Finding Aids to Official Records of the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Record Unit 424
National Museum of Natural History. Division of Vertebrate Paleontology
Records, circa 1947-1974 and undated
Work in vertebrate paleontology at the Smithsonian Institution predates the formal establishment of a Department of Vertebrate Paleontology in 1887. Joseph Leidy and Edward Drinker Cope, among others, studied the fossil collections which had been gathered by the various government exploring expeditions and sent to the Smithsonian. With the reorganization of the United States National Museum, 1880, the Department of Comparative Anatomy was given charge of the collections until the creation of the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology in 1887, with Othniel Charles Marsh as Honorary Curator. Since its creation, the Department has undergone a number of organizational and title changes.
In 1894, the Department became a Section of the Department of Paleontology. The reorganization of 1897 created a Division of Stratigraphic Paleontology in the Department of Geology, and Vertebrate Paleontology was made a Section of that Division. It became a separate Division in 1908 but in 1911 was again made a Section, this time in the Division of Paleontology. In 1924 this Division was renamed the Division of Stratigraphic Paleontology and Vertebrate Paleontology again became a Division. The Department of Geology was divided in 1963 into Departments of Mineral Sciences and Paleobiology, with Vertebrate Paleontology a Division of the latter.
Since Marsh's death in 1889, curators of the Division have included Frederic Augustus Lucas, intermittently from 1889 to 1904; Charles W. Gilmore, Assistant and Associate Curator, 1911-1923, and Curator, 1923-1945; and James W. Gidley, Assistant Curator, 1911-1931. Charles Lewis Gazin, Assistant and Associate Curator, 1932-1946, was appointed Curator following Gilmore's death. Later staff included Associate Curators David H. Dunkle and Peter P. Vaughn, 1946-1967, and 1957-1959, respectively; Nicholas Hotton III, Associate Curator, 1959-1968, and Curator, 1969- ; Clayton E. Ray, Associate Curator, 1964-1968, Supervisor and Curator, 1968-1971, and Curator, 1971- ; and Robert J. Emry, Associate Curator, 1971-1981, and Curator, 1982- .
These records consist of incoming and outgoing correspondence documenting the operation of the Division of Vertebrate Paleontology, circa 1955-1974. Also included are plans of operation, circa 1947-1960; public inquiries for identification of specimens and information; and glass plate negatives which document the field work of Frederick William True and James W. Gidley, as well as paleontological exhibits.
Curators represented by correspondence include Charles Lewis Gazin, David H. Dunkle, Clayton E. Ray, Nicholas Hotton III, and Robert J. Emry.
This collection is indexed under the following access terms. These are links to collections with related topics, persons or places.
- True, Frederick William, 1858-1914
- Gidley, James Williams, 1866-1931
- Gazin, C. Lewis (Charles Lewis), 1904-1996
- Dunkle, David Hosbrook
- Ray, Clayton Edward
- Hotton, Nicholas
- Emry, Robert J.
- Vaughn, Peter Paul, 1928-
- United States National Museum. Department of Geology
- National Museum of Natural History (U.S.). Department of Paleobiology
Physical Characteristics of Materials in the Collection
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 424, National Museum of Natural History. Division of Vertebrate Paleontology, Records