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1 L I B R AR I 



The National Museum of Natural History 




Ellis L. Yochelson 

75 Years in the Natural History Building 

The National Museum of Natural History 

75 Years in the Natural History Building 

The National Museum of Natural History 

Published on the occasion oi the Diamond Jubilee of the Natural History Building (1910-1985) 
for the National Museum ot Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, by the Smithsonian Institution Press 

City of Washington, 1985 


75 Years in the Natural History Building 

Ellis L. Yochelson, U.S. Geological Survey Edited by Mary Jarrett 

Fron 1 covkr: Loakiug uartli jrotii the Mull iii 11:01 A.M. 
May 11. 1909, jusl after tlir la\l \l(ini' icc/s set an the uiutli parch 
a/ the Natural Uistary Buil/inig. 

Hack c on i r: 1920 luriv oj cast aiurt aiul diitiic looking 
nortlnccst . 

Hai i-- I I I LE page: Skctdi oj liu/l/l/ag slnnviag three niani ioiug.<t 
and smaller ranges, oalos/ag the anirls. The exhibits u'crc 
assigni'd cssi'niially as siigiicstcd hcie, hut the grouilils luhen 
conifilctcd were far less elaborate. 

Ti iLii PAGi;: Setting the last stone on the south porch at 1 1 :00 
A.M. May 11, 1909. This completed the heavy construction on the 
ueic building. 

Par I I oplner: Dome and south porch of the new National 
Museum still under construction. About six months later, in the 
summer of I'^IO, the (olleituins started being moved across the 

Pari 2 dI'I NI-r: 'The Tenykbvi elephant LoxckIoiUus on its 
opening night, May 6, 1959. 

Pari 3 oi'i NhR: The Natural Histoiy Building today, looking 
ivest abnig the Mall and (^institution Ai'i'nue. Photo by /. Tinsley, 
July 19S5. 

© 1983 b\ Smithsonian Institution. All rights reserved 
Printed in the United States ot America 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 

^ ociielson, Ellis Leon. 1928- 

The National Museum ot Natural History: 75 years in 
the Natural History Building. 

Bibliography: p. 

Supt. of Docs, no.: SI 3.2:N21/2 
1. National Museum of Natural History — History. 
I. Jarrett, Mary. H. Title. 

QH70.U62W279 1985 507'.4'0153 85-600180 
ISBN 87474-989-1 

^Q^j" The paper in this book meets the guidelines for permanence 
^ and durability of the Committee on Production Cuidelines 
for Book Longevity of the Council and Library Resources. 

Book design by Christopher Jones 


Foreword 6 

Preface 8 

Chronology 9 

Part One: The Structure 

Chapter 1 The United States National Museum 15 

Chapter 2 The New Building 23 

Chapter 3 Building the Building 29 

Chapter 4 Moving into Valhalla 35 

Chapter 5 The National Gallery of Art 41 

Chapter 6 Affiliated Organizations 47 

Part Two: The Exhibits 

Chapter 7 New Exhibits, New Offices 57 

Chapter 8 The Great War and Its Lingering Aftermath 65 

Chapter 9 Interregnum 71 

Chapter 10 World War II 79 

Chapter 11 New Faces, New Funds, New Exhibits 85 

Chapter 12 New Wings and a New Elephant 99 

Chapter 13 Big Science: Deep Space, Deep Waters 1 1 1 

Chapter 14 "Modern Times" 117 

Part Three: The Museum 

Chapter 15 Museum Administration 129 

Chapter 16 The Scientific Staff 137 

Chapter 17 Shared Facilities 147 

Chapter 18 Shops and Maintenance 159 

Chapter 19 Others in the Building 165 

Chapter 20 The Visitors 171 

Chapter 21 Public Places 179 

Chapter 22 Outside the Building 191 

Chapter 23 The Collections 199 

Notes 207 

Index of Personal Names 214 

Sources of Illustrations 216 


This year we are celebratinij; the Diamond Jubilee 
of the Natural History Building, which first opened 
its d(Jors to the public on March 17, 1910. The new 
building repiesenled a major advance for the Smith- 
sonian Institution, vastly expanding its space and op- 
portunities for collection storage, exhibition, and re- 
search, and it ushered in a whole new era in the life of 
our already well-established museum, known today as 
the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). 
l)ui ing the past seventy-five years, the Natural History 
Building, fitmiliarly called the "NHB" by its residents, 
has undeigone many changes to keep pace with the 
grcjwth of its activities, which have expanded and changed 
constant Iv to stay abreast of the extraordinarv advances 
in science and the ever-expanding need ior public dis- 
plays and activities. Thus the building and its life have 
been inextricably bound to each other through the years. 
Over these seventy-five years we have seen upwards of 
150 million visitors come through our doors, 50 millic:)n 
in the last ten years alone, and we expect more than 
six million in 1985. Our collections for research and 
display now number about 100 million. 

The idea for this book first took shape in a chance 
conversation thai I had with the authc^r, Dr. Ellis L. 
Yochelson, at oui Museum's Christmas Party in De- 
cember 1983. While discussing wavs to celebrate the 
seventy-fifth anniversary of the NHB in 1985, Ellis, 
who has always had a keen interest in and sense of 

history, suggested that a book be written on the history 
of the building since 1910. 1 immediately seized on the 
suggestion, and a project was born — with Ellis himself 
as author. As a long-time resident of the building who 
not only knew much of the history himself but also was 
a scientific colleague and personal friend of several of 
the NHB's oldest citizens, Ellis was an ideal choice. 
Furthermore, as a member of the resident paleonto- 
logical staff of the Geological Survey of the United 
States Department of the Interior, one of the longest- 
running scientific affiliates with the NMNH, he could 
bring a imique perspective to bear on the history of 
the building. Although always a loyal advocate of the 
Museum, he could take a more detached view than one 
of cjur cjwn staff, and at the same time he understocjd 
implicitly the symbiotic relationships that have always 
characterized the associations between the scientists of 
the NMNH and of the several affiliated agencies that 
have long had research units in the building. 

We all are enormously indebted to Ellis Yochelson 
for the Herculean job that he did in writing this book 
within virtually impossible deadlines. From the outset, 
he wisely decided that he could not bring the building 
to life without telling the story of the people who worked 
here and of the activities and events that have punc- 
tuated the history of the building. It is, therefore, much 
more than a history of the building: it is a history of 
the Museum. 


Dr. Yochelson has given us a charming book, full of 
fascinating anecdotes and his own dry wit. He would 
be the first to point out that it is written from his own 
perspective as a personal chronicle. He was not asked 
to write an official history, and the book should not be 
read on that assumption. Many, but by no means all, 
of the guiding figures in the Museum's history appear 
in these pages, and the author does not pretend to 
emphasize each in proportion to his or her importance. 
It was never our intention that the book would incor- 
porate all employees past or present, and Ellis has had 
complete freedom to emphasize personalities as he saw 
fit. In a companion volume to this book, the pictorial 
Directory published in March 1985, all present NMNH 
staff and associated employees— about 1,250 — are fea- 

I am indebted to many persons for their help in 
making this book possible, including some, no doubt, 
of whom I am unaware. Certain persons deserve special 
mention. Without the full cooperation of Richard Z. 
Poore, Chief of the Geological Survey's Branch of Pa- 
leontology and Stratigraphy, this book never could have 
been written by Dr. Yochelson, a U.S.G.S. employee 
under his charge. Many present staff members re- 
viewed all or parts of the manuscript. I am grateful to 
the departmental chairmen for soliciting these reviews. 
The chairmen at the time were: Robert F. Piidali (Min- 
eral Sciences), W. Ronald Heyer (Vertebrate Zoology), 

Leslie W. Knapp (Smithsonian Oceanographic Sorting 
Center). Mark M. Littler (Botany), Ian G. Macintyre 
(Paleobiology), Wayne N. Mathis (Entomology), Clyde 
F. E. Roper (Invertebrate Zoology), and Douglas H. 
Ubelaker (Anthropology). Especially detailed and thor- 
ough reviews were prepared by Frederick M. Bayer, 
Fenner A. Chace, Jr., Joseph Ewan, Pamela M. Henson, 
Karl V. Krombein, Curtis W. Sabrosky, and Victor G. 
Springer. Essential technical work in the preparation 
of the final copy was performed by Anne Curtis, Bar- 
bara Gautier, T. Gary Gautier, Ella Giesey, Carole Lee 
Kin, and Joan B. Miles. Patricia Geeson, Victor E. Krantz, 
and James H. Wallace, Jr., rendered indispensable help 
in the process of gathering pictures for the book. Ann 
Rossilli designed the Diamond Jubilee logo. 

Finally, I am especially indebted to Stanwyn G. She- 
tier, Assistant Director for Programs, for reviewing the 
entire manuscript in detail and guiding the book through 
the many stages of editing to publication on my behalf; 
to Mary Jarrett, for her painstaking and exemplary 
final editing of the book; to Hope G. Pantell of the 
Smithsonian Institution Press, for her vital editorial 
guidance during production; and to Christopher Jones, 
for his pleasing design of the book. 

Richard S. Fiske, Director 

National Museum of Natural History 

Smithsonian Institution 

July 1985 





like to say, "On the north side of the Mall, opposite 
the Smithsonian Castle, the large granite building with 
the green dome on top is the United States National 
Mausoleum." In a way the building did look like an 
oversize cemetery monument, and it does contain many 
dead objects, but there is nothing funereal about the 
place. Since March 17, 1910, when the public was first 
invited to see the inside of a not-yet-completed building, 
people ha\e been enjoN ing, more or less continuously, 
this nali(jnal museum and its exhibits. 

Over the years a variety of names have been applied 
to the structure. "The Lhiited States National Museum," 
"the New National Museimi," "the National Museum 
of Natural History," and "the Nattual History Build- 
ing" have much in common, yet each is a shade dif- 
ferent, indicating a stage in the development of the 
nation's museums. The building itself has changed 
through time. It has housed trivial and significant ob- 
jects, uninspired and fascinating exhibits, and, always, 
dedicated people. I have tried to write a little about all 
these subjects — that is, alx)ut space and time and some 
of the people who occupied both dimensions. 

One seldom finds an opportunity to use the word 
"concatenation." But had the United States Geological 
Survey not hired me in 1952 to work at the Natural 
History Building of the United States National Mu- 
seum, and had I not been involved with the Geological 
Survey centennial in 1979, and had I not met National 
Museum of Natural History director Richard Fiske at 
the Invertebrate Zoology Christmas party in 1983, and 
had the present Chief Geologist, Robert Hamilton, not 
worked with Fiske when both were on the Geological 
Survey, I would never have heard of the anniversary 
of the Museum building, nor would I have been given 
the time to write about its history. When it became 
evident that the time allotted was not going to be enough. 

my branch chief, Richard Z. Poore, permitted me to 
maintain the Geological Survey tradition of meeting a 

William Massa, with the aid of his colleagues in the 
Smithsonian Archives, invariably brought me the pa- 
pers or photographs I requested, and then searched 
around on his own to find the items he knew I really 
needed. Without the help of Victor Kranz and, through 
him, a whole host of people in photographic services 
throughout the Instittttion, there would be no illustra- 

Because the Museum has no central photographic 
archive, tracking down negatives and icfentifications for 
old pictures posed special problems. Prints for which 
negatives could not be found were copied, but some of 
them, of course, may have been derived from even 
earlier copies. Photo negative numbers are given at the 
end of the book. 

Almost none of the Smithsonian's photographs are 
captioned, and before 1975 scarcely any bore a date. 
If the information given for a picture seems vague or 
incomplete, it is because no ftu ther data were available. 

Honesty forces me to say that I enjoy talking. In past 
years I have had the privilege of speaking with Sec- 
retaries Abbot, Wetmore, Carmichael, and other fine 
gentlemen and ladies no longer present. During a six- 
month period, I conversed with about a quarter of the 
people currently on the staff of the Museum and its 
affiliated agencies in an attempt to determine how the 
Museum has run and is running. It was far more stim- 
ulating and informative than reading eighty-five years' 
worth of annual reports. In particular I owe a major 
debt to Ed Henderson and to "Coop" for advice and 
recollections, and for first paying attention to me in 
1944. If I did not get it right after all this assistance, 
the fault lies with me. 




May 13, 1878 

May 17, 1878 


August 19, 1887 
November 18, 1887 
September 6, 1896 
January 27, 1897 

July 1, 1897 

July 1898 

January 30, 1903 
June 15, 1904 
February 22, 1906 
January 23, 1907 
August 11, 1909 
October 15, 1909 
March 17, 1910 
June 1, 1910 
June 1, 1911 
June 20, 1911 
October 8, 1911 
October, 1917 
July 16, 1918 

November 1, 1918 

April, 1919 
July 1, 1920 
April 1, 1925 


Joseph Henry, first Secretary of Smithsonian Institution, 

Spencer Fullerton Baird appointed second Secretary. 
Name "United States National Museum" first used by 

National Museum (Arts and Industries) building opens 
after use for Cleveland Inaugural Ball. 
Secretary Baird dies. 

Samuel Pierpont Langley appointed third Secretary. 
Assistant Secretary George Brown Goode dies. 
Charles Doolittle Walcott appointed Acting Assistant 
Secretary in charge of U.S. National Museum. 
National Museum organized into three departments: 
Anthropology, W. H. Holmes, head; Biology, F. W. 
True, head; and Geology, G. P. Merrill, head. 
Richard Rathbun appointed Assistant Secretary in charge 
of U.S. National Museum. 

Funds for new building appropriated by Congress. 
Ground broken for New National Museum. 
Secretary Langley dies. 

Charles Doolittle Walcott appointed fourth Secretary. 

Staff begins to move collections into new building. 

Heating boilers fired. 

New National Museum opened to public. 

Holmes again appointed head of Anthropology. 

Leonhard Stejneger appointed second head of Biology. 

Building formally completed. 

Sunday-afternoon visiting hours begin. 

Bureau of War Risk Insurance moves into building. 

Building closed for use by Bureau of War Risk 

Insurance. Richard Rathbun dies. 

W. de C. Ravenel appointed assistant to the Secretary, in 
charge of U.S. National Museum. 
Building reopened to public. 

National Gallery of Art formed, with Holmes as director. 
Alexander Wetmore appointed Assistant Secretary. 


February 9, 1927 
Fall 1927 
January 10, 1928 

October 29, 1929 
June 19, 1930 

April 1931 
June 30, 1934 

December 7, 1941 
June 30, 1944 
January 12, 1945 
October 23, 1946 
July 31, 1947 

May 26, 1948 

1949 (?) 

December 1952 
January 2, 1953 
Fall 1955 
July 1, 1957 

February 4, 1958 
August 1958 

May 13, 1960 

January 1962 


July 1. 1963 

October 15, 1963 

January 31, 1964 
February 1, 1964 
February 1, 1965 

July 1, 1965 
July 1, 1965 

Summer 1965 
September 16-19, 1965 
March 1966 

March 24, 1969 

Secretary Walcott dies. 
Rotunda closed. 

Charles Greeley Abbot appointed fifth Secretary. 

Decking put in east range, ground floor. 

Rotunda reopened. 

Wings authorized by Congress. 

War Collection moved to Arts and Industries. 

Decking of west range and west north range begins. 

Heating and electrical plants cease operations. 

Conversion to alternating current begins. 

America enters World War II. 

Secretary Abbot retires. 

Alexander Wetmore appointed sixth Secretary. 
100th anniversary of Smithsonian Institution noted. 
Department of Biology divided into departments of 
Botany and Zoology. 

A. Remington Kellogg appointed Director, U.S. National 

Ice plant ceases operation. 
Secretary Wetmore retires. 

Leonard Carmichael appointed seventh Secretary. 

Junior League begins docent tours in Museum. 

LI.S. National Museum divided into Museum of History 

and Technology and Museum of Natural History. 

A. Remington Kellogg appointed Assistant Secretary. 

A. C. Smith appointed Director, Museimi of Natural 


Funds for east wing construction appropriated by 

T. Dale Stewart appointed Director, Museiun of Natural 

Construction begins on east wing. 

Construction begins on west wing. 

Department of Entomology formed from Division of 


Department of Geology divided into departments of 

Paleobiology and Mineral Sciences. 

Secretary Carmichael retires. 

S. Dillon Ripley appointed eighth Secretary. 

Bureau of American Ethnology and Department of 

Anthropology merge to form Smithsonian Office of 


Smithsonian Office of Ecology formed. 

Department of Zoology divided into departments of 

Invertebrate and Vertebrate Zoology. 

Department of Botany moved to Museum from Castle. 

200th anniversary of birth of James Smithson celebrated. 

Richard S. Cowan appointed Director, Museum of 

Natural History. 

Official name becomes National Museum of Natural 

September 26, 1971 

125th anniversary of Smithsonian Institution. 

November 16, 1971 

Baird Auditorium dedicated. 

laiuiary 15, 1973 

Porter M. Kier appointed Director, National Museum of 

Natural History. 


"Rearticulation" returns building management, exhibits. 

and educational activities to chrectorship of Museum. 

September 16, 1973 

Former Secretary Carmichael dies. 

December 17, 1973 

Former Secretary Abbot dies. 

March 5, 1974 

Discovery Room opens. 


Smithsonian Oceanographic Sorting Center becomes part 

of Museum. 


Office of Anthropology abolished; Department re- 


October 1975 

Escalator installed in foyer. 

August (?) 1975 

Osteo-Prejjaration Laboratory built in east courtyard. 

July 1976 

West Cx)ui t l)uilding completed. 


Greenhouse built in east courtyard. 

December 1976 

Naturalist C'.eiUer opens in West Court building. 

Fall 1978 

Inventory program begins in Museum. 

May 30, 1979 

Kier leaves directorship; James F. Mello appointed 

Acting Director. 

December 7, 1979 

Former Secretary Wetmore dies. 

January 1980 

Richard Fiske appointed Director, National Museum 

of Natin al History. 

August 1980 

Constitution Avenue entrance modified for physically 


February 9, 1981 

Work begins on Museum Support Center. 

March 1981 

Link Port facility, in Fort Pierce, Florida, becomes part 

of National Museum of Natural History. 

July 15, 1981 

Evans Gallery opens in foyer. 

May 16, 1983 

Museum Support Center dedicated. 

September 17, 1984 

Secretary Ripley retires; Robert McC^ormick Adams takes 

office as ninth Secretary. 

July 10, 1985 

Fiske leaves directorship; James C. 1 yler appointed 

Acting Director. 

Chapter 1 

United States 
National Museum 

been told many times, it is a good story that de- 
serves retelling from a slightly different angle. In brief, 
the Institution was created by an Act of Congress in 
1846 to execute the will of the English chemist and 
mineralogist James Smithson, who had bequeathed his 
entire fortune to the United States "to found at Wash- 
ington ... an establishment for the increase and dif- 
fusion of knowledge among men." Although Congress 
had settled on science, art, and history as the areas of 
knowledge to be pursued, the outline was a vague one. 
The Institution's first Secretary, Joseph Henry, wanted 
to support research and publications, but not to have 
the Institution actively involved in gathering collections 
or developing a public museum. The Board of Regents 
did insist upon an impressive Smithsonian building, 
and in 1847 construction began on "the Castle," located 
on the south side of the Mall with its main entrance 
centered on Tenth Street. 

Three years later, the overworked Henry hired young 
and energetic Spencer F. Baird as his assistant. In Baird, 
natural history found a powerful advocate. He was a 
prodigious collector as well as a master at persuading 
others to collect for him. Historians argue as to whether 
Henry's original objections to a museum were swayed 
by the force of Baird's arguments or by the weight of 
his collections. 

There was no formal founding of the United States 
National Museum, but in 1858 large government-owned 
collections from the moribund National Institute were 
transferred to the Castle from the Patent Office build- 
ing (now the National Portrait Gallery and National 
Museum of American Art). One of Henry's concerns 
was guarding the Smithsonian endowment; he was aware 

Installing totem poles in the United States National 
Museum (now the Arts and Industries Building), possibly 
in the early 1880s. The onlookers may be Samuel P. 
Langley and Otis T. Mason. Donated from the 
Philadelphia Ceyitennial exhibit, the totem poles were 
accessioned in 1876. The one in the center is currently on 
display at the north end of Hall 8. 

of what a financial drag a museum could be, having 
seen the cost of collection maintenance lead to the ruin 
of the National Institute.' Before agreeing to accept 
the collections, Henry had made certain that federal 
money would be available for their maintenance. In 
1857 (and every year since) Congress appropriated the 
funds. A Guide to the Smithsonian Institution and National 
Museum was published in 1859, but it was not until 1870 
that Henry used the name National Museum in the 
Annual Report, and not until four years later that Con- 
gress used the term in an appropriations bill." 

Henry's insistence on federal support for federal col- 
lections had several interesting consequences. The 
Smithsonian continues as a semiprivate institution, but 
because it administers government funds, its museum 
employees are civil servants just like employees of the 
Agriculture, Commerce, or Interior departments, with 
the same rules and regulations to follow. Perhaps the 
most important point is that the museum is public prop- 
erty: Anyone may enter to see the exhibits; anyone may 
enter without paying a fee. Henry's recognition that 
the federal government should maintain a museum, in 
the same sense that the government should make a 
survey of the coasts or investigate how to make crops 
grow better, was a major development whose ramifi- 
cations continue to this day. 

Centennial Exposition Exhibits 

The approaching 1876 Centennial Exposition at Phil- 
adelphia was to be a great event. Because there was no 
working space in the Castle, a small, temporary brick 
building was constructed to the west of it in 1875, near 
where the Freer Gallery of Art now stands. There Baird 
assembled a crew — including his protege George Brown 
Goode — to help plan and build exhibits. The Smith- 
sonian had a noteworthy display in Philadelphia, and 
Baird coaxed many of the other exhibitors to donate 
their materials to the federal government. 

As might be expected, these donations changed the 
problem of getting more material into the enormously 
crowded Castle from difficult to impossible. Tempo- 
rary storage space had to be obtained by taking over a 


pre-Civil War armory situated in a neighborhood long 
since eradicated by urban renewal, between Sixth and 
Seventh on B Street, SW.' 

Without too much prodding. Congress agreed to give 
the National Museum a building of its own. Ground 
was broken on the east side of the Castle on April 17, 
1879. The square brick structure was a cheap one, cost- 
ing only $315,400. Familiar now as the Arts and In- 
dustries Building, it houses a facsimile of the 1876 Ex- 
position put together for the nation's Bicentennial. A 
reconsti uction of the Smithsonian Institution display 
may be seen on the east side of the south hall.^ 

On March 4, 1881, the nearly completed United States 
National Museum l)uilding was used for James A. Gar- 
field's Inaugural Ball. After the bunting was taken down, 
the floors swept, and a few minor repairs made, the 
building was opened to the public. For the first time 
there was some additional s])ace for permanent ex- 

George Brown Goode 

Meanwhile, Secretary Henry had died. In 1878 Baird 
succeeded him and eventually promoted George Brown 
Goode to Assistant Secretary, in charge of the National 
Museum. Goode, who had come to the Institution in 
I87.'5, was by training an ichthyologist. While he never 
|)ul the fishes entirely behind him, he rapidly became 
<i "museum man." When the Centennial Exposition in- 
spired a whole series of major fairs and shows, Goode 
sent exhibits to them. In his time he was widely re- 
garded as the New World's leading specialist in museum 
administration and in exhibit preparation, which he 
developed into a field in itself. After Baird's death in 
1887, Samuel Pierpont Langley, an astronomer, be- 
came Secretary of the Smithsonian. He was not partic- 
ularly interested in collections, but Goode, being steeped 
in the Baird tradition, continued to acquire material. 

Most of it went into the National Musetnn, but the 
Castle retained a sizeable display, described in a con- 
temporary account: 

Case after case through one of its great halls is 
filled with birds of all feathers, mounted so 
skillfully that they exhibit not only the 
characteristic poses of the birds but in many cases 
their habits in life. They vary in size from the 
smallest hunmiing bird to the largest ostrich. . . . 
Another large hall is devoted to insects collected 
from an equally-wide area and presenting as great 
a diversity in size and color. . . . Here also is a 
marvelous collection of birds' eggs, varying in size 
all the way from the hemeopathic pellet to a 
football. The collection of shells, of sponges, of 
coral, and other curious organisms of the sea is 

Goode as administrator delineated three roles he saw 
for a museum. He recognized that, first, it served as a 

museum of record; and if material is to serve as a stan- 
dard of comparison, it must be kept safely. Today we 
might refer to this as a data bank of objects. Second, 
Goode noted the museum of research; and people who 
work in science, just as in any other field, must have 
the proper facilities. Today we might refer to this as a 
research institute, but Goode made clear in his various 
writings that study of the collections, not abstract theo- 
rizing, was what he referred to as research. Finally, 
there was the museum of education; and without col- 
lections, museums have no objects to exhibit. Today as 
always, the display halls are what the average visitor 
considers a museiun. 

There are examples of museums that, without any 
collections, do well at one or another of these various 
functions. As Goode saw it, however, the basic reason 
for a museum was to accimiulate and maintain collec- 
tions. Collections were like the platform of a stool, with 
the three functions Goode distinguished acting as the 
legs. The trick was — and still is — to keep these "legs" 
in perfect balance. Because this is almost impossible, 
one aspect of the history of the Smithsonian Institution 
has been the emphasis on different museum functions 
at different times. None of the three approaches has 
ever been ignored. 

Goode knew that this new building was incapable of 
showing the diversity of nature and the handiwork of 
man in a coherent manner, let alone storing the moun- 
tains of natural-history specimens that kept piling up 
in Washington. In his Annual Report of 1882, Secretary 
Baird acknowledged "the inadequacy of the Museum 
building, then scarcely more than a year old, to house 
the rapidly increasing national collections."" One of the 
basic facts of muscology is that there is never sufficient 
space to house the collections. Regardless of this, the 
dedicated museum worker brings them in. 

In the course of his day-to-day work, Goode devel- 
oped many of the techniques still used in the Museum. 
He improved the accessioning and cataloguing pro- 
cedures, standardized case and drawer sizes, issued in- 
structions on collecting methods, and oversaw a myriad 
of other seldom-considered details. Goode died at the 
age of forty-five, almost certainly from overwork.^ 

'The death of Secretary Baird in 1 887, while a serious 
blow . . . was felt less by the Museum force in general 
than was that of Dr. Goode in 1896," the head of the 
Department of Geology wrote in the 1920s. "The loss 
of the last named was seemingly quite irreparable and 
for a time created a panic among those who had been 
looking forward to a life profession in Museum work 
under his guidance and with his cooperation."^ 

George Brown Goode summed up his lifetime of 
experience in a one-sentence aphorism that to this day 
is quoted by museum authorities seeking increases in 
their budgets. He wrote, in capitals: "A FINISHED 


The Structure 


Office space in the balcony of 
the Smithsonian (lastle's 
(ireat Hall, prohahly well 
before 1910. 7^1 e specimens 
beini^ studied are mollusk 


Hall of Fisheries in the 
Smithsonian Castle, some- 
where between 1880 and 
1910. The life-size models of 
the octopus and the giant 
squid were moved to the new 
National Museuvi, where 
they remained on exhibit 
until the 1950s. Later they 
were transferred to storage at 
Silver Hill, Maryland, but 
they lost some plaster in 
moving and eventually 
were discarded. 

The United Stales National Museum 


United Stall's Ndtiiiiud Museum under cuustructiuu, j)t(ih<dil\ in ISSd. I'he jju luie ,(y/s lukeu /loi/i the Castle, looking east 
toward the Clapitiil. 

Charles Doolittle Walcott 

Following Got)cle"s death, (Charles Doolittle Walcott 
served as Acting Assistant Secietary, in charge of the 
United States National Museum, tor eighteen months 
in 1897 and 1898. Walcott was a paleontologist who 
had risen through the ranks to become director of the 
United States Geological Survey in 1894. That orga- 
nization had run afoul of Congress, but made a come- 
back under VV'alcott s leadership. Not only had he per- 
suaded C^ongress to restore the budget to its former 
levels in order to study geology and make topographic 
maps; he convinced them that his organization should 
be studying the national forests. 

Walcott continued to head the Geological Survey and 
to publish papers on paleontology while he was Assis- 
tant Secretary, but his close contacts with Congress now 
benefited the National Museum as well. The Museum 
had long planned to build side galleries in the four 
main exhibit halls, and in 1897 Congress appropriated 
$8,000 for the first of these galleries."' Goode had been 
requesting funds without success since 1893. 

Walcott inherited an administrative hodgepodge, for 
Goode had designated innumerable divisions and sec- 

tions within the United States National Museum. There 
was virtually no paid staff; whenever a volunteer ap- 
peared, a special niche was carved out for him as an 
honorary curator or some such title. Although Walcott 
was unable to increase the staff, he clarified the or- 
ganization by setting up three departments: Anthro- 
pology, Biology, and Geology. Each had a head curator, 
with curators in charge of subdivisions. For the first 
time a chain of cf:)mmand was established. The various 
internal divisions have changed over the years. While 
the Department of Anthropology survives intact, the 
departments of Botany, Entomology, Invertebrate Zo- 
ology, and Vertebrate Zoology represent the original 
Biology Department; and Mineral Sciences and Paleo- 
biology, Geology. 

As Acting Assistant Secretary, Walcott performed one 
further, inestimable behind-the-scenes task for the Mu- 
seum. "During his administration," the geologist Bailey 
Willis relates, "'Uncle Joe' Cannon was Speaker of the 
Flouse, and it was [Cannon's] habit after a fatiguing 
session to walk up Pennsylvania Avenue. Walcott, as if 
by chance, would draw up beside the curb with a fast- 
stepping bay and a light buggy and suggest a drive in 


The Structure 

Installing the Easter Island 
images in the National 
Museum, 1888. George 
Brown Goode is to the left. 
Secretary Langley stands 
with hat in hand, and to the 
right is Otis T. Mason, later 
to he second head of the 
Department of Anthropology. 
Copied from a print in 
William Hetny Holmes's 
"Random Records. ' 

Rock Creek Park, but during these rides he never men- 
tioned business. On one occasion 'Uncle Joe' paused, 
his foot on the step, and said: 'Walcott, you may have 
a building for the Survey or one for the National Mu- 
seum, but you can't have both.' And Walcott took the 
Museum." " 

Richard C. Rathbun 

In 1898 Richard C. Rathbun was named Assistant Sec- 
retary, in charge of the United States National Museum, 
and Walcott returned full-time to the Geological Sur- 
vey. Rathbun had started his career as a geologist, but 
under Baird's spell he had become enamored of fish 
and, like Goode, soon developed a compulsive concern 
for collections and museums. It is to him that we owe 
our clear account of the first National Museum building 
and the various attempts to persuade Congress to build 
a new one. After Walcott left, it was Rathbun who kept 
up congressional interest, for Secretary Langley was 
preoccupied with developing a man-carrying aircraft, 
and, to put it gently, was not known for either his 
administrative or political skills. In 1903 Congress fi- 
nally authorized the building, at a cost not to exceed 
$3,500,000 — a figure attained through some political 
shufflings with several proposals. Before midyear a firm 
of Washington architects, Hornblower and Marshall, 
had been selected to draw the final plans. It was ex- 
pected that construction would take about four or five 
years. '"^ 

In the 1880s the general idea of a second museum 

had been a brick building similar to the United States 
National Museum, but two stories high. The World 
Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago set the stage 
for a change from high Victorian style to neoclassic 
architecture. It also inspired what became the McMillan 
Commission to beautify the city of Washington. The 
proposed museum was to be the first building con- 
structed according to the dictates of the Commission, 
and plans for it became increasingly elaborate. For a 
time the anticipated building was one-third larger again 
than the one that actually was constructed. 

Langley led the ground-breaking on June 14, 1904, 
but faded from the scene and died early in 1906. The 
Board of Regents offered the secretaryship to Henry 
Fairfield Osborn, who declined to leave the American 
Museum of Natural History in New York City. At last, 
in 1907, Walcott became the fourth Secretary of the 
Smithsonian Institution. 

For several years Rathbun bore the burdens of the 
Museum and its new building. As Acting Secretary after 
Langley's death, he oversaw all of the Smithsonian's 
increasing activities, and while the new Secretary was 
settling into office and going off to Canada to search 
for fossils, Rathbun planned the new exhibits and the 
horrendous job of moving the collections. When all was 
finished, Rathbun described the building. There is much 
architectural terminology to digest and perhaps more 
detail than one wants in this account, but one cannot 
help feeling that Rathbun loved every bolt and brick 
in his lovely new building. □ 

The United Stales National Museum 



The Structure 

About', //lasli') of loolhnl 
whale Zeuglocloii (iioui 
more correctly re/erred to as 
Basilosaurusj; below, Irish 
elk (MegalocerosJ; atid 
extreme left, ground sloth 
(EreniotheriumJ, /// the 
United States National 
Museum. The Irish elk has 
been remounted at least three 
times, and is noio in Hall 6. 
This ground sloth is not the 
Panamanian specimen 
currently on exhibit. The 
Zeuglodon was not collected 
until the 1890s, so the pho- 
tograph can be dated within 
about a fifteen-year intenial 
near the turn of the century. 

Mammal exhibit in the 
United States National 
Museum around 1900, 
showing the Hornaday 
buffalo fBisonj group 
in the foreground. 

The United States National Museum 


Chapter 2 

The New 

^ ^ Tn the designing of the building," Rathbun 
X. wrote, "two principal objectives were kept in view, 
first, to secure the largest possible amount of available 
space and second, to produce a substantial and digni- 
fied structure. . . . Planned as a great shell . . . the build- 
ing contains few permanent walls, and by giving ex- 
ceptional width to the main mass an unusual extent of 
floor area as compared to the extent of the outer walls 
has been obtained. Other notable features are the ab- 
sence of the customary monumental staircase, and the 
minimizing of dark spaces as also of distracting archi- 
tectural details in the interior. The construction is en- 
tirely fireproof."' 

Although it is impossible to get from one place to 
another within its walls without getting lost, the basic 
plan of the building is simple. Picture an inverted, fat 
T having the horizontal member twice the length of 
the vertical. This is the south side of the building, facing 
the Castle across the Mall, with the Capitol to the east 
of it and the Washington Monument to the west. The 
shorter, vertical member of the T points north. From 
the north or Constitution Avenue entrance, two nar- 
rower segments called ranges extend eastward and 
westward parallel to the Mall. Each range then turns a 
right angle and runs south to join the main wings, thus 
enclosing a hollow rectangle on each side of the north- 
south segment. The rotunda marks the intersection of 
this north with the east-west wings at the front of the 
building. Even with this plan in mind, it is not partic- 
ularly easy to visualize locations such as, say, the south 
side of the north range, no matter how many years one 
walks around inside the two-square-block structure. 

The two open courts, each 128 feet square, were a 
vital part of the building's design. They provided two 
commodities seldom spoken of today — fenestration and 
ventilation. Electric lights were in fairly common use 
by the turn of the century, but no intelligent person 

July 9, 1904: Digging the foundation, for the new National 
Museum on the east side oj the building, using an 
authentic steam-powered steam shovel and mulepower to 
haul the dirt. 

would have expected them to take the place of daylight, 
especially if one wanted to see the true colors of objects. 
The coLuts were a necessity if the inner part of the 
Museum were to be light enough for the exhibits to be 
seen and the staff to work. In addition, everyone knows 
that cross-ventilation is far better than just opening a 
window. Windows on both sides of the building were 
one way to ameliorate the Washington summer heat. 
The courtyard walls are faced with light-colored brick, 
and the windows are framed with granite from Wood- 
stock, Maryland. 

The exterior walls of the Museum are built of solid 
red brick, hidden from view by a f acing of granite blocks 
ten inches or more thick. The exterior walls are quite 
massive; on the east side they measure seven feet in 
thickness. The new Museum was built to last, and it is 
strong. For twenty years the east attic contained several 
hundred 500-pound steel cases full of fossils, giving a 
total weight of approximately half a ton per square 
yard, yet there was never any doubt that the building 
could support such a load. 

The McMillan (Commission had decreed that gov- 
ernment buildings were to have a light-colored exterior, 
a reaction against the red-brick style that had domi- 
nated Washington during the last quarter of the nine- 
teenth century. The Patent Off ice and Tariff buildings, 
two early government structures (one occupied, and 
one soon to be, by the Smithsonian) were f)f limestone 
and local sandstone. They had not stood up well. I hat 
left granite as the logical facing material. 

Three different kinds of granite were used on the 
outside of the building. The ground-floor stone is f rom 
Milford, Massachusetts; this is called pink granite, but 
the color is light gray, the stone developing a pinkish 
cast when wet with rain. The first and second floors 
and the dome are built of white granite from Bethel, 
Vermont. The third floor uses another white granite 
of a different hue, from Mount Airy, North Carolina. 
(Perhaps, half a century after the Civil War, it was good 
politics to have some stone from north and some from 
south.) Had any cost/benefit ratio been seriously con- 
sidered, it is unlikely that granite would have been se- 


Iht'uking ground for the new National Museum, June 14, Langley. hat in ha)id, is J.D. Hornblower, architect, and 

1904. Secretary Langley hohls the shovel. To the left, behind the hut is Bernard L. Green, superintendent of 

inidivay between him aud the lady witli the umbrella, is construction. 
Assistant Secretaiy Rathhuu. To the right of Secretary 

letted even in the early 19U()s, for the need to cut each 
stone to size before setting it in the proper position 
outside the bricks turned the granite f acing into a major 
logistic problem. Labor and material were inexpensive, 
however, and the new Museum did not exceed its pro- 
jected cost. This was in the tradition of the fnst National 
Museum building, which had been built for less than 
was appropriated by the Congress and had opened 
ahead of schedule. 

New Building Vs. Old 

The dif ferences between the new building and the old 
were manifold. One gets an idea of what was thought 
of the old National Museum from George Perkins Mer- 
rill, head curator of geology and an expert on building 
stones, who had joined the staff in 1881 : "It was a square 
squatty affair of red, blue, and yellow brick, exteriorly 
an architectural horror, interiorly a barren waste. It 

presented one redeeming feature — space; and as it was 
space that Baird was after, 1 presiuiie it may at first 
thought have been considered a success. One may here 
be reminded of the reply made by a high official after 
being shown through the then newly finished Pension 
Office building. 'Well,' it was asked, 'have you any crit- 
icism?' 'Yes,' was the reply, 'it is fireproof."'"^ 

Yet no one except Rathbun seemed excited by the 
appearance of the new building, which, though hand- 
some and solid, is hardly dramatic. The British Museum 
of Natural History building, with its various terra-cotta 
animals decorating both exterior and interior walls, is 
far more interesting.* The National Museum's archi- 
tects and some of the staff had toured European mu- 
seums before final plans were made, and original plans 
did include terra-cotta facing. But that idea soon dis- 
appeared in favor of an exterior whose classic style has 
remained in harmony with neighboring buildings. To 


The Structure 

Three architectural sketches of the proposed Neiv National subsequent designs showed an even fancier dome. Bottom, 

Museum. Top, with a low mansard rooj and a skylight the building with a simple Roman-style dome, essentially as 

around the central areas, as planned in July 1903. it was constructed except for the obelisks at either end. This 

Middle, with the elaborate dome projected in 1904; sketch ivas published in the Annual Report for 1909. 

The New Building 


Bu I L Di NG For Naponal Museum 
Rules For. Workmen 

I. \A/trking hours O 12 and 12.50 To -^.30. 

Z. Conie and go fhrough middle galS . 

3. Each man will receive a check by which 
hia fime will be kepr. 

'4-. Checks must' be l&ken care of and. 

deposi-ted wifh The watchman af -The gate 
before Q o'clock. Laft men musf 
•firsf reporf af The. o-ff ice . 

5. Men who lose checks musf replace 
Them wi'Th new ones before going 
Xb work or receiving p<i^- 

^. Checks will be distfibufed 16 fhe men 
before Quiff^ng time. 

7 Men leaving work eorlier muaT firaf reporT 

Rules for ivoiknioi as hud douni by Bernard L. Green. The 
superintendent of huildngs and grounds for the Library of 
Congress, he knew hoiv to run a major construction job. 

"Plan of first story of new building, showing distribution of 
exhibition collections." This illustration from the Annual 
Report for 1913 shows clearly the three wings, each 
connected with two ranges to make the two courts. One hall 
in the east wing and several halls in the west wing still 
were not open to the public at this time. 


"Plan of second story of new building, showing distribution 
of exhibition collections," from the 1913 Annual Report. 
The black dots denote supporting pillars. In the west north 
range (Hall 26), the local-fauyia exhibit included the birds 
of the District of Columbia now on display by the Baird 

•to fhe ^oremar) and Then get -rriair 
checks af Xhe. office . 

S. Men absenf for -Tfiree days will be laid 
off unless a safisfo-ctbr^ ex-cuae is 
prom pHy i ven . 

9. Men laid off or quifTing work will 

receive a card fb rfie pay clerk af 
•fhe. Library Building. 

10. No smoking during working hours. 

11. Use wafer close*^ and commi-T no 

nuisance aboui^ fhe building. 

12. Return all -tools af end of day -to places 

as directed by foreman. 

13. Nobody allowed fb carry anyfhing bu^T his 

own property away from fhe building. 
Packages will be examined whenever 
fhoughl proper by foreman or wufchman. 



The Structure 

some viewers it looks even newer than the fifty-year- 
old Federal Triangle buildings on the north side of 
Constitution Avenue. 

While the Museum building is not the Parthenon or 
even the Lincoln Memorial, likewise it is not a char- 
acterless modern-day of fice building, and the dedicated 
student of architectural history can spend an hour look- 
ing at the exterior. There is some detail to be discerned. 
The window ledges of the ground floor are formed by 
the upper surface of the massive lower course of mon- 
oliths, whose rusticated surface contrasts with the smooth 
blocks above. Each vertical pair of windows on the two 
exhibit floors is treated as essentially one window, 
strengthening the vertical lines of the building. 

On the third story, the roof line is set back along the 
ranges but is entirely vertical on the wings. The third- 
floor ranges have more granite decoration than the 
wings, with alternating half-circles and triangles above 
the windows. The roof and dome are covered with light 
gray-green slate from Poultney, Vermont, and choice 
ledges and crevices all over the building — the south 
portico in particular — are covered with pigeons. The 
birds are conditioned by many years' worth of attempts 
to harass them into leaving, and nothing affects them. 
Like the granite, they are permanent. 

Dome, Stately Entrance, Rotunda 

The building's most pleasing aesthetic feature is prob- 
ably the dome, best seen from the Mall side. The en- 
trance from the Mall is stately, with two runs of steps 
to the south portico. The north entrance is architec- 
turally the least satisfactory part of the building. Both 
sides have massive bronze doors. If there is one single 
criticism to be leveled against the architects, these grand- 
looking, heavy doors are it. Several generations of me- 
chanics have oiled them, tinkered with them, and cursed 
them, but since the day the Museum opened, the public 
has had difficulty heaving them open. 

The interior of the building is only slightly more 
detailed than the exterior. The easiest way to see its 
best features is to go to the second floor and walk around 
the rotunda, looking both down, to the floor of Ten- 
nessee marble, and up. The view of the dome and the 
large windows is even better from the third floor, but 
this contains offices and collections and is off-limits to 
tourists. Few of the staff visit the fourth-floor rotunda 
unless their collections are stored there. 

The rotunda is eight-sided, with the four sides di- 
rectly facing the wings and the portico being much 
wider than the four sides in between. Each of these 
four longer sides has a screen of pillars made of pol- 
ished brecciated marble. The first-story columns are 
Doric in style, and the second- and third-story columns 
are Roman Ionic. As one continues to look upward 
above the third screen of columns, the four semicircular 

/// this proposal jot the rotunda, drawn in section, 
enormous bull's-eye windows let light into the area, the 
interior is adorned with Jigures, and the dome is 
surmounted by a winged statue. To the left are additional 
statues at the south entrance, and an exedra — an enormous 
semicircular entrance befitting a palace. The auditorium, in 
this fanciful sketch, is placed under the rotunda, indicating 
a date after 1904 — ajter construction had begun. 

clerestory windows and the arches containing them can 
be seen. Craning one's neck, it is possible to see the 
tiled interior of the dome and the skylight. This is al- 
most as impressive a view as looking into the dome of 
the Capitol. 

There are three exhibit halls to the north, east, and 
west on the first floor, and two each on the second 
floor. By Rathbun's measure, the new building had 
468,000 square feet (ten and three-quarters acres), of 
which 220,000 square feet (five acres) was exhibit space. 
The central hall of each of the three wings has an 
enormously high ceiling, most of which is roofed by a 
long, wide skylight. This high ceiling is best seen today 
from the center of the north hall. A balcony on the 
second floor, added in the 1960s to Hall 10, permits a 
better view of the skylight and the plaster molding than 
tourists in the early days could have had. Still, one 
wonders why even this relatively simple ornamental 
detail was put in, for the truth of the matter is that no 
one looks at it. People come to a museum to see the 
exhibits, not the shell that contains them. □ 

The New /iuilding 


- — y"^ 



Chapter 3 

The Building 

"the lateness of the season precluded the holding 
of a formal ceremony on the occasion, but the first 
spadeful of earth was turned by Secretary Langley in 
the presence of the superintendent of construction, the 
architects, and the employees of the Museum and In- 
stitution.'" Langley said a few words, a board fence was 
erected, and the digging started. The remark about the 
lateness of the season is a reflection of the era when 
Congress departed for the summer. What is perhaps 
more interesting was that it was considered still "too 
early to discuss the details of the plans."-' There were 
not many major museum buildings in the country, and 
in spite of their examination of foreign buildings, the 
architects really did not have a grasp of what was needed, 
or how best to put the parts together. 

Clearly the plans were not engraved on stone; they 
shifted repeatedly and sometimes wildly. Plans of 1902 
show a nearly flat roof having a great skylight over the 
rotunda. Part of the roof was modified to a mansard 
style, covering pavilions on the east and west ends of 
the structure. As late as 1904, the auditorium was placed 
in the foyer, not under the rotunda. The south entrance 
was designed as an exedra — a semicircular entryway 
befitting a palace. The entire south facade was to be 
adorned with statuary. The formerly flat roof suddenly 
sprouted a dome in the style of the French Second 

In its time the Museum was the largest building in 
the city apart from the Capital, covering nearly four 
acres. Completing the excavations and having the mas- 
sive concrete foundatic^ns in by November 9, 1904, was 
an excellent start. The contracts for the granite were 
let during these first several months. Early in the winter, 
"the scheme of correcting any possible mistake of line 
and effect as practiced at the Union Station by erection 
of a wooden fascimile of a section was tried at the Mu- 

Northwest corner of the building before complct/oii of the 
ground floor, looking south toward the Castle on November 
22, 1905. The office at this corner is now occupied by the 
Travel Seririce. 

seum. A complete bay, or window, from basement to 
attic was constructed, and it proved so serviceable that 
a complete change was made in the elevation of the 
structure. It was discovered that a certain lack of height 
prevented a convergence of lines. The question was 
answered by raising the foundation three feet.'" I his 
alteration "also permits the transfer of the lecture room 
to the rotunda basement, removing it from the center 
wing, which will become available for exhibition pur- 
poses."' Denizens of museums are supposedly attracted 
to the basements, which by tradition are expected to 
be dark and cramped. At least now it is clear why the 
Museum basement, or ground floor, has such a high 
ceiling. It is another tribute to the strength of the build- 
ing that the architects could add extra height without 
any concern. 

Laying the First Stone 

The first stone was laid August 21, 1905 — a large block 
near the north entrance, on the east side. The northern 
side of the building site required less excavation than 
the Mall side, so apparently it was easier to start there. 
The cornerstone is on the northeast corner of the Con- 
stitution Avenue entrance. Things were moving well 
on the construction except that, as Rathbun noted in 
1906, "the failure of one of the cjuarries to furnish stone 
within the time agreed upon has been the cause of some 
delay and had retarded the completion of the building 
until about two years hence.'" 

The top of the building caused major problems. 
Hornblower and Marshall, not content with their dome 
of 1904, envisioned in 1905 an even more elaborate 
one surmounted by a great winged statue. The con- 
struction superintendent, Bernard L. Green, who was 
also the superintendent of buildings and grounds of 
the Library of Congress, was sympathetic toward a dome 
but consulted another architect, who greatly modified 
the Hornblower and Marshall concept. In one of his 
last major decisions, Langley got rid of the elaborate 
dome and the statuary. Thus the neoclassical building 
came to be surmounted by a simple Roman-style dome. 

By October 190(i the Washington Post was writing. 


The Mall before construction 
of the new National 
Museum, as viewed from the 
tower of the Castle. To the 
right is the Post Office 
Building, a massive granite 
structure completed in the 
1890s; the museum site is 
farther to the right, just out 
of the pict ure. June 1, 1904. 

"Looming up amidst the trees which skirt tiie northern 
edge of the Mall, near Tenth Street, the walls of the 
new United States National Museum are now beginning 
to assume tangible pro])ortions."'' 

Delays in Construction 

However, it was not going all that smoothly. "Work on 
the new building has not progressed as rapidly as was 
expected, owing to delays in the delivery of the granite 
which was to compose the greater part of the outer 
wall," Rathbun complained again in 1907. "The fault 
has lain both with the cjuarrv and with the railroad 
leading therefrom, the former have already violated 
the time limit of its contract by a considerable amount, 
and the latter having neglected to furnish necessary 
cars when called upon to do so. This delay has not only 
caused annoyance, but is resulting in pecuniary loss to 
the Government through the deterioi ation of large col- 
lections held in storage, and in other ways.'"' 

Annoyed as he was, Rathbun did overemphasize the 
deterioration of the collections. This was in large meas- 
ure material from the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Ex- 
position in St. Louis. Once again, as at Philadelphia in 
1876, a great deal of material was available and the 
Smithsonian took it, knowing full well that storage space 
was inadequate."^ Still, Rathbun could report there had 
been some progress, with the east side completed to 
the second story and work on the west side ready to go 
as soon as the granite arrived. 

In the summary of 1908 Rathbun wrote: 

At the close of the [fiscal] year the exterior walls, 
except those enclosing the south pavilion and the 
dome, for which the stone had not been received. 

were finished, and the construction of the roofs 
was well underway. The interior structural walls 
and piers were also completed in the rough, and 
many of the metal window frames of the first and 
second stories were in place. Some of the latter 
likewise had been glazed. So much work still 
remains to be done in the interior, however, such 
as the building of partitions, the laying of floors, 
the plastering, the installation of the heating, 
ventilating, and lighting plants with their immense 
ramifications of pipes and wires, the completion of 
the windows, and countless lesser details, that the 
expectation held forth of being able to make some 
use of the building by January, 1909, has had to 
be abandoned.^ 

For once Rathbun was wrong, for the building was 
used earlier than anticipated — "as the meeting place of 
the Sixth International Tuberculosis Congress, held in 
the early autum of 1908. ... A large part of the first 
and second floors, as well as the basement, was given 
over to the Congress and while the progress of con- 
struction of the building was thereby much retarded, 
this delay may be regarded as fully sanctioned by the 
exceptionally important nature of the event which oc- 
casioned it."'" 

In his next report Rathbun fired another blast at the 
granite quarry and the railroad, this time including the 
stonecutters, and remarked that a monuinental stair- 
way had been dropped from the plans because it would 
take up too much space. Actually he had a great deal 
to be pleased about, even though the building was still 
not finished. "The entire stonework of the outer walls 
of the building, including the porch, columns, and front 


The Structure 

Early view of the south side uj the new i\ati<)ii(il Mu.seunt. probably taken from tuvjer of the Castle before orld War /. 

of the south pavilion in which the main entrance is 
located, was, however, completed, as were also the roofs 
and the skylights of the building generally. . . .Good 
progress was made in the preparation and construction 
of furniture for the new building, more especially for 
the storage rooms and laboratories, in which it is in- 
tended, so far as possible, to utilize the best quality of 
fireproof material."" 

Of course, nothing goes easily. The optimists who 
had assumed that the building would be completed by 
June 1909 had not renewed the lease on rented storage 
space, and the bulk of the stored collections had to be 
moved into several of the new exhibit halls. Although 
Rathbun complained that "this summary action pre- 
vented the assorting and proper assignment of material 
. . . and will necessarily cause some inconvenience in 
the final adjustment of the collections, "'~ it does seem 
clear from this remark that he was a patient, long- 
suffering man, slow to anger — at least in his official 

Rathbun's report continued: 

On August 10, 1909, occupation of the third story, 
which is divided into rooms for laboratories, 
reserve collections, and offices, was obtained from 

the superintendent of construction, although at the 
time the story was unprovided with doors, and 
temporary expedients had to be adopted for the 
protection of such property as was first moved. On 
November 9 following, the remaining stories of the 
main building were turned over to the Museum, 
and while constructive work of a subordinate 
character continued to be carried on during most 
of the rest of the year, it cannot be said to have 
materially interfered with Museum operations. 
The mechanical plant was completed in ample 
time to meet the requirements of the winter 
season, the boilers being put into permanent 
service on October 15, 1901.'^ 

Congress came up with a supplemental appropriation 
to allow for grading and construction of roads on the 
outside and to paint the walls on the inside. 

The last construction work on the new National Mu- 
seum was finished on June 20, 1911. The annual re- 
ports for the next several years discuss problems of 
leaks in the new roofs and how a great amount of metal 
flashing had to be taken up and replaced; but like the 
delivery of granite, this too was ultimately completed. 


Building the Building 


Cojistriiction on the ground 
floor at the west side of the 
building, looking north 
toward the Post Office. 
September 13, 1905. 

Construction oj the east wing to the third-floor level and the rotunda to the jourth-jhxn (attic) level; probably taken in 1907 
from the tower of the Castle. In the middle distance is the Old Patent Office building, the current site of the National 
Museum of American Art and the National Portrait Gallery. 

Aerial vieio of the new 
National Museum looking 
north-northwest; the farmers' 
market is on the north side of 
B Street and there is no 
construction for the Federal 
Triangle of governnient 
buildings. The projections on 
the south side of each court- 
yard house the freight 
elevators, which were run by 
direct electric current 
until the 1960s. 

Building the Building 


Chapter 4 

Moving Into 

LITTLE DETAIL IS PRESERVED as to the actual me- 
chanics of the move to the north side of the Mall. 
Loaded on wagons, specimens and cases scattered among 
the Smithsonian Castle, the old National Museum, and 
temporary storage facilities were transported to their 
new home. While the east side of the building had been 
the first to be built, the west side, facing the Washington 
Monument, was the first to start filling up. 

On August 11, 1901, the day after permission to 
occupy the third floor was obtained, the mollusk col- 
lections began to be moved in. The division's ciuator, 
William Healy Dall, measured the floor plans ("a hope- 
less muddle")' late in May, but soon went off to Maine 
for the summer, leaving assistant curator Paul Bartsch 
to supervise the move. A long-time preparator in the 
Department of Biology, John A. Mirguet, had a vivid 
recollection of bringing a case full of moUusks from the 
balcony and the north tower of the Castle to the third 
floor of the new building and positioning it on a piece 
of flooring newly laid down by the carpenter. The time 
it took him to go back to the Castle and return with 
another load was just sufficient for the carpenter to lay 
another piece of flooring. These cases were awkward 
pieces to move — six feet high and about ten feet wide, 
with space for four stacks of drawers. 

When Dall returned in the fall he spent a month 
unpacking his books and office collections, and by mid- 
November was settled in his new quarters, actively piu - 
suing his research. Not only was he an important figiu e 
at the Museum, but his career casts some light on the 
often-curious arrangement of research collections. 

In 1865 Dall, then twenty, came to Washington for 
the first time, leaving shortly thereafter for more than 
three years in Alaska. Upon his return he lived in the 
south tower of the Castle, working on the collections 
without pay. As there was no prospect of employment, 
he joined the Coast Survey in 1871 and went back to 
Alaska for three more years, this time to study the 

"Alcoholic specimen room, middle part of ground story, zvest 
wing," Jrom United States National Museum Bulletin 
80 (1913). This area is nozv used for preparation oj exhihit.s. 

Aleutian Islands. While working in the Castle after his 
retinn, he continued to be paid by the Coast Survey 
until 1884. Ihen he joined the United States Geological 
Survey, but still remained in his Smithsonian office, 
now in the north tower. While the recent mollusks were 
moved to the west range of the new National Museum, 
the collection of Ceno/oic fossils was moved there also. 
As part of this work for the Geological Survey, Dall 
curated these fossils and wrote a study of the fossils of 

Dall was a f riend of T. Wayland Vaughan, another 
Geological Survey employee and a specialist on corals. 
Thus modern and Cenozoic corals were also housed 
with the mollusks at first. Modern brachiopods were 
an interest of Dall's, so they too were "mollusks"; and 
because Paul Bartsch taught courses in economic para- 
sitology at a local imiversity, parasitic worms were" mol- 
lusks" for years." 

An Orderly Transfer 

Under Rathbun's direction, the move into the new 
Museum was fairly orderly. "As it was desirable at first 
to establish the scientific staff and the general collec- 
tions in the building, the construction of the storage 
and laboratory furniture was taken up and mostly fin- 
ished before work on the exhibition cases was begim," 
he reported in 1910.' 

Fire is one of the persistent worries of any museum 
administrator. As a safeguard, cases for specimen stor- 
age, formerly made of wood, were to be of steel or at 
least covered with metal; covers on these cases inhibited 
the pervasive dust. Steel shelving and steel racks were 
also the ideal. Sulphin -tipped, strike-anywhere matches 
were forbidden in the building, and several signs posted 
in the attic proclaimed in large letters that smoking 
there was grounds for instant dismissal. 

Rathbun's account of fiscal year 1910 went on: 

The moving of the reserve collections was 
commenced in August, 1909, and by [july, 1910J 
not only had it been practically completed, but the 
systematic arrangement of the specimens in their 
new quarters, either permanently or tentatively. 


Final stages of work on the 
exterior of the dome, looking 
west from the roof of the east 

had also been accomplished. While the new 
installation had not been perfected to the same 
extent in all of the divisions, yet, as a whole, it was 
so far advanced as to produce conditions vastly 
superior to those existing at any previous time. 
Such a result was only made possible by the greatly 
increased and more convenient accommodations, 
which permitted the spreading out in an accessible 
and orderly manner all of the material belonging 
to each division, and by the employment of 
temporar) help exceptional progress was made in 
the work of recording and cataloging specimens. 
The mechanical and scientific workshops and the 
offices generally were among the first in the new 
quarters to be f urnished.^ 

Writing in 1941, the vertebrate paleontologist Charles 
Gilmore looked back on the transition; 

At the time of my affiliation with the National 
Museum in 1903^ the bulk of the [O.C.] Marsh 
collection was stored in rented buildings in 
southwest Washington. The first floor of a three- 
story brick building on the west side of 10th street 
near C street, SW, was then in use as a 
paleontological laboratory, the cellar and the two 
upper floors being completely occupied by boxes 
and crated trays of vertebrate material. The study 
collections of this period were kept in standard 
trays arranged in tiers of the balcony in the 
southeast corner of the present Arts and 
Industries Building and in the lower part of A- 
topped exhibition cases in use at that time. These 

collections in storage from 1903 on were rapidly 
reduced in bulk through preparation and 
condemnation of worthless material, so that in 
1910, with the occupancy of the New Natural 
History Building, the widely scattered storage 
collections were assembled as a unit. . . . For the 
first time the preparators were provided with a 
well-lighted, well-equipped, roomy laboratory (27 
by 77 feet). These improvements in facilities were 
almost immediately reflected in an improved 
quality as well as quantity of output. ' 

The piocess of moving took a few years, for after 
the transferring of the study collections, the exhibits 
had to be taken down and reinstalled. While this opened 
up some space in the Castle, the greatest positive impact 
was on the old National Museum building. A Depart- 
ment of Mineral Technology had been established in 
1904, but lack of space and staff made it a paper or- 
ganization until natural history left the building. In- 
dependent divisions of Textiles and Medicine also were 
created, taking some of the hodgepodge out of the 
Department of Anthropology. These divisions coa- 
lesced during fiscal year 1918-19 to form the Depart- 
ment of Arts and Industries. Precisely when the red 
brick building came to be known as the Arts and In- 
dustries Building is not clear, but by the 1920s and 
1930s most people referred to the buildings as "the 
Museum" and "the A & I." During the ten years it took 
Arts and Industries to come into its own as a tourist 
attraction, the notion of a new and old National Mu- 
seum disappeared. □ 


The Structure 

Those who led the Institution and the Museum during this 
period, photographed on the steps of the Castle in January 
1915. Front row, left to right; Dr. Charles D. Walcott, 
Secretary, Smithsonian Institution; Dr. Richard Rathhun, 
Assistant Secretary in Charge, Unhed States National 
Museum: Dr. George P. Merrill, Head curator. Geology; 
Dr. Frank Baker, Superintendent, National Zoological 
Park; Dr. William H. Holmes, Head Curator, 
Anthropology, arid Curator, National Gallety; Mr. Harry 
W. Dorsey, Chief Clerk. Back row, left to right; Dr. 

Charles C. Abbot. Director, Aslropliysual Obseii'utuiy: Dr. 
Leonard C. Gunnell, Assistant in Charge, Bureau of 
International Catalogue oj Scientific Literature. Mr. J. H. 
Hill, Property Clerk; Mr. James G. Traylor, Appointment 
Clerk; Mr. C. W. Shoemaker, Chief Clerk, Exchange 
Service; Mr. W. I. Adams, Disbursing Agent; Mr. A. 
Howard Clark, Editor; Dr. Leonhard Stejneger, Head 
Curator, Biology; Mr. F. W. Hodge, Ethnologist in 
Charge, Bureau American Ethnology; Mr. Paul Brockett, 
Assistant Libra ria n . 

Moving into Valhalla 


"East wing, third story, " 
from United States Na- 
tional Museum Bulletin 
80 (1913). This laboratory 
of invertebrate paleontology 
cannot be precisely located, 
but the geyieral area, now 
occupied by archeolo gists, lies 
more or less under the section 
of roof shown in picture on 
page 36. The negative is 
stained, and the effect seen 
on the wall is not that of a 
leaking roof. The woman 
using the typewriter, barely 
visible behind cabinets, may be 
Margaret Moodey, secretary 
of the Department of 

''West range, ground stoiy, storage of mammals," j rum 
United States National Museum Bulletin 80 (1913). 
The working area shoivii is on the B Street (Constitution 

Avenue) side; offices were on the west court side. That area 
was occupied by the Bureau of the Biological Survey, and is 
now occupied by the National Anthropological Archives. 


The Structure 

"West uung, ground .story, 
laboratory of marine inverte- 
brates," from United States 
National Museum Bulle- 
tin 80 (1913). This office 
on the south side of the 
building originally belonged 
to Maty Jane Rathbun, and 
it is probably she who is sit- 
ting by the table. The area is 
now used for offices by the 
exhibits staff. 

"East range, third story, " 
from United States 
National Museum Bulle- 
tin 80 (1913). This area 
continues to be occupied by 
Physical Anthropology, but 
the cases to the left side of 
the hall have been replaced 
by racks holding deeper 
drawers on both sides. On 
the right in the distance is 
the site of the research office 
of Secretary Robert Mc C. 
Adams; immediately behind 
where the photographer was 
standing is the off ice of S. 
Dillon Ripley. The wooden 
floor has been replaced by 
terrazzo, and the lighting has 
been improved. 

Moving into Valhalla 


Chapter 5 

The National 
Gallery of Art 

ural history, it did play a significant role in the 
history of the Museum and its buildings. Just as much 
as the National Museum, the National Gallery of Art 
was a creature of circumstance. In 1903 Harriet Lane 
Johnston, niece of President Buchanan, left an impor- 
tant collection to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Wash- 
ington, with the proviso that it be transferred to a na- 
tional gallery of art, should one be established. Because 
of certain requirements of the bequest, the Corcoran 
Gallery declined the Johnston collection. 

The Smithsonian had acquired some etchings, paint- 
ings, and sculptures in the early days of Joseph Henry's 
regime, and while much of the material had been lent, 
works of art had always been on display in the Castle. 
So, with a number of paintings in the Johnston collec- 
tion essentially available for the asking, the lawyers de- 
cided that the Smithsonian Institution, with its open- 
ended charter, ivas the national gallery of art; the name 
was acquired through this friendly court suit.' To im- 
plement the will, a National Gallery of Art was estab- 
lished within the administrative structure of the Na- 
tional Museum.-' Somehow space was found for paintings 
and art objects to be placed on display in the brick 
building of the National Museum in the fall of 1906. 
This action did ensure that legally there was a National 
Gallery, though the jumbled surroundings were far 
from inspiring. 

Since art works continued to be shown in the Castle, 
a logical next step would have been to refurbish part 
of the Castle as an art gallery. As the new National 
Museum building neared completion, the National Gal- 
lery's first curator wrote: "The new building ... in 
accordance with the understanding with Congress, has 
been planned and constructed for the great collections 

Woodm pillars from the John Gellatly bequest, surmounted 
by candle-carrying angels. The chest in the center supports 
a wooden frame in which various stained-glass windows are 
exhibited. The totem pole looming over the display indicates 
that this is near the south side of Hall 10, facing south 
toward the rotunda. Post-1933 . 

of natural history — geology, zoology, botany, ethnol- 
ogy, and archeology. It has neither the room, nor the 
proper lighting for paintings."' But Congress did not 
see the situation quite the same way, and no money was 
appropriated for construction in the Castle. 

The new Museum, as noted, did not have proper 
lighting, but it did have room, and the center skylighted 
hall of the north wing was given over to art. The pic- 
tures were installed between "some of the more inter- 
esting ethnological groups and historical exhibits"' — 
that is, the Indians to the west in Hall 9 and the Oriental 
civilizations to the east in Hall 8. It was an uncomfort- 
able alliance. For lack of a better display area, a mis- 
cellaneous lot of statuary was placed in the ambulatory 
around the rotunda, and some pieces were stationed 
in the ground-floor lobby. Later, the walls on the second 
floor of the rotunda were hung with paintings that 
could not possibly blend with the mounted animal heads 
that decorated the two stairwells. The admixture gives 
an excellent example of the National Museum's being 
one concept and the Natural History Building's being 

This sounds entirely negative, but the other side of 
the coin is that Hall 10 in the center of the north wing 
was the first Museum display to be installed. Although 
it is not easy to hang an art exhibit, it is infinitely faster 
than installing a natural history display. In the final 
analysis, as poorly suited as the building was for art, 
the National Gallery must have been a godsend to As- 
sistant Secretary Rathbun, enabling him to open some 
exhibits in a relatively short time. 

Formal Opening 

On March 17, 1910, from noon until five in the after- 
noon, the National Gallery of Art, and thus the new 
Natural History Building, was formally opened to the 
ptiblic. "Admission was by card, partly to prevent undue 
crowding, and partly to bring the event specially to the 
attention of Congress, the official body in Washington, 
and all other persons known to be interested in the 
promotion of art at the Nation's Capital."' On Friday, 
March 18, the building was open to the public, and 


View ijj fjuit I)/ llw colh'ctiun in one of llic iikiuis in Hall 
10. Hiram Powers's The Greek Slave is hi the riirht: to 
the left is one of the items in the Hinrwt Lane johnsliin 
hetjiiest, a portrait of her son as Cupid Stringing His 
Bow. /// the I enter is inie of the earliest art acquisitions of 
the Institution, G. P. A. Healy's painting Francis Pierre 
Ciuiliniane Guizot. This was presented to President folin 
Tyler, who gave it to the National Institute, from lohieli it 
was transferred to the Smithsonian. 

