Finding Aids to Oral Histories in the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Record Unit 9523
Wright, A. Gilbert, (Arthur Gilbert), 1909-1987, interviewee
A. Gilbert Wright Oral History Interviews, 1983
Arthur Gilbert Wright (1909-1987), was a zoologist and exhibits curator, with diverse interests in natural history, exhibits preparation, and writing. Born in Carthage, Illinois, in 1909, Wright developed an interest in natural history, taxidermy, and museum curatorship in his youth. After receiving a 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 the fifties, Wright prepared exhibits for the main FSM building, a "museumobile," and historical site museums throughout the state. In 1961, Wright was appointed 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 Programs 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. When the Office of Exhibits was reorganized in 1972, Wright became a writer/editor in the Office of the Exhibits Editor until his retirement in 1975.
In the early 1970s, Wright began teaching courses in museology at 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.
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.
Wright was interviewed for the Oral History Collection because of his long and wide-ranging experience in the museum field.
Wright was interviewed by Pamela M. Henson on five occasions between May and November of 1983. The interviews cover Wright's youth; early interests in museums, natural history, and taxidermy; his education; museum career at the Illinois State Museum, Peabody Museum of Natural History, Florida State Museum, National Park Service, and Smithsonian Institution; internship at the Buffalo Museum of Science; teaching at George Washington University; reminiscences of colleagues such as Arthur Sterry Coggeshall, Ralph H. Lewis, Alexander Wetmore, and John E. Anglim; and his publications and professional activities.
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
- Coggeshall, Arthur Sterry
- Lewis, Ralph
- Wetmore, Alexander, 1886-1978
- Anglim, John E.
- Henson, Pamela M., interviewer
- Illinois State Museum
- Florida State Museum
- United States. National Park Service
- Smithsonian Institution. Office of Exhibits Programs
- National Museum of Natural History (U.S.). Assistant to the Director for Exhibits Planning
- National Museum of Natural History (U.S.). Exhibits Editor's Office
- George Washington University. Museum Studies Program
- Museum techniques
- Museum curators -- Interviews
- Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (Saint Louis, Mo.)
- Oral history
Physical Characteristics of Materials in the Collection
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9523, A. Gilbert Wright Oral History Interviews