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Finding Aids to Oral Histories in the Smithsonian Institution Archives

Record Unit 9501

Cowan, Richard S., 1921-1997 interviewee

Richard S. Cowan Interviews, 1974

Repository: Smithsonian Institution Archives, Washington, D.C. Contact us at osiaref@si.edu.
Creator: Cowan, Richard S., 1921-1997 interviewee
Title: Richard S. Cowan Interviews
Dates: 1974
Quantity: 4 audiotapes (Reference copies). 4 digital .mp3 files (Reference copies).
Collection: Record Unit 9501
Language of Materials: English
Summary:

These interviews with Cowan by Miriam S. Freilicher cover his education, research career in botany, and administration of NMNH.

Historical Note

Richard Sumner Cowan began his career in 1948 at the New York Botanical Garden and received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1952. Cowan joined the staff of the National Museum of Natural History in 1957 as an Associate Curator in the Department of Botany, where he continued his work in the systematic taxonomy of neotropical flora. In 1962 Cowan was appointed Assistant Director of the Museum of Natural History, and in 1965 he assumed the directorship of the museum. He has continued his work as Senior Botanist, National Museum of Natural History, since his retirement from administration in 1973. Cowan has served on many significant committees in the Institution and in many professional societies.

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Introduction

The Smithsonian Institution Archives began its Oral History Program in 1973. The purpose of the program is to supplement the written documentation of the Archives' record and manuscript collections with an Oral History Collection, focusing on the history of the Institution, research by its scholars, and contributions of its staff. Program staff conduct interviews with current and retired Smithsonian staff and others who have made significant contributions to the Institution. There are also interviews conducted by researchers or students on topics related to the history of the Smithsonian or the holdings of the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

Cowan was interviewed for the Oral History Project because he has made significant scholarly and administrative contributions to the Smithsonian Institution during 17 years of service.

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Descriptive Entry

Cowan was interviewed by Miriam Freilicher on March 26 and April 2 and 25, 1974. The interviews include his reminiscences of his early career, the Department of Botany when he joined the staff, his work in administration, and changes within the National Museum of Natural History and the Institution in the 1960's.

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Preferred Citation

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9501, Cowan, Richard S., 1921-1997 interviewee, Richard S. Cowan Interviews

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Container List

Box 1

Transcripts of Interviews

Interview 1: 26 March 1974

Box 1 of 1
Interview of Cowan covers his education, early work in botany, first impressions of the Smithsonian and the beginning of his administrative career, c. 1921-1965.
Transcript, pp. 1-37, of audio recording, 1 hour.

Interview 2: 2 April 1974

Box 1 of 1
Interview of Cowan includes his role in administration of the National Museum of Natural History, scientific professionalism, change in the museum and the Smithsonian during the 1960's, c. 1960-1970.
Transcript, pp. 38-75, of audio recording, 1 hour.

Interview 3: 25 April 1974

Box 1 of 1
Interview of Cowan discusses administration, exhibits function, space planning in the museum and plans for a Flora North America, c. 1965- 1974.
Transcript, pp. 76-136, of audio recording, 1.5 hours.

Audio Recordings of Interviews

Interview 1: 26 March 1974

Box 1 of 1
Total Recording Time: 1 hour
Original Masters: 1 5" reel-to-reel analog audiotape
Preservation Masters: 2 7" reel-to-reel analog audiotapes; 2 digital .wav files
Reference Copies: 1 cassette audiotape; 2 digital .mp3 files.

Interview 2: 2 April 1974

Box 1 of 1
Total Recording Time: 1 hour
Original Masters: 1 5" reel-to-reel analog audiotape
Preservation Masters: 4 7" reel-to-reel analog audiotapes; 2 digital .wav files
Reference Copies: 1 cassette audiotape; 2 digital .mp3 files.

Interview 3: 25 April 1974

Box 1 of 1
Total Recording Time: 1.5 hours
Original Masters: 2 5" reel-to-reel analog audiotapes
Preservation Masters: 6 7" reel-to-reel analog audiotapes; 3 digital .wav files
Reference Copies: 2 cassette audiotapes; 3 digital .mp3 files.