Abraham Lincoln, contemplating, at the north end of the 
north wing on the second floor. This area, near the north 
elevators, is now occupied by docents. The exhibits can 
hardly be seen by the light of the ividely spaced incandescent 
bulbs, but someone left his straw hat on the steam radiator, 
suggesting that summer light was coming in. The Orpheus 
behind Lincoln /,s a plaster cast made in 1915 for the 
Francis Scott Key Memorial at Fort McHenry, Baltimore. 
It was later bronzed and shown in the rotunda. The light 
fixtures suggest a date before 1930. 

"hundi eds" ot people took the opportunity to see the 
show. Thereafter, halls were opened as completed. In 
spite ot the time and ef fort that had gone into the new 
Natural Historv Building, there was never any formal 

The publicity regarding the establishment of a Na- 
tional Gallery had stirred interest within the art world 
and resulted in additional donations. Early in 1904, 
Charles Freer of f ered his collection of Oriental art and 
American paintings to the Institution; whether he was 
influenced by the Johnston bequest or had decided on 
this step earlier is not known. As a matter of record, 
the Board of Regents — after some hemming and haw- 
ing — accepted the initial Freer gift in January 1906. 
before the legal tangle involving the Johnston bequest 
and the National Gallery was resolved. Lhitil the open- 
ing of the Freer Gallery in 1923, the only display in 
Washington of some of the treasures in this collection 
took place as a temporary exhibit of 175 paintings and 
objects in the new National Museum from April 15 to 
June 15, 1912." (A life-size model of the great blue 
whale now is suspended where Whistler's paintings once 
hung.) The Freer collection, and later the Freer build- 
ing, were part of the United States National Museum 
until 1920. 

William Henry Holmes 

The person chosen to direct the Smithsonian's initiative 
into the arts was William Henry Holmes. Holmes had 

first come to the Institution in the 1870s, and began 
his career as a scientific illustrator under Fielding Brad- 
ford Meek; Meek lived in the Castle for nearly twenty 
years and was Joseph Henry's star boarder. Holmes 
had worked for the Hayden Territorial Survey and had 
been one of the first to explore the Indian ruins of 
Mesa Verde; he had also described the buried fossil 
f orests of Yellowstone Park. Later he became a member 
of the U.S. Geological Survey and accompanied Captain 
C. E. Button to the Grand Canyon. Two mountains, 
one in the Gallatin Range in Yellowstone National Park 
of Wyoming and one in the Henry Mountains of Utah, 
are named for him, along with a pinnacle in the Grand 
Canyon — an indication of the esteem in which he was 
held by his geological colleagues. 

Holmes was an excellent artist and particularly liked 
watercolors. He prepared outstanding perspective 
landscape views to illustrate reports for Hayden and 
the U.S. Geological Survey; his line drawings of the 
Grand Canyon are unequalled. Investigations by Holmes 
of Indian stone tools during the early 1890s opened 
new vistas in American anthropology. Because of his 
skill in both anthropology and art, he was heavily in- 
volved in preparing exhibits for the 1893 Columbian 
Exposition in Chicago. While there he was induced to 
transfer to the new Field Museum, but the director of 
the Field Museum and Holmes clashed early and often. 

In 1897, when Walcott formed the Department of 
Anthropology, Holmes returned to the Museum as de- 


The Structure 

Part of the GeUatly collection, 
looking north in Hall 10, 
post- 193 3 and pre- 1948. 
The center piece is now the 
desk of the director of the 
National Museum of 
American Art. 

partment head. He was also the curator of prehistoric 
archeology, for all department heads held other posi- 
tions and were expected to continue their research. 
Holmes was responsible for the founding in 1902 of 
the Division of Physical Anthropology, which brc^ught 
Ales Hrdlicka to the Mtiseum staff. That same year. 
Secretary Langley called Holmes away from the Mu- 
seum to be chief of the Smithsonian's separate Bureau 
of American Ethnology; Holmes continued his work as 
curator of prehistoric archeology. Starting in August 
1906, his new title as curator of the National Gallery 
added to his many duties, although not to his salary. 
In July 1909 Holmes relinquished his position as chief 
of the Bureau of American Ethnology in order to re- 
sume the head curatorship of the Department of An- 

It took a long time for a National Gallery of Art to 
be officially recognized by Gongress, but on July 1, 
1920, Holmes became the full-time head of this new 
Smithsonian bureau. His name disappeared from the 
annual reports of the National Museum, and the De- 
partment of Anthropology was run by Walter Hough. 
Holmes kept the same office on the Gonstitution Av- 
enue side of the Museum building, just to the east of 
the elevators, that he had occupied as head of the De- 
partment of Anthropology. 

Holmes made a determined effort to establish a real 
art gallery, writing articles and creating committees of 
support, and by 1923 space had been reserved on the 

Mall for a major new building. A design contest was 
won by Eero Saarinen, who later designed the terminal 
at Dulles International Airport, but his plans were voted 
down by the regents as too modern. 

Unfortunately, all efforts to obtain construction funds 
from Gongress collapsed when rumors began to cir- 
culate that Andrew Mellon might donate a building for 
an art gallery. This was a setback to Holmes, for al- 
though nothing came of this rumor during his lifetime, 
it effectively stopped all other public support. By 1930 
the gallery staff consisted of only himself and three 
assistants. In 1926 his left leg had to be amputated, but 
Holmes returned to his office. A few years later he was 
permitted to take a Givil Service examination and to 
continue on the government payroll long after most 
employees retire. On June 30, 1932, the day when 
Holmes finally did retire, he wrote in his "Random 
Records": "In his 85th year he is still at his desk in the 
National Gallery of Art."' Ruel P. Tolman succeeded 
him; ten months later Holmes was dead. 

Andrew Mellon's Offer 

Eventually Andrew Mellon did offer the nation both 
money and paintings for a National Gallery of Art. This 
resulted in the impressive domed building that stretches 
from fourth to Seventh streets on Gonstitution Avenue, 
vaguely resembling the Natural History Building but 
built of light marble rather than somber granite. To 
make sure that nothing complicated the offer from 

The Naiiunal Gallery of Art 


Mellon, the art holdings of the Smithsonian were re- 
named the National ('ollection ot Fine Arts (NCFA) in 

During the ih st decade of Holmes's tenure, in spite 
of restricted space, the National Gallery developed a 
series of temporary exhibits and continued to receive 
donations; at one point a sculptor worked publicly as 
a special exhibit.'* The accumulating art more than filled 
the "art hall" off the rotunda. By 1930 it included, in 
part, the Alfred Duane Pell collection of "art objects of 
varied types and much interest," and several groups of 
historical portraits. 

"The visitor finds himself face to face with inany of 
the outstanding personages of the great war," Holmes 
wrote of one group, "kings, queens, presidents, sol- 
diers, statesmen, and others — whose faces and achieve- 
ments are familiar to the peoples of every civilized na- 
tion." There were also a "collection of portraits of 
survivors of the Civil War painted from life by Walter 
Beck 50 years after the close of the war[;] . . . the John 
Elliot collection of portraits of young Americans who 
entered the air service of France before the United 
States had decided to take part in the struggle [World 
War I] . . . and a very interesting collection of sketches 
of prominent World War personages made by John C. 
Johansen for use in executing his great work, the 'Sign- 
ing of the Peace Treaty, June 28, 1919'"-' which oc- 
cupied the west wall of the lobby. The lobby also con- 
tained many pieces of sculpture and some other paintings. 

For those interested in origins, the work of the Na- 
tional Portrait Committee in assembling paintings of 
World War I personages marked the dim beginnings 
of the National Portrait Gallery. The Pell collection, 

with its numerous glass and porcelain objects, gave a 
real stimulus to what eventually became the Division of 
Ceramics and Glass in the National Museum of History 
and Technology. Meanwhile, for a natural history 
building, the new National Museum became increas- 
ingly eclectic. I he sculpture-crammed lobby scarcely 
hinted of natural history, and since 1923 war portraits 
had intruded into one of the second-floor halls.'" 

In 1929 the National Gallery obtained the John Gel- 
latly collection, which in 1933 was moved to Washington 
to be displayed intact as it had been in the donor's New 
York home. The collections grew at a slower rate after 
this major bequest, and while the gallery and later the 
National Collection sponsored temporary exhibits in 
the ground-floor foyer, the main exhibits changed very 
little. In the spring of 1956 the National Collection held 
a fiftieth-anniversary show of turn-of-the-century 
paintings from the important William T. Evans collec- 
tion. But despite their best efforts, the staff of the Na- 
tional Collection had not made much progress toward 
becoming a real gallery. 

The Catlin Paintings 

By 1963 the National Collection of Fine Arts, with a 
total staff of ten people, still had little official contact 
with the Museum. However, the National Collection 
was the keeper of the Catlin paintings, perhaps the 
single most important collection of western Indian eth- 
nography in the world. Catlin paintings were on exhibit 
in several halls; they hung above the elevator doors, 
and all over the third-floor walls wherever there was a 
small empty space. Wherever there was a large empty 
space, something romantic in a gilt frame was hung. 


The Structure 

Exhibit of the Ranger 
Collection, 1929, in the 
National Gallery-National 
Museum, north hall. Direc- 
tor William Henry Holmes 
holds onto a bench to support 
his single leg. Louise 
Rosenbusch, research, is also 
standing. The other two 
employees of the National 
Gallery of Art are the clerks 
Helen Hogen and Glenn 
Martin, seated at the desk. 

The storage area in the east north range was also 
overflowing, and anyone in the Museum who had office 
wall space and wanted a painting could have one. Sev- 
eral people had original Holmes drawings on loan. Dur- 
ing the 1930s, the building superintendent had a nude 
hanging in his office. For about twenty years J.H.F. van 
Lerius's melodramatic Death Preferred, now the center- 
piece of the Renwick Gallery, was in the paleobotanical 
library of the Geological Survey. The diaphanously- 
clad maiden jumping from a window to escape the 
clutches of ruffians attracted a number of visitors not 
interested in plants. 

Three Buildings Acquired 

After half a century, change was in the air. The old 
Patent Office Building, a few blocks northeast of the 
Museum, was turned over to the Smithsonian in 1958 
as a gallery site." Barney Studio House, on Massachu- 
setts Avenue, became an outlying part of the NCFA in 
1960. In 1962 the National Portrait Gallery was formed, 
and in 1968 both art museums were installed in their 
new home in the Old Patent Office building. Next, the 
NCFA acquired the building at Seventeenth Street and 
Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, near the White House, now 
known as the Renwick Gallery. As the final step of this 
story, the NCFA was retitled the National Museum of 
American Art in 1980. 

During the mid-1960s, the displays in the north wing 
of the Natural History Building were gradually dis- 
mantled and transferred to the newly renovated Patent 

Office Building, between Seventh and Ninth streets on 
F and G streets, NW. For several years temporary ex- 
hibits were still hung in the foyer of the National Mu- 
seum, and there were several special exhibitions in Hall 
10, the last being in 1969. Thereafter, the whole build- 
ing reverted to natural history. Yet after all, there was 
nothing so strange in the long cohabitation of natural 
history and art. Many major museums, for example the 
National Museum of Wales, have objects of natural 
history and objets d'art under the same roof; and no one 
has ever been able to draw a precise line between art 
and ethnography. 

In spite of some objections by the anthropologists, 
the Catlin paintings left the building, for by official 
decision they are art, even though the Department of 
Anthropology holds title to them. By contrast, John 
Elliott's Diana of the Tides remained behind. This is a 
huge painting, one of the original holdings of the old 
National Gallery of Art. For years it occupied the east 
wall of the dinosaur hall because there was no other 
place to hang it. When the hall was refurbished, the 
mural was boxed over and hidden from view. When 
the hall was modified again in the 1970s, rediscovery 
of the forgotten mural provided a minor sensation. 
Diana is still hanging in the same place, again hidden 
from view. Perhaps the National Museum of American 
Art hopes the National Museum of Natural History will 
forget where it is or who owns it. Aesthetics aside, the 
practical fact is that murals twenty-five feet high and 
very long are awkward to display. □ 

The National Gallery of Art 


Chapter 6 


IT IS WELL KNOWN THAT THE Smithsonian Institution 
helped focus scientific endeavors that eventually re- 
sulted in the founding of various government scientific 
agencies. The Weather Service is cited as the classic 
example, but similar developments occurred in natural 
history. The "museum community" includes many in- 
dividuals who are in the Museum but not of it, and for 
the first fifty years at least, about half of the scientists 
and support staff in the new building were paid by 
other government organizations. 

Most people both inside and outside the building are 
still unaware of any distinction between Museuin mem- 
bers and those of associated agencies, the primary dif- 
ference often being the day on which they are paid. 
The ultimate confusion occurred a few years ago when 
an assistant secretary of the Department of the Interior 
wrote the Secretary of the Smithsonian, congratulating 
him on a staff publication that would be of considerable 
use to his department. The item, it turned out, was one 
prepared by Interior Department employees within the 

Geological Survey 

The easiest administrative history to follow is that of 
the U.S. Geological Survey. After the Civil War, the 
tradition of government-supported exploration of the 
western United States resulted in four simultaneous 
territorial surveys.' In addition to making maps and 
studying the rocks, they followed the pattern of earlier 
government explorations by examining, to varying de- 
grees, other aspects of natural history. Eventually sev- 
eral of the survey parties crossed paths in the field. 
Congress rectified what was judged to be duplication 
of effort by discontinuing three of the surveys; the 
fourth, a survey of the fortieth parallel, had been fin- 

John Wesley Powell in his office in the Bureau of 
Ethnology on F Street, 1894 or earlier. Explorer of the 
Grand Canyon, first director of the Bureau of Ethnology, 
and second director of the Geological Survey, Powell is 
representative of all the American scientists who were and 
are affiliated with the Museum. 

In March 1879, the United States Geological Survey 
was created, under the Department of the Interior, to 
carry on the geological facets of this work in a more 
systematic manner. The same act, the Sundry Civil Ex- 
pense Bill, also created the Bureau of Ethnology and 
placed it under the jurisdiction of the Smithsonian.'^ 
John Wesley Powell, who had explored the Colorado 
River and had headed one of the four territorial sur- 
veys, became the director of the bureau. The U.S. Geo- 
logical Survey was organized with Clarence King as 
director, but within two years he left. Powell became 
director of that agency as well, and rode both horses 
for thirteen years. 

Within the section of the act establishing the Geo- 
logical Survey appears the following sentence: "And all 
collections of rocks, minerals, soils, and fossils, and ob- 
jects of natural history, archaeology, and ethnology, 
made by the Coast and Interior Survey, the Geological 
Survey, or by any other parties for the Government of 
the United States, when no longer needed for inves- 
tigations in progress, shall be deposited in the National 
Museum.'" This is potentially a powerful piece of law- 
making; tradition ascribes its wording to Powell. Assis- 
tant Secretary Baird had always maintained — an ar- 
guable point — that the congressional action establishing 
the Smithsonian had made it the keeper of the nation's 
collections. The wording of the 1879 law expunged 
doubt as to the final destination of all federal collec- 
tions. It also established tangible bonds between the 
Museum and a group of other organizations. 

The Geological Survey made its headquarters in the 
National Museum when the brick building opened in 
1881, but in a few years the director moved to the Hooe 
Iron Building, on F Street between Thirteenth and 
Fourteenth. Laboratories had been set up in the north- 
east tower of the National Museum, so the chemists and 
physicists stayed a few years longer. But the paleon- 
tologists in residence at the Museum stayed put, with 
their ever-increasing collections, because of the diffi- 
culty of moving so many fossils. As the Survey grew, 
more paleontologists were added to the staff in the 
Hooe Building, and their collections were kept there 
because of tight quarters in the National Museum. As 


E. O. Ulrich, paleontologist 
of the U.S. Geological Sur- 
vey, his first office in the 
Hooe Buildmg, 1901. 

soon as the new National Museum opened, some of the 
Geological Survey paleontologists moved into it from 
the brick building and the Hooe Building. To this day, 
more than a dozen Geological Survey paleontologists 
remain in the Museum. 

Commission on Fish and Fisheries 

In 1871, eight years before the Geological Survey took 
shape, the U.S. Gommission on Fish and Fisheries was 
organized. This was a brainchild of Secretary Baird, 
who ran it at no extra salary until his death. He settled 
the commission in the former armory at Seventh and 
B stieets, SW, and developed additional laboratories in 
other parts of the country, the most famous of which 
was at Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The Armory build- 
ing, which continued to be used for storage of Museum 
collections for decades, lay in a line with the Army 
Medical Museum, the original National Museum, and 
the Castle, so there was plenty of communication be- 
tween the Smithsonian buildings and the Gommission. 

Shortly after the turn of the century, the Fish Gom- 
mission became the Bureau of Fisheries under the De- 
partment of Commerce and Labor. ^ "Technical studies 
yield valuable data for the fishing industry," a later 
article explained. "The life habits of fish and the changes 
in the abundance of various kinds of fish are studied. 
An efficient fish ladder for the upstream migrations of 
the salmon and other fish was developed in cooperation 
with the states and the industry. The Bureau's aid to 
the pearl button and goldfish industries will long be 
remembered."^ Smile though one may at the last sen- 
tence, the scientists of the bureau performed many 
economically useful investigations. In the course of their 
activities, the staff of the commission and the bureau 
collected numerous fishes, most of which were saved 
for the collections. 

In 1939 the Bureau of Fisheries was transferred to 
the Interior Department, joining the Biological Survey, 
transferred to Interior from Agriculture the same year. 
In 1940 both were absorbed into the Fish and Wildlife 
Service, which in 1956 became the U.S. Fish and Wild- 
life Service. The former Fish Commission was parti- 
tioned into the Bureau of Sports Fisheries and the Bu- 
reau of Commercial Fisheries, with the latter eventually 
returning to the jurisdiction of the Department of Com- 

As the events of World War II disrupted Washington, 
the Old Armory was torn down to make room for tem- 
porary buildings. (The west end of the National Air 
and Space Museum now occupies the site.) In 1942 the 
collections of fish and a few ichthyologists were moved 
into the north side of the south wing on the ground 
level of the National Museum. Part of the area was 
temporarily decked over to make more office space, 
and one bureau employee was placed in a former la- 
trine. The fisheries collections were integrated with those 
of the Division of Fishes — the bureau collections were 
substantially larger. 

Today the Commerce Department is represented in 
the Museum building by a few people on the ground 
floor who do a great deal of scientific work affecting 
what food we gather from the seas. They enjoy the 
dubious pleasure of walking on the only original wooden 
floors remaining in the building. Just to complicate 
things a little more, or perhaps to show the breadth of 
the applied-science community, the National System- 
atics Laboratory of the Department of Commerce used 
to include a malacologist (a student of the clams and 
snails), housed on the third floor in the Division of 
Mollusks. Currently this organization includes, in ad- 
dition to fish specialists, a "shrimp woman" and a "crab 
man" with offices in the Division of Crustacea. 


The Structure 

All (A)liqui' view of the Mall area, /hawn in 1921. On tlir 
south side of the Mall, the Army Medical Museum {now 
replaced by the Hirshhorn Museum) stood on the site oj the 
Armory, used for storage. The B ureau of Fisheries site is 
now under the National Air and Spare Museum. The 
compiler has lejt out the courtyards of the Natural Histoiy 
Building, while towers and turrets on the Arts and 
Industries Building and on the Castle have been extended 
considerably. To the north of the Castle, the Freer Gallery, 

as yet unopened, also hu ks a courtyard. Still father north 
along the Mall ivere several scattered buildings of the 
Department of Agriculture, with experimental plantings 
where the National Museum of American History now 
stands. The Mall was not as heavily wooded as shown, but 
did have far more trees than today. {From Wasliington, 
the Beautiful Capital of the Nation, copyright 1922 by 
William Olsen, National Aero-Vieiv Publishing Company, 
Washington, B.C.) 

AJ J dialed O rga ruza I to tis 


Department of Agriculture 

The relationships of the Department of Agriculture to 
the Smithsonian Institution and to the National Mu- 
seum have been even more involved. For many years 
the United States National Herbarium was in the Smith- 
sonian Castle, and scientific papers generated by those 
who studied the collection were published by the Mu- 
seum. However, at that time the employees in the her- 
barium were mostly from the Department of Agricul- 
ture. All other Smithsonian plant collections and the 
few paid Museum botanists were jammed into the her- 
barium space, perhaps the most crowded area of a 
crowded institution. That remarkable student of the 
grasses Agnes Chase, in whom the Smithsonian took 
just pride for many years, was an employee of the De- 
partment of Agriculture, as was A. S. Hitchcock, whom 
she came to assist. 

Although the new Natural History Building was 
"commodious," for some reason the plant collections 
were not moved to new quarters there. If it was thought 
advantageous for the herbarium to remain in the Cas- 
tle, just east of the Department of Agriculture, perhaps 
it seemed just as well for the Museum's botanical ma- 
terial and staff to stay there too. In 1947 the Museum's 
Department of Biology was divided into departments 
of Botany and Zoology. But even so. the staff of Botany 
and their collections were not transferred. They and 
the Department of Agriculture botanists remained 
somewhat isolated until the west wing was added to the 
Natinal Historv Building in the 1960s. 

Government Entomology 

The DeptU tment of Agriculture, founded in 18132, not 
only predated the Fish Commission but had a far broader 
mission in the natural history realm. Fhe relationship 
of insects to crops is so obvious that Townsend Glover, 
the first government entomologist, was on the scene in 
the 1840s, as an employee of the Patent Office. How- 
ever, government entomology did not really become 
noticeable until 1878, when its few practitioners were 
organized into a Division of Entomology and C. V. Riley 
arrived from Missouri. A most forceful personality, Ri- 
ley was compelled to leave office once, but with a change 
in administration he returned to run the organization 
until 1894, when he was given the option of resigning 
or being fired. 

The insect collection of the Museum had been widely 
distributed to various specialists throughout the coun- 
try. Riley offered his Department of Agriculture col- 
lections to the Museum on the condition that it establish 
a position for someone to study insects; the Museum 
complied. A few years later Riley donated his private 
collection. These two actions were the key building blocks 
of the insect collections of the Museum. Both Riley and 
his successor, L. O. Howard, were honorary curators 
in the Department of Biology." 

In 1894 the old brick Beiber Building, behind and 

to the east of Department of Agriculture headquarters, 
became vacant. Entomology moved there, along with 
the Biological Survey.^ This location, to the west of the 
Castle, was only a few minutes' walk from the National 
Museum. It is not clear whether any entomologists were 
housed in the brick Museum, but with space so limited 
there, it seems unlikely. 

At the turn of the century, much of the work of the 
Bureau of Entomology was directed toward control of 
economically harmful insects. Later, Howard wrote, 
"work on even more fundamental aspects was begun, 
such as the physiology of insects and their reactions. 
And it was found necessary to enlarge the facilities of 
the Bureau in its taxonomic work. This work, consisting 
of the accurate identification of insects, has . . . been 
of the most important help to the more strictly eco- 
nomic workers of the Department of Agriculture; and 
... of the diff erent State Experiment Stations and Ag- 
ricultural Colleges. . . . Demands have been [so] great 
from institutions throughout the States, [that the] Mu- 
seum force of the Bureau will undoubtedly be en- 

Howard's annual reports do not mention the location 
of staff members, but according to C. F. W. Muesebeck, 
a long-retired specialist on parasitic wasps, Department 
of Agriculture entomologists — not including How- 
ard — were in residence in the Museum by 1910. Not 
everyone was happy with the arrangements. A. A. Gi- 
rault grumbled in a paper, "This work was done in 
Bedlam, that is, the Insect Section, U.S. National Mu- 
seum at Washington, a place unfit for scholarship.""' At 
peak staffing, in 1942, the systematic entomologists of 
the Department of Agriculture numbered twenty-eight 
specialists, twenty-one aides, and four typists.'" Al- 
though most of the systematic entomologists have re- 
mained at the Museum, some moved first to the main 
building of the Department of Agriculture and later to 
the Agricultiual Research Center at Beltsville, Mary- 

Biological Survey 

The Biological Survey originally came into the De- 
partment of Agriculture in 1885 as the Economic Or- 
nithology section of Riley's Entomology Division. Started 
through the efforts of yet another scientific entrepre- 
neur, C. Hart Merriam, the enterprise was promoted 
one year later to Division of Economic Ornithology and 
Mammalogy. In 1896 it became the Division of Bio- 
logical Survey, and in 1905 the Biological Survey at- 
tained bureau status. Under Merriam its work was mostly 
on systematics, distribution, and life history of animals, 
for although he had begun as an ornithologist, Merriam 
devoted increasing amounts of time to mammals. The 
Biological Survey eventually did a few studies of rep- 
tiles, but its strength was in birds and mammals, with 
a particular concern toward developing the concept of 
animal and plant distribution by climatic life zone. 


The Structure 

Entomological loorkers, U. S. National Museum, May 21, 1925. Number 8 is L. O. Howard, chief of the Bureau of 
Entomology. Of the twenty-eight people shown, apparoitly none was paid by the Museum. 

Merriam never got on well with Congress or with 
most of his subordinates, and in 1910 he retired. When 
the new Museum building was occupied, the Biological 
Survey ornithologists moved to the third floor of the 
north wing and the mammalogists to the west range on 
the ground floor. The collections of the Biological Sur- 
vey since its inception had been stored in the Museum, 
but were maintained as a separate series until the 1940s. 

The major objectives of the Biological Survey were 
changed. Studies of bird-insect relationships were dis- 
continued. Game management and predator control 
became more important, and the taxonomic work re- 
ceived less emphasis. Like the Fish Commission, the 
Biological Survey changed in name and moved from 
one government department to another. However, tax- 
onomy still has its place; today the U.S. Fish and Wild- 
life Service of the Department of the Interior includes 
a Museum section to support such work at the Museum 
of Natural History." It is administered out of Denver, 
but that is hardly more illogical than administering the 
systematic entomologists from a Beltsville, Maryland, 
office, or the Commerce Department taxonomists from 
Woods Hole, Massachusetts. 

If other agencies did not mention having employees 
in the Museum, the annual reports of the National 
Museum, by the same token, almost never mentioned 

the activities of others in the building, except the mu- 
seum work of those who were honorary staff members. 
There seems to be no written agreement that the Mu- 
seum would provide space for these other scientists, 
yet the arrangement has worked well for more than a 
century. Washington bureaucracy is replete with fights 
over turf and office space, btit one cannot tell from the 
size, location, or quality of an individual Museum office 
who works for which federal agency. 

Bureau of Ethnology 

Although the Bureau of Ethnology was under the 
Smithsonian Institution, it functioned independently, 
and never had employees in the new Natural History 
Building. Fotmded in 1877, it flourished for some years 
in the Adams Building on F Street, NW, just across 
from the Geological Survey. Offices became available 
in the Castle as a result of transfers to the new Museum 
building, and in 1910 the bureau, which had been re- 
titled the Bureati of American Ethnology (BAE) in 1894, 
moved to the Mall. 

Because the bureau had a separate budget and be- 
cause ethnographic material was popular with Con- 
gress, many outstanding publications were produced. 
Perhaps the best known was BAE Bulletin 30, Handbook 
of American Indians North of Mexico, which was edited by 

Affiliated Organizations 


Roland W. Brown, a paleo- 
bolanist with the U.S. Geo- 
logical Sun>ey, at his desk in 
"Stone Hall" in December 
1958. The wooden desk and 
gooseneck lamp were stan- 
dard equipment of the time; 
above are Sears Roebuck 
catalogues into which Dr. 
Brown pasted newspaper 
clippings op interest. Brown 
owned only a single pair of 
shoes, shown here, which he 
cobbled himself. The manu- 
script of his book The 
Composition of Scientific 
Words is on the windowsill. 

S.H. Mantay, a paleobotanist with the U.S. Geological 
Suniey, u>orki)ig in "Stone Hall," probably in the mid- 
1950s. Behind him are three-foot wooden cases atop six-foot 

steel cases. Stone slabs about two inches thick and up to 
eight feet long are attached to the wall and extend above the 
top of the cases. 


The Structure 

John Paridoso, a biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Service, me(i.sii)i)ig wolf skulls (Canis), with caribou (Rangifer) 
hanging above. The photograph was taken before 1964 in the Fish and Wildlije area oj the west range, ground floor. 

F. W. Hodge during the first decade of this century. 
More than a third of a century later, Bulletin 143, the 
Handbook of South American Indians, was completed. 

Although relationships between the Department of 
Anthropology and the BAE had been strong when 
Holmes ran both, they gradually became less satisfac- 
tory. In addition, for the last half of its lifetime the 
staff of the bureau dwindled, and in July, 1964, it was 
merged with the Museum's Department of Anthro- 
pology to form the Smithsonian's Office of Anthro- 
pology.'"' At that time its scientific staff of three an- 
thropologists moved to the Museum of Natural History. 
During the early 1970s, a major revision of the Hand- 
book of American Indians North of Mexico was undertaken. 
William Sturtevant, one of the last former BAE em- 
ployees on the departmental staff, is in charge of the 
project, whose budget is distinct from that of the de- 

Systematics Continues 

In the current government science community, system- 
atics — the differentiation of species, their naming and 
classification — is given less significance than in the past, 
in spite of its obvious application to the nation s envi- 
ronment, food, and fuel. There have been staff in- 
creases for natural history positions in the Departments 
of Agriculture, Commerce, and the Interior, but they 
are slight compared to total growth of these agencies. 

However, the old tradition of the Museum as the 
place to do systematics for the federal government re- 
mains. During the early 1960s the Department of the 
Army joined the club of associated agencies by housing 
a Southeast Asia Mosquito Project in the Museum. The 
outside world still confuses the staff members of (he 
affiliated agencies with those of the Museum, and the 
Museum continues to provide space for these allied 
scientists and their valuable collections. □ 

Affiliated Organizations 


Chapter 7 

New Exhibits^ 
New Offices 

is a minor point for debate, since the building fn st 
served as a meeting place in 1908; collections were first 
stored in tmfinished halls early in 1909; and the main 
floor of the north wing was first opened to visitors on 
March 17, 1910. This last date, marking its public de- 
but, seems the best one to pick as the building's official 

Over the next year, "only the remaining part of the 
space allotted to ethnology and consisting of the north- 
ern sections of the east and west ranges on the same 
floor were made accessible," but in 1911 and 1912 "much 
greater progress was shown,'" especially in the area of 
exhibits. While safety dictated steel- or metal-covered 
storage cases as soon as they could be obtained, aes- 
thetics, in the head curator's view, dictated wooden 
display cases. These were traditional for more than half 
a century, and because the Museum provided plans 
and specifications for many other new or changing mu- 
seums, similar display cases were seen throughout the 

Although much of the work had to be contracted out, 
many of the new display cases were built by the car- 
pentry and cabinet shops in the new National Museum. 
Mr. Cole, who had been chief carpenter for Secretary 
Langley's effort to btiild a man-carrying aircraft, moved 
in to take charge, and the sawing of mahogany and 
pine wafted a pleasant smell through a large part of 
the ground floor. Dark mahogany was standard for all 

Hall of Archeology of Mexico, Central and South America 
on the second floor (Hall 26), taken from the .stairs looking 
south. Those are calendar stones in the foreground and on 
the wall to the right. The glyphs on that wall are Mayan, 
and the cases contain Aztec pottery. Behind the calendar 
stone is a model of the Castillo at Chichen Itza, and behind 
that, partly in the shadow, is Coatlique, main mother 
goddess of the Aztecs. The Mayan stele behind it is from 
Capan, Honduras. Because the models of the Serpent 
columns, which were at the door of the Castillo, are not 
included in the hall, this view probably was taken before 

display cases in all the halls. When these were com- 
pleted, the shop spent decades building wooden storage 
cases that were then covered in the sheet-metal shop 
and sent off to the curators, who could never get enough 
of them. By 1912 the three Smithsonian buildings con- 
tained "2,724 exhibition cases of all kinds and sizes, 
5,990 storage cases and pieces of laboratory furniture, 
2,800 pieces of office and miscellaneous furniture, 32,976 
unit specimen drawers of wood, 4,712 unit specimens 
drawers of steel, 6,839 insect drawers, and 13,253 mis- 
cellaneous specimens drawers and boxes of various 

About a year after the building opened, the new 
Museum experimented with the concept of opening 
for half a day on Sundays, and the public loved it. On 
October 15, 1911, a local paper reported: "The New 
National Museum will have its second Sunday opening 
today. The program is a more inviting one than that 
which attracted 15,000 to the institution at the initial 
Sunday opening a week ago for two new exhibits have 
been installed and several of the old ones have been 
repaired and rearranged. The musetun's corps of tax- 
idermists, preparators and cabinet makers have been 
busily engaged since Monday transferring and com- 
pleting the exhibits. 

"Zoology and paleontology," the article continued, 
"is the subject matter of the two new exhibits, which 
have been located on the first and second floors of the 
buildings. It is announced that the rotunda on the first 
floor will be open, as will the east hall of that floor and 
the northern part of the west range on the second floor. 
It is in these rooms that the zoological and paleonto- 
logical exhibits will be displayed.'" 

Installing the new exhibits was hard work, and George 
Perkins Merrill remarked: "At best the head of a de- 
partment or division has not been able to depend on 
more than a moiety of each day for research, and in 
times when exhibits are in preparation he has been 
obliged to dispense with even that. There are few forms 
of literary work, it must be added, that require greater 
care than that of label writing. To be able to state con- 
cisely and clearly the essential facts concerning an object 


Part of the Hall of Building 
Stones {Hall 20), on the 
north side of the east wing, 
second floor, showing two 
exhibit cases with a slab 
attached to the wall between 
thei/i. The cases were about 
eight jeet tall, so that it was 
difficult to see the upper 
shelf. In the early days, the 
paint shop was in charge of 
removing the glass if a cura- 
tor had to get into a case. 

is by no means an easy task as everyone knows who has 
made the attempt. It the label is too long it will not be 
read; it too short it is not suttlcientlv explicit."^ 

Merrill noted thai the De|iartment ot Cieology, unlike 
Biology or Anihi opology, was tending "toward open 
insi. illation with the main aisle through the center ot 
each hall, oi it utilized for displa\ ot objects, onl\ such 
as can readily be seen over and around. In short the 
aim has been to so arrange the cases and isolated objects, 
that .1 visitor can, in making continuous progress through 
the hall see reatlilv on either hand every individual 
object on displav.'"' He added tiiat "the paieobotanicai 
exhibit has proven with us as is almost universally the 
case with other museums, the most difficult of all to 
make interesting and attractive."" 

Exhibit Challenges — and Problems 

A 191. '5 (k)cumenl chronicled the concerns of the Di- 
vision ot Mineralogy and Petrology. There and else- 
where in the Museimi, exhibit technique was not nearly 
so sophisticated as today. ("The labels employed are on 
herbaritun board. Gray board was preferred by the 
Assistant Curator, but was not adopted because two- 
thirds of the labels had been previously printed on the 
herbarium board.")' But the problems that the curators 
faced with tourists and exhibit maintenance were com- 
parable to those of later generations: 

The average visitor spends so little time in each 
hall, that everv effort must be made to secure his 
attention and the exhibition has been designed to 

attract attention and create interest, as well as 
supply inlormation. . . . The cases are fairly dust 
proot and thus far the specimens have lemained 
clean; in the course of lime, however, sufficient 
dust will tilter in to cause the specimens to require 
cleaning, fhis period can be deferred somewhat 
by care on the part of the one in charge to secure 
adequate cleaning of the cases with the vacuum 
cleaner. . . . Every effort should be made also to 
force the operators to keep the tops of the cases 
clean, a difficult task as they are apt to overlook all 
points not diiectly visible. The tops of the cases 
should be inspected also to note if the top glass 
becomes loosened, in which event special 
opportunity for access will be given the dust. 

The enormously popular gem collection, which could 
not "be given too great prominence, or too much at- 
tention," was arranged 

in seven table top cases down the center of the 
hall. It is believed that the sage-green velours 
lining to the cases is the most suitable that can be 
secured. Unfortunately it fades; this objection 
would hold for any other fabric or color. The 
white silk pads are also satisfactory but those now 
employed were used in the old building and are 
not especially fresh and clean, and in a few years 
will have to be renewed." 

Not all exhibits were simple. William Henry Holmes 
did a great deal more than install the National Gallery 
of Art, and in some ways was the star of the new Mu- 


The Exhibits 

West end of Hall of Geology 
and Meteoritics (Hall 6) in 
the 1920s or 1930s. In the 
cases to the left are igneous 
rocks, most trimmed to uni- 
form rectangular shapes. The 
meteorites are to the right, 
but the largest specimen, in 
the foreground, is a plaster 
cast of a Mexican specimen. 
Tourists would touch the cast 
and then chip a piece away, 
so that it continually had to 
be repaired with black paint. 
Eventually director Wetmore 
was persuaded to discard 
the cast. 

scum's show, earning accolades for his ingenuity with 
ethnological exhibits. His "scheme for getting these 
changing peoples on record," as a Washington news- 
paper article observed, had first been displayed at the 
1893 World's Fair at Chicago, and is now in use in 
practically all the great museums of the world. This 
new idea of the American ethnologist was to crystallize 
into permanent form a family group of all the impor- 
tant people. This group should be cast, life size, into 
some permanent material. The members that go to 
make up the group should be shown at their customary 
activities. They should be clad as when seen at home. 
The scene should be set as though the pages of history 
were turned back to the time when the people lived 
untrammeled by a higher civilization and foreshad- 
owed by higher peculiarities of the time and place they 
formerly occupied. . . . Dr. Holmes is a scientist and an 
artist. He is one of the great men in ethnology in 

Rathbun described the arrangement of the exhibits 
in detail: 

Many paintings of Indians from the Catlin 
collection and other sources were hung, and a 
large series of transparencies of Indian subjects 
were placed in the windows of the halls. The totem 
poles and other carvings and paintings of the 
northwest coast tribes, with the exception of the 
Haida house front and its associated totem poles, 
were installed at the south end of the middle hall, 
where they make a striking display. In the 

arrangement of the collection from the Pueblo 
region it was found advisable to separate the 
antiquities from the ethnological material proper, 
with which they have heretofore been associated, 
and they have been transferred to the division of 
prehistoric archeology. The construction of lay 
figure groups progressed rapidly, and seven full- 
sized groups of this character were added to the 

The exhibits of this division are assembled 
primarily by geographic area, and the peoples and 
their cultures, so far as represented, may be thus 
studied in much the same order that the peoples 
themselves might be visited by the traveler. Under 
these headings the classification is by nations or 
tribes, and by special exhibition units illustrating 
culture as follows: tribal area, synoptic series of 
artifacts, family groups, industrial groups, 
individual figures, pictorial exhibits, and sculptural 
exhibits. Of the 16 full sized lay figure groups that 
have been planned the following 12 are finished 
and on view, namely the Eskimo, Chilkat, Hupa, 
Cocopa, Zuni, Sioux, Virginia, Tehuelche, Samoan, 
Negrito, the arrow makers, and the snake dance."* 

Neil M. Judd, newly hired in 1911 as an aide in 
ethnology, remembered the exhibits well from a dif- 
ferent perspective. 

The new building with over ten acres of floor 
space had been completed externally in 1910, but 
the interior plaster was not yet dry when orders 

New Exhibits, New Off ices 


Hall of Eskimo atul hidian Groups (Hall 9). Indian 
paintings by George C.atlin arc on the wall above the cases; 
Eskimo clothing is in the /oregrotind and Indian clothing is 
in the distanie. Pmbahly post- 1 930, judging from the light 
J IX tares. 

The Piney Brandi ()_uar)y Indian gnmp. In the le/l. is 
discussed and illlustrated in the Smithsonian Institution 
Annual Report for 1920. The case behind, mainly 
hidden, holds the Hopi snake dancers. Holmes's work at this 
cpiarry in Washington, D.C.. brought him world fame and 
cast new light on the manufacture of stone tools. In his 
"Random Records" is another photograph of this group, 
ii'ith a notation that someone had moved it to the second 
floor without consulting him. After the move, furthermore, 
the area surrounding the figures was strewn with water- 
worn cobbles rather than flakes of broken stone. Holmes was 

came to rush the exhibits. . . . 

The "new" National Museum was individualistic, 
unlike any other. It was entirely up to date. With 
larger-than-usual exhibition spaces, special 
furniture had to be designed. In archaeology, for 
halls with twenty-foot ceilings and windows on 
both sides, four kinds of cases were provided: 
those fixed in position against a wall; caster- 
equipped "floor" cases four feet wide by eight feet 
long and eight feet high; "double-slope-top" cases 
with storage drawers beneath; and "narrow flat- 
top" cases, likewise on rollers and with storage 
facilities. Each was precisely like every other of its 
kind, and each was allotted a predetermined space, 
row upon row. Wall cases and floor cases were 
equipped with adjustable shelves, but it took two 
strong men to lift their great plate-glass fronts. 
They were all very modern. And every glass-front 
case was a mirror reflecting every other case and 
its contents. Those were parsimonious times at the 
National Museum. We lacked competent assistants 
and adequate equipment. But somehow the work 
was done. ... As the task progres,sed, we begged 
from colleagues in other halls and improvised 
when other means failed. Prom sheer necessity we 
continued to use handmade pasteboard boxes and 
trays, salvaged from the "old" museum [and] red- 
stained wood trays made to fit the old walnut 
exhibition cases. . . . 

Three halls with 216 exhibition cases on nearly 
35,000 square feet of floor space were reserved for 
Western Hemisphere archaeology — from the 
Arctic to the Antarctic. Under Prof. Holmes' 
supervision those 216 cases were iny responsibility; 
filling them in a hurry my job. . . . There was no 
time to mark and describe individual specimens. 
They were unpacked and immediately put in 
exhibition cases, and the contents of those cases 
became visible storage not to be changed 
appreciably for forty years." 

Biology Exhibits 

The Department of Biology encountered the most chal- 
lenges in installing material, for the subject matter to 
be exhibited was far more diverse than that of Geology 
or even Anthropology. Display of specimens was also 
more difficult — there were serious problems of pro- 
tection against pests and deterioration. After the build- 
ing opened, an unanticipated change had to be made 
in the halls themselves when the ground window glass 
proved insufficient to protect the colors of the speci- 
mens from sunlight. The enormous windows, each con- 
taining two movable panes that had to be kept open in 
warm weather, were fitted with a complicated system 
of curtains. "The main curtains on the first floor, of 
unbleached muslin, reach from the window top to the 
upper level of the ventilating openings and are followed 


The Exhibits 

Indian exhibit — Hopi snake dance. This grouj) too is 
discussed and illustrated in the Annual Report for 1920. 
To take the photograph— probably in the J 910s or 1920s, 
for the model behind this case is not o)i a stcnid — the sides 

by shorter curtains.'"^ A third set of curtains, black, 
was drawn after closing time as extra protection for the 
mammal and bird exhibits. 

Shortly after the exhibits work began, F. W. True, 
the head of Biology, was promoted by Secretary Walcott 
to Assistant Secretary in charge of library and ex- 
changes, and on June 1, 191 1, Leonhard Stejneger took 
over. Stejneger had had less experience with exposi- 
tions than Holmes and Merrill, who in a sense had 
stockpiled some displays, but he kept things moving. 
Because "a satisfactory display of plant life present[s] 
difficulties which have not yet been worked out,'" * (to 
this day the Museum has not developed a major bo- 
tanical display). Biology's exhibits related to zoology 
only. Even without botany, they occupied a large num- 
ber of halls. 

"The first story is devoted to the mounted skins of 
mammals and birds arranged faunally, " Ralhljun wrote, 
"the latter group occupying the [west] range and a por- 
tion of the north hall of the [west] wing. . . . The Amer- 
ican mammals, consisting principally of Noi th Amer- 

aiid back of the case were covered u'ith fabric to cut down 
on reflection and to mask adjacent cases. The display is in 
Hall 11 in the west north range, first floor. 

ican representatives, have been assigned to the large 
skylighted hall, the African mammals to the outer end 
of the wing, and the Australian and oriental mammals 
the south hall, while the palearctic fauna will share the 
north hall with the birds. Pending their arrangement 
a few large mammals mounted separately on pedestals 
have been exhibited in the rotunda.'"^ 

William T. Hornaday 

One of the major items transferred to the central sky- 
lighted Hall 16 of the west wing — the site of the tein- 
porary Freer exhibit — was the group of six buffalo that 
William T. Hornaday had mounted in 1888. One of 
the finest taxidermists of his generation and the person 
most to be credited for the founding of the National 
Zoological Park, Hornaday had personally shot three 
of the specimens in one of the last buffalo hunts in the 
United States. He was one of the first, if not the first, 
to develop the notion of placing specimens in natural 
settings, and he had brought back sufficient material 
from Montana to provide a realistic environment. ("The 

New ExhibiLs, New Offices 


group, with its accessories, has been prepared so as to 
tell . . . the general visitor . . . the story of the buffalo, 
but care has been taken ... to secure an accuracy of 
detail that will satisfy the critical scrutiny of the most 
technical naturalist.")'' Unfortunately, Hornaday had 
clashed with Langley and left in 1897; the new exhibits 
could have used him. Taxidermy was so important to 
the department that for a few years there was a de- 
partmental positifjn of chief of exhibits, at that time the 
only official recognition of exhibition design within the 

Graced by Hornaday's newly mounted specimens, an 
African buffalo group, and some individual African 
specimens Theodore Roosevelt had collected after leav- 
ing the White House, the mammal hall was formally 
opened on April 22, 1913. Some of the biological ex- 
hii)its on the second floor had already opened the pre- 
vious year; others were still being worked on. By the 
end of June the entire area allotted to natural history — 
the wings and ranges in the first and second stories — 
was open l<> the public. 

During the lollowing year, Rathbun noted, "the di- 
vision of plants has for the first time been represented 
lo die public by an exhibition of flower studies in water 
color . . . embrac[ing] a wide range of domestic and 
foreign |jlants as well as cultivated varieties.""' There 
still were many cases to be installed, but the dramatic 
phase of opening new halls was over. Because a great 
deal ot space was now open in the old brick Museum, 
nuuh of the Ainiiuil Rcjiorl was devoted to the change 
ol exhibits there. 

It was a phenomenal achievement for the reference 
collections to have been moved, and for so many new 
display halls to have been opened, in a relatively short 
lime. By way of comparison, the Freer building did not 
open until two years after it was completed, and that 
was a far smaller operation. A published plan of the 
Museum's exhibit halls indicates that all five acres of 
display space was filled by 1917.'' By any criteria one 
cares to applv, the staff had done a remarkable job, 
and deser\ecl at least to pause on their laurels. 

Offices and Storage Space 

There was a \ ast amount of space in the massive new 
building apart from what the exhibits occupied. Most 
of the ground floor, except in the north wing, remained 
to be filled, and the third floor provided acres of new 
of fices and seemingly unlimited storage space. As head 
curator of geology, Merrill rated a large office on the 
southeast corner, the same size as the office of the 
director on the southwest corner, except that Merrill's 
was full of steel cases that divided it into several cub- 
byholes. The remainder of the Geology Department 
had adjacent offices facing the Mall, and the large min- 
eral collection was at the north side of the east wing. 
The chemical laboratory overlooked the east court. 

Paleontologists of the Geological Survey filled most 
of the offices on the third floor of the east range, con- 
venient to the Geology Department. E. O. Ulrich and 
a young }. B. Reeside were among those who moved 
from the l^ooe Building to share an office overlooking 
the east courtyard. Late one afternoon Ulrich was 
studying the fossil brachiopods in a large collection and 
dividing them into three piles, each a different species. 
Reeside arrived early the next morning and was there 
to see Ulrich come in and begin shouting that someone 
had mixed up the piles during the night. Deciding and 
then changing one's mind as to how much variation 
there is within a species continues to be a major preoc- 
cupation of a large number of people in the building. 

The vertebrate paleontologists were on the ground 
floor, partly because they needed more space and high 
ceilings to assemble large specimens, and partly because 
they needed ironwork from time to time to mount a 
skeleton; this could be obtained from the nearby ma- 
chine shop. C>harles W. Ciilmore had the northeast cor- 
ner off ice. The library, on the east north range between 
his office and the lobby, did not even occupy all the 
space of that range. The saw for meteorites and the 
stone-cutting and polishing equipment were also on the 
east side adjacent to the shops and the east court. The 
shops occupied most of the east wing. 

Holmes had his office on the Constitution Avenue 
side of the third floor, adjacent to the elevators in the 
north wing. It was not as spacious as Rathbun's and 
Merrill's south-side rooms, and on windy days there 
was a racket from the halyard whipping back and forth 
on the flagpole outside the window. But Holmes as an 
artist liked the north light of the office, which also 
chanced to have a marble-lined private bathroom. Sev- 
eral other ethnologists were in the east north range; 
Ales Hrdlicka and the physical anthropology collections 
occupied the courtyard side. They were separated from 
another group of ethnologists scattered in the east side 
of the north wing closer to the rotunda. Anthropology 
had a potsherd and casting laboratory in the north 
range on the ground floor, around the corner from 
the vertebrate paleontology laboratory; since both op- 
erations used a fair amount of plaster in restoring miss- 
ing fragments of bones or pots, the association was 

The Department of Biology was both the most split- 
up and the largest in staff. The entomologists- — that is, 
the Department of Agriculture employees — were in the 
west side of the north wing and in the west wing. Mol- 
lusks were in the west range, along with a few Geological 
Survey folk who worked on fairly young fossils. The 
Museum's bird division and the ornithologists of the 
Biological Survey were in the west north range and the 
courtyard side of the west wing. In later years the head 
curator of biology had the first office in the east wing 
nearest the rotunda. It is not a particularly distin- 


The Exhibits 

Hall of Archeology of 
Europe and Asia {Hall 23), 
on the second floor oj the 
north wing, looking north to 
the elevator doors in the 
distance; a model of the 
Parthenon is to the right. 
The windows on the lejt open 
onto the west court, and the 
openings on the right 
overlook Hall 10. Probably 

guished one, but does have a large closet at one end, 
an uncommon feature. Most offices had clothes trees 
or lockers, for the thickness of the Museum's walls pre- 
cluded the sort of thin partitions used for conventional 

On the ground floor, the mammalogists held sway 
in both the west north range and the west range. Most 
of the west range was occupied by mammalogists of the 
Biological Survey, while the Division of Mammals had 
the Constitution Avenue side of the building. The Mall 
side of the west wing was occupied by the invertebrate 
zoologists, and the Museum fish people had the north 
side, looking out into the west courtyard. Botany re- 
mained in the Castle. 

Few New Staff Members 

In spite of the large new quarters, few new members 
were added to the scientific staff; most of the expansion 
was from associated agencies. Neil Jucld, in Anthro- 
pology, was one of the few new junior staff members, 
and his position probably came about because Holmes 
was so busy with the National Gallery. Waldo Schmitt, 
in invertebrate zoology, was another. A native of Wash- 
ington, D.C., he had been a scientific aide in the Division 
of Marine Invertebrates before joining several cruises 
in Bureau of Fisheries vessels. After a year in California, 
he returned to the Museum as an assistant curator.'" 
In order to provide a paid position for him, Mary Jane 

Rathbun, the sister of the Assistant Secretary, gave up 
her staff appointment. Schmitt's devotion to her, through 
the next thirty years of her career, was less an expres- 
sion of gratitude than a true scientific love story. Miss 
Rathbun was the specialist on crabs. 

Compared to the brick building, the new National 
Museum was a palace. All the offices, which were steam- 
heated, had windows, giving plenty of daylight to work 
by. For those on the ground floor, lavatories were in 
the lobby; there were two on the third floor near the 
rotunda. It may give some notion of the building's size 
to point out that from a remote office to the nearest 
bathroom was close to a 500-foot walk. 

There seems to be a general rule of thumb today 
that it takes about five years after a major move for an 
organization to function with its former efficiency. It 
takes time to settle in and fit new members into the 
staff, to remember where materials have been moved, 
to get a grasp of how the library has been rearranged. 
Yet the disruption of research at the Museum was min- 
imal. Judging from lists in the annual reports of the 
published papers of the staff, there was no noticeable 
slackening of publication as a result of the move and 
the new exhibits program. Certainly by 1913 the Mu- 
seum staff was pursuing research at a more active pace 
than ever. But the tranquility and order that had been 
earned by hard work were not to last. □ 

New Exhibits, New Offices 


Chapter 8 

The Great War and 
Its Lingering Aftermath 

corded in an annual report: "The auditorium was 
used on June 1, 1917, for an address to the employees 
of the Institution and its branches by Eugene E. 
Thompson, secretary of the Washington liberty Loan 
Committee, who explained the object of the Liberty 
Loan, how the bonds could be purchased, and the de- 
sire of Federal of f icials having the matter in charge that 
the first loan of the United States receive as great a 
number of individual subscriptions as did the last loan 
in Great Britain."' The weekly "Local Notes" that Sec- 
retary Walcott had instituted the year before record 
that the staff was paid in advance so that they could 
participate in the loan drive. Later the "Notes" record 
the sponsoring of a Red Cross ambulance by the staf f . 
Benjamin Walcott, the Secretary's youngest son, went 
off to fly for the French and died in 1917. 

The Great War impinged upon the Mall in increas- 
ingly real ways. "From the first evidence of trouble, the 
[geology] department was subject to call for material 
for experimental pin poses, particularly along the lines 
of electricity, radioactivity, light and sound transmis- 
sion, from all branches of the government, the Geo- 
physical Laboratory, and numerous private investiga- 
tors."" Later, for a period of several months, Merrill 
"was detailed by the Council of National Defense to 
find a sufficient stipply of quartz for naval supersonic 
purposes for not only his own country but for France 
and England as well." * Biological effects of gas warfare 
and peat as a ftiel source were investigated. The Di- 
vision of Physical Anthropology furnished data on the 
human races of the Balkans, and other parts of the 
Museum supplied esoteric information now vital to the 

On October 13, 1917, President Wilson called to Sec- 
retary Walcott's attention the urgent need for space to 
house the Bureau of War Risk Insurance, a new agency 
under the Treasury Department. He asked if part of 
the Arts and Indttstries building could be used. Instead, 

Wartime rally in /roiil oj the Museum, 
looking north from the Mall. 

space was made in "the foyer on the ground fioor of 
the natural history building with the adjoining rooms, 
and shortly after, the west north and west ranges, by 
removing the collections of the division of mammals 
and of the Biological Siu vey to the same ranges on the 
second floor. The space thtis provided amounted to 
approximately 25,000 square feet."^ 

While accepting, as his colleagues did, the necessity 
of this sacrifice, Stejneger was quite clear as to the up- 
heaval it caused within the Museum: 

when late in the calendar year of 1917 the division 
of mammals and the Biological Survey were called 
upon to give up their laboratory and storage space 
in the west and west north ranges, ground [floor], 
it was decided to move the cases containing these 
collections up into the corresponding exhibition 
space on the second floor. In these ranges were 
exhibited the District of Columbia fauna, the 
domestic animal series, all the invertebrates 
including the insects, the whole synoptic series, the 
special exhibits of color aberrations, hybrids, birds 
eggs and nests, the destructive work of insects, the 
historical exhibit of the corals of the Wilkes 
Exploring Expedition, etc. The bulk of the 
exhibition cases were placed in adjacent alcoves 
containing the special exhibits, but a large number 
had to be given shelter in the whale hall, which 
thereby became unduly crowded with a very 
heterogeneous assembly of exhibits. Some of the 
large cases could not be thus accommodated and, 
like that containing the zebu and the yak, were 
transferred to the south side of the south hall on 
the first floor, where the original arrangement . . . 
had to be distin bed and the cases crowded 
together. Toward the end of the fiscal year it 
became necessary to give up more space for the 
same purpose, in consequence of which both the 
big halls on either side of the great skylight hall on 
the first floor for the west wing had to be cleared 
of their exhibits. . . . ' 

On November 2.3, (he President again wrote to 
the secretary [Walcott] asking that the Board of 


Margaret W. Moodcy, 191 U. Aliw Muudey iva.s .secrckny ni 
l/ir Di'/iarhnfHl of Ctcology, ami probably ///m ivu:, taken in 
ibc siiulbrasi (oriirr dUirr of the ibnil fbun. 

Clerks on the first floor of the Museum, probably in 1918. 
The scene is one of the riniges — the exhibits cannot be 

Regents place at the disposal of this bureau from 
60,000 to 80,000 additional feet in the exhibition 
hall . . . which was provided by concentrating the 
cases in parts of each hall and protecting them by 
means of partitions, thereby leaving large areas 
available. . . . 

As the force increased additional space was 
granted, so that at the close of the fiscal year, the 
bureau occupied 69,286 square feet in the foyer, 
auditorium, and ranges on the ground floor; the 
rotunda, and portions of the exhibition halls on 
the first floor extending from the center of the 
north hall aroimd east through the southern 
section of the west hall, thereby providing 
accommodations for 3,059 employees. 

On July 16, 1918, at the further request of the 
President, the Board of Regents closed the natural 
history building to the public, thereby making 
available for the Bureau of War Risk Insurance on 
the ground and two exhibition floors a total of 
138,600 square feet." 

I his c<inversion to office space was a remarkable in- 
cident, pi obably unparalleled in the history of Amer- 
ican museums. The building is large, but the concept 
of thousands upon thousands of clerks at their desks 
brings that point home dramatically. 

Museum Reopened 

In late March 1919 the Bureau of War Risk Insurance 
moved to quarters of its own at the corner of Vermont 
Avenue and H Street, NW, but its funds were so de- 
pleted that it was unable to honor its agreemnt to ren- 
ovate the Natural History Building. The Museum thus 
had to be reopened unrepaired — the first floor on April 
1 1 and the second floor on April 22. In the next fiscal 
year the Museum received sufficient fimds to repair 
the damaged plaster walls and repaint the exhibit halls. 

For years, a footnote to the annual attendance figure 
of 132,859 for fiscal 1918-19 indicated that it reflected 
only the three months the building was open that year — 
April, May, and June, 1919. Attendance was strikingly 
heavy, suggesting that visitors had sorely missed the 
Museum during the long time it was closed. Attendance 
during the previous fiscal year, 1917—18, represented 
a great increase over annual figures for the first few 
years the Museum was open. More than 40 1 ,000 visitors 
came to the Natural History Building during the twelve 
months of that year. The relatively heavy attendance, 
in spite of the fact that some exhibits were closed, showed 
the swelling of population in wartime Washington and 
the lack of other entertainment facilities. 

During World War II the Museum remained open 
and functioned about as normally as any agency did at 
that time. When there was talk of closing it again, it 
was successfully argued that the educational and en- 
tertainment value of the Museum, for people assigned 


The Exhibits 

Clerks on the first floor of 
the Museum. This may be 
Hull 12 in the west range, 
looking south; before World 
War I, it housed a bird 
exhibit. Another hall, in the 
distance, is blocked off f)r 
offices. The 125 or so people 
shown give some iudicaliou 
of how croivded the building 
must have been loilh desks 
for 3,000 clerks. Fans pro- 
vided all the climate control 
that ivas aiHtilable. 

to war work in the city, far outweighed any minor sav- 
ings in fuel or labor. 

One aftermath of the First World War was a huge 
accumulation of uniforms, weapons, medical instru- 
ments, and a host of miscellaneous materials that came 
to be known as the War Collection and stayed in the 
building for more than a decade. Partly as a result of 
this great growth in the collections, in 1921 a Depart- 
ment of History was split off from the Department of 
Anthropology; it was headquartered in the Arts and 
Industries Building. Another legacy of the war was a 
sheet-metal shed, behind the Castle, that had been erected 
by the Army Signal Corps. This became the Aircraft 
Building and the nucleus of the National Air and Space 

New Administration 

The Museum was under new administration, for on 
the same day that it had been closed to the public — 
July 16, 1918 — Richard Rathbun died. There was no 
member of the scientific staff either willing or able to 
succeed him. Perhaps if the war had not disrupted 
matters so, one of the three head curators would have 
moved into the job, but that did not happen, and on 
November 1, 1918, the position of Assistant Secretary 
in charge of the United States National Museum was 
discontinued. William de C. Ravenel was placed in charge 
of the administrative affairs of the Museum, with the 
titles of Administrative Assistant to the Secretary and 
Director of Arts and Industries in the Museum. 

It is hard to find out much about Ravanel, except 
that he was of the South Carolina Ravenels. A former 
official of the Fish Commissicjn, as Rathbun had been, 
Ravenel was more a bureauciat than a scientist. His 

personal interests lay in Arts and Industries and the 
historical collections. But he strongly asserted the right 
of natural history to occupy the entire Natural History 
Building, uncramped by the National Gallery of Art 
or — even more unmanageable at that time — the War 

The rotunda was set aside for naval exhibits during 
the latter half of 1919, and the Navy soon filled it with 
signalling devices, a paravane, and various munitions. 
"During the month of June the large 6-inch naval gun 
which fired America's first shot in the World War was 
delivered at the building. Owing to its weight and the 
impossibility of getting it in the building it was placed 
on the east driveway, where it makes a most impressive 

Early in 1920, according to the Annual Report, 
the space assigned to the War Collections was 
increased by two large ranges on the ground floor. 
... In one was installed the collection of foreign 
uniforms, insignia and decorations . . . and the 
collections of captured German military 
ecjuipment. ... In the second range were placed 
the collections of chemical warfare and ordnance 
material. The west and central portion of the foyer 
. . . was given over to the Corps of Engineers for 
its exhibit; a portion of the foyer and three rooms 
on the east to the exhibit of the Medical 
Department . . . and the walls of three rooms on 
the west of the foyer to the pictorial material. . . 

The public liked these new displays, but the staff had 
become deeply frustrated by the continued occupation 
of so much of their exhibit and storage space and the 
hindrance of their work. □ 

The Great War and lis Lingering AjlerniaUi 


"Setting up the Serpent columns in the National 
Museum," a copy of a photograph in William 
Henry Holmes's "Random Records." Judging 
from the ceiling height, this was the second floor. 
The material behind does not appear to represent 
Central American anthropology, and these plaster 

casts may have been placed near the north 
elevator before being moved into Hall 23. There 
was some work on the exhibit halls after they 
reopened in 1919, though it is difficult to 
document just how much was done. 


The Exhibits 

The War Collection in the west or west north range, 1919- 
1 929. To the right is a naval gun with a sighting rifle on 
the barrel. The wheeled object is a field oven, and the 
foremost case contains boards of insignia. On the ivall are 
drawings by J. C. Chace oj various war heroes. 

The Henry Ward African exhibit at the northeast corner of 
the first floor, at the juncture oJ Halls 6 and 7. This 
photograph was taken after 1922, when the Ward 
Collection was placed on exhibit. The African elephant head 
(Loxoiidontiis) oii the wall cannot be located, and may 
liave been deaccessioned ivheii the display was revised. 

"W. E. Scollick and Doris Cochran's mother painting model 
of ocean siinfish, about 1928." There ivere two models 

made of Lani|)i is; both were taken off exhibit in the early 
1950s, ivhen the fish hall was closed. 

The Great War and Its Lingering Ajlermalh 


Chapter 9 


the Museum was of first concern. Yet, Ravencl 
wrote, "the appropriations for the fiscal year ending 
June 30, 1920, remained practically the same as for the 
past ten years — excepting those for heating and lighting 
and for furniture and fixtures, the former being in- 
creased to take care of the additional buildings, the 
latter being slightly reduced from the amoiuit for sev- 
eral years just prior to the war — notwithstanding the 
fact that since the Natural History Building was con- 
structed about ten years ago approximately three mil- 
lion species have been added to the collections. This 
alone . . . should warrant a large increase in the ap- 
propriation for preservation of collections, from which 
the entire staff of scientific, administrative, and exec- 
utive branches of the service are paid, and a consid- 
erable increase in the item for furniture and fixtures.'"' 
The budget item for "preservation of collections" was 
$300,000 that year. 

A year later the appropriation was $312,650, but the 
extra sum went entirely to the newly opened Freer 
Gallery. The United States National Museum now had 
four buildings: Arts and Industries; the still-new Nat- 
ural History building; the tin shed behind the Castle, 
dignified by the name of Aircraft Building; and the 
Freer Gallery. In 1923, with appropriations still vir- 
tually unchanged, the Museum reported "difficulty in 
making both ends meet. ... It is only by rigid economy 
and by the omission of many things that should be done 
that the year ends without a deficit. "" 

Though the country, under President Harding, had 
returned to normality in a very large way, the Smith- 
sonian and its buildings were not prospering. The 

Stairwell on north side of east xving, April 1984. The 
transparencies on the window into the east court are 
between the first and second floors. These are the last 
remnants oj the old Hall oj Geology and Meteoritics, dating 
from a time when this stairway was open to visitors xvho 
went to the second floor to see the building stones, itinwrals, 
and gems. Except for the light fixture, this view could have 
been taken any time since 1 920. 

ficdgling Bureau of the Budget was now charged with 
conducting the government's business, and while peo- 
ple were waiting to see how it would operate, it did 
constitute an immediate barrier between agency heads 
and Congress. Secretary Walcott was a past master of 
friendly relations with senators and congressmen, and 
had enjoyed easy entry to the White House since the 
time of President Cleveland, but none of that was work- 
ing for him now. 

Grim Times for the Smithsonian 

With access to (Congress cut oft and an unsympathetic 
administration in power, times were grim. The year 
1 925—26 "marks a crisis in the affairs of the Institution," 
Walcott reported. "For several years it has grown more 
and more difficult to stretch the income from its meager 
endowment sufficiently to cover the steadily increasing 
costs of even the limited amount of research which can 
be undertaken and the administration of the eight 
growing Government bureaus. The cost of publishing 
is more than twice that of 10 years ago, which has 
resulted in materially decreasing the output of Smith- 
sonian publications. . . . The Institution has tor several 
years been undermanned, and the ordinary running 
expenses are met only by the exercise of rigid econ- 
omy."' Everyone seemed to use the phrase "rigid econ- 

As one way of raising funds, Walcott instituted the 
Smithsonian Scientific Series; the bulk of this encyclopedic 
work was written by statt members in the National Mu- 
seum. Eventually the series produced some income for 
the Institution, as did the books ot paintings of North 
American wildfiowers by Mrs. Walcott, but not enough 
to help substantially. Secretary Walcott then made a 
serious attempt to increase the Smith.sonian endow- 
ment. Consultants were hired, and Dwight Morrow 
agreed to head the first nationwide tund-raising drive 
in the history of the Institution. On February 1 1, 1927, 
a major meeting was held in the Castle to start this 
search for endowment funding. Sadly, Walcott had died 
only two days before, and it was only because of his 
deathbed wish that the conference went on as planned. 


What with Walcott's death, Morrow's appointment as 
ambassador to Mexico, the stock market crash and the 
subsequent depression, the drive was a failure. 

The Passing of the First Generation 

The whole first generation of naturalists who were es- 
tablished names in the old National Museum now began 
to die off. Frank H. Knowlton, an eminent paleobo- 
tanist, died in 1926. Only a few weeks after Walcott's 
death, the mollusk expert William Healy Dall died. 
George Merrill of Geology died in 1929; W. H. Holmes, 
the artist-anthropologist, retired in 1932 and died in 
1933. In evaluating careers, one historical isstie is whether 
a person is noteworthy simply because he was an early 
worker in a given area; but there is no doubt that all 
these people were fhst-rank scientists. 

There were a few staff members added in the 1920s. 
William F. Foshag had become an assistant curator of 
mineralogy and petrology in 1919, and the following 
year Doris M. Gochran came on as an aide in the Di- 
vision of Reptiles and Batrachians (amphibians). Later, 
Herbert W. Kreiger and Henry B. Collins came to the 
I^ivision of Ethnology. Still later, "FluMiias D. Stewart is 
listed as an aide in the Division of Physical Anthro- 
pology; as T. Dale Stewart, he latei played an important 
role in the history of the building. In 1928 Remington 
Kellogg transferred horn the Biological Survey to be- 
come an assistant curator oi manunals, and at the close 
of the decade, Edward Henderson transferred from 
the Geological Survey to the Division of Physical and 
Chemical Geology. 

