Guide to Searching the Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS)

The Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS) is an interactive web-based system that provides access to research resources held by various archives, libraries, and research units throughout the Smithsonian. It applies nationally established data standards to describe and manage catalog entries related to garden images maintained by the Archives of American Gardens (AAG).

Each AAG catalog record in SIRIS includes information relating to a specific garden image; a digitally scanned version of the image may also be connected to the catalog record. Because of a current backlog of images needing to be cataloged and scanned, there may be a time lag of some months between when garden images are submitted to AAG and when they appear in SIRIS.

Searching SIRIS

Because AAG is one of several contributors to the SIRIS Archives and Manuscripts Catalog, data searches can either be Smithsonian-wide or AAG-wide. In other words, a data search can either browse all SIRIS catalog records generated to date, or just those catalog records created by AAG. You have the ability to customize your search in any number of ways. The SIRIS web address is

At the opening screen, click on the heading "Archival, Manuscript and Photographic Collections." You are now in the main search screen which has six search options to choose from:

I. Keyword

Enter a term in the "General Keyword" box or in one of the more specific search categories. Click on red arrow. You will get a screen of Search Results with the total number of hits. At the right of the screen, click on "Sort By" to sort hits or "Limit By" to limit to a single SI repository, such as AAG. Press red arrow to refine your initial search. This type of search results in individual catalog records accompanied by a corresponding thumbnail image (if available.) These individual entries can be opened up for additional data.

To advance from one Search Results screen to the next, click on "Next" at the top or bottom of the page.

II. Browse

Enter a term in one of the appropriate search categories. Click on red arrow. This type of search results in an alphabetical list of Smithsonian-wide headings currently in use with the number of hits in the right hand column that can be clicked on to reveal item level catalog records. Sort or limit item level records as with "Keyword" searches.

III. Combined

This search enables you to enter multiple terms to refine your search results (ex. rock gardens and urns). Highlight the appropriate search fields by clicking on the drop-down boxes, enter the terms, and highlight "And," "Or," or "Not" to define the search perimeters. Click red arrow to get a Search Results screen.

IV. Browse Images

This option has a series of pre-defined searches (for quick demonstration purposes). Click on the box labeled "Archives of American Gardens." You can now do searches according to geographic location or limited subject headings.

V. Search History

This option allows you to edit and reuse past searches. Repeat a particular search by clicking on it or edit it by clicking on the edit link in the right hand column.

VI. Switch Catalog

Click here if you wish to return to the main SIRIS page to choose another Smithsonian catalog to search.

Create or e-mail a list of catalog records

The "Keyword," "Browse," "Combined," and Search History" search screens feature an option called "My List" which allows you to create and/or e-mail a list of items you 'select' from the catalog. At the bottom of the Search Results page, see the fields labeled "Add/Remove MyList" and "Email Items." Underneath the thumbnail image of the record you wish to select, click on the beige box labeled "Add to my list." Or, at the bottom of the page, type in the number(s) of the catalog entry(s).

To call up the list of records you have selected, click on "My List" at the top of the Search Results page. To remove a record you have already chosen, click on the box labeled "Remove" underneath the corresponding thumbnail image or, in the "My List" screen, click in the box at the left of the entry and then click on the box labeled "Remove" at the top or bottom of the screen.

Types of Search Criteria

The following types of search criteria are available to help identify catalog records that may be relevant to your inquiry. Try using different keyword or browse searches for the same inquiry-- you may get different results or results that lead you to connections you may not have been aware of initially.

General Keyword

This broad search option looks at all entries in all data fields. It does not distinguish between names, subject headings, locations, etc.

Creator or All Names

Use this search when looking for a property owner, landscape designer, architect, engineer, sculptor, photographer, etc.


Use this search to locate subjects such as specific garden features like arbors or fountains, plants such as iris or boxwood, or garden furnishings such as benches or urns. Subject Browses can also locate a geographic location. A search can be conducted on state, city, or both.


Use this search to find a garden name (ex. Mount Vernon) or a garden that bears the name of its owner (ex. Thompson Garden).

Some gardens have not been titled so they are listed as "Untitled Garden." When searching for an "Untitled Garden," it is best to use an All Names search for someone who may have been involved in the evolution of the garden. Also, a Subject search for the geographic location of the "Untitled Garden" will help to narrow results.

Form + Genre

This search locates the type of format a record is in such as a slide, drawing, painting, etc. Since much of AAG consists of slide images, this field is usually too broad to search on.

Summary and Notes

This Keyword option searches the narrative description of a garden which may include features and names. Please note that not every catalog entry includes a Summary Note.

Call Numbers Browse

Use this option if you know the call number or AAG garden number of the catalog record.