National Museum of Natural History (U.S.) Division of Mammals

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Parent Organization

National Museum of Natural History (U.S.)


The collection of mammals under the care of the Smithsonian was begun in 1850 when Spencer F. Baird, the newly appointed Assistant Secretary, came to the Institution and brought his private collection. The Department of Mammals was established in the United States National Museum (USNM) in 1880. In 1897, as a result of a reorganization of the USNM, it became the Division of Mammals of the newly created Department of Biology. In 1947, the Division came under the administrative control of the Department of Zoology, and in 1964 became a division of the newly established Department of Vertebrate Zoology. The Division of Mammals houses one of the most important collections of mammals in the world. With nearly 570,000 specimens, it is by far the world's largest, roughly twice the size of the next largest mammal collection. The Division performs a variety of collection management activities including accessioning and cataloging new collections, preparing specimens, and loaning specimens to researchers unable to visit the Division. Divisional curators undertake original research programs which often utilize the collections. Curators of the Division of Mammals have included Elliott Coues, Honorary Curator, 1880-1883; Frederick William True, Curator, 1883-1909; Gerrit S. Miller, Assistant Curator and Curator, 1898-1940; Marcus Ward Lyon, Aid and Assistant Curator, 1898-1909; Ned Hollister, Assistant Curator, 1910-1916; Remington Kellogg, Assistant Curator and Curator, 1928-1948; David H. Johnson, Associate Curator and Curator, 1941-1967; Raymond M. Gilmore, Associate Curator, 1944-1947; Henry W. Setzer, Associate Curator and Curator, 1949-1979; Charles O. Handley, Assistant Curator, Associate Curator, and Curator, 1950-1999; Richard W. Thorington, Associate Curator and Curator, 1969- ; James G. Mead, Assistant Curator, Associate Curator, and Curator, and Curator Emeritus, 1972- ; Michael D. Carleton, Assistant Curator, Associate Curator, and Curator,1979- ; and Kristopher M. Helgen, Curator, and Curator in Charge, 2008- .


  • SIA AH00033 [Agency History]





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