Since the Buieau ol the Budget had leclassified all 
positions within the Museum in 1924, salary standards, 
especially for scientists, weie higher, which helped the 
Museum to attract and retain a full staff. The new 
Secretary was Charles Greeley Abbot, who had been 
directoiof the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. 

Alexander Wetmore 

The most noteworthy staff addition of the 1920s was 
the ornithologist Alexander Wetmore. As a member of 
the Biological Survey since 191 1, he knew the Museum 
well. In 1924 the director of the National Zoo, Ned 
HoUister, died unexpectedly. Wetmore was appointed 
by Walcott to succeed him, but held this position for 
only a few months. "In accordance with a plan to de- 
velop and coordinate the scientific work of the various 
branches of the Smithsonian Institution," read the An- 
tiual Report, "provision was made . . . for an additional 
assistant secretary, and on April 1, 1925, Dr. Alexander 
Wetmore was appointed to this post with general su- 
pervision over the Museum interests of the Institu- 
tion — the United States National Museum, the National 
Gallery of Art, and the National Zoological Park."^ Wet- 
more was listed that year as Assistant Secretary, but the 
following year his title reverted to the classic one, last 
held by Rathbun, of "Assistant Secretary, Smithsonian 

Institution, in charge United States National Museum." 

Wetmore asked for assistance, and John Graf was 
added to the Museum staff as his administrative aide, 
although his office was in the Arts and Industries Build- 
ing. On the rare occasions when Wetmore made an 
unreasonable decision, the staff member concerned 
would take it up with Graf. Of course, almost always 
everyone did what Wetmore advised. "A tall man of 
quietly distinguished presence and great natural mod- 
esty,'" he did not demand respect, but he commanded 
it. After World War I, jackets were not worn at the 
desk, but somehow everyone put on a jacket to visit the 
director's office. 

Departmental Rearrangements 

Some internal rearrangements had been made in the 
Museum's departments. In 1920 a Division of Echi- 
nodernis (starfish, for example) was formed so that 
Austin H. CHark could become curator. Clark, who had 
been socially and politically active in the Museum circle 
for years, had assumed that after Walcott's death he 
might be made director. But that never happened, and 
Clark remained in his ground-floor office writing huge 
monographs. An active worker, Clark was famed for 
keeping the messiest office in the building. He never 
filed away reprints or accession slips, btit could always 
find what he needed. Long after Clark's official retire- 
ment, a younger colleague went to his office to complain 
about not being able to obtain a typewriter. According 
to legend, Clark dug into the pile of reprints on one 
of his tables and extracted a standard model typewriter 
that had been completely hidden from view. Judging 
from the dates on the reprints hiding it, the machine 
had been covered for ten years. 

The year after Clark got his division, the Division of 
Mc:)llusks was formed. Paul Bartsch had already been 
promoted to the rank of ctnator, and this separation 
occin red more at the request of other departmental 
members than for any other reason. Bartsch was a wom- 
anizer, yet he also taught a Sunday-school class and 
helped instruct Boy Scouts. He wrote a great deal on 
mollusks, and supposedly one can trace his romances 
by the new species bearing the names of various ladies. 
While there may not be any truth to the story that he 
once chased a secretary onto a ledge, he did pull up 
the skirts of one secretary, who ran screaming to Wet- 
more. One day in 1953 when Bartsch, then in his 80s, 
was said to be coming in for the day, an illustrator who 
hoped to meet him was advised to keep her back to the 
wall and her hands on her skirt. 

Lapses in the Work Ethic 

Most people worked conscientiously, but of course there 
were lapses. Edward Henderson tells of the "hat trick" 
of Barton Bean in the Division of Fishes. On occasional 
mornings Bean would go to his office, turn on the lights 
and hang up his hat and coat, and then stroll uptown 


The Exhibits 


The National Gallery of Art during the George Washington 
Bicentennial in 1932. The large paintings on the walls 
were specially prepared by American artists, and a 

temporary exhibit of sculpture was installed. Below the 
picture of Fort Necessity is the statue by Darnel Chester 
French, The Minuteman. 

to shoot a few games of pool, later returning to pick 
up his hat. Henderson also mentioned the technician 
in the ground-floor preparation room of the Depart- 
ment of Geology. He would come to the Museum each 
morning and telephone to Miss Moodey, the depart- 
mental secretary — everyone on the staff had to report 
in. Then he would turn on the large band saw used to 
cut meteorites and go off to the waterfront for hours. 
One day the band went off course and sawed into the 
steel table. The saw and the table with the two-inch- 
deep cut are still in use. 

The Staff and the Telephone 

The telephone office was at the northeast corner of the 
north range. The staff was allowed six private calls a 
month; all others were charged at a rate of three cents 
per call. Upon getting the operator, the first step was 
to state that this was an off icial call. The chief operator 

had the habit of listening from time to time and then 
ringing the staff member after a call was completed, 
arguing that the business had been private, not official. 
One conversation was concluded by the outside party's 
saying that he had better hang up because the old bat 
might be listening in. The chief operator immediately 
rang the curator's office, incensed at being called an 
old bat by someone outside the Museum. 

Although later telephone operators did not so ob- 
viously listen in, for years all long-distance calls had to 
be placed through an operator; it took a bit of effort 
to reach the point where the curators could place long- 
distance calls directly without first notifying the de- 
partmental secretary. Not until 1 9(53, when a more elab- 
orate telephone system was installed in the new Mu- 
seum of History and Technology, did the staff have 
access to direct dialing throughout the country. Not 
until 1980 were push-button telephones installed. 



East xnigc ij^xiuikI f/nor, Aj/iil 19S4, shmving the steel 
deckinir and wnulaws that open oiitu the corridor but are 
plastered-over on the exterior. From the 1930s to the 
1960s, vertebrate fossils were stored here. The cases, 
covered to keep out dust, now contain invertebrate fossils; 
the /luoresient ln^lits are moderately new. The Scanning 
Electron Mi< k)s< ope Eahoratiny is directly below. 

Karl Kioiiibein recalls that the library for entomol- 
ogy, which was along the west north range, also housed 
the secretary for the Department of Agriculture en- 
tomologists. The only USDA telephone in the building 
was in that office, and whenever a telephone call came 
in, the individual office would have to be buzzed through 
an elaborate code of short and long noises. The person 
buzzed would then run to the telephone, and as some 
of the offices were 300 feet away, this did not make for 
efficient communication. 

Musical Chairs 

Herbert Friedmann was listed as curator of birds in the 
Annual Report for fiscal year 1930; in the following re- 
port, G. Arthur Cooper was listed as assistant curator 
in the Division of Stratigraphic Paleontology. But these 
were not increases in the staff, for Friedmann replaced 

the deceased Robert Ridgeway, and R.S. Bassler had 
moved up to head curator of geology after Merrill's 
death, leaving a vacancy. Charles Resser handled the 
Cambrian fossil collections and Cooper was to look after 
everything else. In 1934, Edward A. Chapin trans- 
ferred from the Biological Survey of the Department 
of Agriculture to replace the deceased J. M. Aldrich in 
the Division of Insects. In number, if not in position, 
the staff was nearly static until the 1940s. 

T. Dale Stewart described the situation as a "game 
of musical chairs that goes on all the time in the Smith- 
sonian." He turned to an especially sticky chapter on 
the history of this department: 

Dr. Walter Hough, a long-time head curator of 
anthropo?jgy, had died ... in September, 1935. 
Normally, he would have been succeeded by one 
of the three curators under him. In order of 
seniority, this would have been either Ales 
Hrdlicka in physical anthropology, Neil Judd in 
archeology, or Herbert Kreiger in ethnology. As it 
happened, however, these three were not on 
speaking terms with one another. Faced with this 
situation, Alexander Wetmore . . . reached down to 
the next level in the hierarchy and picked Frank 
Setzler, Judd's assistant curator, to be acting head 
curator. . . . 

It has long been my opinion that Setzler's 
advancement to the head curator's office was due 
largely to the fact that he made a special effort to 
ingratiate himself with his elders. . . . No one else 
had the temerity to call Wetmore "Alec", [or] 
Hrdlicka "Ales"; yet Setzler did and apparently 
they liked it. Indeed, the three anthropological 
curators liked it so much that they acquiesced in 
Setzler's advancement over them.'' 

There were personal problems in other departments, 
too. In Geology, an emotionally unbalanced aide once 
threw a rock and hit James Benn, a quiet man who 
curated the minerals. Head curator Bassler almost al- 
ways said no to any request, but if it were pursued to 
the point of going to see Dr. Wetmore, Wetmore would 
usually say that the request seemed reasonable and Bas- 
sler would immediately agree. Biology, apart from 
Bartsch, was calmer, though there is the true story of 
Miss Rathbun's throwing a glass of water in the face of 
a technician who became hysterical when finally dis- 
missed for poor performance. In the latest oral version 
of the scene, the diminutive Miss Rathbun dragged over 
a chair to stand on while she poured a pitcher of water 
on the hysteric. 

The Thirties 

In 1935 no one publicly expressed any interest in cel- 
ebrating the first twenty-five years in the new building. 
Even if it was not one big happy family, however, the 
Museum of the 1930s was a scientifically rewarding 


The Exhibits 

Later view oj ihe Hall oj I'alcoholany on the first flooi 
looking west to rotunda, 1930s. To the right is a fossil tree 
stump. To the left of Hall 5, /// Hall 2, one can see the 
papier-mache Stegosaurus made for the 1902 Fan- 
American Exhibit in Buffalo, and the Triceratops skeleton 
to the right. 

place. Most members of the scientific staff were turning 
out large tomes. In the exhibits field, the Museum in- 
stalled, in 1931, the seventy-foot skeleton of the huge 
dinosaur Diplodocus longus, a fossil unearthed from the 
quarries at Dinosaur National Monument in Utah. 
Mounted so that visitors could walk under it between 
the shoulder and the hip, the skeleton reigned for twenty 
years as the Museum's single most impressive exhibit. 
The old A-frame cases, at Edward Henderson's sug- 
gestion, were partitioned so that people viewing a dis- 
play from one side would not look into the faces of 
those on the other side. Henderson also introduced, in 
the 1930s, the first lighted case in the building, to il- 
luminate the Star of Artaban sapphire. To make its 
alcove as dark as possible, he pushed the case so far 
back that the top of it could be glimpsed from the 
Dinosaur Hall below; for this Gilmore chided him. 

Although money problems remained, space prob- 
lems were partially resolved. Early in 1930 the naval 
collections that had filled the rotunda for ten years were 
moved to the Arts and Industries Building; over most 
of the year, the remainder of the War Collection fol- 
lowed piecemeal. That same year a steel-frame gallery, 
or mezzanine, was erected over rooms 18 to 20 on the 
ground floor, "increasing the storage facilities of the 
division of vertebrate paleontology by approximately 
1,750 square feet of floor space."' It is not clear what 
prompted this new construction, although there were 
attempts under President Hoover to use government 
construction as a way of promoting the economy. 

Vacating "two large and finely lighted" second-floor 
exhibit halls that had been closed to the public since 
1917,** the long-suffering mammalogists returned to 
the ground floor. There they too obtained additional 

Stratigraphic section, 1 nvertehrale Paleontology. This ivas 
f)arl of Panorama of Life on the north side of Hall 7, 
xvhich shoived a cross-section of the United States, together 
with cases of fossils arranged by age. In the foregrouiul is 
jjart of the biologic series of fossils. 

space by decking: "The galleries in the two ranges pr(j|)er 
will cover all the space between the exterior wall of the 
building and the partition walls enclosed the rooms in 
the two ranges; and, in addition, in rooms 51 to 53 and 
in the eastern half of room 57. The western half of this 
latter room is already occupied by a steel gallery and 
steel shelves containing the alcoholic mammal collec- 
tion.'"' A synoptic display of marine invertebrates, par- 
tially installed on the ground-floor west north range, 
was abandoned in favor of the decking. 

Today on the Constitution Avenue side of the build- 
ing, in the windows of the west north range, one can 
see a horizontal line of steel I-beams. They ruin the 
appearance of the windows and certainly were not a 
feature that Rathbun would have approved. The upper 
deck consisted of loose steel plates that always rattled 
when someone walked on them, with the storage cases 
sitting directly on small cross-girders. 7 here were plenty 
of gaps between the plates, just large enough for dropped 
pencils or books to fall through into the offices below. 
The vertical steel I-beam supports are in the halls, but 
they have been there for so long that even the oldest 
inhabitants of the building do not recall either the ver- 
tebrate paleontology or the mamnial galleries' being 
installed. Unaesthetic as they may be — though made 
feasible by the aesthetic decision to raise the ground 
floor three feet in 1905 — these decks were and are very 
useful. In addition, they were symbolic, a tangible in- 
dication that preoccupation was shifting from the ex- 
hibitions to research and reference collections. 

Crowding in Natural History 

The Museum stall was greatly relieved to see the War 
Collections disappear, but as usual there was a trade- 



Li'diiliaxI Slcpii'i^n, hcdd (uraloi oj zoolotry, sltindiiig by a 
special lemporcuy exii/hit in the Castle. The illustrations to 
the right, by a Japanese artist, were prepared before 1909, 
but never published: the fauna is currently under study by 
Victor (]. Springer aj the Division oj Fishes. This display 
was prepared for the Februaiy 1927 endowment drive. 

off to the disadvantage of natural history. Half of Hall 
26 on the second floor became the site of a lace exhibit 
brought over from Arts and Industries. At fust the 
Constitution Avenue side of the hall was used for lace 
and the south side for biology; it took nearly a decade 
to improve this to the point that the area nearest the 
elevators was devoted to lace and the western part to 
natm al history. Case after dreary case of lace, Malcolm 
Watkins, recalls, gave way at the dividing line to displays 
ot chickens on one side and wasps on the other. The 
wasp case was strewn with crumpled newspaper in an 
attempt to communicate the idea that a newspaper and 
the material forming the nest of a paper wasp were 
fundamentally the same. Each year the nest got darker 
from dust and the newspaper got yellower. Within a 
few more years, several exhibit alcoves on the west side 
were converted into office space for entomologists. Not 
all the space that had been open in 1917 was ever re- 
covered for public displavs. 

Even if the lace were ignored, the Natural History 
Building was still a long way from being fully devoted 
to natiual history. In 1932, to commemorate the 200th 
anni\ ersity of George Washington's birth — a major event 
in the Capital — "a special exhibition . . . under the aus- 
pices of the National Sculpture Society, was installed 
in the National Gallery of Art, with extension into the 
rotunda of the Natural History Building. The rotunda 
will be kept free of ordinarv exhibits that it mav serve 
its proper purpose as an impressive entrance into the 
building. The greater part of the foyer was alloted for 
a temporary exhibit of the National Capital Park and 
Planning Commission dealing with the development 

and future plans for the city of Washington.'"" 

At the close of the bicentennial year the foyer exhibit 
was removed, as were the twin stone lions that had 
temporarily graced the pedestals at either side of the 
south steps. But the rotunda received some "largesse" 
in the form of several of the plaster figures from the 
show. Having been presented to the National Gallery 
of Art, they remained in place, whether the Museum's 
curators liked it or not. 

The Great Depression 

By 1933 America was in the Roosevelt years and the 
Great Depression. This was a grim time, but for Wash- 
ington civil servants, not so grim as elsewhere. Most 
Museum staff members were given a month's unsalar- 
ied furlough, but at least they had jobs to return to. 
Watson Perrygo, the taxidermist, like many others, con- 
tinued to come in and work on the collections; even- 
tually, the Smithsonian scraped up the money for back 

As times got worse, the Museum became the site of 
various emergency relief work projects instituted by the 
New Deal. A short-lived Civil Works Administration 
placed temporary help in the building between Decem- 
ber 15, 1933, and February 20, 1934.'ln all, 208 people 
shelved books, typed lists, wrote labels, and repaired 
equipment. "As our staff has been for a long time un- 
dermanned," Wetmore wrote in Annual Report, "the 
C.W.A. work came at an opportune time, and not only 
provided employment btit aided materially in placing 
our records and collections in proper condition for 
preservation and study. The assistance, though occu- 
pying much of the regular staff in supervision, was 
entirely worth while and much appreciated."" 

When the CWA project ended, in February 1934, 
the Museum applied to the District of Columbia gov- 
ernment for similar assistance under the Federal Emer- 
gency Relief Administration (FERA). In November "33 
women, and 43 men were so assigned. Supplies and 
materials required were purchased from the regular 
appropriations. As before, the work was concerned 
largely with . . . the handling of the national collections 
and was limited to preserving specimens, book and rec- 
ords, and increasing their usefulness for study and sci- 
entific research. "'- 

WPA Project 

This project closed one year later, but in May 1936 a 
WPA (Works Progress Administration) project to suc- 
ceed it was initialed through the District of Columbia 
government. For that fiscal year, about 18,000 man- 
hours of work was under FERA and about 6,500 under 
WPA. The Federal Art Project also allowed a bit of help 
for the art collections. In fiscal year 1937, temporary 
help increased to eighty-eight people, although some 
worked only briefly. By the close of the next fiscal year, 


The Exhibits 





Exhibit of domestic chickens, 1920—1940. The case of monkeys to the right suggests Hall 13 in the west ivitig, a disphiy 
area that was divided betiveen birds and mammals. This is currently the bird hall. 

167 temporary WPA employees were in the building. 
"The project proceeded smoothly, not only as a result 
of the efficient organization but also because many of 
the workers had gained experience from the previous 
year.'" ' 

There continued to be fluctuations in numbers, and 
a gradual decrease the next year. In 1940 WPA help 
ended, and was eulogized in the Annual Report: "The 
termination of this project on April 15 was felt in all 
departments of the Museum. Aside from the care given 
in arranging the study collections and conducting nu- 
merous other tasks related to the preservation of the 
material, the cataloguing and numbering of specimens 
were of direct aid to research, for the material thus 
handled became readily available for study by our own 
staff and other technical workers. The departure of 
these assistants brings loss to the Museum. . . . Their 
accomplishments were of permanent value, and it is 
hoped that their service at the Museum was of equal 
value to them in making them better fitted to take their 
places in the outside world."" 

There is no doubt that the use of temporary help 
was a mixed blessing. Some of the collections benefited 
from the extra attention; a card catalogue prepared for 
the meteorite collection and a picture file of decapod 
crustaceans are still in use. But Henry Collins remem- 
bered a terrible muddle made by an unemployed dress- 
maker who renumbered collections. 1. Dale Stewart 

noted that the WPA employees could put a number on 
a bone when instructed, but then could do nothing 
more with it. Waldo Wedel recalled a drunken drafts- 
man whose table was covered with newspaper; an inked 
line began along a straightedge and then angled off to 
follow a line between the columns of newsprint. Still, 
he remembered another WPA employee as the best 
typist he ever encountered. At best, keeping unskilled 
help occupied was a drain on the staff. 

Late in the WPA period, before the free help ran 
out, the National Collection of Fine Arts made some 
renovations, replacing tons of weak plaster, painting, 
and covering the walls with a light-colored monk's cloth. 
Otherwise, little of this extra help was directed toward 
the exhibits. Coal dust was everywhere, and because 
the building shook slightly from the machinery on the 
ground floor under the geology halls, the dust moved 
off the specimens in the cases and accumulated in elon- 
gate windrows. The usual method of dealing with this 
was to open the top of the case and blow. 

Just before the Second World War, the elevators in 
the lobby and the rotunda were replaced; after thirty 
years, it was high time. These were about the only major 
expenditures having anything to do with exhibitions. 
For two decades, work at the Museum had looked in- 
ward toward research and toward increase and main- 
tenance of collections, not outward toward the general 
public. □ 



Chapter 10 

War II 

WORLD WAR II WAS QUITE a different affair from 
World War I. The Great War fiad been a shock 
to most people, destroying what had been half a century 
of peace and tranquility. The second war was antici- 
pated by many, and America's involvement was longer 
and deeper. To the National Museum community, the 
second had two distinctive effects. It caused funda- 
mental modifications in the relationship of science to 
government. And on the practical side, there was real 
concern about destruction in Washington — a point never 
seriously considered in 1917, but one that had worried 
the Museum staff even before the bombing of Pearl 
Harbor on December 7, 1941. 

"For the past year attention has been given to the 
designation of categories of specimens that were to be 
evacuated from Washington in case of entry into the 
War or should air raids come to Washington," read the 
1941—42 report. "The work of selecting and packing 
this material has occupied the staff for months, and 
part still remains to be accomplished. In some of the 
collections type series have been maintained separately 
for some time, while in others types were kept with 
other material so that it was necessary to segregate them, 
with many thousands of specimens concerned. . . . Type 
specimens preserved in alcohol, wfiich offer some dif- 
ficulties in handling, were evacuated together with se- 
lections of insects. Other type material will go to a ware- 
house in another location."' (A type specimen is the 
standard to which other organisms are referred to see 
if they are the same species.) 

Safeguarding Type Specimens 

Karl Krombein, newly on the staff of the Department 
of Agriculture, was given the task of separating insect 
types from the general collection in his charge. Looking 
back on it forty years later, he judged it to have been 
a worthwhile effort, for the separate type collections 
received more care and attention. Any museum curator 
worth his salt will be extremely protective of the types; 

Triceratops in the early Dinosaur Hall, -with 
Stegosaurus behind. 

from a scientific standpoint, they are by far the most 
valuable part of any collection. 

Little is said in the annual reports about this evac- 
uation of material, and the few participants still on the 
staff do not dwell on it. Specimens were taken to Luray, 
Virginia, where they remained for three years. "It is 
with considerable relief that we were able during the 
year [1944] to bring back to Washington the thousands 
of valuable type specimens and other irreplaceable ob- 
jects that early in the war had been removed from the 
(Capital for safekeeping. . . . Return of this material, 
which aggregated more than 60 tons, was completed 
in November, 1944, and by the end of that year most 
of the specimens had been reinstalled.""' 

The Museum had only a single great auk, so it was 
taken off exhibition, wrapped in paper, and sent away. 
The help was inexperienced and neglected to put moth 
balls in the package. As a result, many of the feathers 
were eaten and dropped off. Watson Perrygo glued 
them back on one at a time. Eventually, the specimen 
was restored, but it looked so bad until all the feathers 
were replaced that Wetmore told Perrygo to keep a 
cover over it at all times so that no one else would see 

LJnwrapping and returning the types to the collec- 
tions was far worse than packing them. Inevitably some 
specimens were lost, and the packing and unpacking 
disrupted research for years. Like the similarly disrup- 
tive conversion of the building to office space din ing 
World War 1, evacuation of the types was a unique 
event. Should a global conflict come again, with the 
Museum at ground zero in Washington, evacuating types 
and rare specimens would be futile. 

Pearl Harbor spurred planning tor the protection of 
the works of art in the National ('ollection of P ine Arts. 
A portion of the wall behind the mural Diana uf the 
Tides was fortified to resist bomb fragments. Plans were 
made for the evacuation of some paintings, and others, 
including miniatures and part of the Gellatly collection, 
were assigned to the ground-floor lobby, which was 
considered safe from incendiary bombs. 

An important safety measure was "the removal of 



Plan of exhibits on the first floor as anticipated in 1919, 
but not realized iiiil/l l/ie 193()s. Frotn a 1919 brochure 
(ontaiuiug ten fMiges of text describniir the exhibits, jAiis 
floor plans. 

many tons of heavy storage racks containing geological 
and paleonlological specimens from ilie fourth floor 
lo the ground and second floors of tlie Natural History 
Building. Also, storage cases and many specimens were 
taken from other sections of the fourth floor to the 
second tlooi to such an extent tliat allows free move- 
ment throughout the upper floor of the building in 
case of fire from incendiary bombs, the floor in question 
being directly under the roof; various items of inflam- 
mable material were eliminated." 

Building-Stone Exhibit Closed 

Charged with seeming storage space for these hefty 
collections, a (.ommiitee recommended that the build- 
ing-stone exhibit on the second floor be "reduced in 
size and that specimens that had outlived their useful- 
ness be made available to other Government bureaus. 
As a result, a considerable portion of such material was 
accepted by the National Bureau of Standards for use 
in testing the weathering conditions of various types of 
building material. The space thus obtained made room 
for a portion of the rock series and all the Paleozoic 
invertebrate fossil collections. Then, the paleobotanical 
collections formerlv occupying the northern half of the 
fourth floor were removed as a unit into two rows of 
cases 9 feet high lining both sides of the northeast base- 
ment hallway."' 

Hall 20. G. P. Merrill's old "Building Stone Hall," 
actually had been under scrutiny for years, with some 
members of the Geology Department wanting it closed. 
Not many visitors came to the Museum in the 1930s, 
and very few of them went in to see the slabs and cubes 
of stone, Merrill's pride and joy. Part of the exhibit 
consisted of a series of bottles from various mineral 


Pla7i of exhibits on the second floor as anticipated in 1919 
but never realized, because of the moving-in of the lace 
collection in the west north ra)ige and the gradual 
encroachment of offices in the west range. 

springs, but since the water had evaporated from some 
of them, they had to be refilled from the tap. Edward 
Henderson finally persuaded a friend at the National 
Bureau of Standards that the Bureau might build a wall 
of the various stones. Bassler as usual was against the 
idea until Wetmore approved. 

The paleobotanical collections were placed in the east 
north range corridor outside the library, an area des- 
ignated as an air-raid shelter. Yet the drawers of very 
heavy specimens, piled up nine feet high, would have 
been killers had they ever been tumbled by bomb blast. 
In later years, just climbing up to look into them was 
a hazard. 

Civil Defense Measures 

Frank Setzler, head curator of Anthropology, was in 
charge of air-raid precautions for the Mall buildings. 
Practice air-raid and blackout drills were described in 
the report for 1943: "Twice during the year our air- 
raid defense organization, consisting of approximately 
212 employees, was given instruction in the use of fire 
hoses, chemical fire extinguishers and the portable fire 
pumps. Numerous incidents were prescribed during 
the daytime air-raid drills which provided practice for 
the stretcher and first-aid squads."^ 

For a number of years, wooden boxes filled with sand 
were scattered throughout the attics. Gradually the 
shovels and buckets disappeared and in the 1960s the 
sand boxes were discarded, except for some near locked 
doorways, to be used in case of fire. The measures that 
might have mitigated destruction by incendiary bombs 
would not have much impact in a nuclear age. 

As might be expected, Museum attendance declined 
at the start of the war. Attendance was so low in early 


The Exhibits 

Looking south at the Feath- 
ered Serpent eoluinn and 
model oj the Castillo at 
Chichen Itzd in the Hall of 
Archeology of Mexico, Cen- 
tral and South America 
(Hall 23). The columns were 
moved about 1924, but were 
not originally placed in this 
hall; the light globes suggest 
a post-] 930 date. 

1942 that Perrygo used to visit the guards at the doors 
to ask how many visitors were trickling in. After a year 
attendance rose again. The Museum was open six and 
one-half days a week; when the half day was shifted to 
Monday, many people came on Sundays from 9:00 a.m. 
to 4:30 P.M. From late 1942 until mid-1943, 25 to 35 
percent of the visitors were servicemen, and efforts 
were made to accommodate them. "In the Natural His- 
tory Building a program of Sunday docent service for 
guiding parties through the Museum, was inaugurated. 
A number of women U.S.O. volunteers were especially 
trained to act as guides, and the "tours' conducted by 
them proved very popular. During the period covering 
the last 35 Sundays of the fiscal year [1944], over 5,000 
members of the military personnel took advantage of 
this guide service.'"' 

Wartime Service 

The scientists were by no means immune from wartime 
service. In the Department of Anthropology alone, 25 
percent of the staff left. J. ¥. Gates Clarke, an ento- 
mologist then with the Department of Agriculture, held 
I a reserve commission and was gone by February 1942. 
Karl Krombein, who later transferred from Agriculture 
to Museum, stayed in the Air Force Reserve even after 
the war and retired as a full colonel. T. Dale Stewart 
taught human anatomy in a medical college in Missouri. 
Others, like new assistant curator of birds S. Dillon 
Ripley, joined the Office of Strategic Services. The State 
Department recognized that it was important to 

strengthen ties with Latin America, and Waldo Schmitt 
was one of the first ambassadors of good will to be 
dispatched. "Uncle Waldo" returned successful — char- 
acteristically, bearing large collections of invertebrates. 

Fhe Museum's real effort was not in entertaining 
visitors or protecting specimens, but in providing in- 
formation. For the first time the nation was heavily 
involved in Asia and the Pacific. Not many people had 
knowledge of the area, but a few staff members had 
collected specimens in these regions or knew them from 
the literature. The staff and the library were over- 
whelmed with requests for data on such topics as "cam- 
ouflage plants; natural vegetation of specific regions 
. . . ; the use of land, fresh-water and marine animals 
for food, the palatability of the flesh thereof , and meth- 
ods of capture; the serviceability of hides and skins for 
various purposes; disease transmission; . . . marine 
fouling organisms, bibliographic surveys; recommen- 
dations regarding personnel."' 4"he list was more than 
half a page long, and there must be a story behind each 
of the requests for information. 

The Museum staff was called upon for a great deal 
of on-the-spot instruction, some having to do with dan- 
gerous animals. "Assistance was given the Army Med- 
ical School and the National Naval Medical Center, as 
well as various Army and Navy training centers 
throughout the country, by supplying well-preserved 
material of insects and Acarina [mites and ticks] that 
are involved in human health problems. About 1,200 
specimens were specially mounted on pins, and ap- 

World War II 


Hall of Extinct Monsters (Hall 2) with Diana of the 
Tides on tlie loall in tlw distance and one of the few 
benches in the building in the foreground. Taken after 
1932 from the second floor rotunda, looking east. The 
Zeuglodon has been displaced from center stage by the 
Diplodocus. Triceratops is behind Diplodocus, and 
behind it are both the skeleton mid papier-mache 

An cail\ ,7( >/' of the Di))osaur Hall with Triteiatops mid 
skeletons of the toothed whale (f oreground), f lanked by a 
mastodon and Irish Elk. Date unknown, but before 1930 
arid probably bef ore World W ar 1 , judging from the pa ucity 
of material iti the hall. 


proximately 450 slide mounts were made for such train- 
ing centers. During the year [1943] nearly 200 Army 
and Navy officers who were being assigned to malaria 
survey or control units, or to other activities concerned 
with human-health problems, have received some in- 
struction or other help from personnel of this divi- 

During the early days of the war, groups of six or 
eight servicemen would appear at the north door, hav- 
ing been given oral orders to report to the Museum, 
but no specifics. The guards would call Perrygo, who 
would take the men in hand and provide instruction 
on how to collect fleas and parasites from small mam- 
mals. They would go out in the field, set traps, and 
catch mice; the bodies were put in bags while still warm — 
before the fleas hopped off. After a week or so of this, 
the official papers would arrive ordering the men to 
learn how to collect fleas. Some of these trainees went 
on to become professional biologists after the war. 

Survival Booklet 

An absolutely basic booklet in the war was the Navy's 
Sumival on Land and Sea, to which every department of 
the Museum contributed data. The Smithsonian's War 
Background Studies was a major accomplishment, the 
first volume being published six months after the war 
began. For the first time, large numbers of American 
armed forces were in places where the general concepts 
of western civilization and culture did not apply. How 
much these studies helped smooth cultural shock on 
both sides can never be evaluated, but there is no doubt 
that they were important. 

"Though it cannot be told here or now," Wetmore 
wrote in 1943, "the story of the Museum's participation 
in this war is one in which we can all take pride. But 
the story has never been given in any detail, and those 
who participated are mostly gone, like Julia Gardner 
of the Geological Survey, who determined the launch- 
ing site of a captured Japanese fire balloon by studying 
the microfossils in a bag of its sand ballast. Rumor has 
it that the migration routes of Pacific snapping shrimp 
were plotted so that American submarines could nestle 
up to them when threatened, for the sounds of these 
crustaceans confused the sonar on Japanese ships. 

A Sad Year for the Museum 

The year 1943 was not a happy one at the Museum. 
Miss Rathbun died, ending half a century of study of 
crabs. And "with the death of Dr. Leonhard Stejneger 
on February 28, the Department and the Museum suf- 
fered an irreparable loss. He had been head curator of 
the department of biology for the past 32 years. As man 
and as scientist, he was noted for his breadth of knowl- 
edge, depth of understanding, and, above all, for his 
clear thinking.""* Because Stejneger had held a presi- 
dential appointment, he was immune from Civil Service 
regulations and was still an employee at the age of 

The Exhibits 

Mammal groups in the 
central hall of the west wing 
(Hull 16) in the later 193ds 
or 1940s. The Wapiti (Cer- 
vus) are still on exhibit; the 
glass eyes, painted with oil 
paint on the interior, are 
becoming opaque with age as 
the paint pulls away from the 
glass. Behind the Wapiti is 
the buffalo group assembled 
by William Hornaday. To 
the right, seen through the 
glass of the case, are the 
mountain goats fOreamnos). 
Because one of them is lying 
down, this may not be the 
same group as is currently 

ninety-two. When he was in his eighties his doctor for- 
bade him to do any more waltzing, as he became too 
dizzy. Had he not been injured by a car when crossing 
Constitution Avenue, he might have worked another 
decade. Waldo Schmitt took over as head curator of 
biology. Although a few old-timers continued to work 
during the late 1940s and the 195()s, the war essentially 
marked the end of the old-time naturalists who had 
joined the staff in the brick National Museum. 

Wetmore Succeeds Abbot 

In 1944 Charles Creeley Abbot finally retired after 
sixteen years as Secretary of the Smithsonian Institu- 
tion. After six months under the formal title of Acting 
Secretary, Alexander Wetmore was appointed in 1945 
as sixth Secretary of the Institution, making official 
what he had been for years as Assistant Secretary. For 
the next four years he continued to serve as director 
of the National Museum, and the Annual Report by the 
director was formally submitted by "A. Wetmore" to 
"The Secretary." After 1947, when items concerning 
the staff, the buildings, and a few other matters were 
transferred for economy's sake from the Museum re- 
port to the full annual report of the Secretary of the 
Institution, many details that had cast light on day-to- 
day events were no longer recorded. 

Just as the Annual ReJ)ort of the Museum never ex- 
plicitly noted the beginning of World War II, it did not 
record the end of the conflict. In the latter part of 1944 
times continued to be diff icult, but by early 1945 victory 

was in the air, and by late summer the traiunatic event 
was over. The staff finally could think of research un- 
connected with military work and devote some time to 
more basic activities. 

Nineteen forty-six marked the 100th anniversary of 
the fotmding of the Smithsonian Institution. The Postal 
Service issued a commemorative stamp, and consid- 
ering that the war had been over for less than a year, 
the Musetmi's anniversary celebrations were not a bad 
effort. They included a special exhibition in the foyer 
from July 1 to September 27, 1946; a scholarly lecture 
by Matthew Stirling of the Bureau of American Eth- 
nology on his excavations in Mexico; and, on October 
23, an evening ceremony followed by a reception in the 
rotunda attended by 1,021 guests. Lucile St. Hoynie, a 
physical anthropologist who was there, remembers that 
the Marine Band Orchestra played from the second 
floor aroinid the rotunda. Wetmore surprised everyone 
by dropping his modesty and leading the dancing. 

One thing that was lacking in the Smithsonian's cen- 
tennial year was time to prepare a detailed written re- 
cord considering what the Institution, and the Museum, 
had accomplished in one century, and what they hoped 
to accomplish in the next. Additional publicity would 
have been extremely helpful, for the problems of the 
thirties had not disappeared during the wai . Funding 
slill was short, and even with the return of workers 
from the armed forces, the Museum was understaffed 
at every level. □ 

World War II 


Chapter 1 1 

New Faces, New Funds, 
New Exhibits 

JUST AS THERE WAS NO post-World War I increase in 
staff at the Museum, there was no significant change 
for at least a decade after World War II. If one counts 
the scientific staff members listed for the three Museum 
departments in 1946, the tally is: Anthropology, eleven; 
Geology, ten; Biology, twenty-eight. Of the twenty-eight 
in Biology, seven were botanists and one was Secretary 
Wetmore. In 1956 the figures were: Anthropology, ten; 
Geology, eight; and Zoology, twenty. Over in the Castle, 
the Department of Botany listed eleven on the staff. 
The number of aides in both years is unclear, but more 
exhibits specialists were listed in 1956. 

Students of administration like to compile tables of 
age and grade distribution, but such exercises would 
reveal very little about the Museum. During its first 
four decades especially, the rate of change was slow. 
In 1930, for example, G. Arthur Cooper was hired as 
a bright young man of promise, and while he more 
than lived up to expectations, his first raise came thir- 
teen years later. When C. E. Resser died in 1944, Cooper 
finally was promoted from the old Civil Service grade 
P-3 to P-5. 

It is equally hard to define generations of scientific 
workers, since many scientists within the Museum had 
careers of forty to fifty years. Paul Bartsch retired in 
1946 after fifty years' service; he died fourteen years 
later. After forty-seven years, R. S. Bassler retired as 
head curator of geology in 1948, but stayed around for 
thirteen years more. Nevertheless, by the 1950s there 
was scarcely anyone still working who recalled the old 
days of the Museum before World War I, with the 
exception of Waldo Schmitt. Schmitt was definitely not 
a stick-in-the-mud when it came to new ideas. It was 
he who in 1947 instituted the separation of Biology into 

Edgar C. Laybourne painting the scales on a thin, 
transparent layer inside the cast of a python (Python) in 
the late 1 950s or early 1 96()s. 1 he model ivill he 
strengthened by additional f iberglass; this tedious technique 
gives iridescence to the scales. Chopped up by a visitor in 
1969, the specimen was repaired and is back on display in 
Hall 29, near the Insect Zoo. 

departments of Botany and Zoology; as last head cu- 
rator of biology, he became the first head curator of 
zoology. It was long past time that botany was given a 
voice of its own. 

A Brief Change from the Norm 

It was a rare event in the 1920s and 1930s for anyone 
to be hired, but even rarer for anyone to depart. During 
the first decade or so after World War II, a strange 
thing happened: Some scientists left the Museum staff. 
Those in the shops, char force, and guards had come 
and gone, but the turnover rate of scientific staff from 
the inception of the Museum until World War II was 
essentially zero; no one ever left, whether he was paid 
or not. 

Again in the 1960s and 1970s, very few of the per- 
manent scientific staff left for greener pastures. It is a 
little hard to account for what happened in between. 
The war was followed by a tremendous boom in aca- 
demic science, which led in turn to new opportunities 
in industry and greater mobility of society at large. 
Perhaps the stodginess and stinginess of the Museum 
and the life of a curator no longer appealed to those 
who had seen a lot of the world. Certainly the "young 
tigers" who joined the staff in the late 1940s were far 
more outspoken than their predecessors in their efforts 
to institute change. 

Cramped, Hot, Noisy Offices 

It was not the Museum proper, but its affiliated or- 
ganizations that showed the biggest growth in scientific 
staff during the decade after the war. Rock and fossil 
collections were moved once more, and in 1950 the 
Geological Survey modified the closed-off "Stone Hall" 
into office space. Noise droned in from the rotunda 
and from the balconies overlooking the dinosaur ex- 
hibit on the floor below. Specimen cases served as office 
partitions, and in summer it was miserably hot. Lloyd 
Henbest, who studied microfossils, kepi a rat trap and 
obtained enormous specimens. Roland W. Brown, an 
eminent paleobotanist, used to come to the Museum 
on weekends when it was quieter. The Museum in- 


stalled an exhibit of a Geiger counter and a piece of 
uranium ore on the wall outside his office, but though 
he complained about the infuriating ticking noise, the 
display remained because of public interest in atomic 
energy in all its aspects. 

The Geological Survey had already gained some ex- 
hibit space, formerly used for invertebrate zoology, in 
the northwest corner of the second floor. A "Coral 
Room" was built in 1947, and some of the studies of 
Pacific atolls that had been drilled and cored after World 
War II were conducted there. The Department of Ag- 
riculture entomologists also grew in number and oc- 
cupied all of the west range on the second floor. Before 
World War II they had changed a few of the exhibit 
alcoves into cell-like offices; now there were individual 
cubicles on both sides of the hall, with a passageway 
between allowing what few tourists wandered that way 
to walk from one side of the building to the other. 
Everyone who was in Hall 27 recalls the cases in the 
passageway containing the giant spider crab and the 
giant clam, the last remnants of the invertebrate ex- 
hibits that had been in the area. 

Eventually the east side of this row of offices, facing 
the west court, was decked over to provide needed 
storage space for insect cases. This made the little cu- 
bicles even worse, for there was no air circulation. Dur- 
ing the summer, at least two of the entomologists took 
off their shoes and shirts bef ore starting work. Among 
those who put u|) with these conditions was R. E. Snod- 
grass, from the Department of Agriculture. He ex- 
emplifies the remarkable Museum retirees, for he re- 
tired in 1945 and completed fourteen papers and a 
major book on insect morphology before his death sev- 
enteen years later. 

Swamped with New Collections 

By the start of the 1950s, the staff was being swamped 
with new collections coming in by the thousands. While 
the Museum's functions of record and research were 
going along about as well as might be expected with 
the funds available, its exhibit halls were dreadful by 
the standards of the larger American museums. George 
Brown Goode had warned that a finished museum was 
a dead museum, yet to too many minds, once a major 
exhibit had been installed nothing more needed to be 

Secretary Wetmore had long been aware of the prob- 
lems. As early as 1939 he had declared, "Much of our 
exhibition equipment is antiquated, and added per- 
sonnel is required for its proper care and moderniza- 
tion.'"' But despite his efforts, there was never money 
in the budget for major revisions. Frugality was as much 
a way of life as it had been during the Depression. 
Ernest Lachner, hired in 1949 as an ichthyologist, re- 
quested a pair of stainless-steel forceps and was refused 
because no funds were available. When Harold Saun- 
ders of the Geological survey asked the supply clerk 

for a pencil, she responded, "What are you going to 
use it for?" Whatever planning had been done for any 
new halls was lost in the shuf fle of World War II. 

Although all the Museum departments had made 
some changes in their exhibits since the 1930s, what 
little exhibit work was being done — with the exception 
of Perrygo's habitat displays — was in effect only adding 
a bit more of the same. From the tourist's point of view, 
nothing changed. One quick visit was more than enough, 
as the reactions of local citizens attested. One who had 
visited the Museum during this period likened it to a 
funeral parlor because of the dark mahogany cases and 
dim lights, and another thought the large, open hall- 
ways looked like a bowling alley. Another, taking a field 
trip with a university professor, suddenly became aware 
that the exhibits were arranged to present a logical 
story; but a visitor without a knowledgeable guide would 
have been unlikely to understand the presentation. 

Changing Exhibit Concepts 

In the late 1940s, several Museum committees sug- 
gested that the Smithsonian ask for additional funds 
specifically designated to improve the exhibits. Frank 
Taylor, a curator in the Arts and Industries Building 
and a "museum man" of the Goode mold, wrote a care- 
ful justification of the need for $300,000 to fund a 
change in the public displays. He became chairman of 
an overall exhibits committee that changed the concept 
of exhibits throughout the Smithsonian. The others on 
this original committee were Paul Gardner, then with 
the National Collection of Fine Arts; Herbert Fried- 
mann, the curator of birds; and John C. Ewers, associate 
curator of anthropology. Ewers, already an outstanding 
ethnologist of American Indians when he joined the 
staff in 1946, had made displays for the National Park 
Service and had planned, designed, and executed the 
Plains Indian Museum in Browning, Montana. The Na- 
tional Museum hired him with the expectation that 
because of his interest and experience, he might be able 
to do something to improve the displays in addition to 
his research." 

Another key appointment from the standpoint of 
exhibits was Clifford Evans, who came to the Depart- 
ment of Anthropology in 1951. In the thirty years be- 
fore he died, he did a great deal of research on Latin 
America in partnership with his wife, Betty Meggers. 
He aroused not only his department but the Museum 
in general. He was a person of forceful opinions, and 
though some of his ideas were not accepted, they were 
never ignored.' 

Evans and Meggers were intrigued by the new idea 
of possible human contact between Japan and South 
America, and they soon installed a case with a few ob- 
jects and maps near the elevator in the second-floor 
west north hall, adjacent to the mummies. It was the 
first new scientific exhibit for anthropology in about 
forty years. Shortly thereafter, they went into the east 


The Exhibits 

Fam ily group of Smith 
Sound Eskimos from Green- 
land, in the Hall of Eskimo 
and Indian Groups (Hall 9) 
before 1916. The group is 
discussed in the Smithsonian 
Institution Annual Report 
for 1920. To the righL 
below the Calliu Indian 
paintings, is a case oj North- 
west Coast Indian artifacts, 
and betxoeen them and the 
totem pole is a house front, 
mostly obscured by the case. 
The totem pole is situated in 
Hall 10, to the east. 

Polar Eskimo group, 1956 or 1957 . The group has been renamed and reclothed s/nce the 1920s. Located at the south nut 
of Hall 9, this high-visthility display is seen by anyone walking from the south door to the Museum Shop. 

New Faces, New Funds, New Exhibits 






i| |1 1 


^^^^^ ° 



II <fV 771'// N0I1VA313 HliJON 


1; ! 





Design sketch for Hall 11, drawn in the early 1950s before the installation of nexv and refurbished exhibits. The Hopi snake 
dancers are on the south side near the center of the hall. 

north hall on the second floor, devoted to South Amer- 
ican Indians, and planned a major revision. Because 
no one else dared to do it, they came down on a Sat- 
urday and painted the back of one mahogany case a 
striking blood-red. Assistant Secretary Kellogg stated 
that the red had to go, but there was a new Secretary 
coming in who, as a psychologist, liked colors and their 
effect on the public . 

Carmichael Succeeds Wetmore 

At the end of 1952 Alexander Wetmore voluntarily 
stepped down and went back to work full-time in his 
office in the Division of Birds. He commented that he 
had "seen the unfortunate results ot c linging to posi- 
tions tocj long and [that] he was resolved not to make 
that error."* fiis successor, Leonard Carmichael, a dis- 
tinguished scientist and educator, looV. ciffice on Jan- 
uary 2, 1953, as seventh Secretary of the Smithsonian 

Carmichael had deflnitejdeas abc:)ut modernizing the 
exhibits and expanding the Institution, and was able 
to set them in motion. By Jinie 28, 1955, he had ob- 
tained congressional authorization to plan and con- 
struct, to the west of the Natural History Building, the 
Museum of History and Technology; it was opened to 
the public less than nine years later. (The structure is 
now called the National Museum of American History, 
and demonstrates that it is not a good idea to carve a 
name in stone hastily.) Carmichael was able to obtain 
significant increases in finiding for the modernization 
of old exhibits in the Natural History Building, and for 
display halls in the new building. He studied the pro- 
posal for each new hall carefully, sometimes making 
cinators squirm if their display concepts were fuzzy. 

Major Exhibits Program 

There is no question that a major exhibits program was 
finally starting at the Smithsonian in the early 1950s. 
Many of the staff did not want to be involved in any 
such things; for example. Jack Ewers quotes his boss, 

Herbert Krieger, as insisting that there was no need 
for new exhibits, and that the staff need only "polish 
up the old Rolls-Royce." Yet the hall completed by Ev- 
ans and Meggers had made every other antiquated hall 
locjk even dowdier by comparison. This convinced some 
of the staff that exhibits work could be done, and even 
convinced some of the old-timers that it should be done. 

John E. Anglim, frustrated during his career as a pot 
restorer, now blossomed as a creative designer and dis- 
play specialist. He juxtaposed stone tools with drawings 
of their present-day morphologic equivalents. His idea 
of painting the mahogany cases gray was upsetting to 
some curators, but this color emphasized the object 
rather than the case. When an electrician suggested 
that he could light certain objects better if their posi- 
tions in the case were reversed, this was done. Anglim 
went on to become the head of the exhibits program. 

Meanwhile, Evans and Meggers invented a first-rate 
technique for labeling. They would ask one of the paint- 
ers to come dcjwn off his ladder and read the label; if 
he did not understand it, the text was changed. On the 
completion of the first new hall, they put up a plaque 
listing the names cjf the carpenters, painters, and elec- 
tricians from the shops who had helped construct it. 
Despite the tensions built into this kind of work, the 
atmosphere was one of celebration. The biggest point 
of disagreement was that Anglim detested lavender and 
refused each time Meggers wanted it. (He was prompt 
to note that in an electrical fire years later, a doll case 
done in lavender was almost the only casualty.)^ 

New Exhibition Halls 

On April 14, 1954, according to ihe Annual Report, "the 
first wholly new exhibition hall to be completed in many 
years at the Smithsonian, 'Highlights of Latin American 
Archeology,' was opened to the public. . . . This new 
hall shows many departures for us in modern museum 
techniques, in lighting, and in the use of color."'' The 
press gave it excellent reviews,' as did the experts and 
dignitaries attending its formal opening, the premier 


The Exhibits 

Hopi Indian snake-dance group in a modern case on the south side of Hall 11; the labels are below, at the Jront of the case. 
A similar photograph appears in the Annual Report for 1955. 

cultural event of Pan-American week. Secretary and 
Mrs. Carmichael, in order to be present, gave up the 
voyage on the Queen Maty that they had planned and 
traveled to Europe by air instead. 

The following year saw the opening of "Indians of 
the Americas" (Hall 11) on the first floor in the west 
north range. This was the first overhauling clearly un- 
der the aegis of Friedmann, chairman of the natural 
history exhibits group. Ewers, who did an excellent job 
on it, described the strong and weak points of the hall 
before its renovation: 

Visitors to this hall used to be impressed by the 
sheer number of exhibits and objects on view — 
more than 6,500 specimens. The magnitude of the 
collections could be sensed by merely walking 
through the hall without stopping to examine a 
single exhibit. But what did it all mean? . . . Yet 
there were islands of interest in that uncharted sea 
of information that comprised the old installation. 
These were the always popular, large groups of 
life-sized figures of Indians wearing real articles of 
clothing and engaging in typical activities 
demonstrating the making or uses of tools and 

domestic utensils, weapons and handicrafts. These 
exhibits were designed by the talented artist- 
anthropologist, William H. Holmes, some of them 
more than half a century ago. They were some of 
the oldest exhibits in the museum. Yet they 
possessed human interest qualities which attracted 
the attention of museum visitors of all ages and 
both sexes. However these groups were glassed on 
four sides. Their effectiveness was hampered by 
inadequate lighting. Fheir realism was impaired by 
the distracting sight of adjoining cases crowded 
with unrelated materials showing through their 
plate-glass backgrounds. 

Problems of modernizing exhibits in an old 
museum differ considerably from those of 
developing an entirely new one. The legacy of 
high ceilings, internal pillars, large windows, 
antiquated heating, lighting and ventilating systems 
impose very real problems. Still more obvious are 
overall space problems." 

In addition to the old life-size figures, some miniature 
dioramas were prepared. (It costs far less to make a 
small figure than a large one, and only few new large 

New Faces, New Funds, New Exhibits 


Irislalling a ivhdli- skcliiim m llic Hall oj Osti'alugy (H/ill 
28), 1961 in l'^)h2. This is llic jnst exhibit at the rotunda 
entraiuc ta tlw hull, l.i'/l In iis^ht: Leonard Blush, Frank 
Greenivell, Leon L)edeiuh, W'atsini Penygo, and Carleton 

Ltngehach; the three 
photograph of the 
RepcH-t of 1964. 

standing leeie le»ipora)y employees. A 
eompleted exhibit appears in the Annual 

manikins have come into the exhibits in recent decades.) 
"Inchans of the Americas," all in all, was a good hall in 
content, design, and display, and it attracted interest. 
Still, everything depends on the observer. One day when 
Ewers was walking through the hall, he saw a small boy 
standing entranced in front of the case of Hopi Indian 
ceremonial snake dancers. The boy yelled for his father 
to come. "So what?" said the father, taking a look. "It's 
just a fellow chewing on a snake." 

Next to come was the bird exhibit in Hall 13, in the 
west wing on the first floor. Herbert Friedmann had 
been thinking about how he would like to change this 
display almost from the day he joined the staff. Watson 
Perrygo did most of the work — and did most of it within 
a year. The day before the hall was scheduled to open, 
in March 1956, a stepladder toppled into a case, and 
everyone worked all night to repair specimens and build 
a new case. 

Next to open was Hall 26 on the second floor, above 
the American Indian Hall. "Everyday Life in Colonial 
America" displaced the lace and the chickens, and 
whether one called it ethnology or cultural history, it 
was a major improvement. Because of the ultraconser- 
vatism of head curator Setzler and curator Krieger, it 
had been impossible for Malcolm Watkins, hired in 
fiscal year 1949, to do anything that deviated one iota 
from the routine; but Friedmann, as exhibits chairman, 
recognized the problem and got around it by ordering 
Watkins in writing to prepare plans for a new hall im- 
mediately. This administrative ploy — Watkins's idea — 
worked, and the hall was started. The timing was not 
the best, since the contract for the new hall was followed 
in a matter of weeks by the authorization for building 
the new Museum of History and Technology. But al- 
though this hall thus ended up being dismantled and 
moved out within a few years, it was another fine ex- 


The Exhibits 

hibit, appreciated by the local press: "Advances in nuxl- 
ern lighting and electronics, used by the Institution tor 
the fnst time, unobtrusively make the hall come alive. 
The visitor entering the hall will automatically activate 
a 'proximity switch' to start a tape recording that briefs 
hii7i on what he will see. "' 

One day, at the time "Everyday Life ' was being in- 
stalled, the elevator shaft was found teeming with thou- 
sands of ants, and panic ensued. Remington Kellogg 
put out an emergency call for Jack Clarke of the Di- 
vision of Entomology. Clarke was at linich, and tele- 
phone messages arrived every few minutes in his off ice. 
After Clarke returned and took a quick look, he had 
a good laugh. The Museum was not being invaded by 
ants. These were carpenter ants from the dismantled 
old Colonial houses, and now that spring had come, 
they were trying to get outdoors to build a nest. As 
Clarke predicted, the ants were gone the following clay. 

Exhibits Philosophy 

The new exhibits progr am was well under way before 
its philosophy was articulated by director Kellogg, or 
whoever wrote the Annual Report for the year ending 
June 30, 1957. "The curators of the National Museum 
have twofold objective in planning their halls and ex- 

hibits," it read — "lo give the Museum visitor the ex- 
perience of viewing objects of significant historical or 
scientific interest and rarity; and to show these objects 
in exhibits so effectively explanatory that they increase 
the visitor's knowledge, not only of the object, but also 
of the history, science, technology, or art to which the 
object relates. The attainment of this objective and the 
authenticity, scholai ship, and factual content whit h dis- 
tinguish the exhibits reflect the devoted and time- 
consuming work of many fjusy scientists and historians 
of the curatorial staff."'" 

Even though Ewers was in charge of all exhibit plan- 
ning for fifty-five halls in the yet-to-be-opened Museum 
of History and Technology, he completed a second 
display in the Museum of Natural History devoted to 
Indian and Eskimo cultures. Opened in December 1957, 
this exhibit (Hall 9) was linked to Ewers's first anthro- 
pological hall by a map adjacent to the north elevators. 
The exhibits collectively were called "The Native Peo- 
ples of North America." A dramatic open case of wooden 
masks had to be removed later for security reasons after 
a few youngsters jumped into it. 

When it came time for the biological halls to be re- 
vised, the American buf falo group Hornaday had pre- 
pared in 1888 was removed from public view and dis- 

Table 1: Openings of Major Natural History Exhibits: 1954—1967 

Hall 23 ^ 

Highlights of Latin American Archeology 

April 14, 1954 

Hall 1 1 

American Indian Hall 

June 2, 1955 

Hall 13 

Birds of the World 

March 22, 1956 

Hall 26 

Everyday Life in Early America 

January 26, 1957 

Hall 12 

North American Mammals 

April 30, 1957 

Hall 9 

North American Indians and Eskimos 

December 8, 1957 

Hall 19 

Hall of Gems and Minerals 

July 31, 1958 

Halls 14 and 15 

The World of Mammals 

November 25, 1959 

Hall 4 

Fossil Plants and Invertebrates 

June 6, 1961 

Hall 5 

The Age of Mammals in North America 

June 6, 1961 

Hall 3 

Fossil Reptiles and Amphibians 

June 6, 1961 

Hall 2 1 

North American Archeology 1 

June 24, 1961 

Hall 8 

Cultures of the Pacific and Asia 

June 28, 1962 

Hall 22 

North American Archeology 2 

November 16, 1962 

Hall 16 

Life in the Sea 

February 18, 1963 

Hall 2 

Hall of Fossil Reptiles 

June 25, 1963 

Part of Hall 19 

Gem and Jade Halls (revised) 

Summer, 1965 

Part of Hall 20 

Hall of Meteorites 

December, 1966 

Hall 25 

Physical Anthropology 

Spring 1965(?) 

Hall 28 


Fiscal Year 1965 

Part of Hall 29 

Cold-blooded Vertebrates 

Fiscal Year 1966(?) 

Hall 7 

Cultures of Africa and East Asia 

August 25, 1967 

New Faces, New Funds, New Exhibits 


mantled. Buried in the plaster below the largest buffalo 
was a tin box containing two 1 887 issues of the magazine 
CosmopolUan, with articles by Hornaday. At the top of 
one article, Hornaday had written: 

To my illustrious Successor: 

Dear Sir: 

Enclosed please find a brief and truthful account 
of the capture of the specimens which comprise 
this group. The old bull, the young cow and 
yearling calf were killed by yours truly. 

When I am dust and ashes I beg you to protect 
these specimens from deterioration and 
destruction. Of course they are crude productions 
in comparison with what you produce, but you 
must remember that at this time (A.D. 1888, 
March 7) the American School of Taxidermy has 
only just been recognized. Therefore give the devil 
his due, and revile not. 

W.T. Hornaday" 

The specimens had faded over the years and were 
somewhat tattered. They could not be put into the new 
exhibit, and iiidfalo obviously are large and hard to 
store, so they were given to the Montana State Museum. 
Their current status is uncertain. As the last wild Bisuii 
h/\()n shot in America fc^r display in a museimi, the 
group has considerable significance. Any buffalo skins 
exhibited today are from domesticated herds, but it was 
primarily as a result of Hornaday's concern that the 
American buffalo was saved from extinction. The In- 
stitution lost <i part of its historv when the specimens 
left the i)uilding. 

More New Halls 

Major new manmial exhibits were badly needed. Leon- 
hard Stejneger had been against habitat groups, ac- 
cording to Edward Henderson, because he wanted the 
visitor to i^e al)le to \ iew the animals iiom all sides. He 
would not even permit a blue sky background to be 
installed behind the uKjuntain goats. While a iew hab- 
itat groups had been installed in the early 195Us, after 
Stejneger's death, the halls as a whole reflected his prej- 

The North American Mammals hall, completed in 
1957, was done in segments, part of it having opened 
the year before. The hall included a display of Rocky 
Mountain sheep that Secretary Walcott had obtained 
for the Philadelphia Sescjuicentennial exhibit, and which 
Perrygo had fn st worked on in 1925. During the in- 
terval before the mammal halls were finished. Secretary 
Carmichael held the annual dinner for the Board of 
Regents in the west wing of the main building, giving 
the regents a close-up view of the progress of the new 
exhibits program. The two halls comprising "The World 
of Mammals" were opened in 1959. That work was 
supervised by Henry W. Setzer, an outspoken mam- 
malogist hired in 1948 whose principal interest was 

small mammals from Africa. 

George Switzer and Paul E. Desautels were respon- 
sible for the Hall of Gems and Minerals, opened in the 
summer of 1958. Switzer, who joined the staff in 1948, 
became the first head of Mineral Sciences when the 
I^epartment of Geology was split into departments of 
Paleobiology and Mineral Sciences. Desautels was hired 
in 1957, in part to assist with the new hall, and he later 
went on to increase the holdings of gems and minerals 
significantly. Rolland Hower of Exhibits designed the 
new display cases. Understatement being an old Smith- 
sonian tradition, the case introducing the world's finest 
mineral collection was labeled simply "The Smithsonian 
Mineral Collection." Eive months after the hall opened, 
the Hope Diamond was presented to the fiistitution 
and installed in a safe specially built into the display. 
The Jade R(jom, just to the north of the gem hall, also 
opened in 1958. 

By this time the new exhibit halls had begun to crowd 
the old ones, and the National Collection of Eine Arts, 
while holding on to Hall 10 on the first floor, gave up 
some space on the second floor in Hall 22. "Twenty oil 
portraits of World War H leaders by John C. Johansen 
and pastel drawings of the Civil War Veterans by Walter 
Beck have been removed from the second floor gallery 
and are to be installed at the south end of the foyer 
together with the miniature portraits in specially lighted 
cases," read the National (Collection's report for 1958.'" 
Eor what was supposed to have been a temporary gal- 
lery to have lasted more than thirty years does afford 
some perspective on just how badly the new exhibits 
program was needed. 

June 1961 was the crest of the wave. Waldo Wedel 
opened a hall of American Indian life on the east side 
ot the second floor, "North American Archeology 1." 
On the east side of the first floor, a hall of invertebrates 
and plants, supervised by G. A. Cooper and opened on 
June 6, constituted a quantum jump over the old fossil 
hall; its stellar attraction was a series of wax reconstruc- 
tions of sea-bottom life. 

"The Age of Mammals in North America," which 
opened the same night, was the project of Lewis Gazin, 
who had joined the staff in 1932, spent a long time in 
the war, and returned in 1946, the same year Gilmore 
died. This hall included the first of a series of mag- 
nificant murals painted on plaster by Jay H. Matternes. 
Even twenty years ago it was difficult to find a plasterer 
who could prepare the proper rough coat and finish 
coat for a fresco surface, yet this specialized art is even 
more refined today; one can scarcely tell where the case 
ends and the background begins. W.H. Holmes would 
have appreciated the Matternes mural, a combination 
of excellent science and excellent art. 

An alcove of fossil fishes and amphibians, opened 
informally a year earlier, was polished up by the ad- 
dition of a diorama and included in the grand opening. 
The late David Dunkle, who had joined the Department 


The Exhibits 

I'n'luntiliny skcldi I or I he 
Maya SculpLurc Croup, por- 
traying stuneivorking at 
Milla. This group was made 
for the 1916 Paiiaina-Cali- 
Joriiia I )it('r)iatioiial Exposi- 
tion in San Diego. For many 
years, a case with these two 
figures stood near the north 
end of Hall 23. In notes 
accompanying this f)re-1915 
sketch, William Henry 
Holmes wrote detailed 
descriptions of the clothing, 
stone, and tools to be 
depicted. Copied from an 
unpublished sketch by 
Holmes in his '^Random 
Records. " 

The Maya carvers, constructed f rom the sketch by Holmes. 
The exhibit was refurbished, as indicated by the large, 
raised lettering on the back ivall of the case. For many years 

this stood near the north stairs, not far from the entrain 
the second-floor hall (Hall 23) that was completed by 
Clifford EiHtns and Betty Meggers. 

e to 

New Faces, New Funds, New Exhibits 


of Geology in 1947, supervised this section. He esti- 
mated that in the week before the alcove was opened 
he was summoned there at least once an hour because 
someone had put down a model of a fish and could 
not remember whether it should point to the right or 
to the left when mounted. The fossil mammal hall was 
a long way from f inished, and more Matternes murals 
were to come; but since the first days of the "New 
National Museum" it had been standard practice to 
open a hall just as soon as there was something to show 
the public, and hope that later there would be time to 
add objects and correct mistakes. Of course this seldom 
happens, for curators and exhibits people always have 
more pressing concerns than revising recently opened 

Eugene Knez antl (iordon Gibson, both hired by the 
Department of Anthropology in 1959, were informed 
that they were expected to prepare halls pr(jmptly, and 
together with Saul Reisenberg, who joined the staff in 
19.'i7, they established an informal group to review one 
another's ideas and exhibit scripts. Reisenberg's part of 
the "Gultures of the Pacific and Asia" project was fin- 
ished first; it began with an Easter Island head that had 
been on display in the original National Museum. The 
remaindei of Hall H was done by Knez. 

New Division, New Museum 

f^evelopment of the Museum of History and Tech- 
nol()g\, although the building was still incomplete, led 
to Malcolm Watkins's transfer to that staff. A new Di- 
vision of Musical Instrinnents was formed, and pro- 
duced a temporary exhibit in Hall 8 before the per- 
manent installation of the f^icific exhibit. The division 
then moved to History and fechnology, but old-timers 
in the Museum of Natural History will never forget the 
pianos of the priceless Worch Gollection, a real treas- 
uic. Adjacent to the old mineral hall stood the tiny 
piano built for the midget "Cieneral Tom Thumb," made 
famous bv P. I . Barnum. 

Until the 196()s, unfortmiately, there was no one on 
the staff to care for the instruments, and there was no 
space whatever for storing them properly except for 
one small spot on the second-floor rotunda balcony. 
Pianos, harpsichords, clavichords, and virginals were 
stacked three and four high in the stairwells and all 
around the third-floor rotunda balcony. One particu- 
larly hot summer day, the glue holding the legs of one 
instrument gave way, and the sound of musical anguish 
when it crashed, amplified by the dome, was a noise 
that will not be forgotten by anyone who heard it. When 
of fices on the third floor of the east range were vacated 
by employees migrating to the Museum of History and 
Technology, walls were torn down and space was used 
for storing human skeletons in drawers. 

Herbert Friedmann Moves On 

On May 31, 1961, Herbert Eriedmann retired after 

thirty-two years at the Museum of Natural History; 
perhaps "retired" is not quite the proper word, for he 
left to become director of the Los Angeles County Mu- 
seum. In a place that has housed many erudite and 
witty people, Eriedmann stood out. Not only did he 
study birds directly, but he wrote on such subjects as 
the symbolism of the goldfinch in medieval art. One 
day he passed a youngish inhabitant of the building 
who had grown a beard over the summer. He said, "I 
see you are down to your secondary sex characteristics," 
and walked on.' ' 

By the time of Eriedmann's retirement, the Museum's 
"continuous modernization program" had been in ef- 
fect for eight and a half years. As the Annual Report 
summed it up, "nine of the fifteen galleries on the first 
floor and four second-floor halls had been renovated 
and openefl to public view. Each hall has presented 
distinct problems in exhibition because of the dif ferent 
subject matter interpreted in each. However, each ren- 
ovated gallery reveals marked improvements in the or- 
ganization of to])ics, in the attractiveness of presenta- 
tion, and in the simplicity of labelling that combine to 
make it a much more effective educational medium 
than was the series of exhibits that occupied the hall 
prior to modernization."" The general supervision of 
the exhibits prcjgram was taken over by A.C. Smith, 
and when Smith moved up to Assistant Secretary, T. Dale 
Stewart had the job. But the director of the Museum 
had many pioblems to worry about, and the exhibits 
did not receive the same attention that Herbert Fried- 
mann IkkI given tliem. 

Three More Halls 

Eiscal year 1963 was again an important time for ex- 
hibits; three major halls opened. Waldo Wedel com- 
pleted his second hall of North American Ai cheology 
in the east north range of the second floor. While both 
these halls were far better than what had been there 
earlier, neither Hall 21 nor Hall 22 was dramatic or 
inspired, as Wedel, who never particularly liked ex- 
hibits work, will be the first to say. A superb field man 
and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, 
Wedel was hired in 1936, and like Cooper, was not 
pi omoted for thirteen years until Neil Judd, the person 
in front oi him, retired.'' In 1983 Hall 21 was closed 
off to be used as a staging area for moving collections 
f rom the building, and in 1984 Hall 22 was closed off 
for the same purpose. 

