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Finding Aids to Official Records of the Smithsonian Institution Archives

Record Unit 529

National Museum of American History. Division of Photographic History

Records, circa 1883-1984

Repository: Smithsonian Institution Archives, Washington, D.C. Contact us at osiaref@si.edu.
Creator: National Museum of American History. Division of Photographic History
Title: Records
Dates: circa 1883-1984
Quantity: 10 cu. ft. (10 record storage boxes)
Collection: Record Unit 529
Language of Materials: English
Summary:

These records consist mostly of correspondence and memoranda documenting activities of the Division and its predecessors, especially during the tenures of Thomas W. Smillie, Alexander J. Wedderburn, and Eugene N. Ostroff. The records also include information on the Hall of Photography, organized by Ostroff; newspaper clippings pertaining to the field of photography; historic photographs; annual reports; and administrative files.

Historical Note

The history of photography at the Smithsonian Institution dates from the 1850s. In 1859, Secretary Joseph Henry proposed that a photographic record be assembled of Native American delegations visiting Washington, D.C. In 1867, with the support of Ferdinand V. Hayden, a geologist, and William H. Blackmore, a wealthy English collector and speculator, Washington photographers Alexander Gardner and Antonio Zeno Shindler began photographing the Native American delegates. These images and others formed the earliest Smithsonian photograph collection.

In 1883, the Section of Photography was established in the Department of Preparation, with Thomas William Smillie as photographer. Smillie, a former photographer at the United States Fish Commission, had been employed by the Institution as its official photographer since 1870. Smillie was named custodian of the Section in 1896, but also continued to function as the Institution's photographer until his death in 1917. His successors also retained these dual responsibilities until 1943, when the duties were separated and Gurney I. Hightower became the Institution's official photographer.

In 1897, the Section became a part of the Division of Graphic Arts, where it remained until 1969. At that time, the Division was redesignated Graphic Arts and Photography. In 1972, the two functions divided, and the Division of Photographic History was established in the Department of Applied Arts. At that time, Eugene N. Ostroff, associate curator and curator of photography under the previous divisions, was made curator of photographic history. Successively, the Division was affiliated with the Department of History of Technology, 1978-1980, and then the Department of the History of Science and Technology.

The Division of Photographic History and its predecessors primarily documented the history of photographic science and technology in America since the nineteenth century. The Division collected cameras, patent models, motion picture apparatus, and photographs such as daguerreotypes, tintypes, and calotypes.

Curators and staff of the Division included Thomas W. Smillie, photographer, 1871-1895, custodian and photographer, 1896-1917; Loring W. Beeson, custodian and photographer, 1917-1920; Arthur J. Olmsted, custodian and photographer, 1920-1930, assistant curator and photographer, 1931-1941, associate curator and photographer, 1942, associate curator, 1943-1946; Alexander I. Wedderburn, associate curator, 1947-1960; Eugene N. Ostroff, associate curator of photography, 1960-1966, curator, 1966-1972, curator of photographic history, 1972- , and David E. Haberstich, assistant curator, 1970-1976.

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Descriptive Entry

These records consist mostly of curatorial and staff correspondence and memoranda documenting activities of the Division and its predecessors, especially during the tenures of Thomas W. Smillie, Alexander J. Wedderburn, and Eugene N. Ostroff. The records also include information on the Hall of Photography, organized by Ostroff; newspaper clippings pertaining to the field of photography; historic photographs; annual reports; and administrative files.

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Preferred Citation

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 529, National Museum of American History. Division of Photographic History, Records

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Container List

Box 1

Building management services, 1961-1967

Box 1 of 10

Property and supplies, 1963-1973 (2 folders)

Box 1 of 10

Purchase requests, 1961-1969

Box 1 of 10

Library and other requests, 1960-1967

Box 1 of 10

Smithsonian Torch: Photographic History

Box 1 of 10

Annual Reports, 1963-1969

Box 1 of 10

Association of Curators, 1965-1969

Box 1 of 10

Biennial Reports, 1962-1966

Box 1 of 10

Budget Estimates, 1961-1967

Box 1 of 10

Collections, 1969

Box 1 of 10

Communications, 1963-1968

Box 1 of 10

Conservation, 1967-1969

Box 1 of 10

Correspondence, 1960-1969

Box 1 of 10

Exhibitions, 1957-1969

Box 1 of 10

Magazine Articles, 1911, 1922, 1969

Box 1 of 10

Memoranda, 1961-1968

Box 1 of 10

Museum Techniques, Cataloging and Registration, 1958-1959

Box 1 of 10

Newspaper Clippings, 1911-1915, 1923, 1956-1957 and 1962-1967

Box 1 of 10

Patents, 1938, 1946-1953, 1961-1968

Box 1 of 10

Photographic Center, 1962-1968 (2 folders)

