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Finding Aids to Oral Histories in the Smithsonian Institution Archives

Record Unit 9514

Chace, Fenner Albert, interviewee

Fenner Albert Chace Oral History Interviews, 1977

Repository: Smithsonian Institution Archives, Washington, D.C. Contact us at
Creator: Chace, Fenner Albert, interviewee
Title: Fenner Albert Chace Oral History Interviews
Dates: 1977
Quantity: 3 audiotapes (Reference copies).
Collection: Record Unit 9514
Language of Materials: English

These interviews of Fenner Albert Chace by Pamela M. Henson cover his youth and education, curatorial career at the MCZ, USNM, and NMNH, research interests in decapod Crustacea, service during World War II, and reminiscences about colleagues, especially Thomas Barbour, Horton H. Hobbs, Jr., and Alexander Wetmore.

Historical Note

Fenner Albert Chace, (1908-2004) was a carcinologist and Research Associate of the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), specializing in the taxonomy, morphology, and distribution of decapod Crustacea. He was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1908, where he grew up. His summers were spent in the countryside of Tiverton, Rhode Island, and there he developed an early interest in natural history. Chace majored in biology at Harvard University, receiving the A.B. in 1930, the A.M. in 1931, and the Ph.D. in 1934. From 1934 to 1946, Chace curated the crustacean collection at the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ), as Assistant Curator, Marine Invertebrates, from 1934 to 1942 and as Curator of Crustacea from 1942 to 1946. Chace held the Agassiz fellowship at the MCZ from 1935 to 1939. After serving in the army during World War II, Chace was appointed Curator of the Division of Marine Invertebrates of the United States National Museum (USNM) in 1946. During his years as Curator, Chace oversaw the growth of the division, the move into the West Wing of the Natural History Building, and the planning of exhibits. In 1963, Chace was appointed the first Senior Scientist in the NMNH, a position devoted entirely to research. During his long career, Chace named over 200 taxa in the Decapoda and Stomatopoda. Chace retired from the position as Senior Zoologist, Department of Invertebrate Zoology in September of 1978, but continued as a Zoologist Emeritus and Research Associate of the NMNH until his death in 2004.

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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.

Chace was interviewed for the Oral History Collection because of his long association with the NMNH and outstanding research career.

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Descriptive Entry

Chace was interviewed by Pamela M. Henson on October 6 and 11, 1977. The interviews cover Chace's youth and education, curatorial career at the MCZ and NMNH, research interests in decapod Crustacea, service during World War II, and reminiscences about colleagues.

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Preferred Citation

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9514, Fenner Albert Chace Oral History Interviews

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Container List


Interview 1: October 6, 1977


Covers Chace's youth and education, career at the MCZ, World War II service, early career at the USNM, interests in scientific illustration, and recollections of colleagues; c. 1908-1967.


Transcript, pp. 1-33, of audio recording, 1.0 hour.


Recording of Interview: Total Recording Time: 1.0 hour

Original Masters: 1 5" reel-to-reel analog audiotape
Preservation Masters: 2 digital audio .wav files
Reference Copies: 1 cassette audiotape and 2 digital audio .mp3 files.

Interview 2: October 11, 1977


Covers Chace's views on systematics, exhibits, expeditions, the Crossroads Operation, oceanography in the 1960s, and scientific administration; construction of the West Wing of the Natural History Building; establishment of the Department of Invertebrate Zoology; and his research; c. 1946- 1977.


Transcript, pp. 34-72, of audio recording, 1.5 hours.


Recording of Interview: Total Recording Time: 1.5 hours

Original Masters: 2 5" reel-to-reel analog audiotapes
Preservation Masters: 3 digital audio .wav files
Reference Copies: 2 cassette audiotapes and 3 digital audio .mp3 files.