The Dinosaur Hall was done by Nicholas Hotton III, 
who joined the Department of Geology in 1959. This 
hall entailed major construction; a large balcony was 
built to increase the display area and to reduce the effect 
of the high ceiling. A stairway led from the balcony to 
the moon rock display in Hall 22, opened for the na- 
tion's bicentennial. Diplodocus longus was displayed in a 
smaller area than before because the east end of the 
hall, below the balcony, was walled off. A popula-- 


New mammal hall in the 1960s, with a habitat gioiij) of hailcbcrst ( Alcelaphiisj to the right — the f irst exhibit one sees in 
Hall 15 upon entering from the rotunda. 

item was a large dinosaur bone that tourists could touch, 
but they could no longer walk under the specimen. 

Across the rotunda, the Hall of Ocean Lite was less 
than satisfactory, and some staff members still consider 
the term "disaster area" more appropriate for it. The 
old whale model, based on measurements taken of a 
beached specimen, left the impression that the creature 
was nearly as flat as a pancake. The prime feature of 
the renovated hall, "Life in the Sea," was the new, ninety- 
two-foot model of a great blue whale. During its con- 
struction, someone removed the wrong rope and the 
head fell off with two people inside, but fortunately 
they were not hurt and only a small dent was put in 
the fiberglass. It was common practice for the director. 
Remington Kellogg, to stop by nearly every day and 
tell the whale-construction crew that he was going to 
retire as soon as the model was completed. One day he 
noted the slow rate of progressing by observing, "You 
sons-of-bitches will keep me working forever." 

Kellogg did retire, and the hall, although it was in- 
complete, was dedicated and opened in February 1963. 
An elongate balcony had been installed opposite the 
whale, partly to simulate the side of a ship and allow a 
view of the whale from the side. The balcony was used 
for only a few months for one temporary exhibit, and 
none of the dioramas planned for it had been installed 
before the stairway to it was declared unsafe. The bal- 
cony has been closed off ever since. 

In one incident, humorous only in retrospect, a vis- 
itor wrote to point out that a California abalone shell 
on display was not of legal size. He donated a larger 
one, just in case the Museum did not have a proper 
specimen. A letter of thanks was sent, but a year later 
the same person wiote that he had visited again and 
the display had not been changed. One of the curators 
of mollusks replied by explaining how hard it was to 
have an exhibit changed — an accurate statement. About 
forty-eight hours later there was an inquiry from the 

Neu< Faces, New Funds, New Fxhihits 


office of one of the California congressmen, and almost 
immediately the display was corrected. In contrast to 
this rapid change, David Pawson, who joined Inver- 
tebrate Zoology in 1964, recalls being taken through 
the same hall when he first arrived and noting a sand 
dollar oriented upside down in a case. When he men- 
tioned this, the person from Exhibits who was guiding 
him replied in all seriousness that they were so back- 
logged, it would be nine years before any changes could 
be made. Pawson filed this fact away, and nine years 
later wrote a memorandum to have the error corrected. 

Exhibits Work Continues 

On January 22, 1964, the Museum of History and Tech- 
nology was dedicated. Attention focused on it, not on 
Natural History, and the year was one of only partial 
accomplishment in exhibits. Knez got his part of a hall 
open; Wedel reinstalled a life-size diorama originally 
constructed by Holmes. A portion of the osteology hall 
was finished and opened informally; Jay Matternes 
completed another mural. Even if there had been more 
to record, the change from the Aiinuiil Report to Smitli- 
sonian Year in 1964 resulted in much less detailed style 
of accounting. For example: "Members of the curatorial 
staff participated in the ])hinning and design of the hall 
of osteology, which opened during the year, and hall 
of cold-blooded vertebrates. The latter is in process of 
construction, and considerable progress has been made 
in obtaining material tor the tropical and habitat cases.""' 
There is no indication in the departmental files when 
either disj^hiv was opened. A projected fish hall never 

"Cultures ot Atrica <nul East Asia," which opened in 
1967, was a hall that posed interesting problems. The 
fust hurdle faced by Cordon Cibson in installing the 
African poi tion of the hall was the Henry Ward be- 
quest. Ward was a British sculptor who had lived in 
Africa as a plantation manager and then opened a stu- 
dio in Pal is.'' When he died he left his collection to the 
Smithsonian, with the proviso that it be exhibited as it 
had been in his studio. Clearly there were some ad- 
vantages in rearranging objects and moving some of 
the statues, and equally clearly there were legal obsta- 
cles. Cibson eventually got Kellogg's permission to look 

into the matter. At the time the Smithsonian had no 
legal counsel, so Gibson walked across the street to the 
Department of Justice and found an assistant attorney 
general willing to help. Gibson wrote to all of Ward's 
descendants and obtained permission for legal action. 
The case went to a judge for consideration under an 
obscure principle allowing speculation as to what the 
donor might have done had he known the present cir- 
cumstances. The judge ruled that Ward would have 
been sympathetic toward a new display, and the direc- 
tor's permission to modify the donation was forthcom- 

For Knez's part of the hall, John Weaver of Exhibits 
had sculpted life-size figures of Chinese Opera actors 
that made men dressed in women's costumes still look 
like men, and he had prepared two-dimensional Ko- 
rean manikins standing in a house doorway so that they 
appeared three-dimensional. For Gibson, Weaver made 
a diorama of northern C-ameroon showing half a dozen 
one-sixth-life-size figures engaged in smelting iron. From 
sketches left by Ward he sculpted a huge figure of a 
warrior brandishing a spear, which was cast in bronze 
for the display. The hall got rave reviews, and all the 
papers photographed the statue."^ Weaver wanted his 
name on the warrior, but the exhibits office refused 
because his Civil Service job title was model maker, not 
sculptor. Weaver quit. 

I he new exhibits program in the Museum, begun in 
the 195()s, had now run its course, so far as natural 
history was concerned. Progress in the last stages was 
by individual cases, not by halls. The Smithsonian's 
exhibits program had different outlets, partly because 
of the great amount of work needed in the new Museum 
of History and Technology. The Institution had new 
art galleries opening, and many temporary exhibits were 
being made for all its various museums and for the 
Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, 
launched in 1951. 

After the mid-1960s, the staff of the Museum of 
Nattiral History gradually shifted its attention back to 
collections and research. Still, the new exhibits had 
pushed the Museum from the 1920s to the 1960s, in a 
single decade. □ 


The Exhibits 


Easter Isbnid head (uquimi in 18H7 atid mstdlird ni the 
U.S. Naiional Museum the follminiig year. This is the first 
display one sees in "Cultures of the Pacific and Asia" {Hall 
8), entering from the rotunda. The Annual Report for 

1962, xvhere this photograj/h was fnihlished, noted that the 
specimen is ten feet high. The headpiece, however, has a 
different catalogue number than the statue. 

New Faces, New Funds, New Exhdnts 


Chapter 12 

New Wings 
and a New Elephant 

THE RO l UNDA IS A GRAND architectural f eature. 
However, no one seems to have known what to 
do with it. At first the architects had a skylight above 
the rotunda, but this gave a bizarre roofline to the 
building. Their next conception was a large dome with 
enormous bull's-eye windows, followed by the winged- 
statue-topped model. Even though Hornblower and 
Marshall were overruled on the ornate French Second 
Empire-style dome, they persisted, and in 1909 rec- 
ommended St. Gaudens's Victoij as the statue for the 
center of the rotunda. Mercifully, this idea was rejected. 

When the iron grilles were installed on the doors in 
June 1911, and the public finally could use the main 
entrance to the building, cases of large mammals were 
in the rotunda. For a time a giraffe was centered below 
the dome. Later, various statues flanked the ambula- 
tory. For a brief time in the 1940s a giant blue vase 
stood in the center. During much of the 1950s the 
rotunda was empty, save for the guards' desk and the 
benches under the ambulatory. It was not until 1959 
that a proper rotunda-sized exhibit was installed: the 
largest mounted elephant in the world. 

An Awe-inspiring Sight 

While some staff members regard the elephant as just 
another animal on display, it is an awe-inspiring sight. 
Shot November 13, 1955, by J.J. Fenykovi near the 
Cuito River in Angola, the elephant was skinned in a 
single piece weighing over two tons. The 1,800 pound 
skull also was collected, along with the leg bones and 
the two tusks, each of ninety-six pounds' weight. Fenykovi 
wrote in 1956, "1 have decided to let a big museum 
have him. There, reconstructed by their experts, he can 
stand in all the size and majesty he enjoyed in life — the 
biggest elephant ever shot by man." ' (A larger specimen 
has since been reported.) 

According to one story, Fenykovi first approached 
the British Museum (Natural History), but they de- 

Huilding the manikin for the Fenykovi elephant in Hall 16, 
before the eluy fell off, 1958. The entrance to the rotunda 
is behind the elephant. 

clined the specimen because they already had a group 
of elephants in the center hall. According to another 
story, a member of the American consular staff in An- 
gola read about the animal's being killed and cabled 
the State Department, which informed the Smithson- 
ian. Whatever the true story, the elephant arrived from 
the field. Although a truckload of salt had been dumped 
on the skin in the field to preserve it, the untanned 
hide reeked, and those who worked at the west loading 
dock, where it was stored for months, still remember 

William L. Brown, the chief taxidermist, prepared 
an account of what was involved in mounting this el- 
ephant. It is worth quoting in full, for a similar pro- 
cedure, although on a smaller scale, has been used for 
some of the mammal groups on display. 

When the hide arrived at the Museum it was in 
one piece so it had to be cut into three parts for 
tanning. Then a wooden armature, two or three 
inches under life-size was so constructed as to be 
disassembled into three sections, head and neck, 
and two body halves. This supported the water 
clay used to make the life-size model. To support 
the armature four giant A-shaped trusses were 
made in order to take care of the heavy weight 
during construction. Because of the lack of 
humidity in the hall where the work was being 
done, a large plastic housing was built around the 
frame. Into this a steam line was inserted in order 
to maintain a high humidity, thus preventing any 
drying of the clay while modeling. 

When the model was completed the hide was 
placed over it, adjusted, and worked on until every 
wrinkle was restored and a life-like appearance 
produced. After this, a plaster of paris mold, 
reinforced with sisal fiber, was made over each of 
the sections to hold the skin in exact position while 
the work proceeded, l o strengthen each heavy 
plaster of paris mold, wooden beams were 
attached, to which hoists would be fastened later. 
At this stage the plastic housing was removed. 


Taxidoiny shop in Built') huihhiig, west court, ivith the Feuykiwi elephant sk/u on the flour. Probably 1958. 

After this, each of the three sections was lowered 
to the floor by two two-ton hoists. 

Then all inner arniatme, clay, wire, and so 
forth, were removed, leaving the elephant skin 
attached to the outside mold. When the skin had 
been thonnighly cleaned, a layer of plaster of paris 
about 'Vi inch thick was applied. This held the skin 
between two layers of plaster while drying. When 
thoroughly dry the inner coating of plaster was 
carefullv removed; three layers of burlap and two 
layers ot aluminum screenwire, each reinforced 
with papier mache were laminated to the hide. 
This construction prodticed a thin manikin, very 
tough and durable, about 'A' inch thick. 

Next, another internal armature of seasoned 
wooden ribs was built and fastened to the inside of 
the manikin for support. At this stage the outer 
wooden frame and plaster mold were removed. 

After the mold was removed, the body halves 
were joined together from within by bolting. 
Papier mache was then applied to the seams. 

The head was treated the same as the two halves 
except for support. A wooden structure was made 
inside the head to hold a long beam from which 
the head would be supported when attached to the 
body. The tusks were inserted and the head was 
fastened to the body halves. After the seams had 
been sealed, the finishing touches, such as setting 
the eyes and restoring the color of the hide, were 

The elephant's blown-glass eyes were hand-painted, the 
legs were filled with sand, and the tusks were artificial — 

the originals weighed too much. 

The mounting look about sixteen months and was 
done to the west of the rotunda in the Hall of the Sea, 
which was closed for a number of years while the el- 
ephant and the whale were constructed. After most of 
the clay had been put on the manikin, the clay dried 
out and collapsed; it was only after that setback that 
the plastic tent and steam house were used. The taxi- 
dermists had to work in bathing suits because of the 
high humidity. When the elephant was moved into the 
rotunda, it cleared the door frame by one and one-half 
inches. For those who wonder how the head was at- 
tached, there is a trap door in the belly of the elephant, 
with the seams at folds in the skin where they cannot 
be seen. 

There was a great deal more to the job on the ele- 
phant than just the mechanics. Neal Deaton, one of the 
taxidermists, also wrote an account, emphasizing the 
study that was done of living animals in zoos and of 
movies taken by hunting parties. "Selecting the final 
position came only after much deliberation and thought," 
he wrote. "There was some suspicion of an over-dramatic 
attitude, for fear it would cheapen the final effect and 
lessen its majestic quality. On the other hand, if the 
animal were mounted in a still position it might appear 
too statuesque. It was agreed to put the specimen in a 
fast walking shuffle, the head erect and slightly turned, 
scenting with its trunk. The ears were positioned to 
show their characteristic flapping motion. The position 
was planned to give an impressive picture of an active 
elephant in a somewhat suspicious attitude, displaying 
its massive bulk and strength."^ 


The Exhibits 

The Fenykovi elephant as 
decorated by the Women s 
Committee of the Smithsoii- 
ian Associates for a medieval 
Christmas, December 8, 

Elephant Unveiled 

The elephant was unveiled in March 1959. Shortly 
thereafter, William L. Brown retired, leaving the ani- 
mal to mark his career of almost half a century at the 
Museum, and Neal Deaton left to set up his own husi- 
ness. Frank Greenwell remains as the only taxidermist 
who worked on the elephant — indeed, the only taxi- 
dermist left on the Museum staff. About twenty years 
afterward, Greenwell and his wife, Pat, spend six weeks 
repairing the skin. In 1983 Greenwell gave the elephant 
new fiberglass tusks made in the Exhil)its Department 
model shop. 

The platform around the elephant has been modif ied 
several times. For a few weeks a piece of elephant hide 
was placed on the railing so that tourists could feel it, 
but when the skin wore out it was not replaced, because 
the African elephant had become an endangered spe- 
cies. At one point the elephant was wired for sound, 
and trumpeting noises shook the dome every fifteen 
minutes; fortunately, this was discontinued. A record- 
ing about the elephant was added for those desiring 
more information than the label supplies. A skeleton 
of a pygmy elephant to place beside the big one was 
contracted for, but the skeleton turned out to be largely 
plaster reconstruction rather than authentic bone, and 
the contract was canceled. 

The elephant is the subject of a couple of anecdotes 
that are part of the oral tradition of tlie Museum. As 
indicated, the animal is in a walking position with trimk 
and tail outstretched. No one will confirm it, but Sec- 
retary Garmichael is supposed to have been so aghast 
at the sight of the large open anus that he issued t>rders 

riie elephant on December 14, 1979, when the Christmas 
dance oj the Women's Committee had the theme of "Babar 
Visits America. " 

New Wings and a New Elephant 




5„U i. t.,,k 

Proposal for wings to he (uidcd to the new National 
Museum; from Ratlihun, 1918. The suggested building to 
the right is )ioiv the site of an ice-skating rink across from 
the National Archives. 

for it to be sewn up. The comments attributed to As- 
sistant Secretary Kellogg are unprintable. It is a fact 
that when Porter Kier became director, he had taxi- 
dermists check into imsewing the elephant. After study- 
ing and photographing some elephants in the zoo, they 
reported that the African elephant's anus is hidden by 
skin wrinkles except when actually in use. 

On April 1, 1960, an elephant-si/ed pile of dimg was 
discovered under the animal shoith before the Mu- 
seum opened for the day. There was considerable ag- 
itation, compcnnided when the laborer cleaning up with 
shovel and broom objected lo pictures. When the fuss 
was all over, the dung turned out to f^e a superb mod- 
eling job done in clay by a member of the exhibits staff. 
The administration never considered this a humorous 
event and spent a long time trying to track down the 
model maker. 

It tliat the dedication of the elephant 
occurred half a century after the building first opened. 
No one mentioned the timing at the dedication cere- 
mony. In 1966, for the celebration of the 200th anni- 
versary of the birth of James Smithson, banners were 
designed for each of the Institution's bureaus; the one 
for the Museum of Natural Historv featured an ele- 
phant. The Museimi's letterhead, more austerely, has 
staved with a drawing of the dome. 

East and West Wings 

The east and west wings, the largest structural devel- 
opment of the building itself since the rotunda dome 
was completed, had existed in theory for over forty 
years. In 1918 Rathbini gave his opinion that the great- 
est need of tlie Smithsonian Institution was a building 
for industrial arts and American history, and that this 
building should be followed by construction of a sep- 
arate National Gallery of Art. He thought, nevertheless, 

that wings for the Museum ought to be started promptly.^ 
By the mid- 1920s, Holmes had created considerable 
momentum toward a National Gallery of Art building. 
While this was still far from materializing, Wetmore in 
1928 built on hopes for the gallery in campaigning for 
additional space for natural history. He wrote in the 
Annual Report: 

The ultimate construction of a National Gallery of 
Art to which the art collections will be removed 
will free a certain amount of space in the Natural 
History Building, but that area will be 
automatically absorbed by the natural history 
exhibits retired to make room for art, and will not 
afford necessary relief. There should be added to 
the Natinal History Building two wings, one on 
the east and one on the west, in accordance with 
the original plan of the architect for this structure. 
These, with the same height as the present 
building will give needed space for the 
tremendously valuable research collections and will 
relieve crowded laboratories, which in the division 
of insects, for example, have becoine almost 
intolerable. . . . [I]n some instances at present four 
persons depend upon the light from a single 
windcjw for illumination for work recjuiring 
delicate examination, frecjuently tmder the 
microscope. The additional floor space would also 
afford a more logical arrangement of exhibits, a 
remodeling of many in more modern form, which 
cannot be attempted at present, and a relief from 
the present crowding, which is often tiring and 
confusing to the visitor." 

(It is ironic that Wetmore used the Division of Insects 
as an example; thirty-five years later, when the wings 
finally were completed, the entomologists still had the 
least satisfactory office space.) 

Exactly the same words were repeated the following 
year in the Annual Report on the Museum. Perhaps these 
words were read on the Hill, or possibly the grave prob- 
lems of slippage of the keystones of the rotunda arches 
(discussed in Chapter 21) focused attention on the 
building. A bill was introduced in (Congress to authorize 
the wings, and to bring home its necessity, Secretary 
Abbot declared the building "as crowded as a woman 
traveler's trunk.'"" 

Whatever was the catalyst, "the Smoot-Elliott bill au- 
thorizing the extension of the Natural History Building 
. . . was passed without a dissenting vote. The bill was 
approved by the president on June 19, 1930. Under 
this authorization it is planned to add to the present 
building so that it will extend from Ninth to Twelfth 
Street, in general duplicating the present structure, where 
the ground floor and third floor are given over to of- 
fices and laboratories and the two intermediate floors 
are devoted to exhibits.'" This concept of the wings as 
providing a major addition to the exhibit area was quite 


The Exhibits 

Aerial view lookrmr south doivii / riilli Shct't. shounng small 
parks on either side uj the budding, where the wings now 
stand. The projections on the south side, at the corner of 
each court, house the freight elevators. In the background 
are the Freer (iallery to the right of the Castle and the Arts 

and Industries Building to the left. Mains Point is in the 
distance, and National Airport, across the river, is not 
particularly busy. J he ti uloniobiles suggest ii dale ni the 
early 1950s. 

New Wings and a New Elephant 


A 1931 arcliili'ftiixil sketch for the two wings, showmg dual courts in each. The architects mislabeled Ninth Street, to the 
east of the budding; the former B Street to the north has become Constitution Avenue. 

different tnjiii the offices and storage that were even- 
tually constructed. 

After the authorization for the wings was given, ar- 
chitectural sketches were prepared, and the staff of- 
fered suggestions. Hrdlicka submitted a plan for an 
elaborate hall of physical anthropology; Wetmore had 
practical ideas about elevators, checking facilities, and 
stairways for this proposed new space. But those fa- 
miliar with the methods of Congress know the rela- 
tionship of that slippery duo "authorize" and "appro- 
priate." Nothing may be done unless it is authorized. 
However, even if permission to perform a particular 
action is given, nothing happens until money is granted. 
Ten thousand dollars for planning was appropriated 
in fiscal year 1931, and then momentum toward the 
wings stopped. The Annual Report of the Museum de- 
livered regular statements on the continually increasing 
need for space, but because of the Great Depression 
and then World War II, nothing happened. For years 
the senior botanist, Conrad Morton, remarked that he 
would have wings before the building did. 

James Bradley to the Rescue 

The next key person in this account was James C. Brad- 
ley, first listed in the Annual Report for fiscal year 1959 
as an assistant to Secretary Carmichael; Bradley later 
became an assistant secretary and finally under secre- 
tary. One of his first acts in his new position was to read 
the authorization bill passed years earlier. He noted 
how little other Smithsonian administrators at the time 

seemed to know of overall Congressional process. The 
authorization for construction had been given in 1930 
with the proviso that the cost not exceed $6,500,000 — 
which, incidentally, was nearly twice the cost of the 
original building. 

Having digested the bill, Bradley called the General 
Services Administration and was advised that Congres- 
sional authorization would not have to be renewed if 
it could be shown that the new cost estimate was com- 
mensurate with the first, given the normal inflation that 
had occurred over the intervening years. Next Bradley 
went to Arnold Spaatz, a retired Air Force general who 
headed the Office of Management and Budget. Spaatz 
would have liked to help the Smithsonian, but the con- 
struction estimate of $19,000,000 for both wings was 
just too high. Bradley then suggested that the construc- 
tion start out with one wing. Spaatz agreed, and in May 
1960 Congress appropriated a sum that was expected 
to cover the renovating and airconditioning of the ex- 
isting building, plus the construction of the east wing. 
When construction finally began, the addition had overall 
dimensions of 190 by 180 feet and consisted of a base- 
ment, ground floor, and six upper floors. 

Mills, Petticourt, and Mills of Washington, D.C., were 
the architects for both wings. The George Hyman Con- 
struction Company did a rapid job on the east wing, 
and finished the building faster than had been antici- 
pated. Its bid for the east wing was actually lower than 
budgeted for. With these savings in the kitty, the Smith- 
sonian requested and received an additional $4,336,000 


The Exhibits 

West ivitt^i^ and west side of 
the Ndtional M useum of 
Natural History, looking east 
from the roof of the National 
Museum of American 
History, April 1984. The 
flagpole is to the left, on the 
north wing. The west-side 
loading dock and entrance to 
the mail room are in the 
parking lot on the 
lou'er right. 





1 n 




1 1 






1 1 




lii 1 





1 1 




■■■ 1 




i 1 




"1 i 







lie 1 






a aa aa aa 

^1 ~i 


for the west wing, though no one can say exactly what 
each wing cost. Hyman Construction bid on the west 
wing and was also awarded that contract. This was a 
lucky break for both the Institution and the company, 
since the same blueprints could be used; all the engi- 
neers had to do was reverse them. Mirror images often 
confuse people, and some of the staff who spent much 
of their time in one wing get lost when they venture 
into the other. The differences between the wings are 
minor. A different company supplied passenger ele- 
vators for the west wing, and whereas the east wing has 
mostly soapstone work sinks in each office, the west 
wing has mostly small porcelain hand basins. 

Each wing was supposed to add 259,903 square feet 
to the building — a precise enough number to satisfy 
any bean-counter, though each time the wings are men- 
tioned officially, a slightly different figure is given. 
Rathbun had estimated that the main building had 
158,989 square feet for laboratories and collections, 
and 75,856 for all other nonpublic purposes. The wings 
almost doubled the laboratory and storage space, as the 
new National Museum had done half a century earlier. 

"The general arrangement of each floor in the new 
wings is essentially standardized," ran a 1962 report. 
"There will be a central area for the appropriate ref- 
erence collection, surrounded on the three outside walls 
of the wing by a series of workrooms and laboratories. 
. . . All such rooms will have excellent daylight and will 
contain the facilities needed for the intended use as 
designated by members of the scientific staff, who in 
each case have designed the details of their own areas. 
On the average, each floor will have between 20 and 
30 workrooms or laboratories, and each division will 
center its activities with a well-demarcated area.'"' 

Lost Storage Space 

Fairly early in the planning, the curators thought that 
the support pillars would be one foot square. Instead, 
the pillars turned out to be round and nearly three feet 
in diameter. As a consequence, about 10 percent of the 
central space anticipated for storage cases was lost. Also, 
the Fine Arts Commission required that the top floor 
be set back, which pared the floor space in each com- 
pleted wing to 209,000 square feet. 

The architects did a good job on the exterior design 
in matching the wing to the old building, from which 
it is set back a few feet on the north side. At the lower 
level the granite has the same hue, but the surface is 
not so strongly rusticated as in the main structure. Un- 
like the ten-inch-thick granite of the main building, the 
stone of the wings is a veneer. The metal-framed win- 
dows pivot to open, and are placed in groups of three. 
These window groups are about as wide as the window 
openings in the main building. Rectangular metal pieces 
of the same color as the window frames and above each 
window add to the illusion of long windows, as in the 
main building. Because the top floor is set back behind 
a parapet, the windows there do not contrast with the 
prominent stone molding around the windows on the 
third floor of the main building. The f reight elevator 
does not run to the sixth floor because the Fine Arts 
Commission judged that its extension above the sixth 
floor would give an unacceptable appearance to the 
roof line. 

At the east and west ends of the wings there are 
double doors, locked except during fire drills. On the 
north side, sidewalks lead irom Constitution Avenue 
to an entry way and lobby. Duiing the first tew months 
of (Kcupancy these doors were open in the east wing, 

New Wings and a New Elephant 


but because this required an additional guard, they 
were closed and have not been reopened. The doors 
in the west wing never have been used. 

On the interior, the ground floor and the second, 
fourth, and sixth floors connect to the main building. 
The north side of each lobby contains two automatic 
elevators; each wing has one stairwell adjacent to the 
elevators and another near its south corner. Freight 
elevators on the south side of each wing open into both 
the wing and the main building. Every floor has two 
sets of toilets. Except for the polished limestone in the 
lobbies, never seen by the public, the wings are utili- 

RemingtfJii Kellogg, then director, insisted that the 
curatoi s personally lay out and design office space, and 
this took a lot of time. Cooper drew the plumbing and 
sinks on the outside walls, as they had been in the main 
building, and was told to do it over because the plumb- 
ing had to be on interior walls. He grumbled, but rede- 
signed. Fortimately for everyone. Cooper had read the 
specifications of the Ceneral Services Administration 
and pointed out that these quarters were to be labo- 
ratories, not ottices; an office is rather rigidly defined 
in terms of square feet, whereas a laboratory is not. 
Had the teriii "office" been used further in official 
corres[)()ndence, exervthing woidd have had Id be 
changed. Parts of the west wing ha\e much less space 
for the individual scientist because ihev are offices. 

Work Gets Under Way 

As with the original building, construction began on 
the east side. There was no ground-breaking ceremony; 
the contractor began work as earlv as he could in 1961. 
Shortly after the first bulldozer appeared to dig the 
foundation, the heav\ equipment broke into Tiber Creek. 
This creek had meandered across the swamp of the 
pre-Mall era to the barge canal that flowed where Con- 
stitution Avenue is now. Decades earlier, Tiber Creek 
had been enclosed in a massive brick tunnel and buried 
about twenty feet underground. Now it ran across the 
corner of the building site, so it was dug up, moved, 
and again sealed away from view, this time in concrete. 
Because there was some movement in the foundation 
of the main building, heavy collections of fossil plants 
were immediately moved from the east north range 
into the first story of the new wing, even before the 
walls were up. Later the plants were moved again, to 
the fourth floor of the wing. 

Only one or two people on the ground floor lost their 
offices, and the vertebrate paleontology laboratory was 
able to continue work, despite the disappearance of all 
its windows. The breaking down of walls uncovered 
swarms of albino cockroaches, and one staff member 
remembers how eagerly the entomologists stalked these 
unusual specimens. Many people were temporarily in- 
convenienced by the noise and dust, but the work pro- 
gressed rapidly. By wintertime, construction had reached 

the level of the third floor of the main Museum build- 
ing. Several offices in the east range had to be sacrificed, 
and the construction crews hung canvas over the open- 
ings they had broken in the wall. One day it was so cold 
that ice formed in the sinks in adjacent offices. 

The east wing had acres of cement flooring that re- 
mained vacant for weeks. After the cases were brought 
in, gray tile was laid around the perimeter and brown 
tile in the aisles between the cases. Every time a case is 
moved — admittedly a i at e event — the bare cement floor 
is exposed, and tile that does not match either color 
has to be laid. The contractors did learn, however, and 
the floors of the west wing were tiled in one color, before 
the collections moved in. Raised phone jacks and elec- 
trical outlets put in the middle of the floor had been 
found objectionable in the east wing, yet the same de- 
sign was used in the west wing. 

Moving into the East Wing 

By the end of June 1962, the east wing was nearly 
done — plastered on the inside and finished on the out- 
side, except for some miscellaneous caulking and clean- 
ing. On August 16, the new occupants began to move 
in. Nicholas Hotton believes that he was the first to 
establish an office in the new wing; he was on the north 
side of the first floor with the other vertebrate paleon- 

The move itself went extremely well, and though it 
was haid physical work and the whole process took 
about six months, everyone who participated recalls the 
time with pleasure. Curators lugged cases along with 
workmen. Not a single drawer was dropped. One of 
the items that sticks in the memory was moving some 
cases of Geological Survey fossils in the third-floor hall 
and uncovering a door that had been hidden for dec- 
ades. On it was lettered the name of E. O. Ulrich, then 
dead for twenty years. One social event was a party 
given by S. H. Mamay to dedicate the paleobotanical 
library, in which he installed the painting Death Pre- 
ferred. A lot of people marveled at all the empty space 
in the new wing. Cooper, ever the realist, is reported 
to have said, "It won't last long." 

According to plan, the east wing was to accommodate 
the Division of Birds on the top floor, the Division of 
MoUusks on a large part of the fifth floor, and "prac- 
tically all the functions of the Department of Geology 
and the activities associated with it" on the remaining 
four and one-half floors.'" This basic layout was not 
followed entirely, for the anthropologists were given 
about one-third of the fifth floor for a storage area. As 
a consequence. Tertiary fossils had to be distributed 
beween the fourth floor and the basement. 

The basement was designed for indoor parking, and 
for about fifteen months many employees lived in the 
lap of luxury. It soon became obvious that the wing was 
full, and the cars were pushed out to make room for 
collections and some of the shops. The entrance to the 


The Exhibits 

Movins; drawers of fossil invertchrales nilo (he east iving, 1962. 

basement was too low to admit a large truck, and twenty 
years later, when the fossils were being moved to the 
new Silver Hill facility, this architectural oversight led 
to strong words. 

The Arrival of Air Conditioning 

Air conditioning came in with the new wing. Old-timers 
hailed it as a momentous break with the past, and Frank 
Taylor, then director of the United States National Mu- 
seum, produced a nice homily on the occasion: "Visiting 
the Museum is now much more pleasant for the hundreds 
of thousands of summer visitors, who as a result, are 
induced to stay longer and absorb more of the instruc- 
tion and inspiration that exhibits provide."" 

But air conditioning was a new concept for the Mu- 
seum, and the engineers could not get it to work prop- 
erly. When members of the staff managed to contrive 
keys to open the pivoting windows, the captain of the 
guards announced under orders that when rounds were 
made, "every danm window in the wing has got to be 
closed." An anonymous voice from the rear mentioned 
that Dr. Kellogg liked his window open, and the order 
was modified to, "Well, every other damn window in the 
wing' has got to be closed." Despite perennial problems, 
the climate control eventually got somewhat better, but 
the north side of the building is always too cold and 
the south side is always too warm. 

During the early days in the east wing, the cleaning 
force could not cope with the extra work. One day a 
memorandum from "Buildings Maintenance" ap- 
peared under every door, indicating how difficult it 
was for the cleaning staff to keep ahead of the slovenly 
scientists. It further noted that henceforth all scientists 
were expected to clean their own offices and that brooms 
would be placed on each floor. The scientists were in- 
censed, and when the building superintendent found 
out about it he was incensed, and sent someone around 
to collect all copies of the spurious memo. Porter Kier 
still has the original copy he wrote. 

Entomologists Move Out 

There were many more scientists along the west side 
of the building than along the east side. The largest 
group was the entomologists in Hall 27 on the second 
floor. In 1962, when space was needed for construction 
of the west wing and renovation of the main building, 
they volunteered to move to the Bergman Laundry 
building in northwest Washington for what was sup- 
posed to be a couple of years, but turned out to be 
nearly a decade. 

The contract for the new construction was signed in 
August 1963, and the digging began in November. Once 
again the work went quickly, and by the end of June 

New Wings and a New Elephant 


1964 most of the west wing's granite f acing was in place. 
During tlie latter stages of construction, a workman 
standing on some boards in the elevator shaft fell to 
his death when the boards broke. It was the only fatality 
associated with the building of the wings. 

Renovation of the original building was going on at 
the same time. On the second floor near the southwest 
corner, Waldo Schmitt, by then officially retired, oc- 
cupied a mezzanine of fice tfiat he had loaded with quite 
a lot of junk. When an opening was made on the side 
of the building, the decking began to sag, and the con- 
struction crew had to prop up the deck with timbers. 
Carolyn Cast, an artist for Invertebrate Zoology who 
had the of fice below Schmitt's, made a sign for the area: 
"The little city of Gustingdust. Population ten." The 
building manager saw this one day and tore it up. Gast 
then made a series of signs in (ireek, Russian, Hebrew, 
Japanese, and a variety of other languages, expressing 
the resident scientists' opinion of the building manager. 
One day the building manager came through with a 
subcontractor who translated the Hebrew, but the signs 
stayed up anyway. 

As with the east wing, construction on the west side 
was completed with no unanticipated problems, and by 
mid-1964 part oi the wing was occupied. The scheme 
for the west wing — before the ground was broken, at 
least — was that it should "house the Division of Fishes 
on its ground floor, the Division of Marine Inverte- 
brates on its first and much of its second floor, the 
Division of Reptiles and Amphibians on the rest of the 
second floor, the entire Department of Botany on the 
third and fourth floors, and the Division of Insects on 
the tilth and sixth floors, a portion of which will also 
provide some storage space foi the Division of Mam- 
mals, which otherwise will occupy the adjacent top floor 
of the west part of the adjacent building."'" 

Moving into West Wing 

\ hc Dixision of Fishes was first into the wing, with 
Leonard Schultz overseeing the move. Ernest Lachner 
employed a dozen high school students to help the 
Smithsonian labor force, and had the other curators 
and Fish and Wildlife biologists stationed at strategic 
places. A cjuarter of a million jars, totaling several mil- 
lion specimens, were moved in a month without a single 
jar being broken. 

The visitors' book of the Division of Reptiles and 
Amphibians, kept by Doris Cochran, records that there 
was a visiting scientist working in the old quarters in 
the main building on January 8, 1965. By January 26, 
the next visitor was working in the new facility, on the 
first floor of the west wing. 

The moving of Botany to the f ourth and fifth floors 
(rather than the third and fourth) was more compli- 
cated. One of the gothic windows in the Castle was 
removed and a temporary elevator built outside to win- 
dow level. The curators and laborers would move a 

long herbarium case up a ramp to the window, and 
then it would go down the elevator to a truck; the cases 
were too large to be taken down the stairway. Plans had 
been made to bring the National Fungi Collection to 
the Museum at the time of the move, but the then-new 
chairman of Botany, William L. Stern, decided against 
this, for it would have used up all the badly needed 
expansion room. One botanist recalls that he warned 
the director of the Museum there would be insufficient 
floor space, even without the fungi. He pointed out 
that on the balcony in the herbarium within the Castle, 
cases were stored three high, but in the new wings they 
could be stored only two high. Though he was assured 
that his fears were unfounded, the storage space that 
was to last for thirty years was filled in ten. 

Much of the storage in the west wing is of wet spec- 
imens in bottles and jars. These alcoholic specimens 
were placed in large, closed-off interior rooms, consid- 
erably reducing the danger of fire. The curators had 
urged that there be positive air pressure in these rooms 
to help keep out dust, but the system was not up to 
this. Still, the new space for all the jars was a great gain, 
and allowed the collections to be properly organized 
for the first time in fifty years. Had the ceilings been 
just a few inches higher on most floors, an extra tier 
of cases could have been fitted in, affording about 30 
percent more storage space. 

The invertebrate zoologists filled their storage space 
with twelve-inch-wide shelving and needed more, so 
they were given room for additional wet storage on the 
third floor. The Division of Paleobotany, which also 
needed more space, was assigned to new quarters in 
the west wing. "For the first time, the entire paleobo- 
tanical collections of the Museum and those of the U.S. 
(ieological Survey housed in the museum [were] located 
in a single area.'" ' 

Only the sixth floor remained to be filled. Part of 
this was already designated for wet storage of mammals, 
but there were some vacant offices — later used by En- 
tomology — and the mammalogists moved into them. 
After the renovation of the main building, they had 
moved from the ground floor to the west north range, 
and this was a logical extension of their territory. 

Meanwhile, back in the main building, the ground- 
floor fur vault, which had been displaced by the door- 
way leading into the west wing, was moved down the 
west range a few feet. The National Anthropological 
Archives moved from the Castle to the ground floor 
on the west side of the range adjacent to the wing. The 
fisheries staff from the Department of Commerce moved 
into offices on the east side of that range and the south 
side of the west north range, all facing into the court- 
yard. The library got the area facing Constitution Av- 
enue that the Division of Mammals had vacated, and 
improved the existing decking. The rearrangements 
on the ground floor were to everyone's satisfaction, 
unlike the shufflings higher up in the new wing. □ 


The Exhibits 

Construction of the east xving 
at fourth-floor level, 1961. 
Ninth Street t/wn went across 
the Mall, not under it. In 
the distance, to the east, is 
the Army Medical Museum, 
now the site of the H/rshhoru 
Museum. A photograph of 
the east wing with all floors 
completed apf)ears in the 
Annual Report for 1962. 

Aerial view looking north-northeast at the building with 
east wing attached, showing the setting-back of the sixth 
floor of the iving arul the small-machinery building, for air 
conditioning, on top of thai. I he main air intakes are in 
the north corner of each court. On the north side of 

Constitution Avenue are the National Archives, to the right, 
and the Department of Justice, to the left. This photograph 
and several illustrations from ground level were published 
in the Annual Report for 1963. 

New Wings and a New Elephant 


Chapter 13 

Big Science: 
Deep Space, Deep Waters 

EVERYONE AGREES THAT THE postwar science boom 
in America began with the Russian launching of 
the first man-made satellite late in 1957. This satellite 
was one of the Soviet contributions to the International 
Geophysical Year, an eighteen-month, major investi- 
gation of the physics of the earth. For the first time 
since the end of World War II, the United States was 
in second place, and federal funds were poined into 
several branches of science. 

The immediate result of Sputnik was a tremendous 
surge of interest in outer space — specifically, in what 
happened to an object when it came from space through 
the atmosphere to the earth's surface. Years before, 
Edward Henderson had been chided by Wetmore for 
spending his time only on meteorites. Suddenly it was 
realized that a meteorite is a space probe that has landed 
on earth, and everyone came to Henderson's office to 
find out about meteorites. Government agencies pressed 
money on him, awakening some of the staff to the 
possibility that the government might be interested in 
what the Museum could contribute to various other 
scientific programs. 

With the increasing emphasis on outer space aimed 
at landing a man on the moon, the Apollo program 
had a direct impact on growth at the Museum. The 
National Aeronautics and Space Administration rec- 
ognized the merit in detailed study of the Museum's 
large meteorite collection, and they agreed to purchase 
an electron probe and maintain it for three years, after 
which the Museum would be responsible for costs. This 
agreement led to the hiring of four additional people 
in Mineral Sciences and nearly doubled the professional 
staff of the department. 

Kurl Fredrikkson seated hy the electron probe on the fourth 
floor of the east wing, 1967. The probe itself is near the 
circular pillar that protrudes into the room; the rest of the 
equipment serves to detect and record. Charles Fiori, in the 
background, makes adjustments on the machine. The probe 
has been replaced by a later model and moved to an 
adjacent room. 

The International Geophysical Year focused atten- 
tion on Antarctica, and resulted in the establishment 
of permanent American stations on that continent. At 
the age of seventy-five, Schniitt went on an icebreaker 
cruise to investigate sites, and with virtually no equip- 
ment on hand, cajoled the ship's company into helping 
him make one of the largest collections of marine in- 
vertebrates ever obtained from the region. 

Expansion in Biology 

When it became clear that the International Geophys- 
ical Year was going to be a success, a group of biologists 
conceived the idea of an International Biological Pro- 
gram, to begin in the 1960s. Although this did not 
generate as much excitement or money, it was another 
step forward for "big science." Under this program, 
Setzer ran a major project for collecting small mam- 
mals, with field men working throughout Africa and 
the Middle East. At about the same time, the Pacific 
Ocean Biological Survey Project, supported by the De- 
partment of Defense, studied bird distribution and mi- 
gration. Both programs added many specimens to the 
collections, but they were supported by grants and con- 
tracts — "soft money" — and with one or two exceptions, 
did not lead to permanent staff increases. The Office 
of Naval Research funded some studies of sharks and 
shark attacks, again on a contract basis. 

The atomic age, and particularly the development of 
the hydrogen bomb a few years before sputnik, indi- 
rectly stimulated expansion at the Museum, curiously 
enough in biology. Museum scientists had collected ma- 
rine organisms at Bikini Atoll in 1947 and 1948, before 
and after atomic bombs were tested. With the hydrogen 
bomb experiments at Eniwetok Atoll during the early 
1950s, it was even more critical to sample the biota. 
Travel money and funds for supplies and temporary 
assistants came to the Institution. I he Atomic Energy 
Commission provided funds to build some decking on 
the south side of the ground floor of the main building; 
this was the first new space added inside the building 
since the decking of the I93()s. Some of it was used as 
offices for contract research associates. 

Moxiiiiij; insect rr/srs from the deck on the loest range, second 
floti) (Hall 27), 1962. aftet this Hall uj Invertebrates was 
converted into 0//11 es for entomologists. 

Changes in Zoology 

Administrative changes were taking place in the De- 
partment of Zoology. When Friedmann, who had suc- 
ceeded Schmitt, retired in 1961, Fenner Chace served 
as acting head for a year befoie stepping down to be- 
come the first Senior Scientist in the Museum. He was 
followed by Horton Hobbs, Jr., a specialist on fresh- 
water crustaceans. Hobbs was the first scientist hired 
from outside the Museum specificallv to be a depart- 
ment head. Piomotion from inside, slow as it was, was 
no longer an automatic event — a tremendous break 
with tradition. 

Another big change within Zoology concerned the 
entomologists. The site they had been moved to in 1962 
was the former rug-cleaning department of Bergman's 
Laundry, just off Georgia Avenue on Lamont Street in 
northwest Washington, about a mile from the Museum. 
The building was spartan but adequate, and because 
of the kind of operation that had been run there, floors 
were sturdy. There were no internal partitions, but the 
entomologists were experienced in building office walls 
from specimen cases. The move of specimens and peo- 

ple went fairly smoothly, and several people recall George 
Steyskal of the Department of Agriculture driving his 
car into the freight elevator, driving it off, and un- 
loading directly onto his new desk. The entomologists 
had 55,000 square feet of space. For the first time they 
were able to get their collections in order and to have 
offices fairly close to one another. 

This new space, as they had hoped, provided the 
opportunity for growth. On July 1, 1963, the Division 
of Insects was split off as the Department of Ento- 
mology, and J. F. Gates Glarke became the first head. 
The total departmental staff at that time consisted of 
fifteen people. Twenty years later the number was sixty- 
five, including technicians and clerical support. The 
Department of Agriculture entomologists managed to 
add a position or two, but their number has been nearly 

There were a few wisecracks at first about living in 
a laundry, and it did not take long for this facility to 
be christened "Lament Street" by its inhabitants. The 
neighborhood was dangerous. No one associated with 
the Museum ever ran into trouble, but there was con- 
stant worry. On one occasion a murder victim was found 
on the parking lot, and during the entomologists' ten- 
ure several shopowners in the neighborhood were shot. 
After a gun store was robbed, the Federal Bureau of 
Investigation had a stakeout in the building before raid- 
ing an apartment across the street. During the 1968 
riots in Washington, there was considerable concern 
for the staff and the collections, but again they came 
to no harm. 

In 1968 and 1969 the entomologists returned to the 
Mall. Though they originally were slated for the fifth 
and sixth floors of the west wing, the fifth floor had 
gone to Botany, and because of the setting-back re- 
cjuired by the Fine Arts Commission, the sixth floor 
was smaller than anticipated. Hall 27 on the west side 
of the second floor, which had been used for offices, 
was fully decked over, this time with steel plates, but 
that proved insufficient. Hall 30 on the south side of 
the second floor was also converted to offices and decked 
over. The Museum entomologists currently occupy about 
36,000 square feet, far less than at Lamont Street. They 
have a few offices in the west wing of the main building. 

Nothing exists in a vacuum in the Museum, and one 
action affects another. Because these two exhibit halls 
were appropriated for offices, a partially completed hall 
of fishes was scrapped, and a projected hall of fresh- 
water and marine invertebrates was dropped. 

Oceanography Program 

The real driving force for growth in the Museum dur- 
ing the early 1960s was oceanography. Using the In- 
ternational Geophysical Year as a model, a number of 
scientists set up an International Decade of the Oceans, 
in a way a water-based International Biological Pro- 
gram. After Stewart became director and Richard Cowan 


The Exhibits 

H. Adair Feldmann and 
Beatrice Burch in the Sinit/i- 
soniati Oceattographic Sort- 
ing Center, l^his photograph 
was taken in the early 1970s 
at the Navy Yard in south- 
east Washington, where the 
Sorting Center moved before 
the Lamont Street building 
was vacated. Now the Sort- 
ing Center is in the Museum 
Support Center at Sih'er 
Hill, MaryUuul. 

assistant director of the Museum in 1962, the special 
position of Assistant Director for Oceanography was 
created. Eugene Wallen transferred from the Atomic 
Energy Commission to the Museum to fill this post. 
While at the Commission he had been a strong sup- 
porter of the Museum, and had provided several large 

Wallen was an excellent organizer and wasted no time 
when presented with the opportunity to develop the 
Museum's oceanography program. "The establishment 
and functioning of the Smithsonian Oceanographic 
Sorting Center is perhaps the most important single 
accomplishment of the first year of the oceanography 
program," read the Annual Report published in 1964. 
"The Sorting Center is designed to provide assistance 
of several kinds to taxonomic specialists both in Federal 
and non-Federal establishments. A principal function 
is to sort to practical taxonomic level the multitude of 
plants and animals collected on oceanic cruises.'" The 
Sorting Center, opened in 1962, was on the second lloor 
of the Lamont Street laundry building. Under the en- 
ergetic direction of H. Adair Feldmann, it soon became 
an effective and widely known unit. Before the ento- 
mologists left Lamont Street in 1 965, the Sorting Center 
moved to a building in the old Navy Yard in southeast 
Washington. During the summer of 1985, another move 
was made to the Museum Support Center. 

With .so many organisms coming into the collections, 
the Museum could not hope to study them all. Never- 
theless, there was good reason to increase the staff and 

hire specialists in groups that had not been studied by 
earlier curators. As one measure of growth, in fiscal 
year 1964 Zoology listed twenty-four names, even though 
a separate Department of Entomology had been estab- 
lished that year. Fhe following year the old Department 
of Zoology was split into two, and the last of the seven 
departments of the present Museum emerged. In fiscal 
year 1965, when this division occurred, there were sev- 
enteen people in Vertebrate Zoology and sixteen in 
Invertebrate Zoology. Paleobiology also added special- 
ists on fossils and marine sedimentology during these 

"Perhaps the most obvious of the changes in the first 
three years of the Smithsonian's research effort in 
oceanography," Smithsonian Year for 1965 explained, 
"has been a large increase in staff involvement in bi- 
ological and geological oceanography activities. Not only 
has the number of scientists involved in the oceanog- 
raphy program tripled in these three years, but the 
number of organizational units included in the pro- 
gram also has tripled. Whereas before, the Institution 
had extremely restricted capability to treat the nearly 
100 major groups of marine organisms, selective re- 
cruiting has resulted in the addition of capabilities to 
examine and carry out research on groups which could 
not be included in earlier oceanographic efforts."'- 

A positive event of 1966 was the decision by Congress 
that "Public Law 480 funds" — foreign currency owed 
the United States that nuist be spent in the country 
repaying the debt — could be used for biological work. 

Big Science: Deep Space, Deep Waters 

View looking north in Hall 
27 , probably in the late 
1 950s. The giant clam 
fTridacna) /,s to the extreme 
right. Beyond it, on the right 
side, the alcoves have been 
closed off to make offices for 
the U.S. Department of 
Agriculture entomologists. 
Some cases of invertebrates 
remain on the left, but 
behind them are more offices, 
with cases sticking up. Out 
of sight at the corner of the 
hall was the "Coral Room. " 

Boili Museum scientists and those from academic in- 
stitutions received gi ants of PL 480 money, which con- 
tiime to be helpful to the pursuit of science at the Mu- 

By June 1 966 the Smithsonian had formed a separate 
Office of Oceanography and Limnology (the study of 
lakes, ponds, and streams). Thus the Sorting Center 
was no longer part of the Museum. A Mediterranean 
Marine Sorting C^enter was established, supported by 
foreign-nn rency funds made available under Public 
Law 480. Looking back, the impression one gains is of 
rapid expansion into a variety of fields. 1 he Interna- 
tional Biological Program embraced the total en\ii()n- 
ment, not just the oceans. The Smithsonian established 
the Of fice (^f Ecology in July 1967, and Helmut Buech- 
ner, as assistant director for ecology at the Museum, 
developed a modest staff. A Chesapeake Bay Center 
for Field Biology was started, and for its first year was 
under the administration of the Museum. 

Fort Pierce Facility 

In 1968 Wallen became acting head of the Office of 
Ecology, and in October of 1969 it merged with Ocean- 
ography and Limnology to form the Office of Envi- 
ronmental Sciences. Although Wallen continued for a 
time as an assistant director, increasingly he had more 
to do with oceanography overall and less to do directly 
with the Museum. In the early 1970s he went to Fort 
Pierce, Florida, to organize another Smithsonian bu- 
reau, and later left the Institution. In 1981, after several 
changes in administration, the Fort Pierce facility be- 
came part of the National Museum of Natural History. 
And when the Office of Environmental Sciences was 

closed in 1975, the Sorting Center again became part 
of the Museum — essentially, another department. 

There was one other facet of big science that left a 
physical change in the Museum. Within the Depart- 
ment of Botany, the idea of a comprehensive "Flora of 
North America" in a series of publications was devel- 
oped. Several feasibility studies were done, and mo- 
mentum tovvai d this major compilation began to build. 
This project helped lay the groundwork for automatic 
data processing, now a standard practice in the Mu- 
seum. There were a few of fices opening up in the north 
wing adjacent to the elevators. The exhibits people had 
left the area in terrible shape, but cleaned up and decked 
over, it would have made an ideal headquarters for the 
"Flora." The construction was completed, but in 1973, 
just before the move, the project expired. The "Hand- 
book of North American Indians," big science in itself, 
moved into the area. When this group moved to the 
southwest corner of the ground floor, the public ed- 
ucation staff inherited the space. 

The volumes of Smithsonian Year for 1970 and 1971 
combined are not as thick as the volume for 1969. "As 
in all research/education centers over the country, the 
year was one of retrenchment, deferred needs, and 
constantly revised priorities," the 1971 yearbook re- 
ported. "Rather than lose any of its excellent staff, this 
Museum chose to keep the people even though that 
decision meant drastically reduced funding for items 
other than salaries."' This was a hard choice. The era 
of big science had dramatically increased the size of the 
staff, but when the cuts came, people were more im- 
portant than travel or even cases for the specimens. □ 


The Exhibits 

Chapter 14 

"Modem Times" 

THEOPENlN(;{)F I HE Museum of History and Tech- 
nology in 1964 marked a major change in the 
course of the Smithsonian Institution. It coincided with 
the start of the twenty-year tenure of S. Dillon Ripley 
as Secretary of the Smithsonian. During these two dec- 
ades the Institution increased dramatically in both scope 
and diversity. For much of its history, one could well 
have described the Smithsonian as natural history with 
a few appendages; after 1964 the Museum of Natural 
History became simply one among a series of museums. 
In this sense alone the Museum lost significance, for 
staff and budget increased markedly during this era. 

Leonard Carmichael, in reviewing the 1953—63 dec- 
ade of his secretaryship, noted the development of the 
Museum of History and Technology, the increase in 
the collections from 34 million to 57 million specimens, 
the increase in field investigations, the formation of the 
Smithsonian Oceanographic Sorting Center, the con- 
struction of the east wing of the Natural History Build- 
ing, and the appropriation for the west wing.' The John 
F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts became a 
separate bureau, and the number of visitors to the 
buildings on the Mall nearly tripled. 

Immediately after Secretary Ripley assumed office, 
the increase of staff and development of new offices 
in connection with oceanography and ecology accel- 
erated. This resulted in new attitudes toward science 
at the Museum, and there were changes in attitude 
toward public affairs as well. In 1965 the Smithsonian's 
Annual Report was supplanted by a more popularized 
yearbook, Smithsonian Year. Because of the progressive 
growth of the Institution, with the addition of bureaus 
and functions, detailed information on individual events 
has necessarily been curtailed, although the yearbooks 
collectively give a sense of great happenings throughout 

Remoi'ing a tree from It All Depends (Hall 10) for 
transplantaliun lo the South American Hall (Hall 23), 
February 1975. The mirrors behind give an illusion of 
great distance in the forest. They reflect photagrafjlier Roy 
E. ("Chip") Clark to the upper left, and to the right, at the 
base of the tree, Reginald J. ("Bud") Sayre. 

the Institution. The yearbook itself has changed from 
year to year, even to alterations in cover illustrations 
of the Castle between 1972 and 1973 as the cupola, lost 
in the fire of 1865, was restored to the north tower. 

Growth of the Museum Shops 

4 he publication ot the magazine Smithsonian repre- 
sented a large step in the Institution's becoming truly 
national in scope, rather than Washington-based; of its 
appealing to the public at large, rather than being bound 
to buildings in Washington. The development of the 
Museum Shops provides another example. Secretaries 
Abbot and Wetmore had been concerned that sales by 
the Institution might deprive local merchants, and as 
a consequence there was no shop in the Museum. Un- 
der Secretary Carmichael, steps were taken to satisfy 
the desire of tourists to purchase Museum-related items, 
and under Secretary Ripley the program expanded 

"44ie first year [fiscal year 1968] of the reorganized 
Smithsonian Museum Shop program saw the construc- 
tion of a shop in the Museum of Natural History at the 
Constitution Avenue entrance and a book shop at the 
Mall entrance."" From the start this shop was a hit with 
tourists, causing traffic jams in the lobby. It occupied 
a small office next to the marble stairway, but soon 
expanded, and the north end of Hall 10 on the first 
floor, in the area now occupied by Splendors of Nature, 
was partitioned off for storage. The Museum Shop, 
which moved to the West Court building in 1976, has 
become a major asset. It is never without customers; 
during the spring and summer it suffers from over- 
crowding. An accessory to each show in the Evans Gal- 
lery is a small separate sales desk in the foyer, selling 
books and objects related to the temporary shows. After 
the remodeled Hall 3 reopenefl in 1981 and a big thing 
was made of the return of the dinosaurs, a movable 
cart called "4'he Dinostore" was stationed in the ro- 
timda for a time. 

Financial Problems 

Just as Museum Shop sales lluduate seasonally, the 
fortunes ot the Museum have lluctuated, though on a 


slightly longer cycle. Secretary Ripley recognized early 
that the Museum had financial problems. Access to 
National Science Foundation Funds had been cut off 
by Congress in the early 1960s, but while Ripley was 
able to persuade Congress to increase the appropria- 
tions for research to the Institution to compensate for 
the loss, these funds were removed by Congress in the 
early 1970s. 

Fiscal year 1970 was a downer, financially. "When I 
first came to the Smithsonian," Ripley stated in July, 
"I was concerned with our inability to compete with 
other institutions for highly qualified scientists because 
of salary levels. Now we have succeeded in attracting 
a number of highly competent, indeed distinguished 
scientists to our professional staff in the National Mu- 
seum of Natural History."' Yet, he added in the 1970 
Smithsonian Year, "If ivory towers existed here earlier, 
they have long since crumbled, spilling their occupants 
into the midst of concerns that involve us all. . . . De- 
creasing resources in the past few years for carrying 
forward research-curation-education programs in the 
Museum became a major preoccupation in the latter 
half of the year. Reductions in 'buying power' caused 
by near-level funding, inflation, and general pay raises, 
have been met in recent years by progressive reorgan- 
ization."^ According to one source, 98 percent of the 
budget in this fiscal year was allocated to salaries. One 
could pick almost any year during the 1920s or 1930s 
and read similar stories of financial distress. 

Nevertheless, in Ripley's view, much had been ac- 
complished in change ot attitude in the five years since 
he took over: 

Scientists and scholars can only be appropriately 
treated as professionals; they must be accorded 
latitude in order to act responsiblv as masters of 
their domains of subject matter knowledge. One of 
my first aims as Secretary was to provide that 
department chairman serve in rotation "from the 
ranks" so to speak, and for limited terms, in order 
to minimize the hazard of an internal seniority 
system that might block initiative and convert 
scientists into permanent administrators. Research 
support is made available to staff members in the 
form of grants and from appropriated funds, so 
that they will act responsibly as principal 
investigators treating scarce resources as wisely as 
they would ftmds of their own. I put an end to 
pre-publication review of professional publications 
by the Secretary, preferring to read them as 
reprints from colleagues rather than submissions 
for administrative clearance. We cancelled a 
burdensome annual report required of each staff 
member about his research because it served 
unnecessary and merely administrative purposes. 
Burdensome formal reporting can be no substitute 
for consultation and constant awareness by 
supervisors. Evaluation of professional 

accomplishment is now conducted by committees 
of peers formed in major research units, known as 
"Professional Accomplishment Evaluation 
Committees." Staff members have been 
encouraged to teach in universities on official time 
(without added compensation) and to request 
changes of their duty station at intervals so as to be 
able to spend a year in study and research without 
distractions of daily office routine, an equivalent to 
a university sabbatical. Travel to professional 
meetings has been encouraged." 

All the items mentioned were important, but the two 
with the longest-lasting effects have been rotation of 
department chairmen and peer reviews. The change 
to chairmanship from lifetime head permitted more 
flexibility, though it also increased the paperwork, al- 
ready swollen by the shift of administrative control from 
the divisional tciward the departmental level. The peer 
review is the most important single factor in promoting 
research activities, for everyone on the staff knows that 
published papers are what one's peers evaluate. 

Research Vs. Service 

Under Wetmore and his predecessors, research cer- 
tainly was considered important and was encouraged. 
However, the prevailing view appeared to be that the 
functions of the Museum were those of a service or- 
ganization — to increase the collections and care for them, 
and to answer all public inqtiiries. John Ewers, an 
authority on American Indians, notes that Herbert 
Krieger would not allow him to forward any inquiries 
to others, so that he was forced to answer questions on 
subjects as far afield as African ethnology. Research 
could be done only in the time left after inquiries were 
answered. This view of the function of the Museum 
curatorial staff began to change in the 1950s. Today, 
the collections are not always cared for directly by the 
curators; the degree of curatorial involvement varies 
among the departments. Inquiries are often answered 
by assistants. The currently prevailing view is that the 
scientific staff should be involved primarily in research. 

Congressional Oversight 

Another milestone or millstone the Institution faced in 
1970 was the general oversight hearings held by Con- 
gress. Previously the Institution had appeared only in 
connection with congressional appropriations hearings. 
No one knew what to expect. By dint of determined 
investigation, the General Accounting Office showed 
that some money appropriated for construction in the 
Museum, totalling just under $44,000, had been used 
instead for construction in the Arts and Industries 
Building. This had been done so that the registrar could 
be moved and to provide an extra office for entomol- 
ogists. The misapplication was viewed sympathetically 
by Congressman John Brademas, who said, "When I 
think of what goes on in the Department of Defense, 


The Exhibits 

Beth Miles installing a sun- 
dial shell (Architectonica) 
in Splendors of Nature 
(Hall 10 A), with Carl 
Alexander looking on, 1978. 

my blood does not boil very much about the Smith- 
sonian's shortcomings."*' 

The Museum got through the hearings satisfactorily, 
and possibly as a result of the experience tried a dif- 
ferent budgetary approach. New research projects, 
mainly in environmental science, were specified in the 
proposed budget, and some of them were accepted by 
Congress. The early 1970s thus brought additions to 
the scientific staf f , though not on the large scale of the 
mid-1960s. About 105 professional scientists are now 
on the staff; the numbers fluctuate in reaction to var- 
ious hiring f reezes, but the last decade has not seen any 
dramatic change. 

Growth by transfer, quite another matter, has oc- 
curred, with many services coming under the jurisdic- 
tion of the director in 1973. If one looks simply at 
budget figures, the Museum would seem to have ex- 
panded sixfold over the last twenty years. But if one 
allows for salary increases, effects of inflation, and 
transfer of people and services, little change in the 
available funds can be discerned. 

Exhibit Halls Undergo Change 

In 1973, after the "rearticulation" of various services, 
the Museum once again had its own exhibits group. 
Shortly thereafter a committee was formed to develop 
a long-range plan for the halls. Its chairman, Leo J. 
Hickey, a paleobotanist, is now director of the Peabody 
Museum at Yale, and the vice-chairman, Donald Duck- 
worth, an entomologist, is now director of the Bishop 
Museum in fiawaii. 

An article in The Torch, the Smithsonian's staff news- 
paper, outlined what the committee planned to change: 
"In the past, NMNH seldom attempted to clearly iden- 
tify the underlying concepts of its exhibit halls. Objects 
were arranged in cases by the curators because they 
were the best, or the prettiest, or because they came 
from the same South Seas island. Occasionally a case 
would be organized around an interesting idea but fre- 
quently it would not be closely i elated to the cases around 
it. The effect is that our halls don't create a broad 
concept of natural history in a way the public can un- 

"Muderyi Times'' 


Table 2: Major Exhibits, 1971-1985, Still on 


Hall 20 

Our Restless Planet 

November 1, 1971 

Hall 6 

Ice Age Mammals and The Emergence of Man 

September 13, 1974 

Hall 23 

South America: Continent and Culture 

Fall, 1975 

Hall 29 (south) 

Insect Zoo 

August 23, 1976 

Hall lOA 

Splendors of Nature 

October, 1977 

Hall 26 

Western Civilization: Origins and Traditions 

June, 1978 

Hall 10 

Dynamics of Evolution 

May 18, 1979 

Hall 2 (center) 

The Conquest of Land 

April 17, 1980 

Hall 2 (east) 

The Flowering Plant Revolution 

April 17, 1980 

Hall 26 (west) 

The Living Coral Reef 

October 15, 1980 

H ill 9 

yjVWKJ^aWX VlciW 

uecemuei t:, ic/oi 

Hall 3 

Fossil Mammals 

Fiscal year 1985 

Hall 5 (west) 

Origin of Life and the Early Atmosphere 

Fiscal year 1985 

The South American Hall {Hall 28), photographed jrom displays in this hall. This is an example of an inter- 

the north steps looking south toward the rotunda, in 1978. disciplinary exhibit, for geology, plants, and animals are 
The ceiling is lower and the lighting better than in earlier used to amplify the ethnology. 


The Exhibits 

Communicating ideas to the general public is diffi- 
cult, especially when most of the information is to be 
conveyed through objects. Even a professional scientist 
should not criticize a hall until he has tried designing 
one of his own, for no matter how an exhibit is ar- 
ranged, some viewers will respond to it and some will 
not. Because the Museum's new halls were to cut across 
several departmental lines, scientifically trained ex- 
hibits specialists were hired to serve as liaison between 
curators and designers. One aptly described her posi- 
tion as occupying the space between a rock and a hard 

This third generation of exhibit halls is coming along 
more slowly than the second generation of the 1950s 
and 1960s, but it is coming along. In Hall 6 — the first 
to open, in September 1974 — "the visitor can start out 
at the beginning of the Ice Age when the Earth was 
dominated by big mammals and end up in a cultural 
milieu dominated by man.'"^ The hall, which includes 
two more Matternes murals, also featured two giant 
ground sloths nicely displayed on a central platform, 
behind piano wire strung from floor to ceiling. The 
specimens could be seen without obstruction, but vis- 
itors kept plucking the wires, and eventually the entire 
hall had to be closed and redesigned. One of the skel- 
etons the vertebrate paleontology laboratory was par- 
ticularly proud of was a woolly mammoth. The aim of 
the preparators is to make supports as unobtrusive as 
possible, and it took Leroy Glenn a full year to drill the 
limb bones and place supporting iron inside so that the 
specimen appeared freestanding. When the hall was 
temporarily closed, the mammoth was among the spec- 
imens that had to be shifted. Like all large elephants, 
it presented problems, clearing the ceiling by less than 
an inch. Decades ago this area was the hall of physical 
geology, and if there was ever a case of metamorphosis 
in the Museum, Hall 6 is it. 

Physical geology still occupied Hall 20 on the second 
floor, but while a few of Merrill's stone cubes and slabs 
remained, this too was otherwise a total renovation. The 
exhibit was a long time in preparation, and a series of 
different designers were involved. Our understanding 
of geology changed dramatically during the 1960s, when 
plate tectonics became almost a household term; the 
hall managed to bring in these newer concepts. At its 
east end are the meteorites, and between them and the 
main part of the hall are moon rocks. These specimens 
may once have ranked third in interest after the Hope 
Diamond and the Insect Zoo, though they no longer 
attract the crowds they did at first. 

Some Exhibit Problems 

There were some problems with the bicentennial ex- 
hibit that opened November 19, 1975. Our Changing 
Land presented the concept of change through time of 
the Washington-area environment. The central corri- 

dor was a forest, but all the trees had uniformly large 
trunks more than four feet in diameter — the designer's 
effort to transform the brick supporting pillars of the 
building. The forest never looked real, and many peo- 
ple headed straight for the escalator. The exhibit stayed 
until the foyer was renovated to create the Evans Gal- 

On the first floor, in Hall 10 above the foyer, the 
ecological exhibit // All Depends had opened a few years 
earlier. It was in part tropical rain forest: "Modeled of 
papier-mache and plastic, after sketches and photo- 
graphs taken in Panama and South American jungles, 
the exhibit's trees, foliage, and vines were enclosed in 
a mirrored ceiling-high silo. Walking into this dimly lit 
enclosure, visitors had the illusion that they were in the 
center of a vast tropical forest — with trees rising 80- 
100 feet above their heads.'"' It was a great illusion. At 
the last minute there was concern that the silo would 
act as a chimney in the event of fire, and a special 
halogen gas system was installed in the attic above the 

"Earth Day" came to America in 1970, and the other 
part ot Hall 10 was a response of sorts to public concern 
for the environment. Its exhibits dealt with various as- 
pects of ecology apart from rain forests, with emphasis 
on man's impact on nature. The many pieces of au- 
diovisual equipment in this hall kept giving trouble, 
which cooled enthusiasm for using so much such equip- 
ment in exhibits thereafter. When the hall finally closed, 
few were sorry to see it go. Later there was talk of 
modifying the hall to a display showing the interrela- 
tions of plants and insects. A giant model grasshopper 
was fabricted but never put on public display. The trees 
went to Hall 23. Some temporary shows were staged 
in Hall 10. including one by the Russian government, 
Siberia: Land of Promise. Still later it was used as a supply 
room and for temporary storage while a new exhibit 
was being planned. 

