Finding Aids to Personal Papers and Special Collections in the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Record Unit 7331
Wright, A. Gilbert, (Arthur Gilbert), 1909-1987
A. Gilbert Wright Papers, circa 1936-1981 and undated
A. Gilbert Wright (1909-1987) was a zoologist and exhibits curator with diverse interests in natural history, exhibits preparation, and writing. Born in Carthage, Illinois, Wright developed an interest in natural history, taxidermy, and museum curatorship in his youth. After receiving the B.A. in biology from Carthage College in 1932, he was appointed zoologist at the Illinois State Museum (ISM) in 1933. Wright gained broad museum experience as a Rockefeller Foundation intern at the Buffalo Museum of Science in 1937-1938. During his ISM tenure, he published two volumes, The Illinois State Museum, Guide to Exhibits and Common Illinois Insects. He received the M.S. degree in zoology from the University of Illinois at Urbana in 1946. Wright served briefly as chief of the School Service Department of the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale in 1947-1948. In 1953 he left the ISM to accept a position as curator of exhibits at the Florida State Museum (FSM) in Gainesville. During his tenure at FSM, Wright developed exhibits for the main museum building, a "museumobile," and historical site museums throughout the state. In 1961, Wright was appointed chief of the Museum Planning Branch of the National Park Service for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis. The project was abruptly terminated in 1963 due to cost overruns for the Gateway Arch. Wright then joined the staff of the Office of Exhibits at the Smithsonian Institution, as assistant chief with responsibilities for planning exhibits renovation in the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). In 1971-1972 Wright was assistant to the director of the NMNH for exhibits planning and during this time developed the Insect Zoo. From 1972 until his retirement in 1975, he was a writer/editor in the Office of Exhibits Central.
In the early 1970s, Wright began teaching courses in museology at the George Washington University. After his retirement, he directed their new Museum Studies Program until 1978. Throughout his career, Wright was an active member of the American Association of Museums and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Researchers should consult the A. Gilbert Wright oral history interviews (Record Unit 9523), in the Smithsonian Institution Archives, for extensive information on Wright and his career.
The papers of A. Gilbert Wright provide partial documentation of most aspects of his professional career. Included are materials concerning Wright's tenure as a Rockefeller Foundation Intern at the Buffalo Museum of Science, 1937-1938; his work at the Florida State Museum, the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, and the Smithsonian Institution; and his teaching career at the George Washington University (GWU). Less well represented are records documenting his thirteen-year career at the Illinois State Museum, and his brief tenure at the Peabody Museum of Natural History. The collection includes both personal and professional correspondence received and written by Wright between 1936 and 1981. The correspondence includes a voluminous exchange with his long-time friend, Roscoe Wilmeth, as well as letters documenting most of his professional appointments. A small group of collected materials from Wright's professional work include his report on a tour of United States museums taken during the Rockefeller internship; teaching records from his GWU course on museology; publications written by or concerning Wright; and records documenting his work at the Smithsonian, especially the By-Word Program at the National Museum of Natural History. The collection also includes photographs and slides, many of which were taken by Wright. Included are images of Wright; the muralist, Jay H. Matternes; Florida State Museum exhibits and personnel; and Smithsonian exhibits, laboratories, and research areas.
This collection is indexed under the following access terms. These are links to collections with related topics, persons or places.
- Wright, A. Gilbert (Arthur Gilbert), 1909-1987
- Matternes, Jay H.
- Rockefeller Foundation
- Buffalo Museum of Science
- Florida State Museum
- George Washington University
- National Museum of Natural History (U.S.)
- National Museum of Natural History (U.S.). By-Word Program
- Carthage College (Carthage, Ill.)
- Illinois State Museum
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- United States. National Park Service
- Smithsonian Institution. Office of Exhibits Programs
- Smithsonian Institution. Office of Exhibits Central
- National Museum of Natural History (U.S.)
- O. Orkin Insect Zoo
- Museum curators
- Museum exhibits
- Museum techniques
- Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (Saint Louis, Mo.)
Physical Characteristics of Materials in the Collection
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7331, A. Gilbert Wright Papers