Steele. The collection was donated to the Smithsonian in 1992 by the Garden Club of America (GCA). This organization helps support the AAG with ongoing research and development activities. Through its national network, GCA members continue to expand the collection by photographing and documenting contemporary gardens.

Other collections in the Archives include photographs, plans, and files documenting the work of landscape architects Thomas Warren Sears, Perry Wheeler, and Robert M. Fletcher; author, publisher, and horticulturist Dr. J. Horace McFarland; the Lewis and Valentine Nursery of Long Island, New York; Katharine Lane Weems's Massachusetts estate, "The Chimneys"; historic postcard views collected by Richard Marchand; and the Smithsonian Gardens own gardens, artifacts and activities.

Although the bulk of the Archives consists of 35mm and glass lantern slides, photographs, negatives stereographs, and postcards, it also includes architectural drawings, plans, and business papers. A wide range of written documentation for each garden in the Archives is available. Garden files may include correspondence, journal articles, brochures, drawings, maps, pamphlets, bibliographic citations, and information forms completed by researchers.

Over 24,000 photographs from the Archives have been digitized and are publicly available through the Smithsonian's online catalog, Catalog records may also be searched in the Collections Search Center,

View a Guide to the Archives of American Gardens Collections

Researching the Archives

AAG serves the needs of researchers, historians, preservationists, designers, students, and other interested members of the public by preserving relevant images and records and making them available for research use and publication.

Searching the Collection

AAG collection, garden and photographic records, including over 24,000 digitized images, are cataloged and publicly available in the Archives, Manuscripts and Photographic Collections catalog in the Smithsonian Institution Research and Information System (SIRIS). Each AAG catalog record in SIRIS includes information relating to a specific garden or image; a digitally scanned version of the image may also be connected to the catalog record.

Guide to searching SIRIS

Research Appointments & Image Requests

Images and documents not on available in Archives, Manuscripts and Photographic Collections catalog in SIRIS can be viewed at the Archives of American Gardens by appointment only. Image and publication permission requests must be requested in writing.

More details on Research Access


Garden Design Highlights

Formal Garden

The photographs in the AAG highlight such features as garden furniture and ornamentation, fountains, sculptures, fences and gates, parterres, and garden structures. The design styles represented range from large Italianate estates to herb and rose gardens, cottage and patio gardens, xeriscapes, and community gardens.

Become A Virtual Volunteer! US Map of unidentified gardens

Mystery Gardens Initiative

Help archives staff identify unidentified gardens in the collection! Help us capture garden history before it is lost.

Contact Us!

If you have further questions about the Archives of American Gardens' program or services, please email or call 202-633-5840 to speak with a staff member.