Hall 23, the first new hall of the 1950s renaissance, 
had been done by Evans and Meggers. The fust hall 
to be done for a third time — by Evans and Meggers 
again, plus a committee — it reopened quietly in the fall 
of 1975. While it was closed for construction, a freeze- 
dried parrot was placed in one of the trees. One day 
someone noticed that nothing remained except the 
skeleton, moths and beetles having eaten it. The stuffed 
cormorants at the north end of the hall have been more 
successful in resisting infestation. Pampas grass was 
brought in from Argentina, though its arrival was de- 
layed for a long time by the American Embassy's in- 
ability to understand why it should accept a shipment 
of hay for transportation to Washington.'" A booklet 
to accompany the hall was planned, but funds were not 
sufficient for it. Later, booklets were printed to sup- 
plement the Insect Zoo and the Ice Age Hall, among 
others, and are sold at the Museum Shop. 

"Modern Times' 


part of one of the murals by Jay Malternes on the right. Smithsonian Year 1975. 

The American Mammoth fManimuthusj just clears the 

The Insect Zoo 

The Insect Zoo is a real success story. It began in the 
early 1970s as an idea of Ronald Gore, then a special 
assistant to the director. For several years it was in 
operation during the summers only, in the northeast 
corner of the second floor at the junction of Halls 21 
and 22. The life in the zoo provided a counterpoint 
and a welcome relief after the cases of archeology in 
the adjacent halls. The entire operation was run by 
volunteers supervised by the Museum staff. A number 
of the entomologists contributed insects, and one day 
a serious memorandum was issued from the director's 
office asking for volunteers to feed the mosquitoes. 
During the summer of 1975, after the zoo closed, a 
vertebrate paleontology preparator worked on display 
in this area, and the tourists used to gather to watch 
him remove the matrix from a bone. 

The Exhibits Committee decided to run the Insect 
Zoo year-round, and it reopened in August 1976, in 
time for the meeting of the International Entomological 
Congress in Washington. From the first day it attracted 
crowds. Although there are a number of behind-the- 

scenes problems in keeping these short-lived animals 
in cages, especially rearing more insects as replacement 
stock, the zoo is likely to remain in the Museum as a 
permanent display of living organisms. To reach it, one 
walks through the Hall of Osteology. If one waits in 
the right place in that hall, invariably an adult will be 
heard to say, "I didn't know snakes had bones." 

Other Exhibitions 

Splendors of Nature^^ in Hall lOA, where the National 
Collection of Fine Arts once spilled out of its bounds, 
has been another big success. "Museum Director Porter 
Kier's idea was not to provide any scientific message as 
the Museum ordinarily does in its exhibits, but rather 
each object was to be on view in the hall for just one 
reason — because it is beautiful," said the 1978 Smith- 
sonian Frar.'' Hall lOA, incidentally, represents the only 
addition ever made to Rathbun's original numbering 
scheme. This area at the north end of the north wing 
is noteworthy for one other feature. Except for the 
north stairway, it is the only public place in the Museum 
where visitors can look out of windows. 


The Exhibits 

Coiistruclion in Hall 2 in the I97(}s. Diplodocus is in 
the foreground, and Diana of the I ides i.s Innporarily 
exposed in the distance above the balcony. Just off the 

picture to the left is a ramp to the second floor. An 
earlier view of Diplodocus in this hall is given in the 
Annual Report for 1963. 

'Modern Times 


The Insect Zoo on a quwt day in 1977. Formerly the Whale Hull, tins t.s the only jj/nl oj Hull 30 currently open. 

Long after // All Depends, in Hall 10, was dismantled, 
a temporary show of Treasures of Mexico was installed. 
Even though this was on exhibit for only two months, 
it resulted in a permanent change in the building. A 
balcony leading off the second-floor rotunda was built 
out into the open space, and is now considered part of 
Hall 10. 

Next in Hall 10 came Dynamics of Evolution, whose 
unveiling in 1979 ushered in a new set of problems. 
Some highly sophisticated concepts were being pre- 
sented to the public, but in addition, it was the first 
time the word "evolution" had ever been used in a 
Museum display. This does not mean that the Insti- 
tution had shied away from the subject. In the early 
1920s, when anti-evolution laws were being passed by 
some states, Secretary Walcott had Abbot prepare a 
statement that was duplicated and passed around, though 
it is not certain whether these pages circulated outside 
the Museum. But while the old exhibits on the second 
floor were designed to convey ideas of individual var- 
iation and of change, the word evolution itself had not 
been used. 

As might be anticipated, not everyone was pleased 
with the creation of this hall, and the Smithsonian In- 
stitution was sued. The United States District Court 

ruled that the exhibit came under the "increase and 
diffuse" mandate of the Institution, and that the evo- 
lution hall was not a religious display. The case was 
appealed, and the right of the Smithsonian was upheld. 
Justice Louis F. Oberdorfer of the United States Court 
of Appeals made an interesting observation: "Finally, 
appellants are under no compulsion to go to the Mu- 
seum. If they choose to do so, they are free to avoid 
the exhibits which they find offensive and may focus 
on the other exhibits of which there are many.'"^ No 
one in the Museum argued with this decision. 

In the late 1970s all the fossil halls in the east wing 
of the main building were closed for renovation. The 
concept of "Fossils: The History of Life" took shape, 
and the two segments dealing with transition from sea 
to land and with the appearance of the flowering plants 
opened in Hall 4 in April 1980. A year later the di- 
nosaurs made it back into the limelight in Hall 2. In 
positioning of specimens and architectural style, the 
present dinosaur hall bears no resemblance to either 
the original one or the revamped model of the 1970s. 
A ramp was built from the balcony on the east end of 
the hall to another balcony extending off the second- 
floor rotunda. The stairs from the east balcony leading 
to the moon rocks disappeared; a platform for speci- 


The Exhibits 

mens was hung on the south wall, and a giant pterosaur 
was suspended from the ceiling. At the grand opening, 
"dinosaur music" composed on a Moog synthesizer 
rumbled through the hall. 

This dinosaur exhibit provides an excellent example 
of display recycling. The papier-mache Stegosaurus now 
on the south side of the hall had been on view in both 
preceding dinosaur exhibits. The life-size beast was 
originally made for the 1904 St. Louis Exposition and 
paid for with funds appropriated for displays there. 
Somehow a wild rumor got started in the 1960s that 
the papier-mache was made from worn money with- 
drawn from circulation. The staff knew better, but to 
resolve the point, several people from the Bureau of 
Printing and Engraving did an "autopsy" and deter- 
mined that ordinary paper was involved. 

In 1983 fossils of ancient soft-bodied animals col- 
lected by Secretary Walcott in western Canada were 
installed in the entryway to Hall 2. An exhibit of ex- 
tremely ancient fossils, opened late in 1984, finished 
off Hall 2, and fossil mammals in Hall 3 will complete 
the jigsaw puzzle. Once all the pieces fit together to 
make a coherent story, one will be able to start at the 
dawn of life just off the rotunda and end up with the 
cave men at the north end of Hall 6. 

Used for both display and research, the coral reef 
installed in the Hall of the Sea in 1980 is an important 
addition to the Museum.'^ Occupying the center of the 
hall is an exhibit consisting of a short movie and a 
display of specimens from the Pacific Ocean deep-sea 
vents. This too has received a great deal of attention, 
though there is widespread feeling that the full-scale 
model of a deep-water submersible, hung in 1983 as a 
complement to the hall's exhibits, is more of a detrac- 

Four exhibit halls on the second floor are currently 
closed. Two are being used for offices by entomologists, 
and two for organizing collections to be moved to the 
new Museum Support Center. Despite this temporary 
loss of space, public display gained new importance in 
1984 with the establishment of the position of Assistant 
Director for Exhibits. 

Educational Programs 

Aside from the exhibits themselves, efforts in public 
education broadened during the Ripley era, although 
several of them had been in place for years. The Mu- 
seum always identified specimens and answered in- 
quiries from the public. Under Secretaries Henry, Baird, 
and Langley, the Institution distributed "duplicate 
specimens" to schools and universities, as well as edu- 
cational materials of a more general type. During the 
1920s a set of rocks and minerals illustrating the con- 
cept of weathering and soil formation was sent out. As 
late as the 1940s the Museum was distributing sets of 
common minerals to schools, and some schools, uni- 
versities, and nature centers are still receiving speci- 

mens. The Museum has hung occasional displays of 
schoolchildren's work in the foyer. After World War I 
the Smithsonian started a weekly radio program, with 
Austin Clark, the echinoderm specialist, taking the lead 
in organizing the broadcasts. The current "Radio 
Smithsonian" is a later, independent development. 

In 1955 the Junior League of Washington organized 
a docent program for the Museum and began to give 
tours for school groups. They were successful — indeed, 
the program grew to such an extent that the league 
could no longer handle it. In the late 1960s the Junior 
League donated money to the Smithsonian for a paid 
coordinator, on the understanding that in a few years 
the scheduling of tours and the training of docents 
would be handled by the Institution. 

In the mid-1960s the Museum housed most of the 
education efforts of the whole Smithsonian. Rooms on 
both sides of the foyer served as educational offices, 
docent lounges, and clasj>i ^oms. The program was geared 
to all ages, from high school students to preschoolers. 
In the fall of 1 973, the Smithsonian Office of Education 
was reorganized and decentralized. As had happened 
with exhibits and building maintenance, the Museum 
thereafter ran its own education program. 

Tours of the halls led by docents have continued and 
expanded. The education staff offers Museum tours 
for the deaf, using docents who know sign language. 
They have also developed tours for the visually hand- 
icapped, and occasionally provide docents for tour groups 
speaking foreign languages. An outreach program for 
bringing natural history to elderly citizens resulted in 
a popular handbook. 

During the 1970s the Museum added two new ed- 
ucational attractions. The Discovery Room in the north- 
west corner of the first floor opened March 5, 1974. 
There "elephant tusks, coral, petrified wood, woolly 
mammoth teeth, and hundreds of natural history spec- 
imens, ordinarily out of reach behind glass or railings 
in the museums, could be grasped, turned over in the 
hand at one's leisure, and studied with a magnifying 
glass."' ' The Discovery Room, which incorporates some 
features of the Children's Museum in Boston, has been 
popular with the public, particularly with families. The 
docents observed during the first year that many guards 
came in to examine specimens and learn a bit more 
about what they had been protecting. More than 100 
museums have now copied the Discovery Room. 

In 1976 the Naturalist Center was opened in the West 
Court building. The aim of the Center is to provide a 
few references, appropriate synoptical collections, and 
some assistance."' Ainateurs interested in local natural 
history come here to see if they can identify for them- 
selves the bug, leaf, or stone they have collected. Many 
of the simpler requests for identification are resolved 
on the spot; more difficult identifications or potentially 
novel specimens are referred to the staff of the appro- 
priate department. The number of people using the 

"Modern Times" 


Center has grown steadily, and when schools are in 
session it is in almost constant use. At least three local 
scientific societies hold monthly meetings in the Center. 

Over the past twenty years, the side of the Museum 
dedicated to the public has more than held its own. 
Likewise, there has been considerable improvement from 
the scientist's point of view. The collections are in far 
better condition than at any other time in the history 
of the Museum. The amotmt of support help is at an 
all-time high. Funding for research has always been a 
problem, but in addition to federal and Smithsonian 
funds, the Museum receives modest amounts from pri- 
vate endowments for certain types of research or 

Modifications to the Building 

The Museum l)uilding has been the site of almost con- 
tinuous modification. The wings are increasingly being 
split up into tinv cubicles, some by temporary walls and 
some with cinderblock. The office ceilings in the wings 
and the main building were torn up to add smoke de- 
tectors. Then they were torn up again to add a sprinkler 
system. The main building is being tidied up with false 
ceilings to cover various wires, air ducts, and miscel- 
laneous relics of improvement. Asbestos in the attics 

has to be removed, and unfortunately some of the rel- 
atively new air-conditioning piping was coated with as- 
bestos. For the last five years, a significant hazard has 
been the danger of walking into stepladders scattered 
throughout the halls. 

One place of great activity during the spring of 1984 
was the northeast corner of the main building on the 
third floor. Secretary Ripley had established research 
offices there upon his arrival in Washington; after his 
retirement on September 17, 1984, this became his 
headquarters.'^ The area was rebuilt and repainted in 
an incredibly short time. 

Down the hall from the former Secretary, on the east 
north range. Secretary Adams has an area reserved for 
his archeological research.'" Some skeletons had to be 
displaced to reconstruct office walls where they once 
had stood two decades before. 

There is one loose end: the enigmatic "Museum of 
Man." The name appears on a plaque at each entrance 
to the building, yet this is the only sign of it. During 
the days of the Smithsonian Office of Anthropology, 
a museum concentrating on man as distinct from nat- 
ural history was discussed. It had both proponents and 
opponents, but the issue, so far, remains to be 
resolved. □ 


The Exhibits 

Part Three 



Chapter 15 


GEORGE BROWN GOODE WROTE: "Good administra- 
tion is not to be had for nothing. As to the qual- 
ifications of a museum administrator, whetlier it be a 
museum of science or a museum of art, it is perhaps 
superfluous to say that he should be the very best at- 
tainable; a man of ability, enthusiasm, and withal of 

The office of the director is on the third floor at the 
southwest corner of the building, with windows facing 
the Mall and the Smithsonian Castle to the south, and 
Twelfth Street and the Museum of American History 
to the west. The room is spacious and airy, and ac- 
cording to many old-time Washington hands, it is one 
of the largest offices in town. For many years this was 
a fairly austere place, but over the last two decades it 
has been decorated to suit the tastes of the various 
occupants. When Porter Kier was director, he added a 
stuffed rhinoceros to the furniture. 

A major amenity of the director's office was the large 
adjacent bathroom. During the 1960s, its claw-footed 
bathtub was replaced by the typical coffee kitchenette 
of the modern office building. The bathtub was a stark 
reminder of just how beastly hot Washington was in 
summer before the days of air conditioning. No high 
official could work all day and go to an official function 
at night without a bath, and the streetcars could not 
get one home and back in time. 

Richard Rathbun 

Richard Rathbun was the first to occupy this office. To 
recapitulate his career, he began as a geologist, but in 
1878 became an assistant on Spencer F. Baird's Fish 
Commission. Later he became, as well, a curator of 
marine invertebrates, and did both jobs until 1914. A 
century ago there were few goverimient scientists, and 
a lot of doubling-up was done to fill all the adminis- 
trative positions. Rathbun transferred to the Museum 
full-time when Goode temporarily took over the Fish 
Comnfiission after Baird's death; later he switched places 
with Goode again. In 1896, after Goode's death, Rath- 

T. Dale Stewart with a human skull (Homo), 1982. 

bun became an assistant secretary, and was directly in 
charge of the National Museum from 1900 until his 
death in 1918. "Out of respect to his memory the flags 
on the buildings of the Institution were carried at half- 
mast. . . . Business was suspended and the public ex- 
hibition halls were closed on the day of funeral."^ Con- 
sidering his close involvement with the construction of 
the new National Museum, it is fitting that Rathbun's 
last published paper was a summary of the buildings 
of the Institution. 

William de C. Ravenel 

There is little personal information to be gleaned about 
William de C. Ravenel, who took over in 1918 as Ad- 
ministrative assistant to the Secretary (rather than As- 
sistant Secretary) in charge of the United States Na- 
tional Museum. Paul Garber, historian emeritus of the 
National Air and Space Museum, describes him only 
as a pleasant man and a fine boss. While Ravenel did 
champion natural history's right to its own building, 
his major contribution to the Institution was the 
strengthening of the staff and exhibits in the old Na- 
tional Museum building. When he moved his office to 
the south side of the Mall after spending less than a 
decade in the new National Museum, Ravenel made 
the Arts and Industries Building flourish as much as 
any part of the Institution flourished during the 1920s. 
He probably deserves the title of grandfather of the 
Museum of American History. He retired June 30, 1932, 
and when he died the following year, a memorial service 
was held in the auditorium. After Ravenel s retirement. 
Arts and Industries came close to becoming a "finished 
museum," mainly because of lack of funding, but crowds 
flocking to see Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis kept the 
building lively. 

Alexander Wetmore 

In 1925, when Ravenel moved to Arts and Industries, 
Alexander Wetmore became Assistant Secretary in 
charge, and ran the Museum until well after World 
War II. Wetmore was the first to be titled Director of 
the United States National Museimi. throughout his 


Will/aiii <ie C Ravcncl. ni a pliotdiimjih published in loud 
iieuisjKipi'rs in 1918. 

tenure he had to contend with inadequate tunding and 
a limited staff, yet the collections grew and good re- 
search was published by those under him. One of the 
pieces of f urniture in the diiector's office was the large 
desk once used by Secretary Baird; Wetmore was proud 
of this heirloom and its owner. Later the desk was taken 
back across the Mall and still later returned to the east 
wing. It is a prized piece of iurnituie. for display and 
not for use. 

During this period it was customary for all inquiries 
from the public to be answered officially by the director. 
Inquiries were sent to the departments, which prepared 
replies for the director's signature. Over several years 
there had been a series of letters from a skilled amateur 
collector of Eskimo artifacts. One day an embarrassed 
Wetmore brought a stranger to the ethnologist Henry 
Collins's of fice. The amateur had come to Washington 
anxious to meet Dr. Wetmore. for he was impressed 
that such a renowned ornithologist could also be so 
knowledgeable about Eskimo culture. 

"Alexander Wetmore is so familiar a figure to sci- 
entists as the dean of American ornithology that it is 
difficult to realize that he has been directly associated 
with the Smithsonian Institution since 1924,"' Ripley 
wrote of him in 1976, on the occasion of his ninetieth 
birthday. Wetmore s activity both in the office and in 
the field was only then coming to a close. After his 
death in 1979, a British colleague remembered him 
with affection and respect: "Dr. Wetmore was, in a 
sense, an old-fashioned ornithologist, museum-based, 
his field work centred round collecting — one who pro- 

vides the facts that others use. He did not originate 
new theories, seemingly distrustful of the sweeping 
generalization, as is often the case with those who are 
very familiar with the facts and see, more clearly than 
most, the exceptions and difficulties that need be taken 
into account."' 

A. Remington Kellogg 

Wetmoi e was appointed Secretary of the Smithsonian 
Institution in 1945, but continued to run the Museum 
until May 1948, when A. Remington Kellogg was named 
director of the United States National Museum. Kellogg 
was the second person to hold this exact combination 
of title and position. He moved up to Assistant Secretary 
of the Smithsonian Institution in Eebruary 1958 and 
got a chuckle out of the fact that when he retired in 
1962, he was replaced by three appointees — an assistant 
secretary, the director of the United States National 
Museiun, and the director of the National Museum of 
Natural History. 

" I he period of Kellogg's administrative appoint- 
ments was an active one for the Smithsonian," wrote 
Frank Whitmore of the Geological Survey, Kellogg's 
fellow aficionado of fossil whales. The Museum's col- 
lections grew from 25 million to 56 million specimens; 
"almost all of the exhibit halls in the Natural History 
Building were modernized, the scientific staff of the 
Museum was enlarged, and many new research pio- 
granis were initiated; and the new National Museum 
of History and Technology . . . was built. Despite the 
demands of these and many other services, Kellogg 
managed to spend part of each day in research on fossil 
marine manuals." ' 

All this is accurate and yet not quite the whole story. 
Watson Perrygo stated, "One day A. W. [Wetmore] 
asked me who might make a good director and I sug- 
gested Kelly." Perrygo was an outgoing, diplomatic per- 
son who had a real way with people, and perhaps his 
suggestion did crystallize Wetmore's thoughts. Later, 
Perrygo said, Wetmore told him to ask Kellogg if he 
would take the position, but as anticipated, Kellogg 
immediately refused. Perrygo was told to persist, and 
eventually Kellogg said, "Tell the boss I'll do it." Kellogg 
became director, but he was a reluctant administrator. 

Edward Henderson, who rode to work with Kellogg 
for years, speculated that the appointment was in part 
the result of a common background — both Wetmore 
and Kellogg were graduates of the University of Kansas 
and of the Biological Survey — and in part a recompense 
for the long delay in Kellogg's advancement within the 
Museum. Kellogg spent thirteen years as an assistant 
curator of mammals under Gerritt S. Miller, Jr.,'' before 
being promoted to curator. This was a typical career 
pattern for staff members hired between the wars. 

Once Kellogg assumed office, he immediately gained 
an unofficial title, "the abominable no man." He char- 
acteristically took a dim view of requests for travel funds, 


The Museum 

Richard Coivan, standing, 
examining inaterial collected 
in South Aincrica for a plant 
hall that never was con- 
structed. Stooping is Regin- 
ald J. Sayre of the exhibits 
staff, and leaning forward is 
Thomas Soderstrom, curator 
of botany. This was in closed- 
off Hall 30 — the whale hall 
on the south side of the sec- 
ond floor — as indicated by 
exhibits in the case behind. 

Late 1960s. 

new ideas for research activities, and administrative 
changes, and while most were eventually approved, it 
took a long time for them to be argued through the 
system. Although exhibit activity reached a crescendo 
under Kellogg, he was far more interested in research. 
About the only exhibit work he participated in was 
supervising the fabrication of the great blue whale, and 
he had a terrible time making up his mind as to what 
he wanted and even what color the model should be 
painted. Fenner Chace, a crustacean expert, eventually 
decided what color to paint the eyes. 

By any measure one wants to apply, Kellogg was a 
character. He swore. Indeed, he used profanity so con- 
stantly that for him not to use it in a sentence was a 
shock to the listener. One time the Smithsonian Insti- 
tution made a short movie of scientists at work, dubbing 
in the voice of a narrator explaining what each scientist 
was doing. The film crew came back to Kellogg very 
apologetically and explained that they had to shoot 
again, for a lip reader had looked at his segment of the 
film and determined that it could not be distributed. 

Kellogg was also an eminent scientist. For most of 
his career at the Museum he studied living and fossil 
whales, building on the work of his Museum prede- 
cessor in marine mammals, F. W. True. He was the 
American representative to the International Whaling 
Commission. Most of what we know of the early history 
of Leviathan was described by him in excruciating os- 

teological detail, and a great deal of the recent interest 
in marine mammals has come about as a result of his 

The Museum changed dramatically during the Kel- 
logg years. To overgeneralize, about all that Wetmore 
was able to do, without funds and for nearly three 
decades, was to hold the Museum and the Institution 
together with little more than strength of character. 
Under Remington Kellogg, swearing all the way, a largely 
new staff, fueled by new money, remade the Museum. 

Albert C. Smith 

On July 1, 1957, the United States National Museum 
was divided into the Museum of Natural History and 
the Museum of History and Technology, with Kellogg 
remaining as overall director. John Graf retired at the 
end of 1957, and Kellogg was appointed an assistant 
secretary, while still acting as head of Natural History. 
Because of the administrative changes made in 1957, 
the distinction of being the first director of the Museum 
of Natural History belongs to Albert C. Smith. He took 
office in August 1958, under Kellogg as director of the 
United States National Museum. 

Museum life was definitely changing, and Smith's 
appointment was perhaps the first acknowledgement 
by the Institution that post-World War II science was 
quite different from science in the earlier days. Smith 
had begun his scientific career as a botanist at the New 

Museum Administration 


Director Richard S. Fiske in 
the vertebrate paleontology 
laboratory on the ground 
floor, east wing, receiving a 
donation of Miocene fossil 
shark teeth fCarcharodon) 
from Peter J. Harrnatuk, 

York Botanical Garden while attending Columbia Uni- 
versity. In 1940 he went to the Arnold Arboretum at 
Harvard for eight years. He came to the Museum as a 
new staff member in 1948, and for eight years curated 
phanerograms (flowering plants) in the Castle, crowded 
in with the other botanists. In 1956 he left for the 
National Science Foundation, where he was the pro- 
gram director for systematic biology. Having acquired 
considerable administrative experience there. Smith took 
up the directorship of the Museum with new perspec- 

For at least part of the time that Smith was director, 
Kellogg had a desk in the office, concealed behind a 
screen. Whenever anyone came to see the director. Smith 
would indicate by hand signal whether Kellogg was in 
the room. In spite of this, Smith was able to do a good 
job of administration, and always seemed to be quiet 
and self-contained, with a style quite unlike Kellogg's. 
Many of the staff found him easy to deal with and 
sympathetic toward new research ideas that required 
funds. When the National Science Foundation (NSF) 
came into existence, in the early 1950s, its relationship 
to the Smithsonian Institution and to the Museum was 
ambiguous. Under A. C. Smith the Museum staff was 
given permission to apply to the NSF for funds, and a 
number of scientists received grants. Smith was ap- 
pointed an assistant secretary of the Smithsonian In- 
stitution in 1962, but left after a year for the University 
of Hawaii. 

Frank Taylor 

Also in 1962, Kellogg retired. He was succeeded by 
Frank Taylor, who had started his career in the Arts 

and Industries Building in the early 1920s, but had an 
earlier, indirect connection with the Institution, work- 
ing as a messenger in the new National Museum for 
the Bureau of War Risk Insurance. Taylor's five-year 
tenure as overall director of the United States National 
Museum ended July 12, 1968, when the United States 
National Museum disappeared as an administrative en- 
tity. His office was never in the Museum, but in Arts 
and Industries. From 1968 until his retirement, Taylor 
served under the title of Director-general of Museums. 
One of two holders of a Smithsonian sixty-year pin, 
Taylor still comes to work and is currently planning a 
museum of the city of Washington. 

It is expected, though nowhere explicitly stated, that 
the director of the Museum be a scientist involved in 
administration, not an administrator. The difference 
between a scientist serving as a leader of his peers and 
a professional administrator overseeing scientists need 
not be belabored, but perhaps the prime reason the 
Museum has functioned so well is that scientists have 
administered it. Rathbun, Ravenel, and Wetmore were 
listed as members of the scientific staff. Curiously, Kel- 
logg and subsequent directors have not been listed un- 
der a department, but they are always thought of as 
coming from a particular department. 

T. Dale Stewart 

In any event, the botanist A. C. Smith was followed in 
early 1962 by the anthropologist T. Dale Stewart, the 
only head curator to become director. After a dinner 
of the Board of Regents attended by both Smith and 
Stewart, it was announced that both would move up 
simultaneously. Stewart's explanation of his selection 


The Museum 

was that he had served on several committees appointed 
by Secretary Carmichael, and that apparently the Sec- 
retary liked his approach. Stewart was named an assis- 
tant secretary in early 1966 and served briefly before 
returning to his first love, physical anthropology. 

Stewart first came to the Museum in 1924 as a tem- 
porary aide to Ales Hrdlk ka. After working and going 
to medical school at Johns Hopkins University, he then 
spent more than five decades in the Department of 
Anthropology. Anyone who survived under Hrdlicka 
had to be tough, and had to develop a sense of humor. 
Hrdlicka did not like the staff to speak during working 
hours. He criticized Stewart one day for talking, but 
relented a bit when Stewart said that he was announcing 
the birth of his first child. Hrdlicka asked what the sex 
was, and when told it was a girl, lost interest, remarking, 
"Veil, de first von is generally a veakling." 

Stewart continued in the tradition of physical an- 
thropology, developing great skill in forensic interpre- 
tations and applying this skill to skeletal remains re- 
covered by police. His work for the Federal Bureau of 
Investigation would have won him a nod from Sherlock 
Holmes. Stewart's research, like that of many of the 
Museum's curators, has ranged into new fields over the 
years, and perhaps his key work has been his contri- 
butions to paleoanthropology, which have helped revise 
our notions of Neanderthal man.' 

Richard S. Cowan 

A. C. Smith pointed out to Stewart some of the advan- 
tages of additional administrative staff, and advised the 
appointment of an assistant director. It was he who 
suggested Richard S. Cowan for the position. Cowan, 
like Smith, was a postwar hiree, having come to the 
Museum in 1952 after four years at the New York 
Botanical Garden. He too was a tropical botanist, though 
he looked at different plants from those that interested 
Smith. Early in 1963 Cowan became the first assistant 
director of the Museum of Natural History, and in 
March 1966 was appointed director, succeeding Stew- 
art. Cowan held the post until 1973, when, accom- 
panied by his many office plants, he returned to the 
Department of Botany as a Senior Scientist. He con- 
tinues to work on South American floras, especially tree 

During the time that Cowan served as director, there 
was a great diversification in the administration of sci- 
ence within the Smithsonian, with the establishment of 
special offices for anthropology, ecology, oceanogra- 
phy, and systematics. In addition to being director, Cowan 
was head of the Office of Systematics. The Office held 
five memorable summer institutes in systematics, but 
the only tangible evidence of the Office was a large 
coffee pot. 

Donald Squires, from Invertebrate Zoology, was dep- 
uty director for several years under Cowan. When he 
left, P. K. Knierim, an administrator who had trans- 

A. Remington Kellogg holding the skull of an Amazon 
River dolphin (Iniaj,' October 1955. 

ferred from the Department of Agriculture, served as 
assistant director until he retired in 1972. James Mello 
transferred from the U.S. Geological Survey to the Mu- 
seum in 1970 to head up Automatic Data Processing, 
which had been developed by Squires. When Porter M. 
Kier of Paleobiology became director, Mello was ap- 
pointed assistant director; he rose to associate director 
and then in 1984 gave up administration and trans- 
ferred to the Department of Paleobiology to resume 
his long-interrupted study of microfossils. To date, 
Richard Cowan is the only assistant director to have 
become director. 

During Cowan's tenure the name of the Museum was 
formally altered once again, to the National Museum 
of Natural History. For years, when referring to spec- 
imen numbers in a manuscript, the curators had used 
the prefix USNM. The Smithsonian Institution Press 
decided to adopt the change to NMNH, which lasted 
for about two weeks before the curators rose in wrath. 
USNM is still used to refer to specimens in the National 
Museum of Natural History, and mail addressed to the 
United States National Museum is still delivered. 

Porter M. Kier 

Porter Kier, described in a newspaper feature story as 
"a razor-thin, hawk-like . . . man whose exuberance for 
his work is immediately discernable," took over as di- 

M useum Adininisiralion 


Museum organizational 
chart, 1984. 


Admlnlacratlve Office 
Building Manager's Office 
AucomaClc Data Proceasing 
Office of Educadon 

rector January 15, 1973, and served until mid- 1979. 
After postgraduate work at Cambridge University, a 
two-year stint in the U. S. Army, and one year's teaching 
at the University of Houston, he arrived at the Smith- 
sonian in 1957. "It was the dream of a lifetime. The 
Smithsonian's famed natural history museum, is the 
Mount Olympus of sea urchin paleontology."** A scuba 
diver and underwater photographer, Kier is one of 
those who have studied living animals to bring new 
knowledge back to the interpretation of fossils; Ripley 
characterized him as "an innovative researcher of al- 
most indefatigable energy."^ A decade after joining the 
staff, Kier succeeded G. Arthur Cooper as the second 
chairman of the Department of Paleobiology. Following 
that term, he spent about a year as a full-time scientist 
before becoming director. 

Kier was the first director to be selected through the 
mechanism of a search committee, an essential practice 
under present-day Civil Service regulations. He is also 
the first department chairman to have been appointed 
director. While one may quibble as to the distinction 
between Stewart as first head curator and Kier as first 
chairman to occupy the office, the difference between 
the old style and the new style is tremendous. A "green 
hornet" (so named because of the color of its paper 
and its thrust) issued by Secretary Ripley in the mid- 
1960s announced the abolition of the title "head cu- 
rator." The term of a chairman is not to exceed five 

The Museum's exhibits program regained its vigor 
under Kier. The most obvious public product of his 
administration, however, is the "Kier testimonial" es- 
calator leading from the foyer to the rotunda. Its in- 
stallation was opposed unanimously by the department 
chairmen. Kier was able to obtain money for it as part 
of the Bicentennial celebration, arguing — quite rightly, 
as it turned out — that the escalator would be needed 
to handle the large crowds. 

Richard S. Fiske 

Kier returned to his echinoids in mid- 1979, and on 
January 14, 1980, Richard S. Fiske became the fifth 
director of the National Museum of Natural History, 
and the ninth man to occupy the southwest corner of- 
fice. Fiske, like Stewart, received his final training at 
Johns Hopkins University. After a few years of post- 
doctoral study, he joined the U. S. Geological Survey 
in 1964. He spent the next twelve years studying vol- 
canoes — live ones in Hawaii and presumed-dead ones 
in Washington State — but he gradually became en- 
snared in administrative duties. While his colleagues at 
the Geological Survey saw him as prime material for 
the administrative post of chief geologist, Fiske left the 
Survey for the Museum because he wanted more time 
for research in volcanology.'" 

Upon his arrival in the Department of Mineral Sci- 
ences, Fiske was swept into the exhibits program, and 
because of his interest soon became head of a revitalized 
exhibits committee. One of his early acts as director 
was to see that the rhinoceros was moved out of his 
office; the beast was replaced by a series of shelves 
holding American Indian pots. The eruption of Mount 
St. Helens in 1980, and the centenary in 1983 of the 
eruption of Krakatau kept Fiske busy combining ad- 
ministration and research with lecturing and writing 
on both events. 

Nothing has been written about the term of the di- 
rector of the Museum of Natural History, yet somehow 
it has come to be understood that this position, like a 
chairmanship, is not a lifetime appointment. On July 
10, 1985, Dick Fiske stepped down; James Tyler, an 
ichthyologist who transferred from the National Sci- 
ence Foundation to the Museum earlier that year, stepped 
in as acting director. When the next major volcanic 
eruption occurs. Senior Scientist Fiske will be there — 
burdened with samples but untroubled by administra- 
tive cares. □ 


The Museum 

Some of those who ran the 
Museum of Natural History. 
Left to right: A. Remi)igto)i 
Kellogg, Director, U. S. 
National Museum; A. C. 
Smith, Director, Museum of 
Natural History; Charles S. 
East, taxidermist; Alexander 
Wetmore, Secretary Emeritus; 

and Watson Perrygo, taxi- 
dermist. The occasion was a 
retirement ceremony for 
Charlie East, held in 1960 
on the second floor of the 

Group in the west court, just after the Butler buildings were 
torn down; the west stairwell is behind, projecting into the 
court. This is now the site of the West Court Building. Left 
to right: Porter M. Kier, Director, National Museum of 
Natural History; Richard O. Griesel, Manager, Business 
Management Office, Smithsonian institution; Richard W. 

Kernan, Group Vice President, Marriott Corporation; 
Ames T. Wheeler, Treasurer, Smithsonian Institution; Paul 
N. Perrot, Assistant Secretary, Museum Programs; and 
James F. Mello, Assistant Director, National Museum of 
Natural Histoiy. This photograph ivas published in 
Smithsonian Year 1975. 

Museum Administration 


Chapter 1 6 

The Scientific 

COUN 1 ING EVERY LIBRARIAN, carpenter, and guard, 
it is nearly impossible to pinpoint the number of 
people currently employed in the Museum of Natin al 
History. Given constant change and the very size of the 
building, that is no surprise. But it is extremely difficult 
to determine even the number of people pursuing re- 
search in the Museum during any given year, as criti- 
cally important as this figure is to any museum director. 

"At the beginning of the year the Assistant Secretary 
was placed in immediate charge of the Museum, the 
direction of which rests with the Secretary of the Smith- 
sonian Institution, its keeper ex officio," Rathbun re- 
ported in 1901. "The scientific staff has consisted, be- 
sides the three head curators, of 18 curators, 12 assistant 
curators, 14 custodians, 10 aids [sic — the customary 
spelling in the early days], 4 associates, and 2 collabo- 
rators, making a total of 63 persons, of whom, however, 
only about one-half were under salary from the Mu- 
seum, the remainder serving in a voluntary or honorary 
capacity, though nearly all of the latter were in the 
employ of other bureaus of the government.'" These 
figures included those in the Castle and those in the 
old National Museum, and thus encompassed more 
fields than natural history. 

Staff Numbers Low 

Just before the move to the new Museum building be- 
gan late in 1909, the scientific staff for the Museum 
was given in the Annual Report as seventy-eight, and the 
listed administrative staff for the Institution was nine."^ 
However, the term curator was used for both those 
paid by the Museum and those paid by associated agen- 
cies; at least two of the curators recorded were not paid 
by the Museum and never had offices in either the old 
or new Museum buildings. In 1910, one may again 
count seventy-eight on the scientific staff (not dupli- 
cating those who held multiple appointments), and still 
an administrative staff of nine; eight of the scientific 
staff were designated aides and nine associates. ' From 
these figures one can see that moving to a huge new 

Doris M. Cochran examining pari of the snake colleclion 
preserved in alcohol, possibly in the 1950s. 

building did not result in employment of a huge new 

If the move across the Mall did not result in an in- 
crease, neither did World War I. In 1920, the formal 
managerial positions for the Institution had shrunk to 
eight. The staff list for the National Museum contained 
eighty-five names; of these eighty-five, nine were in the 
Department of Arts and Industries, and one, W. H. 
Holmes, was in the National Gallery of Art.^ Included 
in the seventy-five names for the three natural history 
departments, established by Walcott in 1898, are nine 
persons designated as aides. This hardly qualifies as a 
postwar boom, particularly when it is evident that al- 
most half of the increase in staff since 1910 resulted 
from the addition of Department of Agriculture bot- 

By 1932 the administrative staff heads for the Insti- 
tution had risen to ten; and as before, these people 
were responsible for libraries, correspondence, repairs, 
and similar activities for all the Smithsonian buildings. 
A count of the three natural history departments shows 
ninty-eight names. In the Department of Geology, sev- 
enteen persons were listed, of which one was a chief 
preparator and two were aides. Three associates listed 
were not paid by the Museum, nor were two custodians 
and one associate curator. The actual scientific staff of 
the Department of Geology was eight, and this included 
Paul Bartsch, who was really a specialist in modern 
mollusks, not fossil ones. Of course, there were Geo- 
logical Survey paleontologists in the building, but ex- 
cept for two active members and one retiree, they were 
not listed.^ A decade later the scientific staff of the 
Department of Geology still consisted of eight people. 

The 1920s and 1930s figures for the other two de- 
partments. Anthropology and Biology, were similarly 
inflated by the names of "staf f"' who were not paid by 
the Museum. Unless one knows the career of a partic- 
ular person, it is risky to assume that a listing means 
that he was salaried by the Museum or even had an 
office on the premises. As in Geology, the staff in these 
two departments remained nearly static for two dec- 
ades. During World War II, the staff declined in all 


Mary Jane Rc 
on fossil cr 

Variations in Staff List 

Since the early 194()s the staff list has been published 
on a regular basis. One ought to be able to plot the 
growth of staff since World War II, but this is more 
difficult than it seems. If one counts all the names listed 
under scientilic staff for those in the Natural History 
Building during fiscal year 1955, the figures are: An- 
thropology, sixteen; Zoology, fiftv-four; and Geology, 
twenty-five. In 1960 these figures were eleven, twenty, 
and thirteen, respectively; what one sees here is the 
effect of a variation in the listing of exhibit specialists, 
collaborators, honorary associates, and others. In 1960, 
for just about the first time, the staff listing was a rea- 
sonably accurate indication of the number of scientists 
actually paid bv the Museum. In 1965, just after the 
last of the present departments in the Museum of Nat- 
ural History was organized, the count from the staff 
listing was: Anthropology, seventeen; Vertebrate Zo- 
ology, seventeen; Invertebrate Zoology, sixteen; En- 
tomology, nineteen; Botany, nineteen (previously four- 
teen in 1955, and twelve in 1960); Paleobiology, fourteen; 
Mineral Sciences, six. Some of the departments, par- 
ticularly Vertebrate Zoology, list exhibit specialists, but 
these figures mostly count only working scientists. 

One may generalize that after the growth spurt in 
the mid-1960s and a smaller increase in the early 1970s — 
effects of big science and the policies of Secretary Ripley — 
the scientific staff of the Museum has been close to 
static in terms of total numbers. In one department, 
the new curator hired in 1971 remained the newest 
until 1981; the staff member added that year was a 

replacement for one who left. The changes in the 1970s 
were measured in terms of a few scientific positions a 
year. Since the late 1970s, as in most of the federal 
government, there has been essentially no growth in 
the Museum staff. The numbers of scientists paid by 
affiliated agencies reached a peak during the 1960s, 
but since then, in a few of those organizations, have 

In recent years the Office of the Director has kept 
figures on the number of Museum scientists. These are 
compiled at irregular intervals, but have the advantage 
of being assembled by one person using consistent cri- 
teria as to who is considered to be on the scientific staff 
in a strict sense. The Archivist of the National An- 
thropological Archives, for example, is judged a his- 
torian, not a natmal scientist. The director is counted, 
but an assistant, associate or deputy director may or 
may not be counted, depending on whether he is a 
scientist or an administrator. 

In Table 3, the figures for Invertebrate and Verte- 
brate Zoology in 1964 show the makeup of the overall 
Department of Zoology, which still existed that year. 
Expansion of the mid-1960s and problems of the early 
1970s are evident in the totals. The large number in 
the Office of the Director in 1966 was a consequence 
of the assignment of Oceanography to the Museum. 
The small staff total in 1970 was an administrative ar- 
tifact resulting from the separation of the Office of 
Oceanography from the Museum. In the compilation 
below they are returned to that office from 1976 on- 


The Museum 

Under textbook administrative conditions, a pyram- 
idal structure of many younger people below a few 
senior older staff is the model, but it seldom happens 
that way in the real world, certainly not in the Museum. 
Almost without exception, retirees are being replaced 
by relatively new graduates, rather than by higher- 
salaried, middle-aged scientists, yet the rate of replace- 
ment is low. In 1966 the average age of the scientific 
staff was 44.0 years; in mid- 1984 it had reached 49.6 
years. Old-timers largely are of two classes: those few 
from the 1950s, who remember the building without 
wings and air conditioning; and those from the mid- 
1960s. In a few years most of both groups will be gone, 
and a different staff with different memories will be in 

Just half a century ago, a Museum employee's salary 
was a tangible item, based directly on hours worked 
and distributed from a cash box brought over from the 
Castle. When someone went into the fields the Insti- 
tution would send a salary check to his bank. In 1934 
"a central disbursing agency for all Government estab- 
lishments" was organized under the Treasury Depart- 
ment, and the Smithsonian's disbursing office was abol- 
ished. Beginning February 1, 1934, salary payments 
were made by check instead of by cash.^ For years, even 
after government checks were introduced, the staff hiked 
across the Mall to the Castle every two weeks and lined 
up to be paid. Today the Treasury Department prefers 
to mail salary checks to employees' banks. 

Salary Figures 

The Museum did not publish salary figures in its annual 
reports, but it is possible to draw some parallels from 
another agency. In 1894, when L. O. Howard took over 
what was to become the Bureau of Entomology in the 
Department of Agriculture, he received $2,400. "In 
1902 it was increased to $2,750; in 1904 to $3,250; in 
1906 to $4,000; in 1911, to $4,500, in 1919 to $5,000; 
in 1924, to $6,000 and in 1925 to $6,500. During all 
these years the salaries of principal assistants in the 
Bureau were being gradually raised from $ 1 ,200."" One 
may approximately equate the position Howard held 
with that of the director of the Museum, and that of a 
principal assistant with a head curator. 

In 1930 Howard wrote: "The salaries at the present 
time are in marked contrast to those of earlier years. 
The chief of the Bureau now receives $8,000. There 
are two who receive $6,400 a year each; one who has 
$6,000, two have $5,800, six have $5,600, one has $5,200, 
two have $5,000, and forty-six have from $4,000 to 
$4,600, no less than twenty-eight of these receiving 
$4,600 each. Of course, the compensation in other walks 
of life has also increased, either correspondingly or 
much more greatly. The vastly increased cost of living 
brought about largely by . . . World War [1] is naturally 
responsible for much of these increases. . . ."^ 

The general position of those who administered sci- 

Norman Boss, chief preparator in the Vertebrate 
Paleontology division, preparing a fossil lizard (Saniwaj, 
1921 or 1922. 

ence in the government was that the wisest course was 
to keep a low profile and not ask for too much money. 
For example, it was the often-stated policy of John B. 
Reeside, Jr., for many years chief of the Geological 
Survey paleontologists, that because paleontologists did 
what they enjoyed, they should be paid less than other 
geologists. Since World War I there has been a trickle 
of scientists from affiliated agencies to the Museum 
staff. Almost never were such transfers made for fi- 
nancial gain, but rather for slightly greater opportu- 
nities to pursue research. 

Since the late 1950s, performing scientific work for 
the federal government has become a recognized func- 
tion, and salaries have become reasonably respectable. 
Government pay for scientists is more or less compa- 
rable to salaries in academia, taking into account the 
high cost of living in Washington, D.C., as compared 
to the average college town. Fifty years ago the life of 
the museum curator in Washington was that of genteel 
poverty. Today, if everyone on the suburban block lined 
up outside their houses, the museum curator could not 
be singled out, except by the parking sticker on the 
station-wagon bumper. 

Hiring Policies 

In the last seventy-five years, the scientific staff of the 
Museum has included few women and fewer black em- 
ployees. Described by John F. Kennedy as a city of 
northern charm and southern efficiency, Washington 

The Scientific Stuff 


may be the capital of the nation, but the District of 
Columbia is definitely south of the Mason-Dixon line. 
The hiring policies of the Smithsonian have been no 
more enlightened than those of the area and the times. 

Neil Judd wrote in 1968: "My only assistant for this 
19 11 undertaking and for the accompanying laboratory 
work . . . was a Civil War veteran who had joined the 
staff in 1878. ... In his later years failing health re- 
duced the old gentleman's activities and a Negro, Charles 
T. Terry, Jr. was employed as probational aide to mark 
specimens — the first to break the segregation barrier 
in our division of archaeology. P rom the beginning any 
nonwhite assistant gradually advanced to become an 
indispensible member of the organization. He not only 
numbered specimens but kept our records of the study 
collections so that any given object, if called for by a 
visiting scientist could be brought to the laboratory with 
minimum delay.""' Terry's name did not appear on the 
staff lists. 

Anothei black employee, Ulysses Lyons, began as a 
laborer in the early 1950s at $1.07 an hour. After a few 
months and some struggle, he was able to transfer to 
the Division of Ethnology in the Department of An- 
thropology as a GS-2, the second-lowest rating in the 
General Service scale. Shortly after Clifford Evans be- 
came chairman of the Department of Anthropology in 
1970, he hired the first black female departmental sec- 
retary in the Museum." Sophie Lutterlough, hired in 
1943 as the first female elevator operator, eventually 
became a preparator in Entomology and stayed with 
the Museum for forty years.'" At the present time, though 
other minority groups are represented, there are no 
American blacks on the scientific staff. 

For the first decade of the building's existence, there 
was only one female professional on the staff — Mary 
Jane Rathbun, the "crab lady." The geologist Julia 
Gardner had been in the building since before the start 
of World War 1, during which she drove an ambulance. 

but she did not get a government position until the 
early 1920s. In 1919 Doris M. Cochran, the "frog lady," 
was listed as an aide, but it was not until 1927 that she 
was promoted to assistant curator. Doris Blake, the widow 
of an eminent botanist, was a volunteer in Entomology 
who for decades had an office in the rotunda just off 
the fourth-floor attics. For years, especially after Dr. 
Blake died, the two Dorises were the closest of friends, 
and it was the Division of Amphibians and Reptiles that 
provided office space for Mrs. Blake from 1962 on- 
ward, when the other entomologists left the building. 

One interesting phenomenon, now slowly dying out, 
is the tradition of the volunteer wife. Perhaps Betty 
Meggers, who contributed so much to the anthropology 
halls, is the type example. One wife learned to read 
Russian so that she could make proper entries in a card 
catalogue of species maintained by her husband. There 
are nepotism rules, and occasionally wives work else- 
where in the Institution if husbands work for the Mu- 

A very few women were added to the staff in the 
1940s and 1950s; during the same interval, a slightly 
greater proportion of women appeared on the staffs 
of the affiliated organizations. Nothing changed until 
the 1970s, when some members of the "baby boom" 
generation began to be hired. Women scientists are still 
very much the exception, but the eight on the present 
Museum staff about equal the total that were on the 
staff for the first sixty years of the building's history. 

One long-time feminine stronghold is the Office of 
the Registrar, first formally established in 1881. These 
people account for each specimen in the collections; 
currently the museum is approaching 69 million spec- 
imens. When the new building was ready, the registrar 
moved across the Mall, since most of the new accessions 
were of natural history specimens. For decades the 
registrar's office was situated on the south side of the 
building near that of the director, and it was run by 

T.ABLE 3: Scientific Staff by Department, 1964-1984 


Off. Dir. 
























































































































The Museum 

Staff of the Department of 
Anthropology, taken in the 
Arts and Industries Budding 
in 1932. Standing, left to 
right: Charles Terry, 
museum aide, archeology; 
unknown, museum aide, 
physical anthropology; Wal- 
ter Hough, curator, ethnol- 
ogy; George McCoy, 
secretary, head office; Jo hi 
P. Harrington, ethnologist, 
Bureau of American Ethnol- 
ogy; R. G. Paine, museum 
aide, archeology; W. G. 
Egberts, chief preparator. 
Exhibits Office; Mrs. Loose, 
secretary, archeology — one of 
the two women to right. 
Seated, left to right: T. Dale 
Stewart, assistant curator, 
physical anthropology; Frank 
M. Setzler, assistant curator, 
archeology; Neil M. Judd, 
curator, archeology; William 
Henry Holmes, head. 
National Gallery of Art; Ales 
Hrdlicka, curator, physical 
anthropology; Herbert W. 
Kreiger, associate curator, 
ethnology; Henry B. Collins, 
assistant curator, ethnology. 

Staff of the Department of 
Anthropology on the south 
porch steps in the early 
1930s — not a great change 
in number from 1932. 

Department of Zoology staff 
on the Mall steps, September 
28, 1949. The fifty-four 
people shown include 
Secretary Wetmore, director 
Kellogg, two retirees, and six 
members of the Fish and 
Wildlife Sendee. 

The Scientific Staff 


Helena Weiss, who retired in 1971. 

With expansion of the Smithsonian in the 1960s, the 
work of the registrar also expanded, and the office 
moved back to the old building, where there was more 
space. Finally, in 1976, accessioning and record-keeping 
were decentralized and the National Museum of Nat- 
ural History gained its own registrar. The office was a 
rickety wooden balcony built into the shipping room. 
The files were one floor down and a hundred feet away. 
Later, the files were moved farther away; then the office 
was moved to where the files had been transferred, but 
the files moved again. In 1980, when this original area 
near the loading dock was decked over to make more 
space, the registrar thought that a ribbon-cutting cer- 
emony was in order. 

Because turnover of the scientific staff is low, there 
is little prospect of major changes for blacks, women, 
or other minorities in the next decade, unless there is 
a substantial increase in the professional staff. The his- 
torical record is not one to be particularly proud of, 
but efforts are being made to right the balance. In 1980 
Secretary Ripley called for "fresh attitudes and stronger 
programs . . . against discrimination . . . whether in- 
tentional or not." He continued, "1 am deeply con- 
cerned about this serious prol)lem. An end to discrim- 
ination in all aspects ot our affairs is a fundamental 
responsibility of the old and honored institution."" 

Matters of Dress 

In smaller matters such as dress and style the scientific 
staff is more difficult to characterize. In the 195()s most 
people wore neckties and jackets to work; in the 1980s 
most do not. 1 he change has been gradual, although 
the appearance of Dennis Stanford, who joined the 
Department of Anthropolog\ in 1972, was still attract- 
ing attention in 1977: "Dr. Stanford wears pearl-button 
cowboy shirts that may or may not be buttoned down. 
You can't tell because that part goes under the beard. 
He doesn't wear a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches. 
He wears faded denims. He doesn't smoke a pipe. He 
tucks a bit of snuff under his lip."'^ The best word for 
the dress code at the Museum today is casual. About 
the only three-piece suits left in the place are on the 
repairmen for the copving machines. 

An Assortment of "Characters" 

In 1980 Henrv Collins, then long-retired, commented 
wistfully that the staff did not contain the number of 
"characters" it once did. Certainly the Museum has seen 
its share of eccentrics, eccentric behavior, and practical 
jokes, many involving stuffed kangaroos, gorillas, or 
what have you. On publishing a scientific paper, Hrdlicka 
would have his palm read to see how his latest work 
would be accepted by his colleagues. Evans once crammed 
the office of the archeologist Gus Van Beek so full of 
boxes that the door could not be opened; Evans left by 
way of the outside window ledge. Kier wrote a memo 

Bee, Heteranthidium bequarti. Carbon dust on 00 Ross 
board (Elaine R. S. Hodges, staff artist 196 5 -present). 

Fossil skull, Meniscotherium chamense. Graphite pencil 
on Bristol board (Lawrence B. Isham, staff artist 1953- 


The Museum 

Scientific illustrations prepared by Museum artists. 

Spotted headstander, Chilodus punctatus. Technical pen 
on Bristol board (Marion j. Dalen, staff artist 1962- 


Lobster, Nephropides caribaus. Diluted India ink wash 
and graphite pencil on scratchboard (Carolyn B. Cast, stajf 
artist 1959-1985). 

The Scientific Staff 

Painted potteij jar, representation oj an ibex head. 
CroiiHjuill pen and ink on Bristol board (G. Robert Lewis, 
staff artist 1959-1985). 

Spirit weed, Ruellia tuberosa. CrowquiU pen and ink on 
plastic Jilm (Alice R. Tangerini, stajj artist 1 972-preseiil). 


Bird collections on the north 
side of the west wing, third 
floor, probably in the 1930s; 
the windows open onto the 
west court. Herbert Fried- 
niann is to the right and his 
assistant, to the left. 

m i 

t I 

about a study of cockroach behavior in the Museum 
and asked for information on sightings and if possible 
the actual specimens. Then he signed Clarke's name 
and distributed it all over the Museum. Clarke was 
inundated with specimens. 

Roland W. Brown, the paleobotanist of the U.S. Geo- 
logical Survey, was a character by any definiticjn. He 
came from a very pooi background and was one of the 
most frugal persons ever to grace the premises. Stories 
of his replacing a single shoelace and saving the other, 
or putting an edge on old razor blades found in a molel 
room, are all true. He cobbled his one pair of shoes 
himself, and when his pants became too tight he added 
a gusset in the seat of a different color. Brown's great 
interest was in (ireek and Latin, and he compiled an 
invaluable etymological dictionary ot the names of plants 
and animals. The book was written on the backs of old 
letters discarded from Geological Survey files.'"' 

As in any academic setting, the label "character" sticks 
readily to a person who studies one narrow field in 
considerable depth throughout his career. Lately there 
is not so much monographic (some would say mono- 
maniacal) concentration on organisms about which few 
people are passionate. But it still is common. Perhaps 
to a younger scientist, the older specialist who considers 
himself Mr. Average is the real character. 

One would assume that the number of characters of 
every kind would increase as the staff increased, but in 
the view of many staff members, this is not so. There 
are as many strong-willed individuals as in the past, but 
their impact is lessened by the size of the facility. Until 
1960 everyone came in the same entrance and everyone 
used the same toilet; any event or interesting comment 
spread rapidly. Size of staff and distance between of- 
fices have cut down on communication. In 1982, after 

a series of losses of Vienna sausages from his refrig- 
erator, the sponge specialist Klaus Ruetzler painstak- 
ingly rigged a time-lapse camera to catch the culprit, 
but no one on the fioor above, let alone in the east wing, 
even heard of this. 

Research and Publication 

Now, if the staff does not spend its time being "quaint" 
so that there are humorous stories to pass on to future 
generations, what does the staff do? This is a serious 
question and it deserves a serious answer. The principal 
occupation of the scientific staff has always been re- 
search and publication. Investigation without publica- 
tion is a sterile activity. The Smithsonian Institution 
issued its first major scientific publication in 1848, and 
it has been dedicated to publication ever since. Until 
well into the 1950s, the Annual Report listed the papers 
published by members of the staff; they are listed now 
in Smithsonian Year. There is no government agency 
that provides this degree of individual accountability 
to the citizens. 

For many years there was a Bulletin uf the United States 
National Museu)ii, and one extremely crude but easy 
method of discussing productivity is to measure the 
shelf space it consumed. About ten feet of bound books 
were produced until 1909, and about twice that much 
during the next sixty years. The Proceedings came a bit 
later, adding up to about seven feet before 1909 and 
sixteen feet thereafter. Both series included a bit more 
than natural history. A slight deduction must be made 
for the fact that the Museum also had quite a liberal 
policy on who could publish in the Proceedings, so that 
not every publicatic^n is from a paid staff member. Even 
allowing for this, a lot has been published. Papers by 
the Museum staff that were published in the now- 


The Museum 

G. Arthur Cooper typing and 
Josephine Cooper picking out 
fossils in his office on the 
third floor of the main build- 
ing's loest xving. The grind- 
ing wheel ivas used for 
sharpening needles to do pre- 
cise preparation of fossils in 
rock. To the right, below a 
large tray, is a rock trimmer, 
hand powered by tivisting the 
horizontal wheel. July 1954. 

discontinued, Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections would 
further swell the total. 

In 1969 the Smithsonian instituted a series of Con- 
tributions in various fields. Those in the realm of natural 
history have amounted to about twelve feet in fifteen 
years. None of these figures include publications in 
other scientific series or journals. 

Staff Organizations 

A handful of staff organizations deserve brief com- 
ment. The first is the Senate of Scientists, modeled on 
a similar organization at the National Institutes of Health. 
This group first met in 1963 in the basement of the 
ethnologist Saul Reisenberg's house with Gordon Gib- 
son, another ethnologist, as the first chairman. Those 
who met felt almost like conspirators. One reason for 
organizing was that a number of actions, such as changes 
in parking regulations, were taking place without the 
affected parties' having any say. It was evident that 
Secretary Carmichael was soon going to retire, and it 
seemed more prudent to begin an organization before 
a new Secretary arrived than after."' 

The senate is the one place where those from asso- 
ciated organizations can have a tiny voice concerning 
the building they inhabit. As the departments have be- 
come larger and the paperwork more complex, the 
senate provides a way of f ocusing on the problems that 
divert energy from the goal of research. The senate 
once challenged the Institution on its endowment prac- 
tices and persuaded the treasurer to modify some of 
his policies. The dinner f orums organized by the senate 
every other month or so are one of the few activities 
that cut across organizational lines within the Smith- 
sonian complex. 

The Smithsonian Museological Association, in spite 

of its name, has been confined to the Museum of Nat- 
ural History. Technicians tend to be even more limited 
to associations in a single department than do the 
professional staff. Some of the ideas and concerns of 
the technicians have been expressed, through this group, 
and there has been exchange of techniques across de- 
partments. The organization began in 1974 and is now 
dormant. Both it and the senate in a sense are like 
volunteer fire departments — organized but not active 
until a crisis comes. 

A quite different organization is the Guild of Sci- 
entific Illustrators. These people are not scientists, nor 
are they technicians. They are artists in a highly spe- 
cialized field. The illustrators in the Museum founded 
the group, which is now an organization of more than 
1,000 members, with shows at international scientific 
meetings to its credit. The guild is one of the places 
where art and science are not in conflict.'' 

In the 1960s a small group calling itself the POETS 
Club met each Friday afternoon at Louie's Restaurant 
on the northeast corner of Ninth Street and Pennsyl- 
vania Avenue, NW. It was essentially the closest place 
to the Museum where one could get a beer and a sand- 
wich. Ernest Lachner and the late James Peters from 
the Division of Amphibians and Reptiles could spend 
hours enlightening visiting scientists on this and that. 
During the days of the Summer Institute in Systematics, 
several members of the National Academy of Sciences 
were taken to Louie's. When Louie's closed in 1983, 
the POETS transferred to the Museum. Those who are 
newly into curating, the younger technicians, and the 
current lowest of the low, the packers for the move to 
the Museum Support Center, continue to gather for 
mutual support. As they might phrase it, this is the flip 
side of the Senate of Scientists dinners. □ 

The Scientific Staff 


Chapter 1 7 

Shared Facilities 

THE LIBRARY OF THE Museum of Natural History 
has had a curious history within the Institution. 
In the vigorous congressional debate before the Smith- 
sonian was formed, there were strong proponents oi 
its taking on the duties of a national library — long be- 
fore the Library of Congress assumed that role. In the 
early days of Secretary Henry's regime, the issue of the 
relative significance of the library within the Smithson- 
ian was still hot. Arguments about what share of the 
Smithsonian endowment should go into library activi- 
ties continued for years. Eventually the librarian, as- 
sistant secretary Charles Jewett, was discharged, and 
Henry, although buffeted by the storm of protest that 
followed, was able to prevail in his view that the Insti- 
tution should be concerned primarily with research. 

After Jewett left, most of the Institution's books were 
deposited in the Library of Congress, whence, in the- 
ory, they could be recalled as needed. In fact, "so urgent 
was the [Smithsonian's] need for more books that Sec- 
retary Spencer F. Baird in 1881 donated his extensive 
private library, a valuable collection of standard works 
on biology and industry, to supplement the existing 
small nucleus of the Museum library."' This library was 
devoted almost entirely to natural history, with a mod- 
icum of shelf space devoted to technology, art, and 
other pursuits. 

In 1911, when the new National Museum was com- 
pleted, the library in the main moved in, leaving some 
of its holdings in the Castle and the Arts and Industries 
Building, and also leaving the chief librarian on the 
south side of the Mall. "In view ... of the more ample 
accommodations afforded by the new building and the 
fact that the larger proportion of the publications were 
included in the transfer [to the new building]," it was 
decided in 1912 "that the library there established should 
be the central one for the receipt, recording, catalogu- 
ing and distribution of all books and for all other prep- 
aratory work."^ 

Taxidermy shop in the east courtyard. Left to right: Charles 
R. W. Aschemeier, Watson M. Perrygo (partially hidden 
between the two wolves), and William Goodloe. Probably 
taken in 1957. 

Rathbun wrote the following year: 

T he sjjace assigned to the library in the new 
building, located in the grotnid story of the 
northern section of the east range consists of what 
was originally a single room with northern 
exposure, 107 feet 7 inches long by 21 feet 1 inch 
wide, and a smaller room, facing on the east court. 
. . . The former has been divided into three 
compartments for the book stacks, catalogue cases, 
and reading accommodations. . . . All of the area is 
utilized to the full height of the story, this being 
accomplished by [a major internal structural 
change:] the introduction of a mezzanine floor in 
the stack room and of galleries in the reading 
rooms, which are at a uniform height of 7 feet 1 1 
inches above the ground. . . . The main reading 
room and consulting room has also a gallery 
continuous with that in the smaller room . . . which 
extends along the three walls other than that 
occupied by the windows.' 
The gallery floors did not extend to the windows, so 
the exterior appearance of the building was unmarred. 
No doubt this gallery provided the precedent for later 
changes in the east range and on the west side of the 

In fiscal year 1929, the library rooms were repainted, 
"new lights and ventilators were installed, a cork runner 
was laid the full length of the reference and stack rooms, 
and the two large, awkward reading tables were con- 
verted into four attractive, small ones."' During the 
1930s, considerable free labor from the WPA and ear- 
lier organizations was utilized to improve shelving and 

Despite the privations common to most libraries — 
insufficient staff, too little space, and inadequate funds 
for purchasing, binding, and repair — the Museum's li- 
brarians coped well with requests by users. They proved 
especially resourceful during World War II, when "rep- 
resentatives of about 35 different branches of the war 
agencies . . . called for assistance or [came] in person 
to do research.'" Until after World War II, a messenger 
took the last elevator trip of the day to bring a book 
cart around, dropping off requested items and col- 


lecting loan slips. Later, one had to go in person to 
request a book, but the library delivered all items until 
the early 1960s. In a few respects, the good old days 
actually were as good as they are remembered. 

By the late 1950s the library had expanded slightly. 
All space on the north side of the east north range was 
occupied except the large corner office of the curator 
of vertebrate paleontology. On the south side, the li- 
brary had the first office off the lobby; the National 
Collection of Fine Arts used the cooled storage room 
just down the hall for paintings. The area from this 
point to the anthropology laboratory on the corner was 
decked over, with bookshelves on both levels. The hall- 
ways on both sides ol the range were filled with cases 
of fossil plants. The main catalogue, the serials record, 
and several desks all fitted into one of fice on the north 

The pc^rtion of the Smithsonian library located in the 
Museum was treated in the Aiuiual Refjort as an integral 
of the United States National Museum until 1948. 
Thereafter, information on the library in the Museimi 
appeared in a separate library section of the Annual 
Report. A major administrative event for the library 
occurred in November 1951, when the main office of 
the library moved from the Castle to the Museum, and 
the Natiu al History Branch was merged into the Smith- 
sonian library. 

Additional Space 

In terms of physical change, the big event was the com- 
pletion of the east wing, which freed a great deal cjf 
space. What had been the anthropology laboratory, 
overlooking the east courtyard, now became the main 
reading room. The card catalogue moved out into the 
hall. Most of the west side of the east range was decked 
over for stacks; a sturdy but creaky catwalk crosses the 
reading room, connecting the south deck with the west 
one. The head librarian moved into the corner office 
occupied earlier by vertebrate paleontologists, and some 
open areas on the north side of the east north range 
were decked over to complete the stack area. In 1965, 
after the Division of Mammals moved to the third floor, 
the library expanded into the west north range. The 
binding and acquisitions operations went downstairs, 
and rows of bookshelves stretching off into the darkness 
occupied the upper level. 

In May 1983, in a reversion to the general setup of 
1910, the Smithsonian Institution Libraries divided, so 
that there is now a Natural History Branch in the west 
north range, with a separate new-book shelf and check- 
out desk. Since the library filled up, many books have 
been sent to the general-purpose building on North 
Capitol Street and others to the Museimi Support Cen- 
ter. Much as they prefer to hold a publication in their 
hands, the scientific staff will have to depend on the 
electronic transport of data to answer some of their 

Almost from the inception of the National Museum, 
sectional libraries were scattered throughout the build- 
ing. During the 1920s the Annual Report listed thirty- 
six, twenty-one of which were directly associated with 
the activities of the Museum: "The 36 sectional libraries 
of the Museum are the immediate working tools of the 
curators and their assistants. Many of them contain rich 
collections of highly specialized material, some of which 
has never been catalogued."*' 

Specialized Book Collections 

In the building today there are specialized collections 
in almost all the departments and in many divisions. 
Periodically an administiator suggests using the space 
for offices, and periodically the curators have apoplexy 
over the idea. These caches, not all of which qualify as 
libraries, range from 2,000 to 53,000 books. For ease 
of bookkeeping, some of these disparate groups are 
combined, while others, like hard-to-catalogue collec- 
tions of reprints, are officially ignored. In addition to 
its departmental library, for example. Botany has a 
collection of reprints on grasses of which Agnes Chase 
was so protective that she stationed her desk right in 
the middle of it. Of course, most scientists have their 
own personal collections, usually including a lot of books 
checked out of the Museum library. 

