Agency history, 1880-1956

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  • Geare, Randolph Iltyd 1854-
  • Bryant, Herbert S
  • Weiss, Helena M. 1909-2004


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.
  • Guide to the Smithsonian Archives
  • Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution
  • Annual Report of the United States National Museum
  • The Department of Direction was created during the initial organization of the United States National Museum (USNM) in 1880. Its name was changed to the Division of Correspondence and Documents in 1886. The Division was in charge of the distribution and filing of correspondence of the Museum, including the acknowledgment of gifts, loans, and exchanges; the preparation of reports upon material sent for examination; replies to requests for technical information of all kinds; distribution of Museum publications; and the preparation, editing, and proofreading of the Annual Report of the United States National Museum. After the position of Registrar was abolished in 1919, functions relating to accessions, examination and reports on specimens, and the distribution of specimens were assigned to the Division. In 1956 the Division was renamed the Office of the Registrar.
  • Chiefs of the Division of Correspondence and Documents (before 1886, the Department of Direction) included Randolph Iltyd Geare, 1882-1917; Herbert S. Bryant, 1917-1948; and Helena M. Weiss, 1948-1956.
  • 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


  • 1880
  • 1880-1956


  • Museums
  • Museums--Administration
  • Museums--Collection management


Mixed archival materials

Local number

SIA AH00069

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