Box 1 of 10

Photographs, 1965-1967

Box 1 of 10

Press Releases, 1962-1966

Box 1 of 10

Regents Meetings/Exhibition Scripts, 1946, 1949, 1954-1965

Box 1 of 10

Security, 1966-1969

Box 1 of 10

Special Events, 1965-1966

Box 1 of 10

Staff Meeting Minutes and the Smithsonian Council, 1964-1966

Box 1 of 10

Symposia, Seminars, and Conferences, 1963-1969

Box 1 of 10

Tours, 1967, 1969

Box 1 of 10

Workshops, Research, training, and Internships, 1961-1969

Box 1 of 10

Correspondence, 1886-1908

Box 1 of 10

Correspondence, 1909-1914

Box 1 of 10

Correspondence, 1915

Box 1 of 10

Correspondence, 1916

Box 1 of 10

Correspondence, 1917

Box 1 of 10

Correspondence, 1918

Box 1 of 10

Correspondence, 1919

Box 1 of 10

Correspondence, 1920

Box 1 of 10

Box 2

Correspondence - A, 1960-1969

Box 2 of 10

Correspondence - B, 1947, 1957-1970

Box 2 of 10

Correspondence - C, 1960-1970

Box 2 of 10

Correspondence - D, 1959-1968

Box 2 of 10

Correspondence - E, 1961-1968

Box 2 of 10

Correspondence - F, 1948, 1961-1968

Box 2 of 10

Correspondence - Ga-Ge, 1957-1968

Box 2 of 10

Correspondence - Gi-Gu, 1961-1968

Box 2 of 10

Correspondence - H, 1960-1968

Box 2 of 10

Correspondence - I, 1960-1968

Box 2 of 10

Correspondence - J, 1963-1968

Box 2 of 10

Correspondence - K, 1960-1969

Box 2 of 10

Correspondence - L, 1956, 1961-1968

Box 2 of 10

Correspondence - M, 1947, 1961-1968

Box 2 of 10

Correspondence - N, 1958-1968

Box 2 of 10

Correspondence - P, 1960-1968

Box 2 of 10

Correspondence - R, 1961-1968

Box 2 of 10

Correspondence - Sa-Sh, 1961-1968

Box 2 of 10

Correspondence - Si-Sy, 1957-1968

Box 2 of 10

Correspondence - T, 1958

Box 2 of 10

Correspondence - V, 1958

Box 2 of 10

Correspondence - W, 1961-1968

Box 2 of 10

Correspondence - Y, 1961-1968

Box 2 of 10

Correspondence - Z, 1962, 1968

Box 2 of 10

History of the Section of Photography

Box 2 of 10

Clippings - Federal Photographers Elect, 1915

Box 2 of 10

Clippings, 1927-1964 (4 folders)

Box 2 of 10

Box 3

Clippings - 2nd International Competition, 1948

Box 3 of 10

Clippings, 1922-1924, 1939-1934, 1961-1964

Box 3 of 10

Clippings - Publicity

Box 3 of 10

Clippings - Photograph exhibitions, 1911-1959

Box 3 of 10

Clippings - National Snapshot exhibition, 1940

Box 3 of 10

Photographic articles, 1948-1949

Box 3 of 10

Local press notices - British Societies show, 1924

Box 3 of 10

Scientific Monthly, 1947-1951

Box 3 of 10

International Photographic Exposition, 1956-1957

Box 3 of 10

Correspondence, 1888-1922 (2 folders)

Box 3 of 10

Correspondence - A, 1969-1979 (3 folders)

Box 3 of 10

Correspondence - American Museum of Photography, 1962-1977

Box 3 of 10

Correspondence - B, 1963-1982 (5 folders)

Box 3 of 10

Correspondence - C, 1968-1979 (Folders 1-2 of 6)

Box 3 of 10

Box 4

Correspondence - C, 1968-1979 (Folders 3-6 of 6)

