Finding Aids to Official Records of the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Record Unit 331
National Museum of History and Technology. Department of Cultural History
Records, 1968-1979 and undated, some from 1954, 1961-1964
The Department of Cultural History was one of several departments of the Museum of History and Technology (MHT), and comprised a number of divisions concerned with specialized aspects of cultural history. The name and divisions of the Department of Cultural History changed over the years, following structural reorganizations of the museum.
The Department of Cultural History had its origin in the Department of Civil History, which was founded in 1958. Between 1958 and 1968 the Department of Civil History consisted of the following divisions: Political History, Cultural History, Philately and Postal History, and Numismatics. The Division of Musical Instruments was added in 1967.
Anthony N. D. Garvan served as the head curator of the Department of Civil History from 1958 to 1961, when he was succeeded by Richard H. Howland from 1961 to 1968. In 1964, the designation of head curator changed to department chairman. From 1968 to 1969, C. Malcolm Watkins, curator of the Division of Cultural History, was acting chairman of the department.
In the course of its reorganization in 1969, the MHT was renamed National Museum of History and Technology (NMHT). Five departments were created among which the Department of Cultural History emerged as the successor of the Department of Civil History. The divisions of the new department were Costumes and Furnishings, Ethnic and Western Cultural History, Musical Instruments, and Preindustrial History. C. Malcolm Watkins chaired the department from 1969 to 1973, when he became the department's senior curator, 1973-1980. Rodris C. Roth, curator of costumes, was acting chair from 1973 to 1974, when Richard E. Ahlborn became chairman, 1974 to 1978.
In 1978, another reorganization of the NMHT took place, and the Department of Cultural History continued as one of three departments of the museum. The divisions of the Department of Cultural History were Ceramics and Glass, Community Life, Costume, Domestic Life, Graphic Arts, and Musical Instruments. In the years between 1978 and 1980 the department had three chairpersons. Anne C. Golovin succeeded Richard E. Ahlborn and served as Acting Chair in 1978. In 1978, Peter C. Marzio assumed the chairmanship, and in 1979 he was succeeded by Claudia B. Kidwell.
The records of the Department of Cultural History contain a variety of document types. These range from correspondence, memoranda, reports, proposals, minutes of meetings, and manuscripts of papers and lectures, to photographs and printed documents such as brochures or journal articles. The records relate to administrative topics such as personnel, travel, and shipping or loan procedures. Financial records include departmental and divisional budget proposals and requests, and records of independent departmental funds. Documents relating to the department's artifacts and collections deal with donations, accessions, exhibits, conservation, and security. The records document the activities of the department's curatorial staff, which include research, publications, travel, archaeological projects, and attendance at meetings and conferences. Some records relate to the museum as a whole, such as the proposed Reingold Center or the library. The correspondence reflects the interactions between the various divisions of the Department of Cultural History, as well as the interaction of the Department of Cultural History with other parts of the NMHT. Also included is a large amount of the professional correspondence of chairmen Malcolm Watkins and Richard E. Ahlborn with scholars, curators, archaeologists, and the general public. Related materials can be found in Record Unit 251, the records of the Department of Cultural History, 1957, 1964-1975; Record Unit 258, the records of the Division of Cultural History, 1952-1967; Record Unit 261, the records of the Division of Domestic Life, 1955-1977; Record Unit 252, the records of the Division of Political History, 1950-1969; Record Unit 7321, the C. Malcolm Watkins Papers; and Record Unit 9522, the Association of Curators Oral History Interviews.
This collection is indexed under the following access terms. These are links to collections with related topics, persons or places.
- Watkins, C. Malcolm
- Ahlborn, Richard E.
- Golovin, Anne Castrodale
- Hoover, Cynthia A. (Cynthia Adams)
- Kidwell, Claudia Brush
- Marzio, Peter C.
- Roth, Rodris
- National Museum of History and Technology (U.S.). Hall of Everyday Life in the American Past
- National Museum of History and Technology (U.S.). Historical Archaeology Project
- Nation of Nations (1976 : Smithsonian Institution)
- Kin and Communities: The Peopling of America (symposium)
- Decorative arts
- Musical instruments
- Costume -- History
- Civilization -- History
- Museum curators
- Museum exhibits
- Women museum curators
Physical Characteristics of Materials in the Collection
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 331, National Museum of History and Technology, Department of Cultural History, Records