The origin of the mollusk collections under the care of the Smithsonian Institution predates the formal establishment of the Department of Mollusks. Collections of shells began arriving at the Institution from many of the exploring expeditions conducted during the 1830s, 1840s, and 1850s. The Department of Mollusks was created as an administrative unit of the United States National Museum (USNM) in 1880. As a result of an administrative reorganization of the USNM in 1897, it became the Division of Mollusks of the newly created Department of Biology. In 1914, the Division was merged with the Division of Marine Invertebrates under the latter title. In 1921, the Division of Mollusks regained independent status. At that time the coral and helminthological collections were turned over to the Division's care. In 1947, the Division came under the administrative control of the Department of Zoology, and in 1963 it became a division of the newly established Department of Invertebrate Zoology.
William Healey Dall, Alaskan explorer and paleontologist with the United States Geological Survey, served as Honorary Curator of the Division of Mollusks from 1880 until his death in 1927. Paul Bartsch joined the Division as an Aid in 1896. He was promoted to Assistant Curator in 1906 and Curator in 1916, a post he retained until his retirement in 1946. At that time, Bartsch was appointed Associate in Zoology, a position he retained until his death in 1960. Harald Alfred Rehder came to the Division in 1932 as Senior Scientific Aid. He served as Assistant Curator, 1934-1942; Associate Curator, 1942-1946; Curator, 1946-1965; and Senior Zoologist, 1965-1980. He was appointed Zoologist Emeritus upon his retirement in 1980, and retained the title until his death in 1997.
Other professional staff members of the Division of Mollusks have included Robert Edwards Carter Stearns, Assistant Curator and Associate in Zoology, 1884-1909; Charles Torrey Simpson, Aid, 1889-1902; William Blanchard Marshall, Aid and Assistant Curator, 1895-1896, 1903-1934; Horace Gardiner Richards, Assistant Curator, 1932; Joseph Paul Eldred Morrison, Senior Scientific Aid, Assistant Curator, and Associate Curator, 1934-1974; R. Tucker Abbott, Assistant Curator and Associate Curator, 1946-1954; Joseph Rosewater, Associate Curator and Curator, 1961-1985; Clyde F. E. Roper, Associate Curator, Curator, and Research Zoologist, 1966- ; Richard S. Houbrick, Associate Curator and Curator, 1977-1993; Arthur Haddleton Clarke, Associate Curator, 1977-1980; M. G. Harasewych, Associate Curator, Curator, and Research Zoologist, 1985- ; and Robert Hershler, Associate Curator, Curator, and Research Zoologist, 1985- .
Revised: August 31, 2002