Agency history, 1879-

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  • Holmes, William Henry 1846-1933
  • Hodge, Frederick Webb 1864-1956
  • Mason, Otis Tufton 1838-1908
  • Hough, Walter 1859-1935
  • Setzler, Frank M (Frank Maryl) 1902-1975
  • Stewart, T. D (Thomas Dale) 1901-1997
  • Wedel, Waldo R (Waldo Rudolph) 1908-1996
  • Woodbury, Richard B (Richard Benjamin) 1917-
  • Riesenberg, Saul H
  • Evans, Clifford 1920-1981
  • Fitzhugh, William W. 1943-
  • Ubelaker, Douglas H
  • Kaeppler, Adrienne Lois
  • Ortner, Donald J


Agency History


  • This is an agency history. It does not describe actual records. The Smithsonian Institution Archives uses these histories as brief accounts of the origin, development, and functions of an office or administrative unit to set that unit in its historical context. To find information on record holdings, please double-click the highlighted field "Creator/Author", which will open on a brief view of relevant records.
  • The Bureau of Ethnology was created in 1879 to continue studies of the American Indians begun by the Geological Survey of the Rocky Mountain Region. It was renamed the Bureau of American Ethnology and placed under the Smithsonian in 1897, but it enjoyed considerable freedom of action under John Wesley Powell, its Director (1879-1902). After that time it was more closely regulated by the Smithsonian. Its concern remained research on the Indians of the Western hemisphere. After Powell its Directors (some Acting) were William Henry Holmes, 1902-1909; Frederick Webb Hodge, 1910-1918; Jesse Walter Fewkes, 1918-1928; Matthew William Stirling, 1928-1957; Frank H. H. Roberts, 1957-1964; and Henry B. Collins, 1964-1965.
  • The Department of Anthropology also pursued its work from the Institution's early days, and under a variety of organizational forms. Its objective was to collect anthropological specimens, and its scope was world-wide, especially in the growth of its non-Western collections after World War II. In 1965, as part of a reorganization of the National Museum of Natural History, both BAE and the Department of Anthropology were merged into a Smithsonian Office of Anthropology. By 1968 the Department of Anthropology had reappeared, and the former activities of the Bureau of American Ethnology were incorporated into its structure, most notably the National Anthropological Archives.
  • Head Curators and Chairs of the Department have included William Henry Holmes, 1897-1902, 1910-1920; Otis Tufton Mason, (acting) 1902-1903) and Head, 1904-1908; Walter Hough, (acting) 1908-1909, 1920-1923, and Head, 1923-1935; Frank M. Setzler, 1935-1960; Thomas Dale Stewart, 1960-1962; Waldo R. Wedel, 1963-1965; Richard B. Woodbury, 1965-1967; Saul H. Riesenberg, 1967-1970; Clifford Evans, 1970-1975; William W. Fitzhugh, 1975-1980; Douglas H. Ubelaker, 1980-1984; Adrienne L. Kaeppler, 1985-1988; and Donald J. Ortner, 1988- .
  • For a history of the larger creating unit, refer to "Forms part of" above.

Repository Loc.

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Capital Gallery, Suite 3000, MRC 507; 600 Maryland Avenue, SW; Washington, DC 20024-2520


  • 1878
  • 1879-


  • Anthropology
  • Ethnology


Mixed archival materials

Local number

SIA AH00204

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