Finding Aids to Oral Histories in the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Record Unit 9508
Senate of Scientists Project (National Museum of Natural History)
Senate of Scientists Oral History Interviews, 1975
In 1963, a Senate of Scientists was formed to represent professional concerns of the scientific research staff of the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) at the Smithsonian Institution. Molded on faculty senates in universities, the senate was structured to function as a trouble-shooter and source of collective opinion outside normal administrative channels. The executive arm of the senate is the council which manages the day-to-day activities and consists of a chairman, chairman-elect, secretary, and one councilor elected by each curatorial department. Full membership in the senate is restricted to scientists employed by the NMNH, but associate membership is extended to research associates of the museum and to scientists located in the museum but employed by related agencies, such as the United States Department of Agriculture and United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
When an issue arises that the senate deems is in need of attention, membership is polled for opinions, and the council forwards a report and/or recommendation to the appropriate administrator. Significant issues addressed by the senate include library service, publication policies, off-Mall storage and curatorial facilities, technical assistance, program offices, automated data processing facilities, and funding for systematics research. The senate has fostered lines of communication between Institution administrators and the non-administrative scientific staff. In addition, the senate has served as a stimulus to collegiality within the museum, through its "field guide to curators," seminars, teas, and dinner forums.
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 conducts 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.
The Senate of Scientists Project was conducted at the suggestion of W. Donald Duckworth and with the support of then-chairman Erle G. Kauffman, to document the role of the Senate in the history of the National Museum of Natural History and the Institution.
In 1975-1976, at the suggestion of W. Donald Duckworth, and with the support of then-chairman Erle G. Kauffman, the Smithsonian historian Pamela M. Henson conducted a series of ten interviews of senate officers about the history of the Senate of Scientists. The interviews document the formation of the Senate, contributions of its leaders, its activities from 1963 to 1976, and they provide an overview of its role in the museum and the Institution. Interviewees were: Richard S. Boardman, Martin A. Buzas, W. Donald Duckworth, Clifford Evans, Jr., Gordon G. Gibson, W. Duane Hope, Erle G. Kauffman, Porter M. Kier, Saul H. Riesenberg, and Clyde F. E. Roper. The interview consists of approximately 16.5 hours of tape and 563 pages of transcript.
The recording of the interview of Richard S. Boardman may not be used without the written permission of Richard S. Boardman, or his heirs or assigns. The Clyde F. E. Roper interview has not been deeded to Smithsonian Institution Archives and cannot be used with the written permission of Clyde F. E. Roper or his heirs or assigns.
The Clyde F. E. Roper interview has not yet been accessioned into the Smithsonian Oral History Collection. Permission to use the draft transcript or recording must be secured from Clyde F. E. Roper or his heirs or assigns.
Restricted. Contact SIHistory@si.edu to request permission.
This collection is indexed under the following access terms. These are links to collections with related topics, persons or places.
- Buzas, Martin A.
- Duckworth, W. Donald
- Evans, Clifford, 1920-1981
- Gibson, Gordon D.
- Hope, W. Duane, 1935-
- Kauffman, Erle G. (Erle Galen), 1933-
- Kier, Porter M.
- Riesenberg, Saul H.
- Roper, Clyde F.
- Evans, Clifford, 1920-1981
- Henson, Pamela M., interviewer
- National Museum of Natural History (U.S.)
- Senate of Scientists Project (National Museum of Natural History)
- Records of meetings, organizations, and professional societies
- Museum curators -- Interviews
- Oral history
Physical Characteristics of Materials in the Collection
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9508, Senate of Scientists Oral History Interviews