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National Agriculture Library

Library Overview

Special Collections of the National Agricultural Library (NAL) encompasses a wealth of materials relating to all aspects of agricultural history, discovery, and advancement. It covers a broad range of scientific subjects and was developed to document the history of agricultural research and its worldwide applications and impact. The collection of more than 15,000 rare books; 330 manuscript collections; and original works of art, artifacts, posters, and photographs is particularly strong in botany, horticulture, natural history, zoology, poultry science, and entomology. One of the showcase collections is the US Department of Agriculture Pomological Watercolor Collection. The paintings are beautiful, yet scientifically precise illustrations of new fruit and nut varieties featured in early USDA publications. NAL's rare book collection includes many unique volumes from the world over; the earliest date back to the 16th century. Other unique items include important travel accounts, diaries, field notes, and correspondence by early naturalists such as Mark Catesby, and by USDA plant explorers who identified and collected new and improved plant varieties for introduction into American agriculture. Artifacts such as the electronic egg, Charles Valentine Riley's desk, wool-grading standards, and Smokey Bear memorabilia have been collected to supplement the print collection and provide a complete picture of agricultural research over the centuries. Taken as a whole, NAL’s Special Collections forms a premier center for agricultural research in all its aspects including historic, commercial, aesthetic, sociological, practical, and organizational. NAL continues to promote and expand Special Collections through collaborative exhibitions, publications, presentations, Web enhancements, and product development.

National Agricultural Library
Special Collections
10301 Baltimore Avenue
Beltsville, Maryland 20705
(301) 504-6503 (t)
(301) 504-7593 (f)