Only two book collections in the building have plaques 
on the door. One is the Kellogg Library of Marine 
Manniials, in the east wing. The other, in the main 
building, is the John Wesley Powell Library of An- 
thropology. In 1981 John Ewers thought it was high 
time that something was named after Powell, so he 
decided on a plaque and a small ceremony. It seems 
that Powell had had a bet with his colleague JW ("No 
Stop") McGee as to who had the larger brain. Both 
arranged for their brains to be saved, and when they 
were posthimiously measured, Powell won. The point 
to all this is that John Wesley Powell's brain was brought 
in for the ceremony — a token of affection Powell would 
have appreciated, had more of him been present. 

Data Processing System 

While the library serves the entire Institution, the Mu- 
seum has its own Automatic Data Processing system, a 
second common facility of great value to many scien- 
tists. Data processing in the post-carbon paper sense 
has a history of about twenty years at the Museum. In 
the early 1960s awareness of the new technology had 
grown to the point that a committee was formed to look 
into it. 

Some scientists, such as James Peters, were imme- 
diately enthusiastic about sophisticated statistical tech- 
niques as aids to their investigations. "Peters and others 
have written programs . . . which . . . make it possible 
to carry out analyses previously impossible because of 
the amount of time required," Smithsonian Year ob- 
served in 1967. "Peters is also developing a computer- 


The Museum 

Librarian John Murdoch in the United States National Museum, before 1893. This is now the rare-book room for the 

key to the snakes of Latin America. . . . Insertion of . . . 
basic data . . . results in a print-out of the correct generic 
name in less than four seconds.'" 

The use of computers in individual research projects 
is of increasing importance throughout the Museum, 
but the greatest impact of data processing has been on 
general information processing and retrieval problems. 
In 1966 "funds provided by the Office of Systematics 
enabled the department of invertebrate zoology to pur- 
chase equipment with which one operator can catalog 
all the very large number of collections being acces- 
sioned by the department, and which at the same time 
prints index cards on as many parameters as desired. 
In addition, the same operation automatically generates 
paper tape bearing the data from the collections, and 
these data may be inserted automatically in a central 
data center. It has been estimated that as much as 60 
percent increase in the efficiency of the cataloguing 
operations is gained by having this equipment."" The 

concept is fine, even if the language seems quaint in 
the light of today's machines. Paper tape machines were 
eventually declared surplus, though one probably should 
have been sent over to the Museum of American His- 
tory as an artifact. 

Data Processing had its first home in Room 206 on 
the second-floor balcony; people found the office by 
looking to where the elephant's trunk pointed. Next 
Data Processing went to the third floor, adjacent to the 
director's office on the west side of the building. In 
1972 it moved several doors down the hall to offices 
vacated by oceanographers and ecologists. It is still in 
the same area, but the rooms have been partitioned 
and repartitioned. Even that has not made sufficient 
space, so an additional room has been built out into 
the main corridor. 

During the mid-196()s cataloguing of selected min- 
erals, sea birds, and crustaceans was tried as an exper- 
iment, using machines to alleviate the burden of routine 

Shared Facilities 


work. After this success, Donald Squires obtained funds 
for a larger data system that might serve as a model 
for other Museums. Shortly after this program started 
he moved on, but the test was brought to a successful 

Convincing the Staff 

In 197U, when James Mello transferred to the Museum 
to continue the Automatic Data Processing (ADP) pro- 
gram, his first problem was to convince the staff in 
general, not just the enthusiasts, that there was some 
merit to a new approach. One technician who favored 
leather-bound ledgers assured him that even though 
they cost sixty dollars each, her handwriting was so 
small that she could enter 50 percent more lines than 
anyone and still have it legible. Mello still recalls his 
first week at the Museum, when he was invited to have 
lunch with the Fish Division. Just before Mello started 
talking about his new program, Lachner wrote on a 
blackboard in capital letters, "EXPENSE" "UN- 
RESOURCES," and said not a word during the pres- 

Despite some lack of enthusiasm, the program moved 
forward. In 1972 Sinithsonian Year reported: "It is be- 
coming increasingly evident that the care of such data 
is, in its own way, as important as care for the specimens 
themselves. The objectives are to capture, store, and 
retrieve collection-based information more efficiently 
than by conventional means and to produce ultimately 
a versatile, easily searchable data base that will be more 
responsive to scientific inquiry than are current records 
in most of the departments."'" The program still has 
not reached that goal, but records of millions of spec- 
imens are not assembled easily. Each year there are 
fewer problems with recording and retrieving data. 

One early success story was a sequel to the Endan- 
gered Species Act passed by Congress in 1973. Fhe 
Department of the Interior was required to produce a 
list of endangered species of animals and to arrange 
for the Museum to make lists of endangered plants. 
The computer copy itself was eventuallv published in 
1978, and the listing of plants was done far faster than 
anyone had anticipated, thanks to automation. 

Smithsonian-wide Inventory Ordered 

B\ the later 197()s an Institution-wide inventory pro- 
gram, discussed more fully in chapter 23, had been 
ordered bv Congress. It officially began in the Museum 
in 1978, although some work had been done earlier. 
It made good sense for ADP to take on the chore for 
the Museum, and a whole raft of young temporary 
workers appeared to do the boring work of counting 
and recording data, often to the tune of rock and roll 
music. There was some trauma, but when the first phase 
of the inventory was completed in 1983, the officials 
were pleased." 

An inventory was an absolute necessity before col- 
lections could be moved to the Museum Support Cen- 
ter. The amount of computer paper required to make 
lists of objects and to assign moving schedules and lo- 
cations is enough to make any tree nervous, yet there 
is no sense in storing an item that cannot be found on 
demand, as the scientific staff would have to agree. 
Naturally enough, the emphasis on automatic data 
processing and modern trends in systematics has led 
to widespread scientific literacy with computers. Not 
only is almost everyone who was hired from 1970 on- 
ward "into computers," some of the most senior cu- 
rators use them. 

Word Processors Abound 

The most remarkable change in the Museum, and one 
not predicted by the black-box specialists, has been the 
spread of word processors. R. E. Grant recalls that when 
he joined the Geological Survey in 1962 he asked for 
a typewriter and was informed that because he did not 
spend 50 percent of his time typing, he was not entitled 
to one. In 1972, when he transferred to the Museum, 
he was able to obtain a typewriter officially. No one 
quite lecalls the history of electric typewriters, but it 
took at least ten years for them to become moderately 
common in the offices. Word processors, on the other 
hand, swept the establishment in less than five years, 
and virtually every other scientist now has one. The 
Museum still requires justification for an electric type- 
writer, but no such paperwork is needed for a word 
processor, which for some reason is not classed as a 
typewriter. Typing on a word processor, while not ex- 
actly automatic data processing, is encouraged by the 
pro-ADP climate at the Museum. Electronic machines 
are here to stay. I hey have resulted in more sophis- 
ticated analyses of data on plants and animals, and they 
may provide the answer to the problem of linking sci- 
entists at the Mall with collections at the Museum Sup- 
port Center. 

Scanning Electron Microscope Laboratory 

The Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) Laboratory 
is a third shared facility. Developed at Cambridge Uni- 
versity, the SEM brought a new dimension to science, 
and has led to breakthroughs in many fields in which 
the Museum is involved. The Museum acquired one in 
1969 — "a major step in the planned research activities 
of our staff," Smithsonian Year announced. "The mar- 
velous new instrument is able to magnify the images of 
tiny objects from 20 to 140,000 times and several hundred 
times greater resolution than the conventional light- 
optical system. ... In only four years since it became 
commercially available, it has become a dominant re- 
search tool in such diverse fields in biology as pollen 
analysis, microfossil identification, and textile fiber-wear 
studies. In one area of basic research being done at the 
Smithsonian, Dr. R[ichard] H. Benson is using the SEM 


The Museum 

Kanguruu (Maci opus;, moulded hy (1. li. W. A.siheine/cr tn iJic cusl couti, with liixidciiiiy slioj) behind. Piobably 1920s— 

Shared Facdities 


''West C^ourt lixiknig Uiwcud south jjavtiiun and rotunda, 
and showing the projection oj the stair towers, from 
United States National Museum Bulletin 80 (1913). 
Presuniahly the nealkiiiays loere for stroUmg in the court, but 
no one recalls the door to the ton it's he/ng unlocked for the 
general fjuhlic. 

for study ot the history of a minute fossil crustacean, 
the ostracod."'" 

Benson, the first curator hired after Ripley was ap- 
pointed Secretary, had worked with the second SEM 
sold commercially at the University of Leicester in Eng- 
land. He returned convinced that the Museum should 
have such an instrument, frightiully expensive as it was 
by the standards of the day. By this time several Amer- 
ican companies had begun to manufacture them, and 
a "Buy American" policy was in effect. After convincing 
the Museum that a SEM would be a worthwhile in- 
vestment, Benson was able to demonstrate, in a court 
trial with the Department of Commerce in regard to 
importation, that the depth of field of the Cambridge 
instrument was better than that of the new models being 
made in the United States. 

Once the way had been cleared legally, a machine 
was purchased. Benson went around the ground floor 
with a pan of water, setting it on the floor and watching 
how much the reflection of the lights flickered as a way 
of determining the amount of vibration in different 
parts of the building. The SEM went into a former 
storage area in the northern half of the east range. 
There are no windows, but those who work under dark- 
ened conditions have no need for windows anyway. 
Walter Brown, who was hired to run the SEM. made 

such a success of it that later the U.S. Geological Survey 
put a second instrument in the laboratory under his 
charge. Still later a third was installed, along with many 
changes in the kinds of instruments, position of walls 
in the area, plumbing, wires, gas cylinders, and other 
details. As with ADP, the story of SEM is one of in- 
creasing sophistication of machinery. 

There is a great deal of skill involved in making one 
of these brutes function, let alone function properly. 
By 1983. however, familiarity with the machine had 
reached the point that the Department of Agriculture 
could purchase an instrument for their scientists to 
operate themselves, with a minimum of assistance. Until 
that time a technician had always sat down with the 
scientist to operate the machine. Although one of the 
flrst three is no longer in use, the USDA's machine is 
functioning well, and the scientists seem to be enjoying 
running it themselves. 

The SEM, again like ADP, is not for everyone or for 
every problem. But where SEM investigations are used, 
they provide remarkable new insight on morphological 
detail at a scale no one dreamed of two decades ago. 
The SEM is so popular that the biggest problem has 
been to accommodate all customers. For a time it was 
first come, first served. Then the system changed to 
signing up on Friday. When the lines in the hall got 
too long, a lottery was instituted. The SEM lab is a 
shared facility in the f ullest sense of the term, for the 
uses and USDA give Museum scientists part-time ac- 
cess to their machines in exchange for maintenance 
and technical assistance as needed. 

One "first" at the laboratory was the making of a 
hologram — a three-dimensional picture — of a one-celled 
microfossil, the foraminifer, first cousin to an amoeba. 
This enlargement of about a thousand times was nearly 
a foot high, and suggests some interesting ideas for 
displaying tiny objects to the public. While holograms 
may not be the wave of the future, they should certainly 
inspire a few nove\ exhibits. 

In 1984 the Museum produced a major temporary 
exhibit based on the work of the SEM laboratory. This 
show. Exploring Microspace, attracted a great deal of 
nationwide attention." Most of the exhibit consisted of 
greatly enlarged SEM photographs, but its most pop- 
ular feature was probably the instrument itself. At cer- 
tain times of day, visitors could watch it being operated 
by scientists or technicians. The three-month show was 
such a hit that a permanent exhibit is being planned. 

Travel Services Office 

Still another shared facility is the Travel Services Office, 
which like the library, serves the Smithsonian staff at 
large. Founded in 1966. the Travel Office is swift, ef- 
ficient, and helpful, and the Museum staff has wel- 
comed its presence in the building. The Museum is 
more involved in travel than any bureau of the Insti- 


The Museum 

Northwest Indian (Haida) boats in the east courtyard before 1958. The shadow may be cast by the taxidermy shop. 

tution, and the less distance people have to travel to a 
travel office, the better. 

The peregrinations of this office give a capsule view 
of the changes caused by growth and construction over 
the last two decades. The Travel Service began in the 
Management Analysis Office in the Arts and Industries 
building, but almost immediately moved to the Mu- 
seum. It was in one of the glorified closets on the sec- 
ond-floor rotunda balcony. Then there was a move to 
the third floor of the north wing, near the photographic 
laboratory; when the Travel Service left, the photo lab 
lapped up the empty space. Next the Travel Service 
was moved to the west side of the foyer on the ground 
floor. After a time it was hustled from there to an area 
on the second floor near where Hall 26, "Western Civ- 
ilization," was being constructed. For its fifth move in 
ten years, it went back to Arts and Industries. Finally, 
in 1983, the Travel Service people returned to the Mu- 
seum. They landed on the ground floor in the north- 
west corner of the main building — formerly Division 

of Fishes territory and before that the office of Rem- 
ington Kellogg — where they have stayed ever since. By 
their standards, this is virtually a permanent home. 

East and West Courts 

The east court and the west court, in their way, have 
functioned as shared facilities. In Rathbun's account of 
the building, there is no indication of any actual or 
projected public use of courtyards; they were empty 
space, the single most valuable commodity in a mu- 
seum. The courtyards, each in turn, were the strong- 
holds of the taxidermists. Most of the taxidermists' work 
was for the Department of Biology, but for half a cen- 
tury they helped everyone with whatever exhibit work 
was done, and they formed the basis for the exhibits 
group of the 1950s.' ^ 

The courtyards are reached by two doors adjacent 
to the rotunda stairs on either side of the building. The 
east court also has, in its southwest corner, a large en- 
tryway from the shop area. Because of this large door 

Shared Facilities 


Rolland Hower with freeze- 
dried animals. In the 
foreground are a sunfish 
(LepomisJ, a cedar wax- 
wing (Bombycillaj, and a 
ynuskrat (Ondatra); behind 
is a Pallas cat fFelisj and a 
red-tailed hawk (Buteo). 
This was taken in the west 
wing of the main building in 
November 1967. 

and its proximity to the saws, this courtyard first was 
used to store stone bltjcks and slabs awaiting cutting 
and polishing. (i.P. Merrill solicited them from con- 
tiactors wh(j shipped building-stone samples to Wash- 
ington, only to lose a bid. In 1915, for example, the 
Museum accjuired stone samples submitted for the Red 
Cross Building and for the Memorial Amphitheater at 
Arlington.' ' 

I)ui ing World War 1, the east courtyard was partially 
occupied. The Museum's taxidermists had worked in 
a two-story brick structui e built near the Castle in 1875. 
When it was torn down to make room for the Freer 
Gallery, "the building erected in the east court of the 
Natural History Building bv the Bureau of War Risk 
Insurance and turned over to the museum at the ex- 
piration of their occupancy of the building, part of 
which is intended for use as a taxidermist shop, was 
improved by the installation of a galvanized iron gable 
skylight on the roof and the replacing of ground glass 
in the west section with clear glass."'"' The next year, 
1920, "the building in the east court was remodeled by 
providing doors and portable glass transoms on the 
west side."'' Later "the hot-water heating system of the 
Natural History Building was extended to the concrete 
building in the east court. "'^ 

Judging from what was done to this building, it could 
not have won any architectural prizes, for it was erected 
to serve as a ladies' toilet when 3,000 clerks were in the 
building. Nevertheless, this temporary structure lasted 
for four decades, about as long as its predecessor be- 
hind the Castle. In addition to taxidermy, part of the 

building was used for storing whale bones, and part 
was used as the labor-force locker room. Numerous live 
animals were kept in the courtyard to allow the taxi- 
dermists to study their movements. A pair of tortoises 
lived there, too. While the vertebrate preparators on 
the east side of the east range watched girls sunbathe 
near the parking lot, the Geological Survey preparators 
on the west side climbed out of the windows to eat lunch 
in the courtyard and watch the tortoises make love. 

Large objects that did not fit elsewhere went into the 
courtyard. Totem poles lay there for a time. Merrill's 
stones and slabs accumulated; one large slab of sand- 
stone, propped against a wall, sagged after a few dec- 
ades. Some war canoes that sat in the yard eventually 
were placed on rocks and finally had a roof built over 
them. Until the 1950s, large whale bones were parked 
here and there around the perimeter. 

Eventually another temporary building was con- 
structed in the east court. Shortly before World War 
11, G. Arthur Cooper had begun to collect limestone 
blocks in which the fossils had been replaced by silica. 
When the blocks were placed in hydrochloric acid, the 
limestone dissolved and the fossils remained. Magnif- 
icent ccillections were prepared by this technique. Cooper 
did the work in a tiny, unventilated third-floor room, 
and no one considered the effects of acid on pipe fit- 
tings. When a guard in the mineral hall below noticed 
that one of the suspended light globes was two-thirds 
full of an ugly brown liquid, Cooper had to find another 

During the early 1950s the acid operations moved to 


The Museum 

Susann Braden preparing to 
mount a specimen on a 
SEM stub, J illy 1984. The 
ugly gray machine behind is 
used to apply a gold/pallad- 
ium coating before placing 
the stub in the microscope. A 
few enlargements of SEM 
photographs decorate 
the far wall. 

a high-roofed shed in the east court. The table, a mag- 
nificent slab of granite no longer needed for the ex- 
hibits, was its only impressive feature. The building was 
not much to begin with and rapidly became worse. Acid 
fumes corroded the nailheads, and occasionally a piece 
of wallboard fell down. Meanwhile, there was a contin- 
uing reaction between the gypsum of the wallboard and 
the acid fumes in the air, so that little piles of white 
powder accumulated around the walls. 

When planning for the wings began in earnest. Cooper 
had to move again, and the taxidermy shop in the east 
court was vacated and torn down, probably in 1959. Its 
place has been taken by a large air-conditioning plant 
and cooling tower. This plant has been run continu- 
ously since the east wing was completed. On the north- 
west corner of the east court and the northwest corner 
of the west court, air-intake towers were constructed. 
Their boxlike shapes extend above the roof line of the 
main building and can be seen from Constitution Av- 

Building the Greenhouse 

There is another interesting component to the east 
courtyard: a greenhouse, constructed in 1976 atop the 
air-conditioning plant. A proper study of taxonomic 
botany requires, along with equipment and labs, a large 
dried collection in a herbarium, a good library, and 
facilities for live plants. The Museum was superb in the 
first two but lacked the third. In the early 1970s, a new 
fumatorium and drying room were built near the west 

loading dock, but $25,000 of the money allocated had 
not been spent. Robert Read, who had come to the 
Department of Botany in 1 972 to work on Elora of North 
America, was told to build a greenhouse with this money, 
and in all innocence he started. 

All significant government construction in Washing- 
ton has to be cleared through the Fine Arts Commis- 
sion. Somehow the appropriate homework was not done 
when the air-intake towers were constructed, and the 
Institution was not in the good graces of the Commis- 
sion. No one had told Read of this little matter, and 
his greenhouse plans were rejected twice before a de- 
sign that would be acceptable when viewed from the 
air was finally approved. (The Museum lies in an area 
of airspace prohibited to fixed-wing planes, but the 
bird's-eye view had to be approved regardless.) Several 
years and a cost overrun later, the greenhouse opened. 
It has been an important research facility for the staff . 

All Quiet in the West Court 

The west court has had a more placid history; for almost 
fifty years, practically nothing happened there. After 
World War I the Museum acquired the famous NC-4, 
tl\^ first airplane to cross the Atlantic, or at least part 
of it, but this aircraf t could not be properly displayed 
in the corrugated shed behind the Castle. According 
to Paul Garber, there was talk of hoisting it over the 
roof of the Museum and into the west coui tyard, but 
after extended discussion the plan was abandoned. Then 

Shared Facilities 


Victor G. Springer {without his usual mustache), curator oj 
fishes, in the west court in front of Office of Exhibits 
buildings, October 23, 1963. The cigar is fjrobably an El 

Thomas Mclutyre cataloguing specimens oj several genera 
of sijuirrels, September 197 1 . The cinderblock wall is in the 
ivest wing, and the paper tape machine today has value 
only as a collector's item. 

an art group in Philadelphia offered to design a foun- 
tain for the center, but this offer was kindly refused. 
A tenipoiary hoist built in the west coiut in the late 
192()s was removed when it was no longer needed. 

During the late 194()s the only activity in the court- 
yard — according to Lachncr, whose office looked out 
on it — was the quiet decaying of a few- wooden boats. 
C^liarles Handley, the manimalogist, recalls that the grass 
was lush and the grasshoppers abundant. Pigeons ate 
the grasshoppers and sparrow hawks swept in to eat 
the pigeons. 

The "Butler Buildings" 

In 1957 a sei ies of three connected metal "Butler build- 
ings'" was put up in the west court, cUid this became the 
home of the rapidly expanding exhibits program. The 
west and centei buildings housed the exhibits staff and 
the displays in preparation; the east one was used mainly 
for anlhropcjlogical storage. When they moved from 
the east-court toilet building to the west-court Butler 
building, the taxidermists were officially transferred 
from the Department of Zoology to the Office of Ex- 
hibits. Designers, carpenters, model makers, painters, 
and others were all busy with the new halls. 

In these buildings, considerable effort was devoted 
to such projects as carving sticks into the shape of pa- 
pyrus stems to go into the water-buffalo exhibit. Over 
about two years the stick-carvers turned out thousands, 
inspiring a local reporter to do an Arbor Day story on 
people who "made trees. " Another day, a brown recluse 
spider in its web and the shed skin of another were 

found in a box of dried African mammal skins. Because 
this spider is so poisonous, the building was evacuated 
and fumigated. 

One major technique was developed in the Butler 
buildings: the freeze-drying of specimens. The speci- 
men, positioned by wires and other supports, is quickly 
frozen with liquid nitrogen and then kept cold until all 
moisture evaporates. F"or some mammals it works quite 
well, for some reptiles it is fair, and it requires great 
skill to work well with fish. Of course one is limited by 
the size of the cryogenic chamber, and no large animals 
have ever been freeze-dried.' ' 

Exhibits Staff Expands 

The exhibits group kept expanding. Some workers were 
moved into Stone Hall, abandoned by the Geological 
Survey when the east wing was completed; others were 
assigned to the high-ceilinged rooms in the north wing 
of the main building near the north elevators. A lot of 
casting of models for exhibits was done there, and ex- 
cess plaster kept getting into the sink. Eventually the 
pipes were filled solid all the way to the ground floor, 
and new plumbing had to be installed when the area 
was renovated. 

In 1962 and 1963, when the Museum of History and 
Technology was substantially finished, much of the ex- 
hibits staff went there, though there were still a number 
of people in the west courtyard and scattered in still- 
closed exhibit halls. When the west wing was finally 
completed and the scientists moved in, the ground floor 
on the south side of the main building was modified. 


The Museum 

Jack F. Marquardt, librarian of the Natural History 
Branch, in the decked, area of the west north range, ground 
floor. Behind him are the various devices that librarians 
now use more cornmonly than pe?icils. Jack is 07i his lunch 
hour and is trying to keep ahead oj staff requests by reading 
science fiction. July 1984. 

Madeline Tawney on the third f loor of the main building, 
west wing, July 1984; the office was formerly part of the 
Division of Birds. The move to the Museum Support Center 
is accompanied by large amounts of computer paper from 
data processing. 

While decking on the Mall side was extended, some 
decking on the north side, where the old offices of 
Fishes had been, was removed. This area became a large 
cabinet-making and paint shop for exhibits, and re- 
mains so today. Eventually a large share of the exhibits 
program moved to "Exhibits Central" at 1111 North 
Capitol Street, a catch-all building for a number of 
Smithsonian activities. 

James Mead's Project 

In 1972, when national concern about marine mammals 
was running high, James Mead arrived at the Museum 
from two years at a whaling station. Mead was to in- 
vestigate strandings of mammals along the East Coast 
and to increase the size of the collections. The Division 
of Mammals had hoped to develop a center for the 
study of marine mammals in the Torpedo Factory in 
Alexandria, but this became an artists' center, so Mead 
moved into the Butler building along with a few re- 
maining people from Exhibits. He set up a cooking 
system for boiling porpoise skulls in a former spray- 
paint booth. The exhaust fan moved the smell into the 
courtyard, whence it soon was picked up by the air- 
intake tower. After that there was more removal of flesh 
by hand in preparation of specimens, and less boiling. 

The best way ever found to clean bones for osteo- 
logical investigation is to remove as much of the meat 
as possible by hand and then let dermestid beetle larvae 
eat the rest. This standard technique is, to many people, 
one of the most curious aspects of the Museum's work. 
For about twenty-five years the "south shed" behind 

the Castle was used for the beetles, the theory being 
that if they were kept away from the Museum, the 
collections would be safe from their scavenging. Over 
the years this facility became increasingly decrepit and 

In 1975 the dermestid beetles and a laboratory for 
the preparation of large specimens, mostly from Mead's 
collecting, were moved into rooms in the Osteo-Prep- 
aration Laboratory, a small two-story building in the 
east court, between the courtyard wall and the air-con- 
ditioning plant. This was a major step up from the south 
shed and the Butler building. Not only did Mead ap- 
preciate it; everyone else in the Museum did too. One 
small whale being brought to the new lab did fall off 
a cart in the entryway to the courtyard, and because 
there was no way to move it. Mead and others prepared 
it on the spot. Air-conditioning engineers who had to 
walk past it going to and from work were cranky while 
the bones were being flensed. 

By 1973, when the Butler buildings were vacated, 
the Museum's marvelous taxidermy staff had shrunk 
to one person, yet there was no space for skin prepa- 
ration. On the third floor of the Museimi, apart from 
the private facilities in the director's office and Holmes's 
old office, there was one large women's restroom and 
one men's room, each with marble floors, marble walls, 
and marble partitions. The decision was made to con- 
vert the men's room for work on skins; this facility is 
known as the "marble ballroom." In the game of win- 
ners and losers, male scientists in the main building 
now must walk great distances to the wings. □ 

Shared Facilities 


Chapter 18 

Shops and 

THE MUSEUM IS MORE THAN laboratories and exhibit 
halls, specimens and books. Without all its sup- 
porting parts it will not work, and without proper main- 
tenance it falls apart. When the new Museum was 
planned, accordingly, the ground floor of the east wing 
was designed for equipment and shops. The people 
who worked there, reporting to the building superin- 
tendent rather than the director, were necessarily the 
first to be in the new National Museum. 

The machinery must have been impressive. When 
Queen Marie of Rumania visited, Wetmore detailed 
Bassler to escort her around, and he showed her all 
the ground floor, suggesting that she seldom had a 
chance to see how a museum really worked. I he new 
building's huge boilers and direct-current generators 
supplied heat and electricity for all the Smithsonian 
buildings by means of tunnels running under the Mall.' 
Each annual report gave meticulous figures on the 
amount of coal used and the cost per kilowatt-hour of 
electricity. Rathbun, not surprisingly, offered details of 
every pipe and fuse. 

He regretted, however, that the heating plant "could 
not have been located in a separate structure, on ac- 
count of the annoyance caused by coal dust and soot 
and by vibration produced by certain parts of the ma- 
chinery, troubles that can best be remedied by the es- 
tablishment of a central power plant for the Govern- 
ment buildings in the western part of the city, as has 
been proposed."" Twenty-five years after the heating 
plant began operations, it was closed down; no one 
missed it. The six permanent and several seasonal work- 
ers whose jobs disappeared were resettled in other gov- 
ernment positions. The government's power plant went 
into service in 1934, and the Smithsonian theieafter 
was content to purchase heat.' 

It also stopped manufacturing its own electricity, but 

Woodworking equipment in the new National Museum, 
probably in the 1920s or 1930s. The bell-dr iven machinery 
was powered by the Museum's power plant until the mid- 
193 Os. The carpentry shop is the only shop that has not 
changed its position on the grou nd floor. 

this was a different kind of story. The Institution cus- 
tomarily had purchased electricity for two months or 
so every sunnner, when its power plant was closed. By 
1916 "the amount of electric current generated was 
greater than in previous years, as more lights were used 
and it has been found necessary to increase the size of 
the lamps in inost of the exhibition halls. By the mid- 
dle of the 1920s, some of the needed electricity had to 
be purchased year-round. In 1928, the year the small 
boiler for hot water to the offices gave out, the engineer 
obtained new pistons for his three 25()-horsepower en- 
gines and was able to produce more current. Demands 
for light and power in all the buildings rose steadily.' 
By 1931 the number of outside cables had to be in- 
creased, and it was evident that the plant could not 
cope with demand. In 1934, 191 !iew light fixtures were 
installed in the third-floor laboratories. Judging from 
the lighting of the 1950s, it must have been as bright 
back then as the inside of a coal mine on a cloudy day. 

The switch to purchased power in 1934 did not end 
all troubles. "The problem of obtaining additional elec- 
tric supply becomes more serious each year, and it will 
soon be imperative either to increase the number of 
cables entering the Natural History Building or procure 
alternating current," Wetmore wrote in 1938. "The 
Smithsonian buildings are practically the only Govern- 
ment group in Washington not using alternating cur- 
rent, which may be purchased at more economical rates 
than direct current."" In June 1940 the Museum finally 
began to convert to alternating power, a job that took 
about a year. The boilers were finally taken out of the 

New passenger elevators were installed about this 
time. Ancient as they look today, the ones in the rotunda 
were completed in July 1941, and those in the north 
pavilion in December, just before the United States 
entered World War II. Whether it was lack of money 
or the start of the war, the freight elevators were not 
changed in 1941. They were slill being run by direct 
current until the wings were put on, and the converter 
had to be turned on before they could be used. 

An ice plant was authorized in 1911, ostensibly for 


Plan of shops on the ground 
floor, east unng of main builditig, 
from United States National 
Museum Bulletin 80 (1913). 
This was drawn before the ice- 
making plant was installed. 

the preservation of collections, and was operated for 
decades. The Annual Report of the Smithsonian Insti- 
tution dutif ully recorded that in f iscal year 1947, 186.7 
tons of ice were produced at a cost, apart from labor, 
oi $1.16 per ton. After this entry, all the shops dis- 
appeared from the official records, and except for the 
opening of exhibit halls or major construction, the 
building is no longer mentioned. The ice plant func- 
ti(Mied at least until 1948, but was gone by the early 
1950s. Ice was stored in tw(j rooms behind the rotunda 
so that a wagon could drive into the tunnel and be 
loade{l with ic e foi the other buildings. G. Arthur Cooper 
recalls the pitchers of ice he used to keep photographic 
solutions cool in the sweatbox of a darkroom in the 
corner of his office. For a time bottled water in iced 
coolers was provided for the staff cfuring the awful 
Washington summers. 


Contractors before World War I were no dif f erent from 
those of today in leaving problems behind. Consider 
this, for a building five years old: "Serious leaks in the 
upper story of the building were traced to and neces- 
sitated the repointing of joints in the three courses of 
stone adjoining the roofs in the west court, and also in 
the outer stonework of the west range above the main 
cornice. The exterior metal framework and sills of all 
the first and second story windows in the courts were 
painted, as were the walls of the auditorium which had 
become defaced through the seepage of moisture. For 
the protection of floors showing wear, a part of the 
wood surface in the corridors of the third story was 
covered with a preparation of cork, while all of the 
cement paving in the corridors in the ground floor was 
treated with cement paint."' 

All this maintenance work was done by workers in 
the shops. While old-timers of the scientific staff think 

fondly of the days when the ground floor took care of 
everything from heat to ice, a look at salaries provides 
a rather jarring trip down memory lane. In 1918 the 
head of the paint shop got ninety-five dollars a month 
(fifty-five cents an hour), and the painters made three 
dollars and seventy cents per day. In the sheet-metal 
shop, two men made eighty-five dollars a month, one 
was paid sixty dollars, and another was paid fifty dol- 
lars. To give the wages of the plumbers at that time 
would bring tears to the eyes of any present-day home 
owner. In 1927 the Annual Report noted the great rate 
of turnover of labor, especially among the temporary 
help, who got the lowest pay and no leave. 

Like everything else in the building, the shops have 
changed their locations. The carpentry shop is the last 
remnant of the old days, both in appearance and lo- 
cation, occupying much of the south side of the east 
wing in the main building. The sheet-metal and awning 
shops at the west end of the carpentry shop have gone, 
the awning shop falling victim to air conditioning and 
the sheet-metal work moving into the new east wing. 
The paint shop at the east end of the main building 
also moved to the east wing, and its former place was 
decked over for offices and locker rooms. Old-time 
cabinetmakers like Mr. Becker and Mr. Fischer are long 
gone, and their descendants are now in the exhibits 
shops. The area where the plumbing and mechanical 
shops once were has been decked over, mainly for of- 
fices. On the east end of the main building, where the 
electrical shop used to be, are more double-decker of- 
fices. The old furnace room now houses the saws used 
to section large meteorites and rocks, creating a new 
job for the chain hoist that was originally installed to 
move carloads of clinkers and ash. 

On the courtyard side, an office now occupied by 
Buildings Maintenance was a supply room undl the 
early 1960s. Clayton Ray, a vertebrate paleontologist, 


The Museum 

has a vivid recollection of Kellogg's taking him there 
and telling him to get whatever he needed in the way 
of office supplies. Billy Knowles was the building's orig- 
inal purchasing agent and supply clerk, still remem- 
bered by a few for his friendliness and efficiency. He 
never wore an overcoat, regardless of the weather, and 
one winter he caught a chill and died. Both Henderson 
and Perrygo remember what a contrast he made to a 
taxidermist who had been to the Arctic with Peary and 
could not wait for winter so that he could wear his furs 
to work. 

Even with the new wings, there was insufficient space 
for the shops as the Institution and the Museum grew 
during the 1960s. In the 1970s, when the kinds of 
exhibit cases changed, the glass shop disappeared. The 
electric shop moved several times before ending up in 
the old awning shop. The plumbers dispossessed by 
sedimentologists who needed the groimd floor for lab- 
oratories, moved to the basement, only to be dispos- 
sessed by ever-growing collections and by volunteer 
restorers of old pots. Today it is virtually impossible to 
find the plumbing shop. One must go into the east 
courtyard and through the air-conditioning building 
to enter their cinderblock lean-to. Perhaps the plumbers 
feel that if the scientists find otU where they are hiding, 
they will be dispossessed again. 

Painting is more complicated now than in the days 
of solid "government green." The liberalized 1950s 
brought a choice of six colors, and now there are 1,200 
possible color combinations. Repainting an office or 
touching up an exhibit can be a nightmare. The paint 
shop has calctilated that if the Mtisetun of Natural His- 
tory were placed on, say, a three-year schedule of re- 
painting, it would require more painters than are now 
employed to cope with all the buildings. The Institu- 
tion's growth has not been reflected in a swelling main- 
tenance force, only partly because of more-efficient 
machinery. Some work is contracted out. While it is 
generally agreed that work done by the Smithsonian 
shops is better, the waiting list is long. 

Since the 1970s, when they started wearing unif orms, 
the shop employees have been color-coded. The labor 
force wears blue; painters and plasterers, the traditional 
white; groundskeepers, green. Mechanics, plumbers, 
sheet-metal workers, carpenters, and engineers are in 
brown. Anyone with a white shirt is a foreman or su- 
pervisor, just as any male guard with a white shirt is a 
sergeant or above. 

The Main Mail Room 

The Museum building remains the center for many 
support activities of the Institution, all very important 
and all occupying space that the curators would love 
to fill. For example, the area of the west loading dock 
is the main mail room for all buildings. Mail for the 
Museum has increased about 75 percent in the last 
fifteen years; mail for the Institution overall has more 

Croxudcd sturai^r near ihc loading duck (di llir ground floor, 
west wing of mam building. January 1950. 

than doubled. The mailroom workers, who wear what- 
ever they like, are always kind enough to reopen the 
last mailbag of the day for scientists running in late 
with manuscripts. 

"Lanier," who delivered mail office-to-office in the 
1930's, felt that taking responsibility for the U.S. Mail 
was important enough to warrant a uniform. On his 
days off he played the trumpet at Laurel Raceway to 
signal the start of each race, and one day he showed 
up at work in his scarlet jacket. A few days later. Wet- 
more saw that he was issued a jacket and cap. In spite 
of a good memory, Lanier had a problem with his job 
in that he could hardly read. He judged names by length. 
When he walked in and handed a curator the mail, the 
person would shuf fle through and hand back the pieces 
not addressed to him, being careful to say to whom 
those letters were to go. 


Not everyone on the ground floor is involved with the 
shops. As a result of reorganization in 1973, the re- 
sponsibility for managing the Museum building was 
decentralized and came again to be under the director. 
Today the building is well managed, and this is no small 
task. Of the more than five million tourists each year, 
how many arc likely to use the public rest rooms, and 

Shdps and Maiiilniance 


Fniiik Bxiislt'tl (leaning the wall nrai the livnio mial nrj 
at the entrance to Hall 16. July 19S4. 

just liow many cases of paper towels are likely to be 
needed? There is a lot of building to be cleaned every 
single day. Public areas are cleaned before 1U:U0 a.m.. 
and then of fices and nonpublic areas are taken care of . 

A couple of amenities have faded out. Until at least 
the mid-1950s, nickel-plated spittoons were regularly 
delivered to many of the of fices, and the men's public 
toilet had one. There were none in the exhibit halls, 
and as late as the 194()s some guards had to go to a 
window and spit before answering a tourist's inquiry. 
One of the people who delivered the spittoons walked 
in a stately manner from office to office, holding each 
vessel daintily between two fingers; he was a church 
deacon, and that was the way he held the collection 
plate. Towel service, a weekly ritual, was run by the 
Smithsonian in cooperation with the D.C. Prison laun- 
dry. In the early 1960s the jail doubled its prices, and 
the service was discontinued. A few hardy towels — white, 
with a blue stripe — are still in the hands of staff old- 
timers who launder them at home. In at least two di- 
visions, they are laundered and distributed regularly. 

"There was a time," Judd wrote nostalgically, "when 

the National Museum prided itself on spotless exhibi- 
tion cases, free from the imprints of sticky little hands 
and adult noses. In the archaeological halls, at least, 
this cleaning job was one for the 'bull gang', five husky 
Negroes who worked as a unit and found justifiable 
self-satisfaction in their results. Our big floor cases, each 
with its three-hundred-pound plate-glass side panels 
offered individual challenges despite their similarity. 
Two men would lift out the heavy glass and support it 
while the others cleaned. As they went about their day- 
long task these men frequently broke into song, country 
hymns sung with all the rich resonance and harmony 
of a church organ. Museum visitors stopped at a dis- 
tance to listen, and I shall always believe we lost some- 
thing unique and distinctive when 'the bull gang' was 

The Museum still prides itself on being spotless. The 
exhibit halls still contain plenty of glass that needs daily 
wiping, if not the acres of glass they presented in the 
past. Other changes besides the glass have been good 
news to the cleaning force. The big event, for them, 
was not the addition of the wings, but the replacement 
by terrazzo of the wooden floors, which had been made 
worse in some areas by cork coverings. 

One last housekeeping tale is the story of the yellow 
wastebaskets. As a result of "Earth Day" in 1970, aware- 
ness of the environment and concern for conservation 
began to trickle through the nation, reaching even the 
General Services Administration. This agency an- 
nounced, in some very obscure place, a program to 
salvage paper. One of the scientists in the building hap- 
pened to see it, and suggested that the Museum might 
save a fair number of trees if a paper-salvage program 
were instituted. 

The Museum had sponsored scrap-metal and news- 
paper collections during World War II, but the tradi- 
tion of these had long since vanished. The new notion 
was for each office to have two wastebaskets, one for 
trash and a yellow one for salvage. It took an enormous 
amount of time to train some curators on the difference 
between carbon paper, which was not saved, and en- 
velopes, which were, but eventually they got it. After 
a few weeks there was never an apple core in with the 
paper to be salvaged. 

The only drawback was that this made extra work 
for the cleaning people, requiring them to carry two 
bags on their carts, one for regular trash and one for 
the salvage paper. It would have been easy enough 
simply not to bother, but when the program was ex- 
plained to the maintenance crews, they agreed to do 
it. Not only did they agree, they did it for years. Long 
after the General Services Administration lost interest 
in the environment, the Museum continued to salvage 
paper until the GSA just stopped accepting it. Very few 
groups willingly make their dailyjob a bit harder. There 
are still a few yellow wastebaskets around, and the newer 
staff have no idea what they once meant. □ 


The Museum 

Charles Eblen cutting a 
metal strip in the machine 
shop, east wing, ground floor. 

April 19S4. 

Robert (iutrick washing 
doivii the )i()rth steps before 
opening the budding, July 
1984. To the right is the 
access ramp for the handi- 
capped. The three lines on 
the platjue to the left read, 
' 'S m itliso n ia n Inst it ution , 
National Museum of 
Natural History, National 
Museum of Man." The small 
sign below lists the dates and 
times oj summer hours. 

Building an exhibit case in 
the exhibits shop, west wing 
of main building; April 

Shops and Mamie nance 


Chapter 19 

Others in the 

FROM THE WAY AFFILIATED organizations have fig- 
ured in the story of the Museum, it must be clear 
that the building's various occupants all are part of the 
same Museum community and have interests in com- 
mon. This concept certainly encompasses those who 
work in the shops. Between the systematists and the 
carpenters, however, lie several more groups of people 
who are important to the building and definitely part 
of the community. 

This brings up again the persistent question of just 
how many people work in the building. The correct 
answer is that no one can be sure where the number 
stands at any given moment. The last time identification 
badges were made, about 1,700 were issued. Because 
some of those in the building have badges issued from 
other buildings, the number present each day is probably 
closer to 1,800. The population fluctuates, with a few 
more scientific visitors in the summer than at other 
times of the year. At the moment just over 500 persons 
constitute the formal, paid Museum staff — less than 
one-third of those working there on an average day. 

Because they are in uniform, the group of non- 
Museum staff that are easiest to identif y are the guards. 
The Smithsonian from its inception employed watch- 
men, whose job originally included running errands 
and, in winter, tending fires. By the time the National 
Museum opened, in 1881, it was established procedure 
to have a person on duty in the public areas. Employees 
had to supply their own uniforms, which were modeled 
in general on police uniforms of the time. Hours were 
long, commonly a twelve-hour shift, and it was not until 
1907 that the watchmen were given one Sunday off 
per month. The forty-hour week did not arrive until 

Alexander Wetmore, sixteen years after his retirement, 
studying birds on the sixth floor of the east wing, November 
1969. The light is designed to simulate daylight as closely 
as possible. In the foreground ts a blue-faced booby fSulaj, 
but the principal interest is in the series of females and 
white-breasted males of the three-wattled bell bird 

The Guard Force 

Once the new National Museum opened, it became the 
headquarters of the Smithsonian's guard force. A small 
room to the west of the elevators in the north lobby 
was the guard office, and in spite of all the changes 
that have gone on in the building, it still is. In the 1950s 
the foyer, now occupied by the Evans Gallery, under- 
went extensive alterations. One exhibit on the east side 
was removed, and the area was decked over; the lower 
floor became a health room, and the upper floor was 
the locker room for guards. When the telephone room 
moved from the west north range to the Museum of 
History and I^chnology in the early 1960s, this space 
was taken over by the guards and decked. The upper 
level became another locker room, and the lower floor 
is now a security area where Museum fire-alarm systems 
are monitored. 

After the new National Museum opened, there were 
two companies of guards, one for this large new build- 
ing and one for the Castle and the Arts and Industries 
building. In 1964 a third company was established for 
the Museum of History and Technology. With each 
additional building, the company structure of the guard 
force has been modified. The Museum's guards do not 
report to the director. F"ormerly under the of f ice of the 
Institution's buildings superintendent, they have been 
part of the Office of Protection Services since 1973. 

The guards serve in three watches, the hours of which 
have changed slightly over the years. In the early 194()s 
about thirty men were on the day shift in the Natural 
History Building, and about seven on each of the other 
two shifts. The guard force in the building has about 
doubled since then, in part because of longer hours 
during the summer. As the Smithsonian complex grew, 
the number of guards also increased, and they now 
constitute the largest single group of employees that is 
active in every building of the Smithsonian. 

There have been black officers on the force at least 
since the 1880s. Eor many years black officers were 
assigned to the night shift, ostensibly because they pre- 
ferred it. In the very early 1950s several of these officers 
indicated that they preferred to work days. They kept 


A ducctit talking about dinosaurs to a class. Several Phytosaur skulls are in the case behind. Although these still are on 
exhibit, this picture shozvs the revised hall of the 1960s, not the current one. 

indicating their preference, and finally tliey were given 
a fair share of day work. 

C.nards must agree to work on any shift and in any 
building. In recent years there has iieen less shift ro- 
tation and less assignment from one liuilding to an- 
other, and this has allowed the indi\idual officers to 
increase their familiarity with a building. During the 
late 1930s, Edward Henderson suggested that because 
many visitors asked questions about the gems, it might 
be wise to keep the same guard on duty in the gem and 
inineral hall so that he could become familiar with the 
collection and answer questions better. Wetmore agreed, 
and the mineralogists put together a reference book 
for the guard. Today the Smithsonian has a pocket 
guide for guards telling where the principal attractions 
are located in the various buildings. While the guards 
are reluctant: to repeat some c^f the silly questions they 
have been asked, one does recall a tourist's looking at 
the world's largest crystal ball and asking if that was 
the Hope Diamond. 

Being a guard has never been financially rewarding. 
Many good employees have been lost to higher-paying 
jobs and a few have joined the technical staff of the 

Museum; yet some have retired after thirty or even 
forty years' service. I here is a modest night-pay dif- 
fei ential; the Museum is particularly drafty and gloomy 
late at night and the exti a pay is earned. The fire alarms 
are tested on Friday nights at 3:00 A.M., and even if 
one knows the noise is coming, it still makes one jump. 
"Railroad" Harris, who had been on the force thirty- 
eight years, recalls taking a new man around to show 
him the alarm stations and warning him to stay away 
from the sword on "Kaiser Bill, " the German officer 
manikin standing at one end of the attic. After one walk 
through the attic, the new man turned in his gun at 
the office and quit on the spot. 

In the 1930s and 1940s each guard was equipped 
with a gas billyclub — a billy with a tear-gas canister at 
the tip. Since then, guards have been issued revolvers. 
In 1951 the Secretary was given legal authority to des- 
ignate protection officers who have the right to enforce 
regulations and to arrest if necessary. Arrests are sel- 
dom made, but they are made. 

While today's large volume of visitors probably pro- 
vides extra security for the exhibits, it increases the 
problem of pickpocketing and purse snatching. The 


The Museum 

R.E. Blackwelder, an entomologist formerly on the staff, 
and Waldo Schmitt on the south steps, in 1976. At the 
time, "Uncle Waldo" was in his eighteenth year of 
retirement work at the office. The placjue does not meiitio)) 
the Museum of Man. 

guards are always watching for this, but inevitably a 
few tourists do suffer losses. Once a young man found 
"operating" a self-service elevator and charging tourists 
twenty-five cents a ride was escorted from the building 
and advised not to come back. 

Losses from the exhibits have been very few, and 
nothing noteworthy has disappeared. In one incident 
from the 1930s, a guard noticed that an African spear 
was missing from a wall display, and reported it. The 
next day he kept watch, and observed a man moving 
another spear slightly upward in its retaining brackets. 
Each day the spear was pushed a little higher. The 
guard was watching on the day the thief got it loose 
and hurled it out the window to an accomplice. Both 
were caught. 

A few years ago a former employee tried to rob the 
museum shop before it opened for the day, but was 
caught before he reached the exit. In the 1970s a 
professional mineral thief was captured after he re- 
moved several screws from a case and set off the alarm. 
Not every case is equipped with an alarm, but most are. 
Security screws are also used on many of the cases. 

One fairly new development is the appearance of 
women on the guard force. This was not so much a 
result of the women's liberation movement as a con- 
sequence of Civil Service reclassification. For about sixty 
years the elevators in the building were run by oper- 
ators, and since the early 1940s most of the operators 
were women. Guards were forbidden to operate the 
elevators during working hours, except in an emer- 
gency. Eventually, it was decided to abolish the separate 
classification of elevator operator, and these women 
became part of the guard force. For a time the elevators 
were viewed as "perimeter security" because they pro- 

Olhers in the Building 

Officer Harrison McPhaul in the Cent Hall, at the ive^t 
end of Hall 19, July 1984. Behind him are people lined up 
to see the Hope Diamond. 

The information desk, manned by volunteers, on the west 
side of the lobby. This desk is normally by the entrance to 
the Evans Gallery but was moved for the "Aditi" show of 
life in India. July 1985. 


The Discovery Room, 1980. 
Amidst the children are a 
parent in the foreground, a 
volunteer midway, and a 
staff member behind. 
Everyone seems to be 
enjoying learning. 

vided access to the of fices on the third floor, and a few 
tourists were flustered by the sight of a smiling female 
elevator operator packing a .32-caliber pistol. Other 
women have come directlv onto the force as guards. In 
the recruiting oi male and female guards alike, pref- 
erence is given to veterans of the armed forces. 

Another new development is the K-9 corps that be- 
gan to be used in 1976. Some of the curators expressed 
dismay, fearing thai the dogs might urinate on speci- 
mens in the exhibit halls, but this concern has proved 
to be unfounded. Using dogs in the Museimi on an 
irregular schedule has added an extra measure of se- 

An important recent event in the history of the build- 
ing was The Precious Legacy, a temporary exhibit in the 
Evans Gallery in 1983. This was the fust showing of 
objects from the Jewish Museum in Prague. Security 
was exceedingly important; should anything have been 
lost or damaged, it could have had political ramifica- 
tions. When the Israeli ambassador toured the exhibit, 
the building was sealed. 

Large crowds were expected, but they exceeded all 
estimates. Lines ran from the rotunda through Hall 8, 
down the Constitution Avenue steps, across the lobby, 
and finally into the Evans Gallery. Often the wait was 
more than an hour. In addition, a ticket system for 
admission at stated times was instituted. Throughout 
all this the guards remained poised, and no one was 
hurried through the exhibit. One of the officers com- 
mented that the Office of Protection Services had been 
involved in the planning from the beginning, and that 
this was the first time their views and suggestions were 
seriously considered. The net effect has been that the 
guards, more than ever before, feel like part of the 

The Importance of Volunteers 

One of the remarkable aspects of the Museum and the 
Institution is the large number of volunteers. The 
Smithsonian is one of the few places in the world where 
people seem willing to stand in line to volunteer. The 
volunteer hours contributed over a year approximate 
those of paid staff." 

The Museum's information service, run from desks 
in the rotunda and the lobby, is entirely a volunteer 
operation. The desks are staffed from 10:00 A.M. to 
4:00 P.M. throughout the year, with sixty-two time slots 
to be filled each week. This is a lot of hours, yet the 
desk is never unattended. All sorts of questions are 
asked and answered. Certainly the tourists, and the 
scientific and other visitors who have to be announced 
before proceeding to behind-the-scenes destinations, 
would put an overload on the guard force, were it not 
for these volunteers. 

Another place where volunteers are extremely im- 
portant in Museum work is the docent program. These 
volunteers lead school groups from one exhibit to the 
next and make certain the visit is a learning experience, 
not just a vacation from the classroom. For fiscal year 
1983, in the Museum of Natural History, 310 docents 
put in more than 30,000 hours.' As a reflection of 
changing times in America, the docents now include a 
growing number of men. 

In addition to docents who roam the halls when school 
is in session, there are two educational areas in the 
building that are staffed year-round by volunteers. The 
Discovery Room is staffed almost entirely by volunteers, 
about fifty-five of them in all. Two part-time paid staff 
members are responsible for the room and its speci- 
mens and for overseeing the volunteer program.* 

The Naturalist Center attracts the even more scien- 


The Museum 

The Naturalist Center, 1982. Payson D. Carter is one of the oldest doeents, a yuan in his eighties who comes in tivuc a week 
to teach. He is holding a slab containing fossil ferns (Neuropteris and Alethopterisj. 

tifically-inclined volunteer. In general, these workers 
are people who are interested in specimens and in shar- 
ing their interest with others. At least one member of 
the current staff, Donald Davis in Entomology, traces 
his interest directly to volunteer work done when he 
was in high school. 

Gus Van Beek, a specialist in Middle Eastern ar- 
cheology, has been extremely successful in obtaining 
volunteers to work at archeological sites. Reasoning that 
others might like to help even if they were not on a 
"dig," he put out a call for assistance over ten years 
ago, and got a volunteer group that has gathered weekly 
ever since to fit potsherds together. They met in one 
closed exhibit hall, then another; then in the basement 
of the west wing and finally in the east wing basement. 
This is the longest continuously running program of 
volunteer scientific work at the Museum, but some de- 
partments have received as much as eight years of part- 
time assistance from a constantly changing cast of vol- 
unteers. In fiscal year 1983, 247 behind-the-scenes vol- 
unteers contributed 59,043 hours of work. Annually 
they receive a pat on the back as their principal reward, 
plus a great deal of inner satisfaction. Volunteer work 

extends the efforts of the scientists and has become a 
significant facet of Museum operations in some de- 

F'rom volunteers working in the collections, it is a 
short step to retired scientists, or, more correctly, un- 
paid scientists. Most retirees are from the staff or af- 
filiated organizations, but retirees from the Depart- 
ment of Agriculture find a home in Botany or 
Entomology, and occasionally scientists from further 
afield come to the Museum for a year or more. Henry 
Collins has been coming in to the Museum for sixty- 
one years, as has T. Dale Stewart, if one counts the 
time Stewart took off to go to medical school. Edward 
Henderson has been coming in fifty-six years and G. A. 
Cooper for fifty-five. 

At the other end of the scale are students. There are 
students of all ages in the Museum. About twenty-five 
each year are supported by the Smithsonian, ranging 
from lowly midergraduates to distinguished Regents 
Fellows. There are usually at least twice that many other 
students and special visitors in the building who have 
come to study the collections for a day or more. □ 

Others in the Building 


Chapter 20 


museum, and so far as one can determine, there 
never has been an instance of anyone's being refused 
admission during visiting hours. Because most mu- 
seums in America either charge a fee or ask for a do- 
nation, visitors expect to pay admission, but no one's 
money has ever been accepted. This is not a trivial point, 
for some years ago, under a Conservative government, 
the British Museum of Natural History was ordered to 
install a turnstile and charge admission. At that time 
the Conservatives had already lost much support, but 
to charge for a public museum was the final straw. A 
few months later the Labor Party came in, and the 
turnstiles went out. After the Labor government lost 
and the Consei vatives returned to power, no one at- 
tempted to reinstate the charge for entry into that 
government-supported museum. 

If the National Museum of Natural History were to 
charge an admission fee of, say, three dollars, it would 
bring in enough money at least to maintain the building 
and exhibits. However, in exchange for a few cents 
apiece from their taxes, the people of America may 
enjoy for free the exhibits in all the Smithsonian mu- 
seums, have their priceless national collections cared 
for, and, through scientific publication, reap the fruits 
of the Museum's research. 

The American people seem to respect the Smithson- 
ian Institution and all it stands for, judging from the 
behavior of the visiting public. There is virtually no 
trash on the floors, and graffiti on the walls are almost 
nonexistent. Some of the older staff members cannot 
quite get used to the casual dress of the tourists; when 
they were young, going to a museum was a serious 
business, requiring one's best clothing. Nevertheless, 
casual dress is now a way of life throughout the world. 
Some of the older guards have noted that the noise 
level since the 1950s seems to be much higher, but this 
is probably a result of the great increase in tourism. 

Visitors lined up along Constitution Avenue to see the 
Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit i)i the foyer, March 1965. 
Behind the young man slaminig near the east driiwivay is 
the walkway to the east door of the wing, never opened. 

The number of visitors to the Museum of Natural 
History and the other Smithsonian buildings has always 
been closely watched. When the Institution was still 
fairly young, an anonymous clerk compiled annual at- 
tendance figures for the Castle and the National Mu- 
seum. These show the dramatic increase that resulted 
from the opening of the new National Museum, es- 
pecially after Sunday hours were instituted: 

One of the most important events of the year 
[191 1], if not in the history of the Museum, was 
the beginning of Sunday openings to the public, 
whereby the privileges of the establishment were 
extended equally to all classes. First advocated by 
the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution at 
least 50 years ago, the means required for the 
additional heating and watchmen only became 
available in the provisions made for maintenance 
since the completion of the new building. This 
innovation applies for the present only to the new 
building, with hours from 1:30 to 4:30 o'clock in 
the af ternoon. . . . On the first date of opening, 
October 8, 1911, the attendance reached the 
almost unprecedented figure of 15,467. It fell to 
4,570 on the second, to 3,885 on the third, and to 
3,280 on the fourth Sunday, with an average for 
all Sundays of 1,666 visitors, as against a week-day 
average of 693 visitors. There is no doubt, 
therefore, that the step has been fully justified, 
and it is hoped that the provision of an additional 
place to which people may resort on Sundays for 
instruction and diversion has not been without 
some moral influence.' 

fhe Sunday openings were a success from the very 
beginning, and for thirty years, in spite of its shorter 
hours, Sunday consistently drew more visitors than any 
other day of the week. When there were sufficient funds 
to open the other Smithsonian buildings on Sunday, 
they too proved popular. During World War II Sunday 
became a full day, and eventually the Museum was open 
the same hours every day of the week. With the five- 
day work week, Sunday is no longer the one big day, 
but shares the weekend crowds with Saturday. 


Table 4 
Museum of Natural History 
Attendance 1910-1984 


Number of 


Number of 









































1 9 1 9-' 








1 92 1 




1 922 











2, 113, 053 





1 926 




1 927 

561 ,286 



1 928 












1 93 1 




















1 936 







4,442,61 1 







































1. Government fiscal vear July 1-June 30, until 1977. 

2. Building open for only three months of the year. 

3. Building closed Mondays October 21. 1968-April 7, 1969. 

4. Extra 3 months added to this fiscal year. 

5. Government fiscal year changed to October 1 — 
September 30. 

The Museum used to close on Christmas and New 
Year's days. During World War II a determination was 
made to keep the building open on New Year's Day, 
so that now the only day that it is closed is Christmas. 
The change from the original hours of 9:00 a.m. to 
4:30 P.M. to the current hours of 10:00 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. 
took place in the 1950s. 

From the fall of 1968 through the spring of 1969, 
the Smithsonian buildings were closed to the public on 
Mondays as an economy measure. There was not enough 
money to pay the guards needed to patrol the exhibit 
halls, and until the requisite funds were appropriated, 
many tourists who planned to see the Museum were 
turned away. In retrospect, it seems strange to spend 
millions of dollars on displays and not spend a few 
thousand to allow them to be seen, and it is tempting 
to trot out an epigram by Prank Wigglesworth Clark, 
an honorary curator appointed in the 1880s: "The gov- 
ernment will spare neither time nor money in the pur- 
suit of economy." 

A happier development beginning in the 1970s has 
been the lengthening of visiting hours during the sum- 
mer. Various combinations ol months and hours have 
been tried. ¥o\ a while a six-month extension of visiting 
hours was in effect, llien it was limited to the summer 
months, and finally a few weeks in April were also 
included. At the beginning of this experimentation the 
hours were extended until 9 P.M., but after several ad- 
justments, closing time was fixed at 7:30 P.M. Because 
of the extra hours in the evening, one cannot exactly 
compare attendance figures from the pre- 1960s with 
those of later decades, but the chances are good that 
had the evening hours not been added, the Museum 
would be even more crowded during the day. In the 
summer, it is better to visit the Museum of Natural 
History late in the day or in the early evening. By then 
most of the tourists who started out at the crack of 
dawn have collapsed either from the heat outside the 
buildings or from a nonfatal disease known as "museum 
fatigue" or the more localized "museum feet." 

Counting the Visitors 

The annual reports and Smithsonian Year have kept track 
of a variety of facts and figures, but the one item that 
has never been omitted is the number of visitors. The 
Smithsonian's officials all are very much aware of the 
importance of the public exhibits in maintaining public 
tax support for the Institution. If for some bizarre rea- 
son the Smithsonian should ever close forever, the last 
activity to stop would be the guards' clicking their me- 
chanical hand-counters to tally each visitor entering 
each building. Visitor counts have been compiled since 
the National Museum first opened in 1881. 

It took five years for the new National Museum to 
log its first million visitors, the total by the end of fiscal 
year I9I5 being 1,618,576. It took another nine years 
to reach the five-million mark, the cumulative count by 



The Museum 

Emperor Hiruhito examining a slit shell (Pleurotomaria) Professor Hidemi Sato, Lhui>er.s/ty of Pennsylvania, are 
in the office of P.M. Bayer on the third floor of the west between them. This photograph appeared in Smithsonian 

wing. The late Joseph Rosewater, curator of mollusks, and Year 1976. 

the end of fiscal year 1924 being 5,157,694; fiscal year 
1984 alone drew almost a million more than that. In 
the early days of the Smithsonian there was a surge of 
visitors every four years as crowds came to Washington 
for the presidential inaugurals, but by 1910 this phe- 
nomenon was no longer evident in the annual atten- 
dance figures. Clearly transportation was improving so 
that people could vacation any year. By the late 1920s 
the miracle of radio permitted people to hear the po- 
litical speeches without making a trip. 

By the end of fiscal year 1933, 10,504,483 visitors 
had been counted since the building opened. I he pub- 
lic hours continued to be 9 a.m. to 4:30 P.M. Since most 
of the staff arrived by 8:45 a.m., a few guards acciden- 
tally counted staff members who came in after 9, but 
by then the number of visitors annually was so large 

that the minuscule staff would not have added signif- 
icantly to the total, even if every one had been counted 
every day. By the close of fiscal year 1935, as the twenty- 
fifth anniversary year began, a total of 1 1,618,576 peo- 
ple had come through the doors. The small annual 
attendance figures for 1934 and 1935 reflect the Great 

At the close of fiscal year 1955, 25,620,085 tourists 
in all had entered the building since it opened. In the 
annual figures one sees the dramatic impact of World 
War II in reducing attendance, and the gradual postwar 
rise to prewar levels. Fiscal year 1956 marked the first 
time the building had received a million visitors in a 
year. After fifty years, at the close of fiscal year 1960, 
a total of 33,365,970 visitors had been logged, a three- 
fold increase over the first cjuarter-centiuy. 

The Visitors 


A Major Milestone 

By 1968 a major milestone had been passed: a grand 
total ol 5 1 ,966,09 1 by the end of that fiscal year. It had 
taken forty-five years for the first 25 million visitors to 
have come into the building, but only thirteen years for 
the second 25 million. America had become a nation 
in motion. 

In only twelve more years the total doubled again. 
By the close of fiscal year 1980, the grand total of 
visitors to have entered the Natural History Building 
was 104,207,166. In the midst of the general increase 
in numbers each year, one can see in the sharp decline 
of fiscal year 1974 the effect of the oil embargo. At- 
tendance could reach 200 million by the end of the 
century, if present rates persist. 

The figures alone do not tell the whole story, for they 
have to be taken in the context of visits to the entire 
Smithsonian complex. One might assume that from 
1920 through 1960 the Natural History Building was 
the place to visit, but this was not so. flie Arts and 
Industries Building consistently outdrew Natural His- 
tory, with three visitors on the south side of the Mall 
for every two that came across to see the animals and 
the minerals. Three reasons are generally given for this. 
First, the installation of the Lindbergh airplane in 1928 
had an enormous impact; everyone wanted to see it. 
Second, as interest in this phase of aviation waned, the 
interest in World War II aviation grew. Third, the First 
Ladies' gowns in Arts and Industries were the largest 
single draw in the Smithsonian. 

During the 1950s, visits to Natural History did pull 
ahead, but with the opening of the Museum of History 
and l echnology early in 1964, attendance in the Mu- 
seum of Natural History stagnated. Although visitors 
continued to pour in, there was a feeling that Natural 
History was no longer the drawing card of the Smith- 
sonian. When the National Air and Space Museum 
opened in 1976, the pattern changed again. The num- 
ber of visitors to the Smithsonian increased dramati- 
cally, for people flocked to Air and Space, and continue 
to fill that building to overfiowing most of the time. 
The National Museum of Natural History is still num- 
ber two in attendance, having edged ahead of the Na- 
tional Musetim of American History (History and Tech- 
nology). There has been no serious attempt to tabulate 
numbers of foreign visitors, but they are slowly in- 
creasing every year. Of the cassette tours recorded in 
Spanish, German, French, and Japanese, Spanish is 
requested more often than all the others combined. 

Mall Door Is Busiest 

The guards report that the Mall door is about twice as 
busy as the Constitution Avenue door. This is a pattern 
of long standing; most tourists visit more than one mu- 
seum, and the easiest way to do it is by moving along 
the Mall. In the early days many visitors probably went 
to the Castle, Arts and Industries, and the National 

Graph oj attendance J ro7n the opening of the United States 
National Museum in 1881. The effect of the Great 
Depression is evident at the end of the line. Smithsonian 
Archives RM 157, box 16. 

Museum within a few hours and were counted in each 
building. Today there are more museums than can be 
covered in so short a time; the museums compete for 
the visitor's time, and the visitor must choose. Thus the 
great increases of the last decade may reflect some in- 
crease in interest in natural history, rather than just a 
general increase in tourism. 

In the 1920s August was the busiest month, as a 
popular time for a family's major vacation of the year. 
August continues to be busy, but in the last two decades 
it has been beaten out by April. "T. S. Eliot notwith- 
standing, April this year was anything but cruel to SI 
museums, shops, and theaters," read an article in The 
Torch. "Always the first quarter's busiest month, April 
1984 has outdone itself . . . [with] a 15 percent increase 
over April 1983. ... As usual, the crowds were largest 
during the week preceding Easter."" The writer of this 
prose must never have spent time at one of the doors. 
While it is marvelous to see people coming in droves 
to explore the Museum, the noise level, after a few days' 
close contact, suggests a thundering herd of buffalo. 

The abundance of tourists in April may be attrib- 
utable in part to the growing custom of a senior trip 
for high school students across the country, as well as 
to the Cherry Blossom Festival. April is the most pop- 
ular month, but all of the summer is busy, as is a good 
part of the fall. For some unknown reason, the busiest 
day of the year since 1978 has been the day after 


The Museum 


1 90POO 


1 60000 
1 50,000 








\ - 


- / 



— s 



Average attendance by month 1971-1982 

5 o 

Average monthly attendance of visitors in United States 
National Museum (compiled from the period 1920 to 193 1 
inclusive). This graph, from the Annual Report f or 1931, 
includes visits to the Arts and Industries Building and the 
Aircraft Building as well as the Natural History Building. 

Average monthly attendance in the National Museum of 
Natural History (compiled from the period 1971 to 1982 
inclusive). Not only has the attendance increased 
dramatically and the peak month shifted, but the difference 
between hand-letteritig and more modern drafting methods 
is obvious. 

Thanksgiving. Most likely this is because the schools 
are out, family and friends are in town, and it has been 
months since there was a chance to go anywhere. I he 
day after Thanksgiving is definitely not the time to 
come to the Museum. 

On July 4, 1976, a new phenomenon came to the 
Smithsonian. The Arts and Industries Building became 
so full of visitors that the doors had to be closed for a 
time until some of them left. The National Air and 
Space Museum, which has been attracting close to a 
million visitors a month, has to shut its doors tempo- 
rarily at fairly frequent intervals during the summer. 
In 1983 this phenomenon spread to the Museum of 
Natural History, and the building was briefly closed 
twice. No doubt this will happen more often in the 
future. Even on a normal day in particularly popular 
places such as the gem hall, gridlock occasionally sets 

Some Famous Visitors 

The humble and the famous come to the Museum, 
though no one remarks on the humble except in the 
total count. President and Mrs. Herbert Hoover used 
to be fairly frequent visitors, walking down from the 
White House on Sundays. When Harry Truman visited, 
he was brought in through the ground-level entrance 
beneath the Mall steps. The Museum's budget was so 
tight that only one of the curved passageways into the 
building could be painted. Truman was led along the 
painted one, but the walls of the opposite corridor were 
touched up as far as his glance was likely to travel. The 
staff was given half a day off, which was just as well, 
for it was impossible to work: Secret Service agents put 
seals on the cases to make sure no one put a bomb in 
a drawer. 

