Finding Aids to Oral Histories in the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Record Unit 9530
Smithsonian Institution Paleontology Videohistory Collection, 1987-1988
The National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) of the Smithsonian Institution houses one of the world's major paleontological collections. In addition, museum curators have developed many innovative techniques for handling, processing, and interpreting fossils.
Scientists interviewed for the project included G. Arthur Cooper (1902-2000), who received a B.S. degree from Colgate University in 1924 with a major in chemistry and an M.S. in 1926. He was awarded a Ph.D. from Yale University in 1929 for his thesis on the stratigraphy of the Hamilton formation. In 1930 he was appointed Assistant Curator in the Division of Stratigraphic Paleontology of the United States National Museum (USNM) and by 1957 assumed head curatorship of the Department of Geology, where he oversaw its division into separate departments of Paleobiology and Mineral Sciences in 1963. He continued as Chairman of the Department of Paleobiology until he was appointed Senior Paleobiologist in 1967. He retired from federal service in 1974 but continued his research as paleobiologist emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution until June 1987.
J. Thomas Dutro, Jr., (1923-2010) began his career as a geologist and paleontologist with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in 1948. He received his A.B. from Oberlin College in 1948 and his M.S. and Ph.D. from Yale University in 1950 and 1953 respectively. He was stationed in the USGS offices in NMNH, and, in 1962, was appointed Research Associate of the Smithsonian Institution. His interests include the Paleozoic stratigraphy of Alaska and the western United States and the systematics of late Paleozoic Brachiopoda.
Richard E. Grant (1927-1995) received his B.A. in 1949 and M.S. in 1953 from the University of Minnesota and his Ph.D. in geology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1958. From 1961 to 1972 he worked as a geologist and paleontologist with the USGS until he assumed the position of Chairman of the Department of Paleobiology at NMNH in 1972. In 1977 he was appointed Geologist in that department and in 1983 became Curator and Senior Geologist. His research interests include the brachiopods and stratigraphy of the Permian period.
Ellis L. Yochelson (1928-2006) was a paleontologist with the USGS from 1952 until his retirement in 1985. During those years he occupied an office in NMNH and in 1967 was appointed a Research Associate in the Department of Paleobiology. A specialist in extinct mollusks, concentrating on the evolution of gastropods, Dr. Yochelson received B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Kansas and a Ph.D. from Columbia University. His research interests included the history of geology.
The Smithsonian Videohistory Program, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation from 1986 until 1992, used video in historical research. Additional collections have been added since the grant project ended. Videohistory uses the video camera as a historical research tool to record moving visual information. Video works best in historical research when recording people at work in environments, explaining artifacts, demonstrating process, or in group discussion. The experimental program recorded projects that reflected the Institution's concern with the conduct of contemporary science and technology.
Eighteen Smithsonian historians participated in the program to document visual aspects of their on-going historical research. Projects covered topics in the physical and biological sciences as well as in technological design and manufacture. To capture site, process, and interaction most effectively, projects were taped in offices, factories, quarries, laboratories, observatories, and museums. Resulting footage was duplicated, transcribed, and deposited in the Smithsonian Institution Archives for scholarship, education, and exhibition. The collection is open to qualified researchers.
Pamela M. Henson, Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, interviewed scientists in the museum's Department of Paleobiology who developed its extensive fossil collection. She used the fossil collections to stimulate discussion of the history of the collections and visually documented fossil preparation techniques.
This collection consists of three interview sessions, totaling approximately 4:04 hours of recordings, and 115 pages of transcript.
For additional information on Cooper, see Record Unit 7318, G. Arthur Cooper Papers, Record Unit 328, Department of Paleobiology Records, and Record Unit 9524, G. Arthur Cooper Oral History Interviews, Smithsonian Institution Archives.
This collection is indexed under the following access terms. These are links to collections with related topics, persons or places.
- Cooper, G. Arthur (Gustav Arthur), 1902-2000
- Dutro, J. Thomas
- Grant, Richard E., 1927-1994
- Yochelson, Ellis L. (Ellis Leon), 1928-2006
- Henson, Pamela M., interviewer
- United States National Museum. Division of Stratigraphic Paleontology
- United States National Museum. Division of Invertebrate Paleontology
- United States National Museum. Department of Geology
- National Museum of Natural History (U.S.). Department of Paleobiology
Physical Characteristics of Materials in the Collection
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9530, Smithsonian Institution Paleontology Videohistory Collection