Box 4 of 10

Correspondence - D, 1968-1979(2 folders)

Box 4 of 10

Correspondence - E, 1969-1980

Box 4 of 10

Correspondence - F, 1963-1979 (3 folders)

Box 4 of 10

Correspondence - G, 1968-1979 (3 folders)

Box 4 of 10

Correspondence - H, 1969-1979 (5 folders)

Box 4 of 10

Box 5

Correspondence - I, 1964-1978

Box 5 of 10

Correspondence - J, 1968-1979 (2 folders)

Box 5 of 10

Correspondence - K, 1968-1983 (4 folders)

Box 5 of 10

Correspondence - L, 1929, 1963-1981 (4 folders)

Box 5 of 10

Correspondence - M, 1960-1979 (5 folders)

Box 5 of 10

Correspondence - Museum of Modern Art, 1960-1975

Box 5 of 10

Box 6

Correspondence - N, 1961-1979 (3 folders)

Box 6 of 10

Correspondence - O, 1962, 1969-1979

Box 6 of 10

Correspondence - P, 1968-1979 (4 folders)

Box 6 of 10

Correspondence - Q, 1970, 1972, 1978

Box 6 of 10

Correspondence - R, 1967-1979 (5 folders)

Box 6 of 10

Correspondence - S, 1962-1986 (Folders 1-5 of 8)

Box 6 of 10

Box 7

Correspondence - S, 1962-1986 (Folders 6-8 of 8)

Box 7 of 10

Correspondence - T, 1965-1979 (3 folders)

Box 7 of 10

Correspondence - U, 1963-1976

Box 7 of 10

Correspondence - V, 1946-1979

Box 7 of 10

Correspondence - W, 1963-1982 (5 folders)

Box 7 of 10

Correspondence - X, Y, Z, 1966-1979

Box 7 of 10

Chronological file, 1961-1962 (2 folders)

Box 7 of 10

Chronological file, July-December 1962 (2 folders)

Box 7 of 10

Box 8

Chronological file, January-March 1963

Box 8 of 10

Chronological file, April-December 1963 (2 folders)

Box 8 of 10

Chronological file, January-December 1964 (3 folders)

Box 8 of 10

Chronological file, January-December 1965 (2 folders)

Box 8 of 10

Chronological file, January-December 1966 (2 folders)

Box 8 of 10

Chronological file, January-December 1967 (2 folders)

Box 8 of 10

Chronological file, 1968 (2 folders)

Box 8 of 10

Chronological file, July 1968 - June 1969 (2 folders)

Box 8 of 10

Chronological file, 1969 (2 folders)

Box 8 of 10

Box 9

Design and Production Incorporated, 1955-1974 (3 folders)

Box 9 of 10

General correspondence, 1955-1964

Box 9 of 10

Correspondence - A, 1980-1984

Box 9 of 10

Correspondence - B, 1980-1984 (2 folders)

Box 9 of 10

Correspondence - C, 1980-1984

Box 9 of 10

Correspondence - D, 1980-1984

Box 9 of 10

Correspondence - E, 1980-1984

Box 9 of 10

Correspondence - F, 1980-1984

Box 9 of 10

Correspondence - G, 1980-1984

Box 9 of 10

Correspondence - H, 1980-1984 (2 folders)

Box 9 of 10

Correspondence - I, 1980-1984

Box 9 of 10

Correspondence - J, 1980-1984

Box 9 of 10

Correspondence - K, 1980-1984 (2 folders)

Box 9 of 10

Correspondence - L, 1980-1984

Box 9 of 10

Box 10

Correspondence - M, 1980-1984 (3 folders)

Box 10 of 10

Correspondence - N, 1980-1984

Box 10 of 10

Correspondence - O, 1980-1984

Box 10 of 10

Correspondence - P, 1980-1984

Box 10 of 10

Correspondence - Q, 1982

Box 10 of 10

Correspondence - R, 1980-1984 (2 folders)

Box 10 of 10

Correspondence - S, 1980-1984 (3 folders)

Box 10 of 10

Correspondence - T, 1980-1984

Box 10 of 10

Correspondence - U, 1980-1984

Box 10 of 10

Correspondence - V, 1980-1984

Box 10 of 10

Correspondence - W, 1980-1984 (2 folders)

Box 10 of 10

Correspondence - X, Y, Z, 1980-4984

Box 10 of 10