During the Johnson administration, one Alfred C. 
Glassell, Jr., donated a record black marlin (Makaira 
indica) and provided funds for a reception at its un- 
veiling. When he insisted that President Johnson be 
invited, there were gales of laughter from the staff at 
the notion that the President would come to see a dead 
fish, no matter how large. No one knew that Glassell 
was a Texas oilman and a friend of LBJ. When the 
President showed up for the unveiling, the Museum 
security people were in a panic. 

One Sunday during the mid-1950s Senator Theo- 
dore Green of Rhode Island, who was then in his nine- 
ties, showed up in the north lobby. Only one elevator 
operator worked on Sunday, and she was on a break. 
Senator Green complained to a guard because he wanted 
to get to the exhibits. There are two versions of what 
happened next. In one the senator explained who he 
was and indicated that he was on the appropriations 
committee, and an elevator operator appeared in five 
minutes. In the other, more likely version, the guard 
listened to this disgruntled elderly tourist and then told 
him to write his congressman. 

Perhaps the most famous visitor ever was Emperor 
Hirohito of Japan, who came to the building in 1975 
on his visit to America. * He was escorted to the office 
of F. M. Bayer. The Emperor happens to be a marine 
biologist, and when he is not on duty he studies coe- 
lentei ates, which are also Bayer's specialty. After a half 
hour, the State Department officials indicated that it 
was time for the party to leave. The Emperor replied 
that he had not finished examining specimens to clarify 
some species in his own collection, and that he was not 
about to leave until that was completed. An hour later 
he finally left Bayer's office. This may be one of the 
tew times that protocol has given way to natural history. 

The Visitors 


Officer Kenneth Wise 
observes early-morning tour- 
ists examining a porcelain 
horse in the Evans Gallery 
exhibit Treasures of the 
Shanghai Museum, 
November 1984. The 
escalator to the rotunda is 
in the background. 

Tourists in the rotunda heading toward the giant squid, July 1984. 


The Museum 

Tourists in the West Court building heading toward the sale in the Museum Shop, July 1984. The Indian Tiger (Felisj is 
to the left. 

who comes into the building and why, but they have 
not revealed any surprises. Most persons visit either 
because they have an interest in natural history or be- 
cause they want to see all the tourist attractions in Wash- 
ington. Annual reports repeat the obvious: "Most of 
these visitors come to the Museum to be entertained, 
or to learn. All expect to see on display objects they 
have encountered at home or abroad, or heard about, 
or seen in the movies or on television, or read about 
in a book. Among the objects they come to see are many 
unique national treasures."^ 

In 1969 one person came deliberately to do harm 

and decapitated the snakes in two exhibits, using a hatchet 
to break the cases and a butcher knife on the speci- 
mens.' Afterward he told the guards that one of the 
snakes had borrowed $20,000 from him the year be- 
fore. In May 1984, some vandal decided that he needed 
to have the head of a tree sloth, and so destroyed a 
specimen in Hall 6, robbing all future visitors of the 
opportunity to see it. Still, the number of tourists each 
year is so large and the amount of damage done to 
specimens on exhibit is so small, that one must be im- 
pressed with the good sense and good manners of the 
visitors. ^ 

The Visitors 


Chapter 21 


by the staff, the Museum offers several special spaces 
for public use, apart from the exhibit halls themselves. 
The auditorium and, until fairly recently, the foyer on 
the ground floor of the north wing, have been available 
at the request of individual groups. The north lobby, 
the new West Court building, and of course the rotunda 
are invaluable starting, meeting, and resting places for 
one and all. 

The International Congress on Tuberculosis that 
"christened" the Natural History Building well before 
its opening was in every way a success and an excellent 
start. One of those present at this most important meet- 
ing was Robert Koch, discoverer of the tuberculosis 

"[Tomorrow's] proceedings will begin with an assem- 
bly of delegates in the auditorium of the Museum build- 
ing at 1 1:00 o'clock," the Washington Post reported on 
September 27, 1908. "The hall has been decorated with 
the flags of the countries represented. Music will be 
furnished by the Marine Band. . . . The diplomatic corps, 
the spokesmen of the various nations, officers of the 
Congress, honorary presidents, and section Presidents 
will meet in the office of Dr. Henry C. Beyer on the 
second floor of the building at 10:40 o'clock.'" There 
were numerous exhibits on hygienic products, such as 
pasteurized milk; five technical sections met in the var- 
ious halls. For the finale on October 9, Bishop O'Con- 
nell of The Catholic University of America stated that 
"scientific men must walk hand in hand with the reli- 
gious bodies of the world if the crusade against tuber- 
culosis is to come to a successful termination.""' 

The Annual Report for 1909 noted that "about 100,000 
square feet of the building on the first and second 
floors, exclusive of the south wings, were used for the 

The rotunda (Hall 1), looking east into Hall 2 at the 
Zeuglodon, /row United States National Museum 
Bulletin 80 (1913). The specimen was mounted for 
installation in the new building. Other views taken at the 
same time show that a giraffe was in the center of the 

purposes of the congress. ... By November 3 all traces 
of the convention had been removed and the building 
was again ready for the resumption of construction 
operations. About $25,000 was expended in fitting up 
the building for the congress" — $15,000 less than had 
been appropriated.^ 

fhe next major event in the auditorium occurred 
two years later: "For the public sessions of the National 
Academy [of Sciences] at its annual meeting in Wash- 
ington from April 19 to 21, 1910, temporary arrange- 
ments were made in one of the exhibition halls in the 
Museum building, accommodations for the business 
meeting being furnished in the Smithsonian building."^ 

There is a story behind these few words, for the 
National Academy of Sciences had had no home ever 
since it was founded during the Civil War. Joseph Henry 
was the first president of the Academy, and, like so 
many organizations, it just somehow got under the wing 
of the Smithsonian. For practical purposes the Acad- 
emy was a couple of file drawers and an annual meeting 
that wandered from hall to hall. In 1916, during their 
sessions at the Museum, the academicians elected Sec- 
retary Walcott as their president. After World War I, 
Walcott was among those who helped raise funds for 
the Academy building at Twenty-first Street and Con- 
stitution Avenue, NW. It is from this headquarters that 
the National Academy of Sciences has grown to be such 
an august body. 

According to the Annual Report for 1911, the Mu- 
seum's auditorium was used that year for three meet- 
ings and two lectures. Thereafter it was a very busy 
place. In 1912 "the new building was used . . . for a 
number of meetings and other functions held under 
the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution or of or- 
ganizations having kindred objects. Besides the audi- 
torium in this building, which has a seating capacity for 
565 persons, two adjacent rooms have been fitted up 
for small gatherings." ' Despite its stuffiness and naked 
ductwork, one of these. Room 43, was heavily used for 
many years by local scientific societies. 

It soon became evident that the foyer or the rotunda 
was the place in Washington to hold a reception for 


"Aiiditdiiinn in gwiaid stury oj the south pavilio)i, lookinir 
toward the plat/orm," from United States National 
Musemn Bulletin <S0 (1913). The scats arc now 
soninvhat more comfortable. 

scientific or cultural events, particularly il a lecture was 
to be presented. The auditorium, one of the few in 
Washington, was in such demand that by 1917 a special 
fireproof booth had been built for the motion-picture 
and stereopticon machines. 

The auditorium was used not only by the scientific 
public; various government departments used it for 
meetings. As the First World War approached, the sub- 
ject matter of governmental meetings gravitated toward 
food production and economics, and during the war 
the auditorium, like the rest of the building, was given 
over to other purposes. 

After World War I the auditorium was back in full 
swing. During the 1920—21 season, for example, there 
were meetings of groups from the Northeni Nut Grow- 
ers Association to the National Academy of Sciences to 
the American Federation of Art. The Bureau of Public 
Health Service conducted an fiistitute on Venereal Dis- 
ease Control, and the Bureau of Plant Industry showed 
movies to its staff. The big event of 1922 was President 
Harding's appearance at the second annual meeting of 
the Business Organization of the Government. The 
meeting facilities were used on 110 occasions in fiscal 
year 1926, and on 131 in fiscal year 1930. Fifteen years 
later, the figure had doubled. 

One of the developments after World War I was the 
use of the auditorium for memorial meetings. A tribute 
to Charles Doolittle Walcott on January 24, 1928, was 
one of the first. There were two in 1933, when Holmes 
and Ravenel died. The custom lapsed from the 1940s 
to the 1970s, but was reinstituted. Alexander Wetmore, 
Waldo Schmitt, and Clifford Evans were all accorded 
this mark of respect by the Museum, though Wetmore's 
memorial was held in the Castle. 

Auditorium Named for Baird 

The auditorium has been modified slightly on several 
occasions by the installation of better seats, improved 
lighting, and proper projection equipment. The room 
had its moment of glory in 1971, a year that marked 
the 1 00th anniversary of the founding of the Fish Com- 
mission by Spencer F. Baird,'' as well as the 125th an- 
niversary of the Smithsonian Institution. In connection 
with the celebration of the role of fisheries, a bust of 
Baird and a brief account of his work were installed 
directly in front of the auditorium. On November 16, 
1971, in a ceremony honoring Baird, the auditorium 
was named for him. When the installation of the es- 
calator obscured the bust, it was moved inside and to 
the rear of the auditorium, where, unfortunately, not 
many people saw it. Subsequently the bust was put in 
storage, but it has been returned. Visitors seldom see 
the plaque on the low pedestal of the bust. 

The Institution began a lecture series even before 
the Castle was built, and lectures in one form or another 
have been given ever since. The current weekly series 
of lectures and films, organized by the Office of Ed- 
ucation, has been running in the Baird Auditorium for 
eleven years. Audiences vary with the subject and the 
time of year, but it is not unusual to find 250 people 
in the room during a weekend noon hour. 

In the hallway outside the auditorium are several 
cases of Birds of the District of (lohimbia, a nice exhibit of 
some historical interest as the most-moved public dis- 
play in the Museum. Originally Secretary Langley had 
a children's room in the Castle where local specimens 
were on view, including the largest and smallest local 
birds. Later the collection was installed on the second 
floor of the new Natiu al History Building. During World 
War I it was moved in with the whales, and then to at 
least one other location. After World War I three rooms 
not far from the auditoi ium were devoted to local fauna, 
including the bird.s — a sort of proto-Naturalist Center. 
The collection had to be moved again when the foyer 
was rebuilt in the 1970s, and there may have been 
another move before the D.C. birds finally found their 
present roost. 

The north wing that extends from the auditorium 
to the Cx)nstitution Avenue entrance has almost always 
had temporary shows in its central foyer. Most of these 
were not recorded in detail, so it is dif ficult to know 
the nature of the exhibits or how long they stayed. One 
significant exhibit of 1916 was in honor of the centen- 
nial of the Coast and Geodetic Survey. Another was 
"Safety First," to which many government bureaus con- 
tributed, and which one day drew 9,000 people. In 1917 
a National Park conference, held under the auspices 
of the newly formed National Park Service, was accom- 
panied by an exhibition of forty-five paintings. This 
led to the formation by Secretary Walcott of the Na- 
tional Parks Association, a citizens' lobby. 

Possibly the most important show of this time was 


The Museum 

Building the dome, probably 1910. Workmen built this 
wooden floor and then erected scaffolding to construct the 
inner dome. The inner and outer domes rest on brick piers 

with space between them. "Flying buttresses" of tile tie the 
two structures together. 

mounted in honor of President Wilson's inauguration: 
"Much space is devoted to aeronautics and aviation. 
This is enclosed in a large case, beginning with the early 
experiments of Langley, and his steam flying machine 
up to the Wrights, Curtiss, and others. A full-size copy 
of Langley's experimental steam flying machine is dis- 
played."^ Although Langley's machine had been on dis- 
play in the Arts and Industries Building, many more 
people were made aware of it by this exhibit. 

The first phase of foyer exhibits ended with the clos- 
ing of the building in 1918. After World War I much 
of the foyer, particularly on the east side, was devoted 
to the War Collection. As one case of uniforms was 
being installed, the Marine lieutenant supervising the 
work for some reason wanted the glass removed after 
it had been put on the case. The contractor warned 
that it might break in the process. The lieutenant in- 
sisted, and after the glass broke, berated the contractor 
and ordered him to pay for it. An elderly gentleman 
stepped up, explained that he had seen and heard the 

whole thing, introduced himself as Charles D. Walcott, 
and offered to talk to the Marine Commandant as to 
who was to pay for the glass. The contractor, who later 
joined the staff and worked his way up to assistant 
buildings manager, was forever grateful to Secretary 

War Portraits Collection 

It is important to mention again the War Portraits Col- 
lection, which "comprised 21 canvases by American ar- 
tists, portraits of distinguished leaders of America and 
of the Allied Nations during the World War, and is to 
form the nucleus for a National Portrait Gallery."- They 
were shown for three weeks in May 1921 in Hall 10 
and then were circulated to a few other cities. After 
their return, some hung for almost a decade in the 

After the War Collection left it in 1930, anywhere 
from twelve to sixteen shows a year were held in the 
foyer. Space was allocated by the building superin- 

Public Places 


West side of the rotiuida, showing statuary, probably after 
1930. Note the nioiDited heads in the west stairway. To the 
left is a statue of an Induni ivith an eagle, titled Indian 
with Eagle. 

tendenl, and the rules were fairly simple. Each show 
had one nionlh at most, which included time to install 
and dism.mtle. Shows that signed up tor space for two 
years running tended to become annual events. Tiius, 
shows by local art groups were hung year after year, 
and often occupied hall the available exhibit space. 

In the early 193Us a colonial room donated by Mrs. 
G. D. Webster was installed on the east side of the foyer. 
Every item in the place had a large number in front of 
it, so that many of the objects were essentially hidden. 
When Malcolm Watkins arrived in the late 1940s and 
wanted to make some changes, he was told that he could 
not, because the donor came in periodically to examine 
the display. Upon investigation, Watkins found that for 
some vears the donor's chauffeur had come in to look 
at it. Still further investigation turned up the fact that 
Mrs. Webster had died in the early 1940s. Watkins 
finally was given permission to dust and install smaller 
numbers. Later the exhibit was dismantled and in- 
cluded in "Everyday Life in Colonial America." The 
foyer space it once occupied was the area that later 
housed the health room and a guard's locker room. 

Before this health room was put in, minor cuts and 
scrapes were treated by guards who knew first aid; Dr. 
Hrdlicka or Dr. Stewart was called in the event of a 
serious problem. Eventually the Smithsonian hired a 

physician and a nurse. They were moved from the foyer 
to the second floor near the elevator, and then the 
doctor went to a proper dispensary in the Museum of 
History and Technology, while the first-aid room and 
nurse moved to the lobby. The service is available to 
anyone, but most of the people who go in are Museum 
employees, not tourists. 

During World War II, the foyer was devoted mainly 
to shows concerned with the war. These included Brit- 
ish war posters, photographs of the U.S. Navy in action, 
and a host of similar items. Some wartime exhibits were 
prepared in the Museum, beginning with one on the 
history of firearms, and soon including displays on ex- 
otic parts of the world where fighting was taking place. 
An exhibit that drew a particularly large crowd was one 
that showed survival gear. 

Af ter World War II the foyer reverted mainly to local 
art shows. A major exception was the four-day autumn 
show of the Potomac Rose Society, which was presented 
each year fiom 1932 until the late 1950s. Old-timers 
still remember the scent of roses that hung on for a 
day or two after the show closed. 

Noteworthy Foyer Shows 

During the 196()s the character of the shows in the 
foyer changed. Instead of local art shows, objects, pho- 
tographs, and drawings were exhibited. The most note- 
worthy of these new shows was the Dead Sea Scrolls, a 
landmark exhibit for the Museum. It had taken almost 
four years for Gus Van Beek to arrange for the ma- 
terial, and when the display opened there was such 
incredible public interest that the foyer had to be kept 
open evenings. During three weeks in the winter of 
1964, 200,000 people came to see the scrolls, standing 
in lines all the way to the corner of Ninth Street and 
Constitution Avenue. The Museum Shop quickly sold 
out of the book The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls. There 
was a mistake in the replacement order, and the shop 
sold several dozens copies of the Russian novel, Dead 
Souls before the error was reported. 

In 1967 the centennial of the Alaska Purchase was 
noted by a large display. The Right of Existence, opened 
in December 1968, focused on extinct and endangered 
species. The centennial of John Wesley Powell's trip in 
1869 down the Colorado River was the subject of an- 
other major exhibit. Some of these new shows were 
from inside the Museum, and some were traveling ex- 
hibits from elsewhere. One of the most successful of 
the latter was Masada, an exploration of the last Jewish 
stronghold against the Roman army. 

Just as the central display space of the foyer changed, 
the side rooms also changed in the late 1960s. The 
Travel Service moved into part of the area where the 
fauna of the District of Columbia had been. Most of 
the area on the east side was decked over and was used 
for classrooms. Much of it was taken over by the Smith- 
sonian Office of Education, which remained until the 


The Museum 

Colonial furnishings on the 
east side of the foyer in 1949. 

These were moiwd to Hall 
25, and later to the Museum 
of History and Technology. 

foyer was dismantled in the 1970s. In 1975 the foyer 
changed again, with the installation of the escalator and 
the permanent exhibit Out Changing Land. Room 43 
and all the others disappeared. A large meeting room, 
the Ecology Theater, was installed on the east side. 

Beginning in the 1980s, the character of the foyer 
was altered once more with the installation of the Evans 
Gallery. This is an excellent place for temporary shows, 
the largest such space within the Smithsonian complex. 
The Museum was concerned that the gallery might be 
deluged with shows not germane to natural history, but 
that has not happened. 

Three major "in-house" exhibits have been prepared. 
First, in 1982, came Inua, a display and study of Eskimo 
artifacts collected a century ago by E. W. Nelson of the 
Biological Survey. The scanning electron microscope 
exhibition of 1984 was next. In 1985, a show celebrating 
Lieutenant Charles Wilkes's round-the-world expedi- 
tion marked the seventy-fifth anniversary of the build- 
ing. The Evans Gallery's handsome wood floor, worn 
by the feet of millions of visitors, has already been 
refinished twice, and may have to be replaced within 
the next few years. 

The Lobby 

Little has been recorded about the lobby, or portico, 
to the north of the foyer. For many years a huge paint- 
ing by Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, 
hung on the south wall of the west side, next to the 

men's restroom — where, incidentally, spittoons were 
cleaned. The painting of the World War I diplomats 
on the east side was not nearly so large or impressive 
as Moran's work. 

There are occasional references to displays in the 
lobby. In 1929 "the two Feathered Serpent Column 
models, the mutilated originals of which are still in place 
in the portal of the Pyramid Temple known as the 
'Castillo' or castle, in Chichen Itza, Yucatan, were re- 
moved from the lobby to the second floor, thus taking 
their place with the archaeological collections to which 
they pertain." ' The columns were replaced by a striking 
holly-wood mantelpiece and fiieplace that remained 
there until after World War II. Tecumseh, a statue por- 
traying the death of the Shawnee chief, stood near the 
stairs on the east side from the 1920s until the National 
Museimi of American Art opened. Near the elevator, 
a couple of cases that did not fit in well anywhere else 
were filled with silver, or miniature paintings, or lace 
fans. During the 1950s a few temporary cases replaced 
these relics. There used to be a clock on the west wall. 
This later was replaced by a grandfather clock, and still 
later that disappeared. "Can you tell me the time, please?" 
is another common question asked of the guards. 

foday the lobby still contains the guard room and 
elevators in their original positions in the northwest 
corner. A tiny room on the northeast side of the lobby — 
once a storeroom, then an education office — now func- 
tions as a checkroom. The stairway is unchanged, but 

Public Places 


Entrain I' Ui l/ir 19-f() SiiiilhsoiiKui (i t/lnuiiu/ ix/iihit in the 
foyer, looking south. Each alcove was devoted to a general 
area of actix'ity, such as public (ilious, re\earch, or art. was for thirty years the only pubHc telephone in 
the building has disappeared from under the stairs. 
Tucked against the wall at the foot of the stairs is a 
much-photographed floral display, emphasizing or- 
( hids f rom the Museum's living orchid collection. This 
garden, begun in 1980, has brightened up the lobby. 
The flowers are changed once a week. 

On the east wall, where the fireplace used to stand, 
is a large case used to summarize the work of selected 
staff members. This changing exhibit, a nice touch, was 
instituted by the Smithsonian Women's Committee. On 
the east side of the lobby is a women's restroom, and 
the information desk is on the west, just at the entrance 
to the Evans Gallery. 

Public Amenities 

Public amenities were few when the Museum opened. 
Inhere were public restrooms in the lobby, each with a 
large expanse of marbled space. This was good enough 
planning in 1910, but for the child whose parents had 
taken him to the second floor to look at a whale skeleton, 
it was torture to have to walk so far. In 1913 water 
faucets were replaced with what were called "sanitary 
bubbling fountains." Iced-water fountains did not come 
into the building until well after World War II. The 

Museum Shop did not open in the foyer until the early 
1960s. With the addition of the wings, rest rooms finally 
became available on the first and second floors at the 
north juncture with both wings. 

In 1976 the Museum made some major Bicentennial 
gifts to the public. In the north-entrance lobby, which 
had previously contained a couple of hard wooden 
benches and an umbrella stand, "a spacious lounge area 
with comfortable sofas and soft rugs opened for foot- 
weary visitors.'"" The sofas and rugs move out from 
time to time when an Evans Gallery show spills over 
into the lobby, but when they are there they may be 
the most appreciated objects in the building. 

The West Court building, completed in 1976, filled 
up the entire courtyard. It gave some ground-floor 
of fices in the main building a view of solid wall, but its 
three floors added 48,328 square feet of space and some 
long-overdue creature comforts. Sixty-six years after 
the Museum opened, it finally became possible for staff 
and visitors to sit down to a meal. There are two places 
to eat on the ground floor, which is entered by steps 
down from the ground floor of the main building. The 
employees' cafetei ia, entered f rom the west range, serves 
about 700 staff members a day. That figure is slowly 
rising, a good sign for the outside concession that han- 
dles the food service; the kitchen also does the catering 
for various affairs within the building, including, in 
1981, the Inaugural Ball. The Associates Court, whose 
entrance is near the auditorium, is reserved for mem- 
bers of the Smithsonian Associates, and serves about 
350 lunches a day in cool weather. In summer, breakfast 
too is served and the Museum is open longer, so the 
figure nearly doubles. Some meeting- and classrooms 
on the first floor are continually in use both day and 

The West Court building's second floor, which houses 
the Naturalist Center, lies between the ground and first 
floors of the main building. The third story opens off 
the rotunda near the west stairway and is level with the 
main building's first floor, so that one is not aware of 
leaving one building and entering another. It is a meas- 
ure of the traffic that the Mexican floor tiles installed 
in 1976 had worn down to the cement in spots before 
being replaced in 1984. The third floor contains several 
attractions — another set of rest rooms; another lounge 
area; the Museum Shop, selling books on natural his- 
tory, jewelry, postcards, toys, mineral specimens, and 
a whole host of things and a public cafeteria with plastic 
seats attached to tables in the "fast-food" architectural 
style of late-twentieth-century America. The food and 
the setting are not nearly as sumptuous as in the As- 
sociates Court below, but after a couple of hours of 
touring exhibits, this is an oasis. 

Between the cafeteria and the Museum Shop is one 
other attraction that cannot be overlooked: a huge In- 
dian tiger, presented to the Museum in 1969." The 
tiger, which formerly had been displayed in the foyer 


The Museum 

and in the lobby, is magnificently mounted, supported 
by only one hind leg and a small pipe. The animal had 
been a man-eater and had to be destroyed; yet, de- 
lighted as the Museum was to receive it, public concern 
for endangered species made the dedication a slightly 
strained occasion. The mount originally showed the 
tiger pouncing on a frightened antelope, but the scene 
upset so many children that the victim was removed. 

The Story of the Rotunda 

What would the Natural History Building be without 
the dome, its most familiar feature? Hall 1 by Rathbun's 
number system, the rotunda floor beneath the dome 
is a favorite meeting place for both visitors and staff; 
the logical place to begin any tour; literally the heart 
of the Museum and its exhibits. It is true that this majes- 
tic space never "worked" until the installation of the 
elephant. But aesthetic points fade into quibbles before 
the real story of the rotunda — the fact that the great 
dome is still standing. 

To catch up with its history, one must go back to the 
early years of the building. According to Rathbun's 
architectural description, "the covering of the rotunda 
consists of an inner and outer dome. . . . the former 
constituting the ceiling, the latter the roof of this part 
of the building. Both of these domes rest, indepen- 
dently of each other, on the brick masonry of the drum 
which is concealed from view.'""' But trouble surfaced 
early, and Ravenel, in 1922, wrote about it in detail: 

Shortly after the completion of the Natural 
History Building, it was noted that the keystone in 
the east arch of the rotunda was slightly out of 
place. As years passed the same thing occurred, in 
a lesser degree, in the west arch, and a slight 
separation appeared in the joints of the balustrade 
on the fourth floor, just below the stone arches. 
These joints were plastered up from time to time, 
but owing to the inaccessibility of the keystones, no 
steps were taken either to put them back in place 
or to fill the exposed openings. The condition of 
these keystones, although not considered 
dangerous, distinctly marred the appearance of the 
rotunda. The location of the east keystone 
continued to change, however, and it was deemed 
advisable this year to have a thorough investigation 
made. As a result of two examinations of the dome 
and the great piers supporting the dome, it was 
found that the displacement of the stone arches 
which span the piers, the opening of the joints on 
the end of the balustrades under these arches, and 
in the fourth story floor at the ends of piers have 
all been brought about by a movement at the end 
of the piers in a direction away from the center of 
the rotunda. As there is no indication of 
movement of the piers in the lower portion of the 
building, it appears that they have simply leaned 
outward at the top, doubtless caused by the 
eccentric application of the weight of the dome. 
Since the piers are fully braced by a large number 

Public Places 


of steel beams to the walls of the building and no 
movement of the outer walls has been observed, it 
is assumed that the walls are successfully resisting 
the pressure from the piers and that the 
movement of the latter will probably not continue 
much farther, if at all. In the meantime an 
ingenious method of measuring the exact location 
of the keystones has been devised, and careful 
observations will be made at intervals of a few 
months to determine what, if any, further 
displacement occurs.'* 

Two years later, the report was that "the keystones 
in the four arches supporting the walls under the dome 
of the Natural History Building have been subject to 
periodical inspection, and recent measurements of the 
east arch indicate a further lessening of the downward 
movement."" If there was anything serious going on, 
no one really wanted to face it. In the east range on 
the first floor, a crack ran the length of the building, 
but when Edward Henderson suggested that a gauge 
be put on it to measure the rate of opening, the building 
superintendent objected that this would interfere with 
cleaning the floors. 

A few years after he joined the staff, while working 
in the west attic, Watson Perrygo saw the gap above 
one of the keystones and later noticed that the gap was 
getting larger. He and William L. Brown, his supervisor 
in Taxidermy, wrote a memorandum about the prob- 
lem, and shortly thereafter a more serious investigation 
took place. Repairs were undertaken, but the work was 
far more complex than anyone had anticipated; as a 
further complication, the original contractor went 
bankrupt. The Annual Report for 1929 described the 

Two great bands of steel were placed around the 
four huge piers that support the dome, one at the 
level of the floor of the attic, and one near the 
tops of the piers in the ceiling above. Between 
them steel beams were installed extending 
vertically from band to band behind the piers, with 
a series of screw jacks between the beams and the 
bodies of the piers proper. Tension was placed on 
these jacks in such a way as to bring even strain all 
around, holding the piers from any possibility of 
spreading at the top. The delicate operation of 
adjusting the screw jacks required nearly three 
weeks for completion and was performed with the 
cooperation of a corps of engineers from the 
Bureau of Standards. The work was of a highly 
specialized nature and attracted considerable 
attention from engineers. 

A workman who did not know that the topmost part 
of the inner dome surrounding the central eye of the 
dome was only plaster started to cross the ceiling of the 
inner dome and broke through, but was able to hold 
on by his outstretched arms till other workmen got a 

rope around him. The fall to the rotunda floor 125 
feet below would have been certain death. 

By July 1929 the work was finished. After a thorough 
cleaning, the rotunda was reopened to the public on 
October 23, after being closed for nearly two years. 
The repair operation apparently was a complete suc- 
cess. When a similar dome on the main building of the 
Army War College at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., 
developed comparable problems in the 1970s, an ar- 
chitect spent a few days peering into the Museum dome 
to see what had been done. A sheet of plastic has been 
inside the dome, under the skylight, since 1983 to pro- 
tect the elephant from water leaking through the dome 
during heavy rains. There is a great deal more to the 
rotunda than what is on its floor. Because of the ex- 
tension of the south portico, there are little offices to 
the east and the west on the south side of the rotunda. 
On the third floor, these two spots have been used as 
temporary offices by zoologists and anthropologists. 
They take some getting used to, since the greatest di- 
mension in the office is height; the doors are taller than 
the office is long. 

Adjacent to the elevators are two other rooms, used 
for dead storage. Within them are the data files on 
seabird distribution, the only sign of the considerable 
effort undertaken by the Pacific Ocean Biological Sur- 
vey Project, financed by the Department of Defense. 
It ultimately turned out that the department was con- 
cerned with distribution of animals as a facet of bio- 
logical warfare. The issue of classified scientific work 
in the Natural History Building was fought on this 
battlefield, and now officially every study engaged in 
by the staff must be pubhshable in the open literature. 

The rotunda of fices on the second floor are as small 
as those on the third floor, but noisier and even more 
high-ceilinged. At least one of these rooms has been 
used to store whale bones. Currently they are occupied 
by some people involved in Information Resources 
Management, an office formed in I98I. 

Following the modification of the will of Henry Ward, 
which permitted his collection to be rearranged, some 
of his life-size bronze statues were moved to the second- 
floor rotunda balcony, where they are shifted from spot 
to spot. After the National Collection of Fine Arts re- 
moved its paintings from this balcony in the 1960s, the 
area became a place for temporary exhibits. These ex- 
hibits, changing every few months, always have some 
sort of natural history theme. Most commonly they are 
photographs or scientific illustrations by non- 
Smithsonian artists; and because of the prestige asso- 
ciated with having a show at the Museum of Natural 
History, there is a considerable competition for the 
space. One exhibit of 1984 celebrated the fiftieth an- 
niversary of the publication of Roger Tory Peterson's 
A Field Guide to the Birds; in 1979 the 100th anniversary 
of the U.S. Geological Survey was celebrated with a 
display of the scientific illustrations of William Henry 


The Museum 

Behind Band Aiulilorium 07i llie cast side, slKmi/n^u; part of the most-moved exhibit withni the Museum. On the west side is 
the Associates Court, plus a lounge area for tourists. April 19H4. 

Public Places 


Stairway on the east side of the lobby, April 1984. The 
orchids and floral display were installed in 1980. Years 
earlier, the only public telephone booth in the Museum was 
under these stairs. The statue Tecuniseh, noiv at the 
National Museum of American Art, stood near the foot of 
the stairs. 

Associates Court on the ground floor of the West Court 
building, 1984. To the left on the wall are a paddle and a 
Polyyiesian navigation map. 

Holmes. Temporary exhibits are no dif ferent from per- 
manent ones in that there is always a last-mintite rush 
to open the show. While one person guided the direc- 
tors of the Museum and the Geological Survey around 
the Holmes exhibit very slowly, the final two cases were 
installed by the rest of the crew. 

The ambulatory on the first fioor, under the balcony, 
also is used for occasional temporary exhibits, partic- 
ularly when a number of halls are closed. Its moment 
of glory came in 1958, when for three weeks the Na- 
tional Collection of Fine Arts, in connection with the 
Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, 
displayed a portrait of Sir Winston Churchill, together 
with thirty-five of Churchill's paintings. That year, for 
the first time, the fiistitution recorded over five million 
visitors. April was the busiest month ever, and on April 
27, the first Sunday of the Churchill exhibit, 42,524 
people visited the Natural History Building."" 

There are small front offices off the rotunda as on 
the floors above, but with even higher ceilings. Not 
much is known of their early use, except that like most 
other corners of the place, they have been used for 
storage. During the early 1960s, Paul Gardner of the 
National Collection of Fine Arts occupied the west of- 
fice, before leaving for the Division of Ceramics in the 
Museum of History and Technology. In 1969 the west 
office was used by "By- Word," a concession that offers 
self-guided recorded tours.'' The first season, the com- 
pany hired dozens of college students on commission, 
and no tourist or staff member could enter the building 
without being approached by at least three of them. 
After that the operafion became more sedate, and the 
concession is now run from a desk on the southwest 
side of the rotunda. 

During the early 1970s, the west office was used by 

the staff of the Discovery Room. It is now a cloakroom — 
a much-needed improvement, since for years the only 
checking facilities in the building were wooden um- 
brella stands at the north door and in the rotunda. 
Although checking was at first a duty of the Museum 
guards, it was contracted out in the 1980s. Probably the 
single largest problem experienced by the checkroom 
staff is convincing some tourists that there really is no 
fee for the service. 

In the late 1960s the east office functioned briefly as 
a book store. Then it became a space-planning office 
for the Museum, and was decked over to provide more 
room. There is usually at least one employee in there 
poring over blueprints. 

Also in the late 1960s, two additional elevators were 
put in on the southwest side of the rotunda. This was 
something of a noisy process, but it was nothing com- 
pared to the echoing din of 1982, when two smaller 
doorways were drilled in the south facade on either 
side of the main entrance. These new doors are helpful 
as extra exits, though many tourists persistently grav- 
itate toward the right-hand center door. Some of the 
granite cut away was saved, and when James Mello 
stepped down as associate director in 1984, he received 
"a piece of the rock." It may be appropriate to add the 
Rathbun-like detail that a metal shade is pulled down 
on these two new doors when the bronze gates are 
closed over the center doors. 

In the southeast area of the rotunda is a large in- 
formation desk staffed by volunteers. This installation 
was another positive step of recent years. Originally the 
desk was a doughnut-shaped affair in the northeast 
corner, where those on duty were confronted daily by 
the rear end of the elephant. In 1983 the former in- 
formation corner was taken over temporarily by a giant 


The Museum 

A complete I'inv of the 
rotunda, taken with a "fish 
eye" lens in the late 1970s. 
The banners to each of the 
halls are in place, and an 
information desk is on the 
floor. The mounting annuid 
the elephant has heoi 
changed — he now is walking 
through grass. 

squid in a very large tank of alcohol — the first ever 
displayed in a museum. 

Beginning with the first Smithsonian Christmas party, 
the rotunda has been the site of a number of memorable 
festivities held by many groups besides the Institution, 
especially the GOP. It has been common practice to 
decorate the elephant, and if it were not dead already, 
some of the garish displays might have killed it. One 
year when helium balloons were used, a few came loose 
and clung to the dome for several days before losing 
gas and descending. True scientists are tireless seekers 
after knowledge, and observers at the time noted that 
after a brief whiff of helium, one person's "Mickey 
Mouse" voice was much the same as another's. 

In 1967 Paul Garber organized the first Smithsonian 
kite day, and the rotunda was festooned with kites. Ten 
years later, at the suggestion of Harry Hart, then head 
of Exhibits, "colorful banners showing the title and 
stylized symbol of a hall were hung at entrances to 
exhibit halls. The baiuiers identify each hall, add a note 
of gaiety and warmth to the rotunda's gray granite 
facade, and make it easier for the visitor to find his way 
through the Museiuii without becoming lost or con- 
fused.'"" I he rotunda is not granite-trimmed, and some 

tourists get confused no matter what, but the banners 
are a fine touch. 

This leads to one last rotunda story, dating from the 
1930s. At one time there was a revolving door into the 
rotunda, but during the summer it was removed and 
the other doors were propped open to let some air into 
the building. Many pigeons flew in and made them- 
selves at home up in the dome. This nuisance was tol- 
erated until the wife of a congressman got splattered 
by a pigeon passing overhead. Something had to be 
done, and Perrygo was assigned the job of correcting 
the problem. 

A few days later he appeared at the Museimi very 
early, with his shotgun, and got a number of the birds. 
One pigeon swooped into the gem and mineral hall 
with Perrygo in hot piu suit. Althcjugh the building su- 
perintendent was supposed to have notified everyone, 
the guard on duly there had not been told. When this 
man with a shotgun came riuuiing in, the guard went 
running out for reinforcements. Moments later, swarms 
of guards with pistols drawn were on the scene. For- 
tunately, one of the sergeants from the day shift rec- 
ognized Perrygo before shots were fired by either 
side. □ 

Public Places 


Chapter 22 

the Building 

No PLACE, WITH THE EXCEPTION of the floating city 
of Gulliver's third trip, exists without a physical 
setting. When the walls of the Museum were in place 
and the collections moved, more remained to be done 
"for the completion of the new building of the United 
States National Museum and its surroundings, namely, 
the construction of roads and walks, grading and sod- 
ding, construction of a waterproof granolithic platform 
along the outer walls of the building, and the painting 
of the interior walls." Writing in the Annual Report for 
1911, Rathbun stated the cost as seventy-seven thou- 
sand dollars.' 

At the turn of the centiny, the Department of Ag- 
riculture had gardens on part of the Mall. These in- 
cluded grafted trees, and near the Museum was a tree 
that blossomed on only one side. Other areas of the 
Mall were moderately wooded, but during 1934 many 
of the trees except those adjacent to the Museum were 
cut down to improve the vista from the Capitol to the 
Washington Monument. Some of the largest and oldest 
trees remaining on the Mall side of the Museum are 
two bald cypress {Taxodium distichum) across Madison 
Drive from the south steps. They have not developed 
the "knees" typical of native cypress growing in south- 
ern swamps, and as a result many people do not rec- 
ognize them. 

"Uncle Beazley" 

Not far away from the cypress trees stands "Uncle Bea- 
zley," a life-size model in fiberglass of the dinosaur 
Triceratops, made in 1967 for a television show that 
featured many Museum employees as extras in a few 
scenes. Uncle Beazley was presented to the Museum 
the following year, and except for one trip to the An- 
acostia Museum, he has remained in place on the Mall. 
It is a tribute to the strength of fiberglass that Uncle 

Vendors at the B Street Centre Market, looking southwest 
from the present site of the Department of Justice building. 
The iron fence and large stone gateposts in front of the 
Museum may be seen. Post-1 9 10 and prc-1931, the 
photograph was probably taken before World War I. 

Beazley has withstood the effects of thousands of chil- 
dren climbing up and sliding down. A few years ago a 
Victorian-style metal link fence was put around him, 
but this was entirely for the aesthetic effect. Uncle Bea- 
zley is the only part of the Museum that can be visited 
by the public very late at night. 

A sarcophagus that used to stand near this spot was 
moved to the south side of the Mall in the 1940s or 
1950s. It puzzled tourists, as did a monumental urn 
dedicated to Andrew Jackson Dowling, a landscape gar- 
dener generally given credit for the first attempts at 
beautifying the Mall. The inscription was badly worn, 
and tourists were left to wonder. The urn was removed 
in the 1960s, and now sits in front of the Castle. 

Below the south steps of the Museum is a large stor- 
age vault, mostly used for drums of alcohol. Few people 
go into the vault, but the drums of alcohol are all care- 
fully accounted for; years ago, one disappeared and 
the FBI was called in to catch the thief. In the early 
1960s Buildings Management carted out of the vault a 
number of wooden boxes that belonged to the O. C. 
Marsh dinosaur collection. After several hours of heated 
exchanges and searching of files, Lewis Gazin found 
an agreement arranged by his predecessor Charles Gil- 
more, stipulating that the boxes were to be brought to 
the new building and stored luider the steps. The boxes 
quickly were piU back. 

The vault opens into the side of a short auto pas- 
sageway that runs below the south steps, connecting 
the east and west parking lots. Across from it, on the 
other side of the passageway, is a door into the Museum 
that has been used occasionally to let dignitaries into 
the building, as in the case of President Truman. It was 
originally designed so that ice could be taken out of 
the adjacent ice rooms and moved to the other build- 
ings. The passageway is called "the tunnel," and was 
designed for a horse and wagon. During the 1960s it 
became a macho event to drive a small car like a Volks- 
wagen through it as fast as possible. The tunnel is short, 
but visibility is limited. After one close call, speed bumps 
("Boardman bumps," in some circles) were installed at 
either entrance to the tunnel, and the sport stopped. 


Soittlt drive of Ike new National Museum in (lie I93()s, 
looking west into the tunnel below the south steps. A 
boxwood hedge fBoxiis) is to the right, and what parking 
there loas was parallel to the bank on the left. 

As the Museum was originalh built, the driveway 
made a U-shaped loop aiouiid the building. Trash tra- 
dition. ilK was collected Irom tiie east side, but most of 
the supplies <ind the mail went to the west loading plat- 
form. All along the south side a boxwood hedge was 
planted, and what tew cars wei e present parked parallel 
to the hedge. Because this area had been excavated well 
below the le\el of the Mall, the grassy slope from the 
Mcdl was steep, and most of the driveway was hidden. 

In 1926 eightv-seven feet of the driveway running 
f rom B Street was repaired. More road work was done 
in 1930, and parking gates were put on both the east 
and west entrances. Clearly, traffic control was becom- 
ing a problem. Dm ing the mid-193()s, parking became 
more dif ficult as a few of the younger staff finally man- 
aged to buy automobiles. Offering to pay for the nec- 
essary labor and paving, the staff petitioned to have 
the hedge removed so that the space could be widened 
and they could park at right angles to the building. The 
request was refused on the grounds that this would 
injure the appearance of the building. 

When the wings were put on, the hedges disappeared 
in the twinkling of an eye, and much of the area im- 
mediately surrounding the wings on the east and the 
west is now paved. No one objects, for one of the most 
desirable things in Washington is a parking space. More 
anguish has been suffered over who has parking and 

who does not than over any scientific problem. As one 
indication of the bustle and growth of the Smithsonian 
Institution, on one summer day in 1984, 695 exits and 
entrances by Smithsonian trucks, vans, cars, and Cush- 
mans (powered carts used by the grounds people) were 
logged through the east gate. There is nothing re- 
markable about the vehicles, except that there are per- 
haps a few more pick-up trucks than on the average 
government parking lot. For a time one car whose owner 
worked with mollusks had the license plate SNAIL, and 
a paleontologist had PALEO. One truck bore a bumper 
sticker saying, "I'm proud to be an avian paleontolo- 

In the great rainstorm of 1969, water poured down 
the ramp into the basement of the west wing. Now each 
ramp has a "sleeping policeman" — an asphalt bead — 
across the top to slow down any further floods. Ap- 
parently these have some effect, for there has not been 
as severe a rain since they were installed. Unfortunately, 
in the event of a future torrential downpour they would 
prcjvide little protection, and the staff hopes that speci- 
mens in the basement will be moved elsewhere before 
the next great flood. 

Outdoor Exhibits 

As noted earlier, the War Collection consisted in part 
of field guns placed on the west side of the building 
and the gun from the USS Magnolia on the east. Not 
much is known about how long this artillery stayed 
there, or what else was on display, but it was not the 
first outdoor exhibit. Some large samples of ores were 
positioned on the east side of the building about the 
time it was completed. A giant copper boulder from 
Michigan was outside for a time. These large rocks were 
present during the 1940s, and then just vanished. Noth- 
ing is recorded of their installation, only one passing 
mention is made of labels for them, and nothing is 
recorded of their being moved. 

On the west side of the building where the west wing 
now stands was a small park. This was the place where 
a Museum football team was organized in the 1950s. 
The lawns and the park were maintained by the Na- 
tional Park Service; it was only after the wings were 
constructed that the Museum assumed responsibility 
for the grounds. 

Cleaning the Outside 

In August 1922, the District of Columbia Fire Depart- 
ment washed the building. "The appearance of the 
building was materially improved as a great amount of 
dirt had accumulated, including nests of caterpillars 
and other insects not readily dislodged. ... In attempt- 
ing to get water for this purpose the Fire Department 
discovered that all the fire hydrants in the Smithsonian 
Park were in bad condition and of an antiquated type, 
leaving the buildings practically unprotected in the case 
of fire."-' 


The Museum 

Three Red Lines, a mobile by George Rickey, on the 
south steps, probably in 1972. Earlier, this sculpture was 
on the east side of the National Museum oj History and 
Technology. It is made op lacquered stainless steel and sways 
in the wind; a gust unportunately drove it to the ground, 
and two points were bent. The piece now stands on the 
north side of the Hirshhorn Museum. 

The building was washed at least once more by the 
firemen before being professionally cleaned during the 
1950s. As a result of that cleaning and the subsequent 
gradual darkening of the wings, the wings now match 
the main building quite well in color, although the lower 
stories of the wings are getting nmch dirtier than the 
upper two-thirds. 

The windows in the main building are unsightly. Be- 
cause they are no longer functional, they have been 
ignored. The edge of the steel decking that cuts across 
the window line on the ground floor of the north side 
is not seen by many people, but tourists walking along 
the Mall can see the windows that formerly opened into 
exhibit halls. A few are cracked, some have curtains, 
and there are several different hues of opaque glass. 
A covering material is now being tested on the outside 
of one of the windows to see how it looks and holds 
up. If the tests go well, the main part of the building 
will be given a uniform, if blank, appearance in the 
next few years. 

The most interesting part of the environs of the 
building is the north side. The building originally had 

Uncle Beazley i Ivn c i atopsj on a fine day in early spring, 
before the crowds begin. The banners over the portico 
announce two shows in the Evans Galleiy, The Art of 
Cameroon and Exploring Microspace. April 1984. 

an iron fence, at least on the B street side, with enor- 
mous stone gateposts in front of the north door. These 
disappeared before the end of the 192()s, and the only 
proof that they ever existed is found in a few old pho- 
tographs. The National Zoological Park still has similar 
gateposts. Lieutenant Bell of the police force there i~e- 
calls being told that the gateposts on Connecticut Av- 
enue, and those formerly at the Harvard Street en- 
tiance to the Zoo, came from tlie Museum downtown. 

Outside the Museum 

Directly across B Street from the Museum was the old 
Centre Market. Although European museums were set 
in stately parks, the Natural History building had noth- 
ing tfiat could be described as a formal setting. There 
were pigs and potatoes, horseradishes and horse-drawn 
wagons. A few of the old-time independent grocers in 
Washington got their start at this market. In the early 
1930s, G. A. Cooper saw a calf run from the market 
into the foundation of the Internal Revenue Service 

Ohio Avenue, which cut diagonally through the mar- 
ket area, was devoted to adult male entertainment. 
George P. Merrill, taking this shortcut one day, was 
shocked to be solicited by a young woman who was one 

Outside the Building 


Loss of a large Ainrricaii chn on llw west side of the north 
entrance, May 19S-i. 

of his students at George Washington University. Once 
when Edward Henderson was walking on Pennsylvania 
Avenue, a very proper lady called out, "Young man, if 
you are a Christian, don't go down that street!" 

In the early 19(3()s, there were not many plantings 
around the new wings. Shortly after Secretary Ripley 
arrived in Washington, he asked Richard Cowan to find 
specimens of the dawn redwood {Metasequoia glyptostro- 
boides). This is a redwood tree originally described from 
a fossil and thought to be extinct, until a few living trees 
were discovered in China in 1941. Later the species was 
introduced into cultivation. Cowan found some trees 
in a Department of Agriculture nursery and had six 
planted — three each on the northeast and northwest 
corners of the Museum grounds. They were originally 
about seven feet high, and some are now approaching 
fifty feet. In the fall they shed their needle-covered 
branchlets, and the bare limbs in winter look much like 
those of the native bald cypress. 

Between the main building and the wings are large 
southern magnolias (Magnolia grandiflor a) , and near the 
north corners of both the main building and the wings 

lli'^'^cis sliuitling up a trunk of Araut anoxvlon before 
raising it to the east plinth. On March 15, 1985, the 
United States Navy Band played on the steps while the 
specimens on the plinths were formally unveiled to celebrate 
the seventy fiftli anniversary of the building. 

are handsome specimens of American holly trees (Ilex 
opaca). A line of beautiful, pink-flowering crabapple 
trees (Crataegus mains) borders both the east and west 
parking lots; most of them were planted in the 1970s. 
On the south side of the Museum, the steep slope be- 
tween the Mall and the parking lot is lined with azaleas, 
two species of dogwood (Comas), and magnolias. At the 
top of the slope are some oak (Qjuercus) and some syca- 
more maple (Acer pseudoplatanus) trees. In 1984 a few 
young gingko trees (Gingko Biloba) were planted adja- 
cent to the east and west driveways into the basement. 

The Museum's nice surroundings are a recent de- 
velopment, and stem from the hiring in 1972 of the 
Smithsonian's first horticulturist, James Buckler. On 
the east and west sides of the wings, katsura-trees (Cer- 
cidiphyllum japonicum) were planted, and the flower beds 
beneath them are used for spring bulbs and summer 
annuals. In April and May when the dogwoods and 
crabapples flower, the grounds are at their best. The 


The Museum 

Riggers moving a cut nnd polished log of fossil wood (Aravicarioxylon) onto the east parking lot, July 1984. The main 
building is to the left, with the east-wing freight entrance and guard's kiosk behind. 

beds of summer annuals on the east, west, and north 
sides not only are pretty, but equally important, provide 
a source of nectar for the bees that fly out each day 
from the Insect Zoo. 

A sad story is the plight of the American elm trees 
{Ulmus americanus) along Constitution Avenue. They 
are dying one by one from Dutch elm disease. In the 
196()s, one in front of the north entrance died. Late in 
the 1970s one died at the northwest corner, toward the 
National Museum of American History. In May 1984, 
another near the north entrance died. Before its stump 
was removed, one of the scientists counted the tree rings 
and found that it dated from about the time of the Civil 
War. In 1983, when the Washington Redskins won the 
Superbowl and thousands came to a victory parade on 
Constitution Avenue, Smithsonian guards had to clear 
people from the younger trees to save the trees from 
being damaged. Other elms along Constitution Avenue 
are about fifty years old. In anticipation of the death 
of a giant elm on the southeast corner, a hackberry 
{Celtis) has been planted nearby next to the dawn red- 

When the new Museum was erected, Rathbun noted 
that it was parallel to the axis of the Mall but at a slight 
angle to B Street. Constitution Avenue is now parallel 
to the north side of the building, but the building does 
not sit squarely on its lot. There is a bit more of a border 
on the west side of the building than on the east, though 
it is not obvious. Ninth and Twelfth streets used to cross 
the Mall but now pass under it in tunnels, which en- 
hances the appearance of the grounds. A large copper 
European beech (Fagus sylvatica) is on the southeast 
corner of the parking lot. The District of Columbia 
highway engineers had it marked to be cut down so 
that they could build their Ninth Street tunnel with a 
minimum of fuss, but the conservationists won, and the 
Museum kept its tree. 

Next to the north entrance are Korean azaleas {Rho- 
dodendron mucromulatum). Buckler is particularly pioud 
of these, for their very early, delicate purple flowers 
bring dozens of telephone calls from the public each 
year. The shrubs are deciduous, and flower each spring 
before any leaves develop. 

Although the overall setting of the Museum has im- 

Oulside the Budding 


True's beaked whale fMesoplodon mirusj on the east 
parking hit in August 1977. 

proved with the development of the Federal Triangle 
across the street, the north entrance itself has deteri- 
orated. Several lamp posts near the door have been 
moved. The curve of the steps has been filled in, and 
material of a different color extends to the driveway. 
Some of this was done during the Carmichael era. The 
latest modifications, on the other hand, have been for 
a good cause. There are now ramps from the sidewalk 
up the steps, and inside the entryway another ramp 
leads to the central automatic door. This entrance is 
fully accessible to the physically handicapped. Those 
in wheelchairs are a minute part of the tourist popu- 
lation, but their numbers have increased every year. 

The north side of the building is the only place to 
see the flag. One has to stand back some distance from 
the north entrance to get a glimpse of it, a couple of 
stories up. This modest flagpole is the only one on the 
premises of the Museum, whereas many of the neigh- 
boring buildings have imposing flagpoles on their 

grounds. A number of picture postcards of the 1930s 
showed a huge flag flying over the east side of the 
building, but this never existed. 

The north and south entrances are regularly fes- 
tooned with banners announcing temporary exhibits. 
The banners, produced commercially, are handled by 
riggers employed by the Institution. Some say these 
banners give a tawdry appearance; some say they pro- 
vide an air of gaiety. Good or bad, they are probably 
a permanent addition. The banners began during the 
Bicentennial when the Mall side flew one showing a 
dancing elephant balancing the Museum on its trunk. 

One really must return to the south steps, the main 
entrance to the Museum. During the 1960s metal 
guardrails were added to assist people walking up or 
down. In the early 1970s a young man was walking on 
the outer ledge, showing off for some young ladies, 
and fell to the driveway below, breaking an arm. As a 
precaution against a similar event with a more unhappy 
ending, nets were slung on either side below the wall, 
extending out from the roof of the tunnel. Of course, 
these nets are full of beverage cans and paper trash, 
but there does not seem to be any cure for that. 

The south entrance is closed by massive bronze gates 
that retract laterally into the walls; there used to be 
similar gates on the north side. Originally the gates were 
closed by steam power and later they were hydraulic. 
Now, in the electrified era, a guard simply touches a 
button. Few people see these gates, because they are 
out of sight during public hours, but they are impres- 

Decorating the Plinths 

There is one last point to mention about the south 
entrance. Between the two runs of steps is a pair of 
large dies, the tops of which are level with the south 
entryway. In his description of the building, Rathbun 
indicated that they were designed to serve as pedestals 
for statuary. Except for the stone lions displayed on 
them during the George Washington bicentennial in 
1932, they seem not to have been used. With that pre- 
face, it is necessary to return for a moment to the de- 
veloping exhibit on fossils in the west part of Hall 2. 

In 1980 inquiry was made to a mining company in 
Minnesota to see if a large sample of red jasper could 
be obtained. This quite ancient rock, also known as 
banded iron formation, shows alternating darker and 
lighter layers. This layering may be related to con- 
sumption of oxygen from the atmosphere as the ancient 
iron was first oxidized. A slice of the rock was needed 
for the exhibit on early life and the origin of the at- 
mosphere. After several letters and telephone calls, a 
large glacial boulder of this ore was located. The local 
Army Reserve unit helped bring it down a hill and place 
it on a truck. Eventually the eleven-ton rock arrived in 


The Museum 

Vendors on Constitution Avenue on the east side uj the Museum, looknii^ northeast until the Departinetit oj Justu e Building 
behind. July 1984. 

Washington. It took about twelve hours of cutting with 
a large wire saw to prepare a slice. In this operation a 
slurry of water and abrasive is used; the wire simply 
carries the abrasive across the piece. The wires have to 
be replaced periodically, but because the iron layers are 
alternating hard and soft, cutting of the boulder went 
fairly fast. 

There was some material left over after the necessary 
slice was taken out, namely a piece of about seven tons. 
Considerable discussion ensured as to the advantages 
of using this leftover as an outdoor display, in the gen- 
eral context of waste not, want not. Someone finally hit 
on the idea of placing the rock on the south steps. That 
immediately raised the question of whether the area 
would hold the weight. 

Almost immediately that raised the next question — 
what to put on the other side for balance. Eventually 
this was settled by deciding on two logs of petrified 
wood. Frances Hueber, a paleobotanist, was dispatched 
to Arizona to obtain them. Adjacent to the Petrified 

Forest National Monument, there are fossilferous beds 
exposed on private land that has been a source of pet- 
rified wood for decades. Hueber measured a number 
of specimens in the field but finally settled on two al- 
ready collected from the area. One was donated, and 
the other was sold to the Museum for fifty cents a 
pound, the price the previous buyer had paid for it. 
The city of Holbrook, Arizona, offered its good offices, 
and a local rigger loaded the specimens at cost, throw- 
ing in the red carpet that they were wrapped in for the 
trip to Washington. 

The larger piece of wood took twenty-eight hours of 
sawing time and used up fourteen wires. It took weeks 
more to polish the cut surface. The other tree was a 
bit smaller and took less time to cut. The Museum 
accessioned these three large specimens, including the 
rock. After the paperwork was completed and the prep- 
aration finished, the riggers moved them to the dies to 
be unveiled. One tree lies on its side, and the other 
stands again after nearly 200 million years. □ 

Outside the Building 


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• 5 



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1 rt 

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• : 

Chapter 23 


the Museum, one inevitably returns to the collec- 
tions. James Smithson left a legacy to found the Insti- 
tution, but this legacy even on the surface was mor_ 
than money, for his mineral cabinet and library vvert 
included. From the time of the Institution's founding 
by Congress, the individuals associated with the Smith- 
sonian have been collecting and preserving objects. Thf 
exhibits should not be considered as separate f rom the 
collections; they are just a tiny part of the Museum's 
holdings, put on display for the general public. Phil- 
osophical questions of what to display, how much and 
in what manner, whether originals or copies, and a host 
of other important issues, are, in the final analysis, 
secondary matters. No collections really means no ex- 

Some aspects of science undergo periodic "revolu- 
tions." Once a new concept has been introduced, earlier 
concepts are discarded. One need only look at the value 
of last year's computer to be aware of the frenetic rate 
of change in some areas. In inarked contrast, other 
aspects of science are cumulative. The study of history 
naturally has a cumulative approach, and historians aim 
in theory to save every scrap of the past, or at least 
representative samples of it. Natural history likewise is 
additive. Ideas and approaches change, but the objects 
of study themselves have a value that does not diminish 
through time. 

"The Nation's Attic" 

Spencer F"ullerton Baird, the second Secretary, was a 
demon of a collector and inf ected many others with his 
enthusiasm. It was under his tenure that the term "the 
nation's attic" was first applied to the Institution. This 
was not meant to be a compliment and indeed it had 
a pejorative connotation, for it aptly characterized 
buildings bursting at the seams, unopened crates, and 

Labrador Eskimo ivory dominoes j or gambling, accessioned 
in 1886. While there is no "average" specimen, this is 
representative enough in terms of size, complexity, and 
problems of preservation. 

inadequately studied collections. For half a century, the 
press tended to view the Smithsonian, and especially 
its natural history endeavors, as a jumble. Those who 
worked with the collections never saw them in that light, 
but after all, the average person does not work in a 

A large part of museology, the study of museums, is 
concerned with the inechanics of adequate storage of 
objects. Inadequate f unding f or collection storage brings 
with it a host of problems. The new National Museum 
provided a typical example: "With ample basement 
storage available for the first time in many years, steel 
racks and drawers were ordered for the heavier stone 
specimens in geology and anthropology. But the con- 
tractor who submitted a low bid on the steel racks was 
too high in his bid for the accompanying drawers. Con- 
sequently, two bids were let, one for the racks and one 
for the drawers. And the low-bid storage drawers, too 
narrow and too light weight for their intended purpose, 
buckled and dropped off runners in the low-bid racks. 
I [Neil Judd] do not know how much our administrators 
saved on that transaction, but forty years passed before 
the last of that ill-advised purchase was surreptitiously 

In the public mind, collections dve kept in cigar boxes, 
and indeed a number in the Museum actually were; 
remember that for decades such boxes were abundant, 
and were free — the best possible price for a museum. 
Now these boxes are themselves collector s' items. As a 
piece of trivia in connection with containers, during the 
late 1940s A. R. Loeblich in Geology decided that the 
marine-bottom samples dredged years earlier by the 
Fish Commission steamer Albatross should be trans- 
feri ed to bottles of uniform size for easier storage and 
handling. Every evening he would discard old jars, and 
every morning Malcolm Watkins in Anthropology would 
carry a number of them away for his collections. 

The fine points of collection storage have evoked 
some florid prose at the Museum, much of it concerning 

With fossils, one is not troui)led by evaporation. 
. . . One is not conerned with material drying to 


powder. Except for rare specimens replaced by 
pyrite, fossils do not pick up moisture from the 
air. Fossils are not edible and though occasional 
labels and locality numbers may be lost to 
particularly desperate cockroaches or rats, such 
events have been fairly rare. . . . Fossils do not 
change color after years of storage, nor do they 

About the only obvious and painful drawback to 
fossil storage is weight. The average collection of 
fossils, microfossils excepted, is heavier than the 
average collection of almost anything else in a 
museum. One drawer, 28 inches by 22 inches, full 
of particularly stony fossils . . . requires complete 
attention during a moving operation. Drawers of 
fossils can be stored to a height of 9 feet, but an 
administrator before making a decision for high- 
level storage, should be required to carry at least 
one drawer to the floor. There is a general rule of 
nature (Gumperson's Law) that the heaviest 
drawers are always at the top; for any case over 5 
feet high this may become hazardous. It is also 
well known that museums that stack drawers 
rather than place them in cases, keep a needed 
specimen in the bottom drawer of a stack 
(Saunders' Corollary)." 

The Saunders for whom the corollary is named came 
to the Museum in 1948 and has been curating collec- 
tions for the U.S. Geological Survey ever since. Harold 
Saunders remembers the location of thousands of col- 
lections and hundreds of birthdays; almost every one 
of the old timers annually receives a birthday cigar or 
box of Cracker Jack from Harold Saunders. Cleaning 
and rearranging collections is a full-time job, and with- 
out those who do it the Museum collections would be 
in a sorry state. 

Collections have to be stored, and they have to be 
stored in some meaningful way. A major preoccupation 
of any museum is files to keep track of specimens. One 
used to use a pen to write on the three-by-five-inch 
cards kept in the shoebox (shoeboxes are free); later 
the cards were typed. Today word processors produce 
enormous sheaves of paper printing the same data — 
that the camel-saddle rugs from Egypt are in aisle 3, 
case 10, and those from Kuwait are in case 19. 

It was not very long after the new Museum opened 
that the hallways on the third floor became the storage 
area for a large part of the collections. By the time the 
wings were built, there were collections in the offices, 
in the halls, in the attics — and wherever there was space. 
At one time there were some paleobotanical specimens 
in the east attic, some in Stone Hall, some on the first 
floor underneath exhibit cases, some stacked in the 
corridor of- the east north range by the library, and 
some in the former boiler room. Simply finding out 
what was where, let alone getting one's hands on it, was 
not easy. When the exhibits were modernized in the 

1950s and 1960s, the space between the new cases and 
the windows was used for storage by almost every de- 
partment; soon these areas were full. Ten years after 
the wings were completed, space there was already at 
a premium. 

Perhaps worst of all for storage are the three attics 
of the main building, which can be entered from the 
fourth floor of the rotunda or from a stairway in each 
wing. Originally the east attic was for Geology, the west 
attic for Biology, and the north attic for Anthropology, 
but they all contained a bit of everything. Paul Garber 
recalls finding Chinese kites from the Philadelphia Cen- 
tennial. The attics were fantastically cold in the winter 
and incredibly hot in the summer; a large fan at one 
end of each attic provided only noise. The Old World 
archeological collections contained a round-bottomed 
pot in which some resin had solidified several thousand 
years ago. The attic was so hot that the resin slowly 
began to flow. Periodically Van Beek would roll the pot 
around so the resin would not flow out; eventually a 
stand was made to hold it upright. One need not explain 
what such conditions did to wood and fibers. Since I960 
the air conditioning has elevated working conditions 
from inhuman to unpleasant. Because of the space they 
provide, the attics are an important component of the 
building, but no one ever goes to the fourth floor with 

Care of the Collections 

Care, along with storage and arrangement, is another 
facet of curating collections. What constitutes proper 
care depends on the kind of material being stored. 
Those who study plants and animals have problems of 
drying, evaporation of alcohol, and destruction by pests. 
Those who study ethnographic material have even more 
serious problems with deterioration. No collections, even 
rocks and fossils, can simply be stuck in a drawer and 
ignored; they all must be checked periodically. 

Every museum in the world has stories about the 
technician who drank alcohol from specimens. Occa- 
sionally these stories are true, but it is not clear whether 
the Museum ever really had an alcoholic sharing the 
preserving liquid with the fish and the invertebrates. 
One time during the early 1930s, somebody experi- 
mented with adding sugar to inhibit evaporation and 
ended up with a few exploding jars. Newer jars and 
better storage limit evaporation, but somebody still has 
to "top off or replace the liquid in the wet collections 
or the specimens will be ruined. 

Everyone is afraid of pests, and fumigation and poi- 
soning of collections, now more sparingly prescribed, 
were once carried out routinely. Harry Oberholser of 
the Biological Survey had a favorite moth-eaten wool 
shirt that he kept in a moth-infested office wardrobe 
when he was not wearing it. Wetmore pleaded with 
Oberholser to discard it because of the danger of moths 
to the collections. Oberholser refused, but when he 


The Museum 

"Attic of west wing," Jrom United States National 
Museum Bulletin 80 (1913). The specimens on view 
are sponges — specimens i)i alcohol to the left and dried 

went to the field the following summer, Wetmore had 
the whole wardrobe removed from the premises. 

From time to time materials on display required re- 
pairing, and the taxidermists, who were called on for 
this, became fairly skilled at working outside their im- 
mediate field. It was not until the early 1960s, when 
the Afiican hall was being constructed, that the an- 
thropologists faced up to the issue of conservation and 
opened a laboratory for that purpose. It soon became 
apparent that a number of specimens of all kinds were 
in need of repair. 7 he pianos were just then leaving 
the building for the Museinn of American History, and 
they provided a glaring example of the need for con- 
servation. The result of this new interest was that con- 
servation became an important concern in both the 
Museum of American History and the Museum of Nat- 
ural History, and analytical laboratories were installed. 
Conservation and restoration, well-established special- 
ties in the art world, are now significant in the Museum 
of Natural History as well. 

If collections cause such problems of storage and 
arrangement and preservation, why do museums go to 
the trouble they do? Part of the answer, especially from 
the perspective of Washington, is legal responsibility. 

The Colleclwns 

specimens in three foot-high cases to the right. Evaporation 
from the alcoholics must have been formidable in the attic. 

The Museum is the national repositorv for natural his- 
tory objects. In presenting this point, the 1879 law clearly 
established one fimdamental function or "mission" for 
the Museum of Natural History: Specimens to which 
the government has title are to be retained. Once a 
specimen has been accessioned by the Museum into the 
collection, it is a laborious formal procedure to have it 
deaccessioned and discarded. I he national treasiues 
are preserved, and will be preserved forever. 

When George Brown Goode spoke of a museum of 
record, preserving government material was part of 
what he meant. However, he meant a great deal more 
that! that, for he recognized the importance of a rep- 
resentative sample, no tnatter who obtained it. Records 
are of all kinds and for all piu poses, and it is as im- 
portant to record where elm trees once were as to find 
out where they are now. Goode would have been pleased 
with the uses to which old samples have been put. De- 
termining mercury levels in old bird feathers and by 
the thickness of old eggshells is a well known example 
from the era of environmental awareness. No one can 
say what novel use might next be made of old Museum 

Although the Museum is legally the official keeper 

20 1 

of all collections made by government agencies, no one 
is particular about when and how custody is trans- 
ferred. Since the inception of entomological studies in 
the Department of Agriculture, the collections have 
been turned over to the Museum. Each year, one piece 
of paper transfers title to hundreds of thousands of 
insects. Collections of the Biological Survey were always 
in the new National Museum, but until the 194Us they 
were kept separate. When Wetmore wanted to examine 
certain birds, he would approach Oberholser, who would 
unlock the appropriate case and later relock it. The 
Geological Survey retains large collections in the Mu- 
seum and elsewhere. At irregular intervals it transfers 
large loads of fossils to the Museum, but it promptly 
transfers all 'specimens illustrated for publication. 

