The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Category: Smithsonian History
As we begin Women's History Month, I wanted to focus on another group of women documented in the Archives collections, those women in the field of humanities. Humanities studies how people interpret and record the human experience, or in other words the study of human culture. Areas of study could include languages, literature, philosophy, religion, musicology, history, art, and archaeology among others. Just as women in science at the Smithsonian make and contribute to the research and activites at this Institution, so do women in the humanities.
Some examples of women in the humanities represented in our collections are:
Margaret Brown Klapthor
Margaret B. Klapthor (1922-1994) was born in Henderson, Kentucky. She graduated from the University of Maryland, B.A., 1943, and shortly thereafter was employed by the Smithsonian Institution as a scientific aide in the Civil Section of the Division of History, United States National Museum. Klapthor was assigned to restoring the First Ladies' dresses, the collection of White House gowns, which eventually became the First Ladies Hall exhibition at the Museum of History and Technology in 1964. Her positions later included Assistant Curator, 1947-1948, in the Section of Civil History, Division of History; Assistant Curator, 1949-1951, and Associate Curator, 1952-1957, in the Division of Civil History; and Associate Curator, 1957-1970, Curator, 1971-1983, and Curator Emeritus, 1984-1994, in the Division of Political History. Klapthor published many articles and several books during her tenure, including The Dresses of the First Ladies of the White House and Official White House China: 1789 to the Present.
Claudia Brush Kidwell
Claudia Brush Kidwell started her career at the Smithsonian as an intern in the Division of Textiles at the Museum of History and Technology (now the National Museum of American History) in 1961. After completing her undergraduate study at the University of Maryland and afer receiving her master's dregree from Pennsylvania State University in 1964, Kidwell returned to be a Curator in the Division of Costume. She would come to serve as Chair of the Division of Cultural History and would later serve as Acting Director of the Museum of History and Technology.
Mary S. M. Gibson
Mary S. M. Gibson a curator at the Cooper Union Museum (now the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum) from 1904-1945.
Dr. Lillian B. Miller
Dr. Miller was a historian of American culture and editor of the Peale Family Papers at the National Portrait Gallery. She started at the Smithsonian in 1971 and published five volumes on the Peale Family Papers as well as organized the traveling exhibition, "The Peal Family: Creation of a Legacy, 1770-1870" which included works produced over a century by 11 members of the Peale Family. She was the first member of her family to get a college education, graduating magna cum laude from Radcliffe College in 1943, having worked her way through school as a secretary to the astronomer Harlow Shapley. At first she had aspirations of persuing literature, but ultimately felt the pull of history. She attended graduate school at Columbia University to study American history, receiving her master's degree in 1948 and her doctorate in 1962. Her dissertation, "Patrons and Patriotism: The Encouragement of Fine Arts in the United States, 1790-1860" was published in 1966 and she was an associate professor of history at the University of Wisconsin before coming to the Smithsonian. In addition to her work at the Smithsonian, Dr. Miller was a professorial lecturer at George Washington University; served on the Council for the Institute for Early American History and Culture in Williamsburg, Virginia; and on the executive board of the American Studies Association.
These women are just a small representation of those who contributed to the exhibitions, research, publications, and public programs put forth by the Smithsonian. They also just so happen to not have Wikipedia entries.
Please join the Archives for Women's History month as we share a series of blog posts on the women in our collections.
- Women's History Month at The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives.
Remington Kellogg, director of the U. S. National Museum from 1948 to 1962, was a devoted naturalist from an early age, eventually acquiring his Ph.D. in vertebrate paleontology and joining the Washington, D.C.–based U. S. Bureau of Biological Survey in 1921, before becoming an assistant curator at the Smithsonian's U. S. National Museum (now National Museum of Natural History) in 1928. He ultimately rose to the position of museum director and served concurrently as an Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.
One of Kellogg's correspondents was Franklin Metcalf, who worked as an assistant biologist with the Bureau of Biological Survey both before and after World War I. From 1923 to 1928 Metcalf was a professor of botany at Fukien Christian University, originally a missionary school in China that is now part of Fujian Normal University, located in Fuzhou, Fujian Province. In 1931 he received his Ph.D. in systematic botany from Cornell University, and held a fellowship at Harvard University's Arnold Arboretum before being inducted into the Air Force in 1942.
With Chinese New Year upon us, these letters from the A. Remington Kellogg Papers, written by Metcalf and his wife, Mabel, from Fuzhou during their time in China are of particular interest. The letters are on exceptionally beautiful paper, with a soft texture and clearly visible chain and laid lines from the mold used to form the sheets. Wonderfully detailed botanical images are printed, likely with wood blocks, on the writing side of each page, and each features a small vermilion seal stamp. These letters give us a fascinating look at the stationery available in 1920s China.
Kellogg and Metcalf were both colleagues and friends, as these letters demonstrate: the first, written on smaller paper, is in fact from Mabel Truss Metcalf to Kellogg's wife, Marguerite Henrich, whom Mabel addresses as "Mrs. Kellogg," and the letter is full of chatty news about their recent move to China for Metcalf's position at the university, including a reference to the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 in Japan. The second letter is from Metcalf to Kellogg (who is addressed by Metcalf in other correspondence as "Kelly") and contains holiday greetings in addition to a request for assistance in compiling a reference library of systematic botany his students.
Gong Xi Fa Cai! From the Smithsonian Institution Archives and Happy Year of the Goat!
Record Unit 7170 - A. Remington Kellogg Papers, circa 1871-1969 and undated, Smithsonian Institution Archives