Finding Aids to Official Records of the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Record Unit 135
Smithsonian Institution. Office of the Secretary
Canal Zone Biological Area Records, 1912-1965
From 1918 to 1923 various groups interested in tropical American research discussed the desirability of creating a research institute in Central or South America. Finally, in 1923, the Institute for Research in Tropical America was formed by a number of private foundations and universities, under the aegis of the National Research Council. The Smithsonian Institution was one of these early sponsors, and its ties with the Institute grew stronger still when the federal government took over the IRTA in 1940, calling it the Canal Zone Biological Area and placing the Smithsonian's Secretary on its governing board. In 1946 entire control of CZBA was vested in the Smithsonian, which renamed it the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in 1966.
Because the Smithsonian's relations to STRI have been both longstanding and various, STRI files are scattered through the records of the Secretary's office. The earliest STRI files in this unit have been interfiled with newer records or pulled forward, where they dealt with ongoing problems at the facility, so that no original order remains. The unit also includes office files of Thomas Barbour, long IRTA's strongest supporter, which were given to the Smithsonian on Barbour's death in 1946, likewise interfiled, and dating from IRTA's earliest days. Thus, the researcher will find three general types of records in this unit: (1) the official records of IRTA and CZBA before 1946, some of which were created by the Smithsonian in its role as a sponsor of the organization and some because they were interfiled at a later date; (2) office files of Thomas Barbour, which often duplicate or complement other records; and (3) official records generated by the Smithsonian in its operation of CZBA/STRI since 1946.
These records document the creation and development of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, chiefly from 1923 to 1965, and cover all phases of its operations as a private and a federal facility during that period. Correspondents include Thomas Barbour, John Enos Graf, Frank A. Taylor, Alexander Wetmore, James Zetek, and others. Records include correspondence, administrative records, and publications. Researchers should also consult record unit 134 for related material, 1918-1960.
This collection is indexed under the following access terms. These are links to collections with related topics, persons or places.
- Barbour, Thomas, 1884-1946
- United States. Canal Zone Biological Area, Barro Colorado Island
- Institute for Research in Tropical America
- National Research Council (U.S.)
- Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Physical Characteristics of Materials in the Collection
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 135, Smithsonian Institution, Office of the Secretary, Canal Zone Biological Area Records