Members of the public often donate or sell specimens 
to the Museimi. Donations are extremely important to 
the Museum, and a major reason for an annual report 
was to list the donors of specimens. The whole business 
of accessioning collections is to ensure legal title and 
pioper record-keeping. Periodically, people who have 
donated material, or whose relatives have donated, come 
to the Museum to see those specimens, which will be 
lound lor ihem. 

One of the sad trends of the last few decades is a 
decrease in the number of places in America that main- 
tain natural history collections. A considerable amount 
of collection growth during the past few years has been 
by salvage of specimens from universities and other 
institutions going out of the business. Natural history 
material with proper documentation should never be 
discarded, and the Museum performs a valuable service 
in becoming the repository for these major collections 
suddenlv thrown into limbo. Specimens that are de- 
scribed in a scientific paper assume international sig- 
nificance. Government scientists are required to place 
such specimens in the Museum, but there are no such 
restrictions on anyone else. Fortunately, many scientists 
have come to see the merit of a national center, and a 
large number of tvpe specimens are presented annually 
to the Museum. 

The Issue of Value 

Purchase of specimens is an exceedingly delicate area. 
In the traditional view, each object, be it natural or 
man-made, is unique, and because it is unique is either 
priceless or valueless. Neither concept assigns it any 
monetary worth. Some objects do have value in the 
nonmuseum world, but it was a tragedy for natural 
history when interior decorators began to frame slabs 
of fossil fish and hang them on walls. An unfortunate 
consequence of this fad of the decorator/collector crowd 
is that there is now a monetary interest in many natural 
history objects. Because of the possibility of theft, even 
the most humdrum of specimens are being put under 
lock and key. Security is important, but there is concern 
among some curators that overemphasis on security 

may inhibit scientific investigation. 

Value created by scarcity, not "collectibihty," is an 
even more serious problem. Many objects that once 
could be collected in profusion can no longer be readily 
obtained, and may not be obtainable at all. No amount 
of money or expense can produce additional specimens 
of the passenger pigeon. 

To sttidy passenger pigeons or anything else, it is 
necessary to see specimens. A large number of people 
now come to the Museum because they cannot make 
their own collections of what they would like to study, 
and for the same reason, lending specimens has become 
a big enterprise — perhaps twenty-five times what it was 
thirty years ago. Specimens sent on loan must be re- 
trieved from the collections, listed, counted, and 
wrapped. When sent back, they must be unwrapped, 
listed, counted and returned to the collections. 

Because of this whole issue of value, one major preoc- 
cupation of the Museum during the past decade has 
been an inventory program. The Museimi of American 
History suffered some well-publicized losses, particu- 
larly in the pistol collection and the Early American 
silver collection. The loss drew attention to the fact that 
there was no proper inventory, and spurred Congress 
lo order an inventory program throughout the Smith- 

Benefits of the Inventory 

It is one sort of problem to count airplanes or even 
paintings, and another sort of problem to count beetles. 
Half the kinds of living things in the world are insects. 
Most ciuators were loath to be involved with the in- 
ventory, yet it had to be done. The program was con- 
ducted in a variety of ways by the different depart- 
ments. Some inventoried almost every specimen, some 
inventoried only types, and some inventoried selected 
collections. On balance, most of those who participated 
see the inventory program as having been beneficial. 
It accomplished some improvements in the arrange- 
ment of the collections that would never have been 
financed otherwise. The curators now have more data 
on distribution to "massage" than would otherwise have 
been compiled. Were it not for the Automatic Data 
Processing system, the program could not have accom- 
plished what it did. 

One consequence of the inventory program is that 
there now are periodic audits in which auditors look 
for particular specimens. To move a specimen from 
one drawer to another now requires much filling out 
of forms, and some curators worry that desire to win 
an auditor's report that every jar is in the right place 
may overshadow the desire to investigate the contents 
of the jars. 

One good consequence of the inventory was that some 
of the young helpers who survived it found permanent 
jobs in the Musem, and will be the next generation of 
technicians and research assistants. Another was that 


The MiLseum 

the program crystallized the concept of a collection 
manager. More interest in loans meant more filling out 
of loan papers. More specimens coming in meant more 
accessioning and more label-writing. More visitors meant 
more moving of material to and from storage. Twenty- 
five years ago curators handled all such transactions, 
but today this is not the case. The curators are expected 
to conduct research programs, and the collections are 
largely curated by technicians. The scientific visitor who 
wishes to study particular specimens can probably be 
accommodated more readily now than at any time in 
the past. 

No matter what one writes about a collection, the 
true impact of the specimens is not fully communicable 
by the written word. There is nothing like seeing row 
upon row of jars or case upon case of fossils to impress 
one with the enormous amount of human effort that 
these specimens represent. Yet vast as the collections 
are, they are an inadequate sample of the world's di- 
versity and the endlessly subtle complications it con- 
tains. It is the study of variation within these collections 
that is so important. Ripley has written, "The truth 
exists in objects. . . . They cannot lie. . . . They can be 
handled, touched, thought about and reflected over, 
and in so doing convey a sense of truth beyond per- 

The curators do reflect on the objects and to varying 
degrees do look after collections, but increasingly they 
are concerned with a particular specialty, rather than 
a wider group of organisms. However, each curator 
contributes specimens, adding to the stock of the past. 
The activities of the present generation of "foragers" 
have been described in some detail,^ but generally 
speaking, collections obtained by staff members in the 

past were larger than those being made by present 
workers: Setzer's operations in trapping small mam- 
mals were like those of a field marshal; Cooper brought 
in seventy-two tons of rock to treat with acid; the Indian 
Ocean Exploration employed dozens of ships. 

Why Collections Grow 

With such large collections already in hand, why go out 
into the field in search of more? No matter what anyone 
says, one reason is that to most scientists, field work is 
more fun than being in the office. Another answer is 
that one cannot always solve new problems when lim- 
iting oneself to old collections; additional specimens 
and data on behavior and mode of occurrence must be 
obtained to resolve some questions. Also, curators are 
expected to add to the collections. If the research being 
pursued by a curator has nothing to do with collections, 
why should he or she be at the Museum in the first 
place? Collections will grow until collectors become 
extinct. New things always turn up. 

The expansion of collections within the Museum is 
not an issue that many scientists care to belabor. All 
one can do, is to plead for adequate space and the 
money to support it. Fortunately, the collections have 
proven their worth so many times that Congress sees 
the merit of continuing research, even if this is linked 
to continuing growth. 

The growth of the collections has been studied.- An- 
nual reports provided solid information on the number 
of specimens accessioned each year, and the growth 
curves turned out to be exponential. On May 1, 1971, 
in advance of the inventory, the grand total of speci- 
mens in the seven departments in the Museum of Nat- 
ural History was supposed to have been 54,215,643." 

The Collections 


Storage of human bones and 
skulls on the fourth floor of 
the south pavilion, just off 
the rotunda; the hat gives 
some indication of tempera- 
ture. Invariably the needed 
material is in the lowest of 
the stacked drawers. January 

Storage of fish in old-style crocks, to the left, and in new 
tanks on wheels, to the right. There is little evaporation 
from the tanks. Late 1960s or early 1970s. 

A realistic estimate in the light of the growth study was 
that by the year 2010, 125 million specimens should be 
on hand. Whatever the exact numbers of specimens 
might be, it did not take much to realize that the build- 
ing would not hold them. 

During the 1960s, when Richard Cowan was director, 
there was considerable concern about future crowding 
in the Museum, in spite of the new wings. As one so- 
lution, Cowan suggested the idea of moving part of the 
staff and their collections to the Agricultural Research 
Center in Beltsville, Maryland, where there would have 
been space to construct a suitably large building to ac- 
commodate both staff increase and collection growth. 
The departments to be moved were those of Botany, 
Entomology, and Invertebrate Zoology. There were 
positive aspects to the plan, but it was not approved, 
in part because removing so many of the scientific staff 
from the Mall area would have meant splitting the 

In the eariy 1970s, committees studied the future 
space requirements of the Museum of Natural History 
and of all the Smithsonian museums. Eventually the 
notion evolved of moving some of the less-used collec- 
tions, general facilities such as the Oceanographic Sort- 
ing Center, and the preservation and conservation lab- 
oratories to Silver Hill, Maryland, where the Smithsonian 
owned land and already had some storage facilities. 
During Porter Kier's directorship, this crystallized into 
what has now become the Museum Support Center. As 
Kier recalls the crucial conversation, he went with Rich- 
ard Grant of Paleobiology, then head of the Senate of 
Scientists, to discuss the matter of a major new facility 
with Secretary Ripley. After extended discussion, Rip- 
ley summarized, "You mean to saddle the Institution 
with the incubus of ever increasing collections," to which 
Grant responded, "Yeah, I guess that's about it." 

Frozen fish in a freezer in the basement of east wnig. 

Museum Support Center 

Whatever was the deciding factor, the process of 
congressional authorization and appropriation was 
started. "The Museum Support Center, as it is titled, 
all 308,566 square feet of it, will be opened in 1983," 
Ripley wrote in Smithsonian Year 1981. "Say what one 
may, the 'trip' has been necessary. . . . the Smithsonian 
must realize its destiny to build a storage and retrieval 
center second to none."' 

The facility was dedicated on May 16, 1983. The 
building itself cost $29,000,000, and storage and lab- 
oratory equipment will bring the total to $50,000,000 — 
about twice the cost of the wings, air conditioning, and 
refurbishing of the Museum during the 1960s. The 
newspapers got it right in dubbing this facility "the 
nation's closet" and not harping on cost.** After all, no 
one keeps a mink coat in a hot drawer during the sum- 
mer, and that was fundamentally what the Museum 
had been forced to do with the collections. 

The Museum Support Center is two stories high and 
covers four and one-half acres, most of the area being 
taken up by four huge storage "pods." Each of the pods, 
described as "giant thermos bottles" by the center's di- 
rector, Vincent Wilcox, is roughly the size of a football 
field. They are air-conditioned to seventy degrees and 
humidified to fifty percent by fourteen cooling units 
weighing twenty-five tons each. About 300 people work 
at the Support Center. Specimens are treated and stud- 
ied in fifty-five laboratories fitted with special glass 
plumbing pipes which, unlike the old pipes in the Nat- 
ural History Building, will not drip into the light fix- 

An "Ode to the Museum Support Center" was read 
over the radio the day of the dedication. The third 
verse ran: 

The Collections 


Museum Support dciitc). Silver Hill, Manlaiid. 

The place at Suitland, Maryland, 

is made of concrete blocks. 
And here now the Smithsonian 

will keep its extra stocks 
Of everything it doesn't really need 

now right away 
But thinks that very likely 

it will want to use some day.'' 
The transf er of collections to the Smithsonian's Sup- 
port Center is not the same as the move from the Castle 
to the first National Museum, the journey across the 
Mall in 1910, or the spreading into the wings. The first 
three were expansions of previous activities; this is a 
new concept. It is a fairly safe prediction that the major 
events of the next twenty-five years in the history of 
the Museuin of Natural History will be linked to his 
new facility. 

New space provides new opportunities and presents 
new problems. The Museum Support Center will be a 
museum of record like none before. It will certainly 
bring out new approaches to the collections. The ques- 
tion of what is to be moved and what is to stay has 
already generated a great deal of controversy and will 
generate inore, but the nation's treasures are being 
preserved for posterity in better condition than could 
ever have been realized in Rathbun's attics. 


In seventy-five years, the Museum of Natural History 
has gotten bigger, and in many ways it has gotten better. 
Its halls have shaken out the hodgepodge of its first 
fifty years to achieve a steady focus on natural history. 
It is entertaining and educating over six million visitors 
a year. It gathers millions of fresh samples from nature 
every year, and has learned to keep track of them. 
During three-quarters of a century, the workers within 
its walls have given good service in performing the 
functions of record, research, and exhibit, and it "re- 
mains the nation's most important center for systematic 
research.'"" In the final analysis, because the Museum 
is a government bureau, the Congress must decide 
whether the taxpayers it represents have gotten their 
money's worth. On the other hand, it may be equally 
appropriate for the Museum to question the nation. 
Perhaps both nation and Museum would pass the two- 
way test proposed by George Brown Goode, again cap- 
italizing as he did on the rare occasions when he thought 


The Museum 


1. The United States National Museum 

1. Goode, B. 1893. The genesis of the United States 
National Museum. Report of the United States National 
Museum for 1891, part 2:273-380. Although there is 
a lot of quoted material in a fine type size that strains 
the eyes, this is an interesting historical account that 
demonstrates that the times and the resources have to 
be right for a good idea to succeed. 

2. The question of just when the Museum began has 
been debated for decades. Smithsonian Deputy 
Archivist William A. Deiss provided a great deal of 
data in his meiriorandum to me of January 27, 1981. 
In my view, the National Museum began in 1858 
when Henry convinced the Congress that support of a 
museum was an appropriate expenditure of public 
funds. An early sign over exhibits in the Castle is 
illustrated in Karp, W., 1965, The Smithsonian 
Institution (Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.). 
The book has considerable merit but is no longer in 

3. Rathbun, Richard. 1905. The United States National 
Museum: An account of the buildings occupied by the 
national collections. Report of the United States 
National Museum for 1903, pp. 177-309. This is 
virtually the only information on the small brick 
building whose direct descendant is Exhibits Central, 
and on the Armory, whose direct descendant is the 
Museum Support Center. 

4. Because the centenary of the Smithsonian Institution 
occurred shortly after the close of World War II, 
virtually nothing was written in a historical vein except 
a series of papers in a centennial issue of Science (vol. 
104, August 9, 1946); this was curtailed because of a 
paper shortage. A brief general account was prepared 
for the public, with what were for its time profuse 
illustrations, by True, W. P., 1946, The first hundred 
years of the Smithsonian Institution, 1846—1946, 64 pp. 
True was an editor for the Smithsonian, the son of F. 
W. True, Assistant Secretary at the time the Museum 
of Natural History was built. Since the 1950s, a great 
deal has been written and illustrated about the 
Smithsonian, much of it delightful to look at and a 
pleasure to read. A scholarly account of the early days 
that sheds a bit more light on federal funding is that 
of Washburn, W. E., 1977, "A national museum," pp. 
20—27, in The Smithsonian Experience (New York: W. W. 
Norton & Co.). The first fifty years of the 
Smith.sonian Institution, including the early years of 
the United States National Museum, are chronicled in 
excruciating detail by Rhees, W. J., 1901, The 

Smithsonian Institution, documents relative to its origin and 
history 1835—1899 (in two volumes). The 
sesquicentennial might provide an opportunity for 
later editors to put an approximate date on some of 
the old pictures, develop more precise chronologies, 
and offer some of the Rhesian type of detail 
concerning the great expansion of the Smithsonian 
between the 1950s and the 1980s. 

5. Logan, Mrs. John A. 1901. Thirty years in Washington or 
life and scenes in our national capital. Hartford: A. D. 
Worthing & Co., 752 pp. 

6. Rathbun, op. cit., 263. 

7. I have drawn my account of the career of Goode from 
Oehser, P. H., 1949, Sons of science: The story of the 
Smithsonian Institution and its leaders (New York: Henry 
Schuman). Oehser is a poet who for many years was 
the chief editor for the Smithsonian. Perhaps his view 
of the Smithsonian is a bit romanticized, but as one of 
those people dedicated to the Institution, he certainly 
is qualified to view it in this light. If Oehser writes 
that it happened, one can be certain it happened. His 
book is out of print, another loss that should be 

8. Merrill, G. P. "An historical account of the 
Department of Geology in the U. S. National 
Museum." This is a rough draft of an incomplete 
manuscript prepared by Merrill and located in the 
Department of Mineral Sciences library. It includes 
material written at several different times. As there is 
mention of the appointment of Alexander Wetmore as 
director, it is probable that this copy was in 
preparation during 1926-27; Merrill died in 1929. 
Unfortunately, there is no comment on the death of 
C. D. Walcott, which occurred early in 1927. The 
manuscript is a mine of detail about the Department 
of Geology, and is one reason that department is 
mentioned more than others. A few additional drafts 
and other papers are associated with it. The quote, 
about how bad the old museum was, was taken by 
Mason (see note 2, chap. 2) from a pencil-written 
sheet; perhaps Merrill died before it was completed, 
or perhaps he decided not to include it, though he 
certainly spoke the truth. 

9. Goode, G. Brown. 1895. The principles of museum 
administration. Annual report of the Museum.s Association 
for 1893: 1-73. 

10. Rathbun, op. cit., 250. 

11. Willis, Bailey. 1947. A Yanqui in Patagonia. Stanlord 
University Press, p. 32. 


12. Rathbun, R. 1905. Report upon the condition and progress 
of the U. S. National Museum during the year ending June 
30, 1903. For years Rathbun wrote the annual reports 
of the Museum, and 1 have read every one he wrote 
in this century, as well as those by his successors. Most 
of the information cited stems from these reports. Not 
every fact has to be documented, but 1 am old- 
fashioned enough to believe that the sources of quotes 
should be cited. I also recognize that giving the full 
title and the number of pages in each report would be 
more than is needed. In fact, these should be cited as 
"Appendix to" the Smithsonian annual report, but 
that would indeed be sterile scholarship. Other annual 
reports by Rathbun and his successors are cited in a 
more abbreviated fashion. Further, some of the 
material is taken from departmental reports written by 
Hough, Merrill, True, and the various head curators 
wh(j succeeded them, but it is expedient (even though 
not correct) to cite Rathbim or his successors. 

2. The New Building 

1. Rathbini, R. 1913. A descriptive account of the 
building recently erected from the departments of 
natural history of the United States National Museum. 
United States National Museum Bulletin 80: 16. 

2. Mason, B. 1975. Mineral sciences in the Smithsonian 
Institution. Smithsonian Contributions to the earth sciences 
14:1-1 1. 

3. Girouard, M. 1981. Alfred Waterhouse and the Natural 
History Museum. London: British Museum of Natural 

3. Building the Building 

1. Rathbun, R. WHHx Annual report for the year ending June 
30. 1904, p. l.H. 

2. Ibid., 12. 

3. National Museimi. Washington Sunday Star, Aug. 13, 

4. (iirouard, M. 1981. Alfred Waterhouse and the Natural 
Histoiy Museum. London: British Museum of Natural 
History, p. 7. 

5. Rathbun, R. 1906. Annual report for the year ending June 
30. 1906, p. 7. 

6. Washington Post, October 28, 1906. 

7. Rathbun, R. 1907. Annual report for the year ending June 
30, 1907, p. 15. 

8. Willis, Bailev. 1947. A Yanqui in Patagonia, p. 32. 

9. Rathbun, R. 1909. Annual report for the year ending June 
30. 1908. 

10. Rathbiui, R. 1909. Annual report for the year ending June 
30. 1909, p. 13. 

11. Ibid. 

12. Ibid., 14. 

13. Rathbun, R. 1911. Annual report J or the year ending June 
30, 1910, p. 13. 

4. Moving into Valhalla 

1. A history of the Division of Mollusks is being written 
by Harald Rehder, curator emeritus, who joined the 
staff in 1932. He generously allowed me to examine 
his manuscript and draw from it. 

2. Ibid. 

3. Rathbun, R. 1909. Annual report for the year ending June 
30, 1909, p. 15. 

4. Ibid. 

5. Gihnore, Charles W. 1941. A history of the division of 
vertebrate paleontology in the United States Museum. 
Proceedings of the United States National Museum 90:305- 

5. The National Gallery of Art 

1. Rathbun, R. 1909. The National Gallery of Art: 
Department of fine arts of the National Museum. 
United States National Museum Bulletin 70. 

2. Rathbun, R. 1907. Annual report for the year ending June 
30, 1907, pp. 7-8. 

3. Holmes, W. H. Quarters for the National Gallery of 
Art, undated seven-page typescript. Filed under 
National Collection of Fine Arts-History in the Library 
of the National Museum of American Art/National 
Portrait Gallery. 

4. Walcott, CD. 1911. Annual report to the Board of 
Regents of the Smithsonian Institution showing the 
operations, expenditures and condition of the Institution for 
the year ending June 30, 1910. 

5. Henderson, H. B. 1912. The art treasures of Washington. 
Bost(m: L. C. Page & Co., p. 210. 

6. Rathbun, R. 1913. Annual report for the year ending June 
30, 1912. 

7. The "Random Records" of William Henry Holmes 
consist of fourteen volumes of documents, notes, 
watercolors, pictures, and other miscellanea that 
provide a wealth of detail on his life. Many facets of 
Smithsonian history not otherwise recorded can be 
found here. Why Holmes has not been the subject of 
a major biographical study is a mystery to me. I have 
not given references to the individual volumes, for all 
are carefully indexed, and the various items can be 
found easily. 

8. Holmes, W. H. 1926. Report on the National Gallery 
of Art including the Freer Gallery of Art. Annual 
Report for the year ending June 30, 1925, p. 52. 

9. Holmes, W. H. 1931. Report on the National Gallery for 
1931, pp. 43-44. 

10. Holmes, W. H. 1924. Report on the National Gallery for 
1924, p. 57. 

1 1. Taylor, J. C. 1978. National Collection of Fine Arts, 
Smithsonian Institution. 40 pp. 

6. Affiliated Organizations 

1. Bartlett, R. A. 1962. Great sumeys of the American west. 
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. 

2. Hinsley, C. M., Jr. 1981. Savages and scientists: The 
Smithsonian Institution and the development of American 
anthropology 1846—1910. Washington: Smithsonian 
Institution Press. 

3. Rabbitt, M. C. 1979. Minerals, lanck, and geology, for the 
common defence and general welfare. Vol. I, before 1879. 
Washington: U. S. Geological Survey. (Vol. 2, 1879— 
1904, was published in 1980; vol. 3 is anticipated in 
1985, and vol. 4 is in preparation.) Vol. 1, pp. 283-84, 
gives in full the text of the section of the act 
establishing the Geological Survey. 

4. Dupree, A. H. 1957. Science in the Federal government: A 
history of policies and activities to 1940. Cambridge: 
Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. This is the 
reference for anyone who has a passing interest in 
how science and public policy interact. It should be 
required reading for all budding government scientists 


who wonder why the government does the variety of 
things that it does, and how that came about. 

5. Chapin, Ray D. 1933. Science in the Department of 
Commerce. Scientific Monthly 36:193—99. 

6. Sabrosky, C. W. 1964. Taxonomic Entomology in the 
U. S. Department of Agriculture. Bulletin of the 
Entomological Society of America 10(4):21 1—20. 

7. Sterling, K. B. 1977. Last of the Naturalists — The career 
of C. Hart Merriam. New York: Arno Press, p. 70. 

8. Howard, L. O. 1930. A history of applied entomology 
(somewhat anecdotal). Smithsonian Miscellaneow, 
Collections, vol. 84:165. It is a pity that Howard was 
not in the Museum building, for he surely would have 
been a source of good stories. Between his history and 
the book by Sterling, one gets a fairly good notion of 
the difficult life of a federal scientist before World 
War I. It might be noted, in these days of advanced 
technology, that Howard's book was published in 
November 1930, and includes comments written 
earlier that year. 

9. Spilman, T. J. 1984. Vignettes of 100 years of the 
Entomological Society of Washington. Proceedings of the 
Entomological Society of Washington, 86:1 — 10. 

10. Sabrosky, C. W. 1964. Taxonomic Entomology in the 
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Biilletin of the 
Entomological Society of America 10(4):21 1—20. 

11. Fisher, R. D. 1982. Museum section, U. S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service. Association of Systematics Collections 
Newsletter 10:29-31. 

12. Judd, Neil M. 1967. The B ureau of American Ethnology, 
a partial history. Norman: University of Oklahoma 
Press, p. vii. Judd wrote in his preface, " Fhe present 
writer, never a member of the B. A. E., knew most of 
its scientific staff from 1910 forward and held most of 
them in high regard. Because the majority of that 
staff have since passed to wider horizons and because 
their contributions will have more meaning in future 
years, it seems appropriate to record at this time at 
least a partial history of the Bureau and the people 
who made it what it was." This and Judd's later book 
are outstanding informal histories, preserving names 
and details that would otherwise be lost. 

7. New Exhibits, New Offices 

1. Rathbun, R. 1913. Aiinual report for the year ending June 
30, 1912, p. 13. 

2. Rathbun, R. 1912. Aiinual report for the year ending June 
30, 1911, pp. 18-19. 

3. New Exhibits Ready. Washington Sunday Star, Oct. 15, 

4. Merrill, G. P. An historical account of the Department 
of Geology in the U. S. National Museum (see note 8, 
chap. 1), p. 56. 

5. Ibid., 130. 

6. Ibid., 123. 

7. J. E. Pogue, 10 May 1913. Division of Mineralogy and 
Petrology, U. S. National Museum, A record of its 
arrangement and activities, pp. 1—2. This is a twenty- 
page manuscript found with the Merrill manuscript in 
the library of the Division of Mineral Sciences. 

8. Ibid. 

9. Lay figure ethnic groups of the National Museum. 
Washington Sunday Star, August 24, 1913. 

10. Rathbun, R. 1913. Annual report for the year ending June 
30, 1912, pp. 20-21. 

1 1. Judd, N. M. 1968. Men met along the trail: Adventures in 
archeology. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, pp. 
48-51. ' 

12. Rathbun, R. 1915. Annual report for the year ending June 
30, 1914, p. 79. 

13. Rathbun, R. 1913. Annual report for the year ending June 
30, 1912, p. 54. 

14. Ibid., 54-55. 

15. Forbes, J. R. 1966. In the steps of the great American 
zoologists: William Temple Hornaday. New York: M. 
Evans & Co., p. 79. The account of the installation of 
the buf falo group in the National Museum is quoted 
in this book from the Washington Star, March 10, 1888. 

16. Rathbun, R. 1915. Annual report for the year ending fane 
30, 1914, p. 114. 

17. Ravenel, W. de C. 1919. Annual report for the year 
ending June 30, 1918, plates 1 and 2. 

18. Blackwelder, R. E. 1979. The zest for life or Waldo had a 
pretty good run; the life of Waldo LaSalle Schmitt. 
Lawrence, Kans.: Allen Press. 

8. The Great War and Its Lingering Aftermath 

1. Rathbun, R. 1918. Annual report for the year ending June 
30, 1917, p. 90. 

2. Merrill, G. P. An historical account of the Department 
of Geology in the U. S. National Museum (see note 8, 
chap. 1), p. 62. 

3. Ibid., 70. 

4. Rathbun, R. 1918. Annual report for the year ending June 
30, 1917, p. 14. 

5. Ravenel, W. de C. 1919. Annual report for the year 
ending June 30, 1918, pp. 50-51. 

6. Ibid., 14-15. 

7. Ravenel, W. de C. 1920. Annual report for the year 
ending June 30, 1920, p. 22. 

8. Ibid., 26. 

9. Interregnum 

1. Ibid., 15. 

2. Ravenel, W. de C. 1923. Annual report for the year 
ending June 30, 1923, p. 3. 

3. Walcott, C. D. 1925. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1925, p. 2. 

4. Wetmore, A. 1925. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1925, p. 26. 

5. Snow, D. W. 1979. Obituary — Alexander Wetmore. 
Nature 278:490. 

6. Stewart, T. D. 1982. Reminiscences. In Plains Indian 
Studies, a collection of essays in honor of John C. Ewers and 
Waldo R. Wedel, ed. D. H. Ubelaker and H. J. Viola. 
Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology 10:40—42. 

7. Wetmore, A. 1930. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1930, pp. 30-31. 

8. Wetmore, A. 1933. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1932, p. 51. 

9. Wetmore, A. 1931. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1931, p. 54. 

10. Wetmore, A. 1933. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1932, p. 10. 

1 1. Wetmore, A. 1935. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1934, pp. 8-9. 

12. Wetmore, A. 1936. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1935, p. 9. 



13. Wetmore, A. 1939. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1938, p. 10. 

14. Wetmore, A. 1941. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1940, pp. 10-11. 

10. World War II 

1. Wetmore, A. 1943. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1942, p. 11. 

2. Wetmore, A. 1946. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1945, p. 1. 

3. Wetmore, A. 1943. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1942, p. 11. 

4. Ibid., 59. 

5. Wetmore, A. 1944. Ayinual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1943, p. 

6. Wetmore, A. 1945. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1944, pp. 8 and 9. 

7. Wetmore, A. 1944. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1943, p. 8. 

8. Wetmore, A. 1945. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1944, p. 

9. Wetmore, A. 1944. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1943, p. 9. 

10. Ibid., 29. 

11. New Faces, New Funds, New Exhibits 

1. Wetmore, A. 1939. Annual report j or the year ending 
June 30, 1938, p. 3. 

2. Fenton, W. N. 1982. John Canfield Ewers and the 
great tradition of artists and ethnologists in the west. 
In Plaim Indians Studies, a collection of essays in honor of 
John C. Ewers and Waldo R. Wedel. ed. D. H. Ubelacher 
and H. J. Viola. Smithsonian Contributions to 
Anthropology 10:218. 

3. Van Beek, G. Unpublished obituary of CHfford Evans, 
in the author's files. 

4. Ripley, S. D. and Steed, J. A. Alexander Wetmure. 
National Academy of Sciences: Biographical Memoirs. 
(In press.) 

5. Fire damages Indian Exhibit at museum. Washington 
Post, May 26, 1965. 

6. Carmichael, L. 1955. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1954, p. I. 

7. Donnelly, T. 1954. The Smithsonian keeps up with 
the Joneses. Washington Daily Neivs (April 13); 
McDade, M. 1954. Institution shakes off old tradition. 
Washington Post ayid Times Herald (April 18). 

8. Ewers, J. C. 1956. New ethnological exhibits United 
States National Museum Washington, D. C. Museum 9 

9. Exhibit depicts early America. The Washington Post and 
Times Herald, Jan. 20, 1957. 

10. Kellogg, A. R. 1958. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1957, p. 5. 

11. Forbes, J. R. 1966. In the steps of the great American 
zoologists: William Temple Hornaday. New York: M. 
Evans, pp. 107—8. 

12. Beggs, T. M. 1959. Annual report of National Collection 
of Fine Arts for 1958, p. 108. 

13. I grew my beard in 1959, and was the subject of Dr. 
Friedmann's comment. I have pondered it often since 
that moment, but 1 have never been able to frame an 
appropriate reply. 

14. Kellogg, A. R. 1962. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1961, p. 11. 

15. Gunnerson, J. H. 1982. Waldo R. Wedel, archeologist: 
Perspectives that grew in the plains. In Plains Indians 
Studies, a collection of essays in honor of John C. Ewers and 
Waldo R. Wedel, ed. D. H. Ubelaker and H. J. Viola, 
Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology 10. 

16. Ripley, S. D. 1968. Smithsonian Year 1965, p. 11. 

17. Anonymous. Herbert Ward (1863-1919). 
Unpublished four-page document in Department of 
Anthropology files. 

18. Ross, N. L. 1967. Spirited exhibit opens, Washington 
Post (Aug. 26). 

12. New Wings and a New Elephant 

1. Fenykovi, J. 1956. The biggest elephant ever killed by 
man. Sports Illustrated, June 4. 

2. Brown, W. L. Steps in mounting the Fenykovi 
elephant. Two-page typescript in the files of the 
Division of Mammals. 

3. Deaton, N. N. "The Fenykovi elephant." Five-page 
typescript in the files of the Division of Mammals. 

4. Rathbun, R. 1918. Appendix N. The Smithsonian 
Institution and National Museum, in Public buildings in 
the District of Columbia. 65th Congress, 2d session. 
Senate Document 155:361—97. 

5. Wetmore, A. 1928. Annual report for fiscal year 1928, 
p. 7. 

6. Natural History Building wing enlargement sought. 
Washmgton Post, March 31, 1930. 

7. Wetmore, A. 1930. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1930, pp. 5-6. 

8. Smithsonian Archives RM 157, Building Management 
Department, 1881-1973 records, Box 16, I 2. 

9. Beggs, T. 1963. Annual report of National collection of 
fine arts for 1962, p. 4. 

10. Kellogg, A. R. 1962. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1961, p. 4. 

1 1. Taylor, F. A. 1964. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1963, p. 4. 

12. Kellogg, A. R. 1962. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1961, pp. 5-6. 

13. Ripley, S. D. 1968. Smithsonian Year 1965, p. 89. 
Priority of publications is a concern of many scientists, 
particularly those in taxonomy. For many years, the 
Smithsonian Library stamped the date of receipt in 
the front of books. This is how I know when the 1965 
Yearbook was published. Such information is not of 
much use when matters of priority are not involved, 
so other yearbooks will be cited by the date given on 
the title page, except for one or two I have seen that 
are stamped with a different date of receipt. 

13. Big Science: Deep Space, Deep Waters 

1. Taylor, F. 1964. Annual report for fiscal year 1963, 
p. 86. 

2. Ripley, S. D. 1968. Smithsonian Year 1965, p. 37. 

3. Ripley, S. D. 1971. Smithsonian Year 1971, p. 34. 

14. "Modern Times" 

1. Taylor, F. A. 1964. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1963, p. 3. 

2. Ripley, S. D. 1969. Smithsonian Year 1968, p. 79. 


3. Smithsonian Institution. 197 1 . General hearings before 
the Subcommittee on Library and Memorials of the 
Committee on House Administration, House of 
Representatives (Hearings held in Washington, D. C, July 
1970). 91st Congress, 2d session, 2 vols. p. 181. 

4. Ripley, S. D. 1970. Smithsonian Year 1970, p. 30. 

5. Ripley, op. cit., p. 9. 

6. Park, E. 1976. Around the Mall and beyond. 
Smithsonian 7 (1):1180. 

7. Harney, T. 1974. 'New Wave' of NMNH exhibits to 
show fundamental concept. Torch (January). 

8. Ibid. 

9. Ripley, S. D. 1974. Smithsonian Year 1974, p. 78. 

10. Park, E. Around the Mall and beyond. Smithsonian 6 (8). 

1 1. Exhibits such as the Splendors of Nature are best 
illustrated by color. By far the most lavish book on the 
present Museum exhibits, profusely illustrated, is by 
Kopper, P. 1982, The National Museum of Natural 
History (New York; Harry N. Abrams), 496 pp. 

12. Ripley, S. D. 1979. Smithsonian Year 1978, p. 47. 

13. 1980. Dale Crowley, Jr., Individually and in his capacity as 
Executive Director of the National Foundation for Fairness 
in Education, et ai, Appellants, v. Smithsonian Institution et 
al. No. 79-1193. 636 Federal Reporter, second series: 

14. Harney, T. 1980. Undersea creatures living in lab. 
Torch (October). 

15. Ripley, S. D. 1975. Smithsonian Year 1974, p. 75. 

16. Madden, J. C. 1978. Bridge between research and 
exhibits — the Smithsonian Naturalist Center. Curator 
21 (2): 159-67. 

17. It has been traditional that the Secretary of the 
Smithsonian be a productive scientist, and S. Dillon 
Ripley has maintained that tradition. His activities and 
accomplishments as Secretary have been much 
commented upon, but somehow little note has been 
taken of his work in ornithology. Probably the most 
balanced newpaper account of his activities as 
Secretary is given by Lardner, J., S. Dillon Ripley, 
Keeper of the Castle, Washington Post, November 7, 
1982. An important record of some of the events 
during the first few years of the Ripley era is the book 
by Paul H. Oehser, 1970, The Smithsonian Institution 
(New York: Praeger Publishers). In 1983 a revised 
edition of 224 pages was written with the assistance of 
Louise Heskett, and published by the Westview Press, 
Boulder, Colorado. 

18. Some of the prior research and field work of Robert 
McC. Adams is listed in Smitlisonian Institution Research 
Reports number 42, Spring 1984. 

15. Museum Administration 

1. Goode, G. B. 1891. The museums of the future. 
Report of the United States National Museum for 1888- 
1889, p. 437. 

2. Ravenel, W. de C. 1920. Annual report for the year 
ending June 30, 1919. 

3. Ripley, S. D. 1976. Appreciations, vii— viii, in Collected 
papers in avian paleontology honoring the 90th birthday of 
Alexander Wetmore, ed. S. L. Olson, Smithsonian 
Contributions to Paleobiology 27. 

4. Snow, D. W. 1979. Obituary — Alexander Wetmore. 
Nature 278:490. 

5. Whitmore, Frank C, Jr. 1983. Remington Kellogg 

1892—1969, in Geology and Paleontology of the Lee Creek 
Mine, North Carolina I, ed. Clayton E. Ray, Smithsonian 
Contributions to Paleobiology 63:19—20. 

6. A tribute to Miller was presented by a number of his 
colleagues who prepared vignettes of his life and 
encounters with them; appended to this is Miller's 
bibliography of 400 papers. 1937. Gerrit Smith Miller, 
jr. Journal of Mammalogy 35 (3):317— 29. 

7. Angel, J. L. 1976. T. Dale Stewart. American Journal of 
Physical Anthropology 45:521-30. In only two pages, 
followed by Stewart's bibliography. Angel summarizes 
nicely the work of this physical anthropologist for a 
Festchrift issue of the join nal, an honor in any field. 
Additional informatic^n comes from Who's Who, where 
he is listed as starting with the museum in 1927. 

8. Zinman, D. 1971. Fortunately for sea urchins — 
perhaps for all of us — there still exist many who want 
only to find out all there is about sea urchins. 
Washington Post, Potomac Magazine (Jan. 3). 

9. Ripley, S. D. 1973. Smithsonian Year 1973, p. 3. 

10. Churchman, D. 1983. Husband heads a museum in 
D.C., and so does the wife. Baltimore Sun (Nov. 24). 

16. The Scientific Staff 

1. Rathbun, R. 1901. Annual report for fiscal year 1901, 
p. 41. 

2. Rathbun, R. 1909. Annual report for the year ending June 
30, 1909, pp. 63-64. 

3. Rathbun, R. 191 1. Annual report for the year ending June 
30, 1910, pp. 73-74. 

4. Ravenel, W. de C. 1920. Annual report for the year 
ending June 30, 1919, p. 8. 

5. Wetmore, A. 1933. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1932, pp. iv— vi. 

6. Nelson, C. M., and Yochelson, E. L. 1980. Organizing 
federal paleontology in the United States, 1857-1907. 
Journal of the Society for the Bibliography of Natural 
History 4:607-18. 

7. Wetmore, A. 1935. Annual report for the year endijig 
June 30, 1934, p. 15. 

8. Howard, L. O. 1930. A history of applied entomology 
(somewhat anecdotal). Smithsonian Miscellaneous 
Collections, 84:180. 

9. Ibid. 

10. Judd, N. M. 1968. Men met along the trail: Adventures in 
archeology, pp. 52—53. 

11. Van Beek, G. Unpublished obituary of Clifford Evans. 

12. From elevator to entomology. Torch, April 1983. 

13. Maxfield, D. M. 1980. Smithsonian maps new hiring 
goals. Torch (June). The Smitlisonian Torch began as a 
letter to Credit Union members. It expanded a bit 
and became an Institution-wide newsletter. It ceased 
publication at least twice because of a shortage of 
funds, but has been printed monthly for about a 
decade. Current circulation of about 6,000 includes 
news media, though probably no libraries carry this 
newsletter. It is useful as a source of dates and 
information not given in Smithsonian Year. 

14. Park, E. 1977. Around the Mall and beyond. 
Smithsonian 8 (2);34; Thomson, Peggy. 1977. Museum 
People. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. A 

nice account, though mainly about parts of the 
Smithsonian outside the Museum of Natural History. 
The sections on RoUand Hower and Tom Simkin give 
a fair sample of the people involved in natural history. 



15. Brown, R. W. 1956. Composition of scientific words. 
Published by the author. Although Dr. Brown 
approached several commercial publishers, they 
wanted to modify his work to such an extent that he 
finally decided to publish it himself. The first edition 
was printed in 1954 and distributed before Brown 
realized it contained too many errors. He then had 
the book reprinted, again at his own expense. 
"Brownie" had kept track of purchases, and he 
replaced each copy he had sold of the first edition, an 
action that cost him about $25,000. All copies of the 
first edition were taken to his farm and burned in his 
fireplace for heat. Upon Roland Brown's death, 

the remaining stock of the book was willed to the 
Smithsonian Institution for sale. After a few years, 
foolishly, the books were remaindered. Eventually 
there was such a demand for this unique work that 
the Smithsonian Institution Press reprinted it. 

16. Pamela Henson, an oral history specialist at the 
Smithsonian Archives, has studied this organization in 
some detail and prepared a summary of its early 
history. She has also contributed information from 
various oral histories to confirm some of the items of 
human interest. 

17. Elaine R. S. Hodges, wife of Ronald Hodges of the 
Department of Agriculture, played a leading part in 
forming the Guild, and I have drawn from a general 
short account she prepared of the organization. 

17. Shared Facilities 

1. (Mark, L. F. 1946. The library of the Smithsonian 
Institution. Science 104:143-146. 

2. Rathbun, R. 1913. Annual report for the year ending June 
30, 1912, p. 108. 

3. Rathbun, R. 1914. Annual report for the year ending June 
30, 1913, pp. 110-111. 

4. Tolman, C. 1944. Annual report of the National Collection 
of Fine Arts for 1943, p. 27. 

5. Wetmore, A. 1944. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1943, p. 1 1. 

6. Wetmore, A. 1930. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1930, 29. 

7. Ripley, S. D. 1968. Smithsonian Year 1967. pp. 29-30. 

8. Ripley, S. D. 1968. Smithsonian Year 1966. 

9. Squires, D. F. 1970. An information storage and 
retrieval system for biological and geological data. 
Curator 13:43-62. 

10. Ripley, S. D. 1972. Smitfuonian Year 1972, p. 53. 

11. St. Thomas, L. 1983. First phase of inventory 
complete. Torch (July). 

12. Ripley, S. D. 1969. Smithsonian Year 1969, p. 15. 

13. Bond, C. 1984. It came from inner space. Smitlisonian 
15 (3). 

14. Very little has been written about the technicians and 
preparators at any period of time. An excellent 
reference is a short paper by Shufeldt, R. W. 1922, 
"Artisans of the National Museum," Museum Work, 
including the Proceedings of the American Association of 
Museums, vol. 5 (3):49-54. 

15. Rathbun, R. 1916. Annual report for fiscal year 1915, 
p. 118. 

16. Ravenel, W. de C. 1920. Annual report for the year 
ending June 30, 1919, p. 16. 

17. J. E. Pogue. 1913. Division of Mineralogy and 
Petrology, U.S. National Museum, A record of its 

arrangement and activities, p. 18. 

18. Wetmore, A. 1944. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1943, p. 20. 

19. In 1960 and 1961 Harold T. Merryman, the inventor 
of the technique wrote several articles in Curator. 
Rolland Hower, the perfector of the method, in 1962 
prepared a small information leaflet, which grew into 
his book Freeze-drying biological specimens, 1979 
(Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press). 

18. Shops and Maintenance 

1. Rathbtm, R. 1909. Aimual report for the year ending June 
30, 1909, p. 13. 

2. Rathbun, R. 1913. A descriptive account of the 
building recently erected from the departments of 
natural history of the United States National Museum. 
United States National Museum Bulletin 80, p. 79. 

3. Wetmore, A. 1935. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1934, p. 15. 

4. Rathbun, R. 1917. Annual report for fiscal year 1916, 
p. 14. 

5. Wetmore, A. 1928. Annual report for fiscal year 1928, 
p. 31. 

6. Wetmore, A. \92>9. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1938, p. 16. 

7. Rathbun, R. 1917. Anual report for fiscal year 1916, 
p. 13. 

8. Judd, N. M. 1968. Men met along the trail: Adventures in 
archeology, p. 53. 

19. Others in the Building 

1. Kopper, P. 1982. Volunteer, oh volunteer — a salute to the 
Smithsonian's wipaid legions. Washington: Smithsonian 
Institution Press. 46 pp. 

2. Volunteers of 1983, we salute you. TorcA, January 
1984. For the past several years the January issue has 
devoted four pages to volunteers. 

3. These figures are compiled by the Independent 
Volunteer Placement Service, Smithsonian Institution. 

4. Questions worth asking about the Discovery Room. Leaflet. 
April 1977. 

20. The Visitors 

1. Rathbun, R. 1913. Annual report for the year ending June 
30, 1912, pp. 15-16. 

2. Torch, April 1984. 

3. Park, E. 1975. "Around the Mall and beyond. 
Smithsonian 6 (6). 

4. Kellogg, A. R. 1962. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1961. 

5. Torch, April 1969. 

21. Public Places 

1. Washington Post, Septemher 21 , \90S. 

2. Washington Post, October 9, 1908. 

3. Walcott, C. D. 1909. Annual report for fiscal year 1909. 

4. Rathbun, R. 1911. Annual report for the year ending June 
30, 1910, p. 68. 

5. Rathbun, R. 1913. Annual report for the year ending June 
30, 1912, p. 78. 

6. Kask, J. L. 1971. Fisheries Service has often been 
foster child. National Fisherman 52 (2):4A, 13A. 


7. Washington Post, March 7, 1917. 

8. Ravenel, W. de C. 1921. Annual report for fiscal year 
1921, p. 29. 

9. Holmes, W. H. 1929. Annual report of the National 
Gallery of Art for 1929. 

10. Smithsonian year 1976, p. 101. 

11. Seltzer, R. 1969. Local Niiiirod gives tiger to 
Smithsonian. Philadelphia Inquirer, (Oct. 19). 

12. Rathbim, R. 1913. A descriptive account of the 
building recently erected from the departments of 
natural history of the United States National Museum. 
United States National Museum Bulletin 80, p. 52. 

13. Ravenel, W. de C. 1922. Annual report for the year 
ending fune 30, 1922, p. 18. 

14. Ravenel, W. de C. 1924. Annual report jor the year 
ending June 30, 1924, p. 19. 

15. Wetmore, A. 1929. Annual report jor the year eliding 
June 30, 1929, p. 29. 

16. Carmichael, L. 1959. Annual report for the year ending 
June 30, 1958, p. 6. 

17. Wetmore, A. 1929. Annual report for the year endijig 
June 30, 1929. 

18. Harney, T. The National Museum of Natural History. 
Thirty-nine-page typescript in the files of the 
director's Office 

22. Outside the Building 

1. Rathbun, R. 1912. Annual report for the year ending June 
30, 1912, p. 17. 

2. Ravenel, W. de C. 1923. Annual report for the year 
ending June 30, 1923, p. 17. 

23. The Collections 

1. Judd, N. M. 1968. Men met along the trail: Adventures in 
archeology, p. 49. 

2. Yochelson, E. L. 1969. Fossils — the how and why of 
collecting and storing. In Natural Histoiy Collections — 
Past — Present — Future. Proceedings of Biological Society of 
Washington, 82:585-602. 

3. Ripley, S. D. 1972. On museum objects, truth, and 
education. Reflections of the Secretary of the Smithsonian 
Institution upon the one-hundred and tweyity-fifth 
anniversary of its founding. Washington: Smithsonian 
Institution Press. 

4. Harney, T. 1978. The magnificent foragers. Washington: 
Smithsonian Exposition Books, p. 233. 

5. Leslie, P. 977. "A report on the management of 
collections in the museums of the Smithsonian 
Institution." 131 pp., plus appendices; unpublished. 

6. Ibid., A-47. 

7. Ripley, S. D. 1982. Smithsonian Year 1981, pp. 3-4. 

8. McCombs, P. 1983. The $50 million closet. Washington 
Post (May 10). 

9. The quote is verse three of a nine-verse "Ode to the 
Museum Support Center" read by Charles Osgood on 
the CBS radio network. May 16, 1983. The full text is 
in the Torch, ]u\y 1983. 

10. A comment made in 1984 by David Challinor, 
Assistant Secretary for Science. 

1 1. Goode, G. Brown. 1 185. The principles of museum 
administration. Annual report of the Museum Association 
for 1895, p. 73. 

About the author 

Ellis L. Yochelson, a paleontologist with the LJ.S. Geo- 
logical Survey from 1952 until his retirement in 1985, 
has had an office over the years in the National Museum 
of Natural History building; since 1967 he has been a 
research associate in the Museum's Department of Pa- 
leobiology. A specialist in extinct mollusks, concen- 
trating on the evolution of gastropods. Dr. Yochelson 
received B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of 
Kansas and a Ph.D. from Columbia. He is a native of 
Washington, D.C., who attributes his interest in fossils 
to a mid-I930's trip to the Natural History Building 
where he saw the dinosaur exhibit for the first time. 

Dr. Yochelson has written some 200 articles, reviews, 
and professional papers on paleontology. The many 
offices he has held include: president of the Paleon- 
tological Society; secretary of the Society of Systematic 
Zoology; organizer of the First North American Pa- 
leontological Congress; secretary-general of the Ninth 
International Carboniferous Congress; and, currently, 
secretary of the History of Earth Sciences Society. 



Index of Personal Names 

Italicized numbers refer to illustrations 

Abbot, Charles Greeley, 9, 57, 72, 83. 

102, 117, 124 
Adams, Robert McCoriiiick, 11, 126, 


Aldritb, [ohii M., 74 
Alexander, Carl, 
Anglim, K., 
Aschemeiei , Charles R.W., 146 

Baird, Spencer F., 9, 15, 16, 47, 48, 125, 

129, 130, 147, 180, 199 
Bartsth, Paul, 35, 72, 74, 85, 137 
Bassler, Ray S., 74, 80, 85, 159 
Baver. K.M., 173, 175 
Bean, Barlon A., 72 
Becker, Ralph, 160 
Benn, James, 74 
Benson, Richard H., 150. 152 
Blackwelder, R.F... 167 
Blake, Doris, 140 
Blush, Leonard, W 
Boardman, Ricliard S., 191 
Boss, Norman, / )'> 
Brademas, John. 1 15 
Braden, Susann. / 55 
Bradley, James C:., 104 
Braisted, Frank, 162 
Brown, Roland W.. 52. 85, 144, 212 
Brown, Walter P., 150 
Brown, William L., 99, 101, 186 
Buckler. James. 194, 195 
Buechner. Helmut. 114 
Burch. Beatrice. 113 

Carmichael, Leonaid. 10. 88. 89. 92. 101. 

117, 133, 145, 196 
Carter, Payson D., 169 
Catlin, George, 44, 45 
Chace, Fenner, 112, 131 
Challinor, David, 213 
Chapin, Edward A., 74 
Chase, Agnes, 50, 148 
Churchilt, Winston. 188 
Clark. Ausnn H.. 72. 125 
Clark, Roy E., 116 

Clarke, J. F. Gates, 81, 91. 112. 115, 144 
Cochran, Doris M. 72, 108, 136. 140 
Cole, F.H., 57 

CoHins, Henry B., 72, 77. 130. Nl, 142, 

Cooper. G. Arthur, 74, 85, 92, 94, 106, 
134, 145, 154, 155, 160, 169, 193, 203 

Cooper, Josephine, 145 

Cowan, Richard S., 10, 112, 131. 133, 
194, 205 

Dall, William Healy, 35, 72 
Davis, Donald R., 169 
Deaton, Neal, 100, 101 
Deiss, William A., 207 
Desautels, Paul E., 92 
Dowling, Andrew Jackson. 191 
Duckworth. W. Donald, 1 19 
Dunkle, David, 92 
Dutton, C.E., 42 

East, Charles S., 135 
Eblen, Charles, 163 
Egberts, W.G., 141 
Elliott, John, 45 

Evans, Cliftord, 86, 88. 121. 180 
Evans, William T.. 44 
Ewers, John C, 86, 88, 89, 90, 91, 118, 

Feldmann, H. Adair, 113. 113 
Fenyovi, J.J.. 99 
Fiori, Charles, 111) 
Fischer, Herbert, 160 
Fiske, Richard S., 11, 132. 134 
Foshag, William F., 72 
Freer, Charles, 42 
Frederick, Leon, 90 
Fredrikkson, Kurt, 111) 
Freidmann, Herbert, 74, 86, 89, 90, 94, 
112, 144 

Garber, Paul, 129, 155. 189 

Gaidner. Julia, 82, 140 

Gardner, Paul, 86, 188 

Garfield, James A.. 16 

Cast. Carolyn, 108 

Gazin, Lewis C, 92, 181 

Gellatly, John, 44 

Gibson, Gordon D., 94, 96, 145 

Gilmore, Charles W., 36, 62, 75, 92, 191 

Girault, A.A., 50 

Glassell, Alfred C. Jr., 175 

Glenn, Leioy, 121 

Glover, Townsend, 50 

Goode, George Brown, 9, 15, 16, 18, i 9, 

86, 129, 201, 206 
Goodloe, Wilham, 146 
Gore, Ronald, 122 
Graf John, 72, 131 
Grant, Richard E., 150, 205 
Green, Bernard L., 24, 29 
Green, Theodore, 175 
Greenwell, Frank, 90. 101 
Gutrick, Robert, 163 

Handley, Charles O., Jr., 156 
Harding, Warren G., 71, 180 
Harmatuck, Peter J., 132 
Harrington, John P., 141 
Harris, Robert, 166 
Hart, Harry, 188 
Hayden, F.V., 42 
Henbest, Lloyd G., 85 
Hen.son, Pamela, 212 

Henderson, Edward P., 72, 73, 75, 80, 92, 
111, 130, 161, 166, 169, 186, 194 

Henry, Joseph, 9, 15, 16, 41, 42, 125, 
147, 179, 207 

Hickey, Leo J., 119 

Hirohito, Emperor, 173, 175 

Hitchcock, A.S., 50 

Hobbs, Horton Jr., 1 12 

Hodge, F.W., 37, 53 

Hodges, Elaine R.S., 212 

Hodges, Ronald M., 212 

Hogen, Helen, 45 

Hoilister, Ned, 72 

Holmes, William Henry, 9, 42, 43, 44, 45, 
53, 58, 61, 62, 63, 72, 89, 92, 96, 102, 
137, 141, 157, 180 

Hoover, Herbert, 75, 175 

Hornaday, William T., 61, 62, 91, 92, 186 

Hornblower, J.D., 24 

Hornblower and Mai shall, 19, 29, 99 

Hotton, Nicholas III, 94, 106 

Hough, Walter, 43, 141, 208 

Howard, L.O., 50, 51, 139, 209 

Hower, Rolland, 92, 154, 211, 212 

Hrdlicka, Ales, 43, (i2, 104, 133, 141, 142, 

Hueber, Frances M., 197 

Jewett, Charles, 147 
Johnson, Lyndon B., 175 
Johnston, Harriet Lane, 41 
Judd, Neil M., 59, 63, 94, 140, 141. 162, 

Kajencki, Mimi, 203 

Kellogg, A. Remington, 10, 72, 88, 91, 94, 
96, 101, 102, 106, 107, 130, 131, 132, 

133, 135. 141. 153, 161 
Kennedy, John F., 139 

Kier, Porter M., 11, 102, 122, 129, 133, 

134, 135, 142, 205 
King, Clarence, 47 
Knez, Eugene I., 94, 96 
Knierim, P.K., 133 
Knowles, William, 161 
Knowlton, Frank H., 72 


Index of Personal Names 

Koch, Robert, 179 

Kreiger, Herbert W„ 72, 88, 90, 1 18, 141 
Krombein, Karl V., 74, 79, 81 

Lachner, Ernest A., 86, 108, 145, 150, 

Langley, Samuel Pierpont, 9, 14, 16, 19, 

19, 24, 29, 43,57,62, 125, 180, 181 
"Lanier", 161 
Laybourne, Edgar G., 84 
Lingebach, Carleton, 90 
Loeblich, A.R., 199 
Lutterlough, Sophie, 140 
Lyons, Ulysses, 140 

Mamay, S.H., 52, 106 

Marquardt, Jack F., 157 

Marsh, O.C., 191 

Martin, Glenn, 45 

Mason, Otis T., 14, 19 

Matternes, Jay H., 92, 94, 96 

McCoy, George, 141 

McGee,J W, 148 

Mclntyre, Thomas, 156 

McPhaul, Harrison, 167 

Mead, James G., 157 

Meek, Fielding Bradford, 42 

Meggers, Betty J., 86, 88, 121, 140 

Mello, James F., 1 1, 133, 135, 150, 188 

Mellon, Andrew, 43, 44 

Merriam, C. Hart, 50, 51 

Merrill, George Perkins, 9, 24, 57, 57, 58, 

61, 62, 65, 72, 74, 80, 154, 194, 207, 


Merryman, Harold T., 212 
Miles, Beth, 119 
Miller, Gerritt S., Jr., 130, 211 
Mills, Petticourt and Mills, 104 
Mirguet, John A., 35 
Moodey, Margaret W., 38, 66, 73 
Moran, Thomas, 183 
Morrow, Dwight, 71, 72 
Morton, Conrad V., 104 
Muesebeck, C.F.W., 50 
Murdoch, John, 149 

Nelson, E.W., 183 

Oberdorfer, Louis F., 124 
Oberholser, Harry, 200, 202 
Oehser, Paul H., 207 
Osborn, Henry Fairfield, 19 
Osgood, Charles, 213 

Paine, R.(;., 141 

Paridoso, |()hn, 53 

Pawson, David L., 96 

Pell, Alf red Duane, 44 

Perrygo, Watson M., 76, 79, 81, 82, 86, 

90, 90, 92, 130, 135, 146, 161, 186, 188 
Peters, James, 145, 148 
Peterson, Roger Tory, 186 
Powell, John Wesley, 46, 47, 148, 182 

Rathbun, Mary Jane, 39, 63, 74, 82, 138, 

Rathbun, Richard C, 9, 19, 23, 24, 24, 
27, 29, 30, 31, 35, 57, 41, 44, 59, 61, 
62, 67, 72, 75, 102, 105, 122, 129, 132, 
137, 147, 159, 185, 191, 195, 196, 208 

Ravenel, William deC, 9, 67, 71, 129, 
130, 132, 180, 185 

Ray, Clayton E., 160 

Read, Robert W., 155 

Reeside, John B., Jr., 62, 139 

Rehder, Harald, 208 

Reisenberg, Saul, 94, 145 

Resser, Charles E., 74, 85 

Ridgeway, Robert, 74 

Riley, C.V., 50 

Ripley, S. Dillon, 10,81, 117, 118, 
125, 126, 130, 134, 138, 142, 152, 
194, 203, 205, 211 

Roosevelt, Theodore, 62 

Rosenbusch, Louise, 45 

Rosewater, Joseph, 7 75 

Ruetzler, Klaus, 144 

Saarinen, Eero, 43 
Saunders, Harold, 86, 200 
Sayre, Reginald J., 116, 131 
Schmitt, Waldo L., 63, 81, 83, 85, 

108, 111, 112, 167, 180 
Schultz, Leonard, 108 
Scollick, W.E., 69 
Setzer, Henry W., 92, 203 
Setzler, Frank, 80, 90, 141 
Simkin, Thomas, 21 1 
Smith, Albert C, 10, 94, 131, 132, 


Smithson, James, 15, 102, 199 
Snodgrass, R.F.., 86 
Soderstrom, Fhomas, 131 
Spaatz, Arnold, 104 
Springer, Victor G., 156 
Squires, Donald, 133, 150 
Stanford, Dennis J., 142 
Stejneger, Leonhard, 9, 37, 61, 65, 
76, 82, 92 

Stern, William L., 108 

Stewart, T. Dale, 10, 72, 74, 77, 81, 

94, 112, 128, 132, 133, 134, 141, 

169, 182, 211 
Steyskal, George, 112 
St. Hoyme, Lucile, 83 
Stirling, Matthew, 83 
Sturtevant, William, 53 
Switzer, George S., 92 

Tawney, Madeline, 157 
Taylor, Frank, 86, 107, 132 
Terry, Charles, 141 
Thompson, FAigene E., 65 
Tolman, Ruel P., 43 
True, F.W., 9, 61, 131, 207, 208 
True, W.P., 207 
Truman, Harry S, 175 
Tyler, James C, 11, 134 

Ulrich, E.O., 48, 62, 106 

Van Beek, Gus. 142, 169, 182, 200 
van Lerius, J.H.F., 45 
Vaughan, T. Wayland, 35 

Walcott, Benjamin S., 65 

Walcott, Charles Doolitde, 9, 18, 19, 

42, 61, 65, 71, 92, 124, 125, 137, 

179, 180. 181, 207 
Walcott, Mary Vaux, 71 
Wallen, Eugene, 113, 114 
Ward, Henry, 96, 186 
Washington, George, 76 
Watkins, Malcolm, 76, 90, 94, 182, 


Weaver, John, 96 

Webster, G.D., 182 

Wedel, Waldo, 77, 83, 92, 94, 96 

Weiss, Helena B., 142 

Wetmore, Alexander, 9, 10, 72, 74, 
76, 80, 82, 83, 85, 86, 88, 102, 104, 
111, 117, 118, 129, 130, 131, 132, 
135, 141, 159, 161, 164, 166, 180, 
200, 202 

Whitmore, Frank C., Jr., 130 

Wilcox, Vincent D., IH, 205 

Wilkes, Charles, 183 

Willis, Bailey, 18 

Wilson, Woodrow, 65, 181 

Wise, Kenneth, 7 76 

Yochelson, Ellis L., 210, 275 

Index <)] Personal Names 


Sources of Illustrations 

Pliolot^raphs were assembled from a variety of sources within 
the liislitutioii. Unless othei wise indicated, tiie negatives are 
in the Smithsonian Photographic Services and are indicated 
by number. An asterisk, indicates a copy negative made fiom 
a print. The current numbering system includes the date, bni 
does not differentiate between views taken during the year 
and copy work. A double asterisk indicates a gloss-plate neg- 

Front cover. MNH «4-74; Backcover, 85-4046*, Half title page, MNH 19087; 
Title page, MNH 82:i23f 

Part One: The Structure 

13, L' 1,57 1**; 14, 57929**; 17 (lop). 6090**; 17 (liotlom), 2599**; 18, SA-742*; 
19, Library National Museum of American Art; 20 (top). 1 1305**; 20 (Imtlom). 
2958**; 21 (lop). 9646**; 21 (hollom). 16846**; 22, MAH-I6229*;24, 85-4021*; 
25 (lop), 75-12392*; 25 (midill,-). 75-12388*; 25 (hollom). 75-12386*; 26 (lep). 
Smithsonian Arthivcs; 26 (rif;lil). Annual Report tor 1913, p. 16, 17; 27, 
.Snnlhsonian Archives; 28, 18309**; 30, Nf\H-l6235*; 31, National Museum 
ol Ameriian Art; 32 (lop). 17531**; 32 (hollom). 18546**;33 (top). 20207**; 33 
(hollom). MNH-9941; 34, .SlA-1275*; 36. 21599**; 37, 82-3221*; 38 (lop). SIA- 
1273*; 38 (hollom). SIA-1271*; 39 (lop). MNH-26552; 39 (hollom). 1272; 40. 
31 122-C;; 42 (left). National Museum of American Art; 42 (right), 23752**; 43, 
National Museum ot American Art; 44, National Museum of American An; 
45, 18052-K; 46. 64-a-13a + ; 48, 85-4022*; 49, From Washington. Ihv Bmulijul 
Capital oj Ihf Nation. © 1922 bv William Olsen. National Aero-View Publishing 
Company. Washington, D.C.; 50, 85-4023*; 52 (top). 85-4024*; 52 (hottom). 85- 
4026*; 53, 85-4025*. 

Part Two: The Exhibits 

55, 45429; 56, 28589**; 58, 28 1 96**; 59, 28596**; m(top). 24872**; ^^(hotlom). 
28602**; 61, 27073**; 63. 28592**; 64, 85-4027*; 66 (top). 85-4028*; 66 (hollom). 
23904**; 67, 23905**; 68. Library National Museum of American Art; 69 (top 
left). 9716-D; 69 (lop right). 26914-C; 69 (hollom). Diyision of Amphibians and 
Reptiles; 70, 85-4029; 73, National Museum of American Art; 74, 85-4035; 

75 (left). 85-4030*; 75 (right). 85-4032*; 76, 85-4031*; 77, 28259**; 78, 28537; 
80. Smithsonian Archives; 81. 41942; 82 (toj)). NH 33835-C; 82 (hottom), 28537; 
83, MAH 3()634-A; 84, 36818-A; 87 (top), 24875**; 87 (hottom), MNH 035; 88, 
|ohn Ewers; 89. 27073; 90, 85-4034*; 93, Library National Museum of American 
Alt; 93, Betty |. Meggers; 95, MNH 200; 97, MNH 893; 98, 85-4037*; 
100, 85-4035*; 101 (lofi). Women's Committee; 101 (hollom). Women's Committee; 
102, 85-4038; 103, 43047; 104, 85-4039*; 105, 85-4040; 107, MNH-955-C; 
109 (lop), MNH-776; 109 (hollom), P 63336-B; 110, MNH-783-C; 112, MNH 
837-D; 113, MNH-1448-B; 114, 85-4041*; 115 (lop), 85-4042*; 115 (hottom), 
MNH 837; 116, 76-1260-7; 119, 78-9817-8; 120, 78-15802; 122, 76-5049-34; 
123, 85-4043*; 124, 77-3249-10; 126 (left). 85-4044; 126 (right), 85-4046. 

Part Three: The Museum 

127, 85-120()9/26; 128, Thomas Harney; 130, 21314; 131, 1819-C; 132, 85- 

4071- 10; 133, 78-3701*; 134, Oliice ol Director NMNH; 135 (/«/>), 436A; 135 
(bottom), 75-6927-2; 136, MNH- 1092; 137, 85-4047*; 138, 85-4049*; 141 (top), 
85-4050*; 141 (middle). 4201(); 141 (hollom). 85-4048*; 142, Llaine Hodges; 143 
(lop left). Author original; 143 (hottom right). Author original; 143 (top right and 
bottom left), Elaine Hodges; 144, 1 1055-C; 145, 85-4051*; 146, 85-4052*; 149, 
3666**; 151, 85-4053*- 152, SIA-1276; 153, 85-4054*; 154, 85-4056*; 155, 
85-4074-0; 156 (left), 85-4055*; 156 (right). 71-310; 157 (left), 85-4075-13; 157 
(right). 85-4075-12; 158, 85-4057*: 160, U.S. National Museum Bulletin 80; 
161 38851-F; 162 85-4072-20; 163 (lop). 85-4077-17; 163 (middle). 85-4076-5; 
163 (hottom). 85-4077-10; 164, 85-4058*; 166, 85-4059*; 167 (left). 85-4060*; 
167 (top right). 85-4074-14; 167 (bottom right). 85-4079; 168, 85-4059*; 169, 
Naturalists Center; 170, 3669; 173, Lhomas Harney; 174. 85-4061; 175 (left). 
85-4062; 175 (nj^'/f/), 85-4063; 176 85-4036; 176 (/«//«;///;, 85-4074-17; 177, 
85-4074-5; 178, 85-4065*; 180, 28235**; 181. 21258**; 182, 85-4066*; 183, 
MAH 38880 1-C; 184, 37443-D; 185, 85-4064*; 187 (top). 85-4077-82; 187 
(bottom). 85-4077-15; 188 (left). 85-4077-4; 188 (right). 85-4077-14; 189, Victor 
Krantz; 190, 24939; 192, MAH 3()680-B; 193 (left). National Museum of American 
Art; 193 (right). 85-4067; 194 (/(■//), 85-4071-5; 194 (right) 85-6370-25; 195, 8.5- 

4072- 1 1; 196, 85-4068*; 197, 8.5-4073-10; 198, MNH-778; 201, 27184**; 203, 
Thomas Harney; 204(top), MNH 38851-N; 204(bottom), 77-2089-27; 205 (left), 
2477-A; 205 (right), MNH 2477; 206, 85-4069; 213, Roy Clark, 



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