Agency history, 1957-

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Creator

National Museum of American History (U.S.)

Subject

  • Mayr, Otto
  • Hindle, Brooke
  • Taylor, Frank A (Frank Augustus) 1903-2007
  • Multhauf, Robert P
  • Boorstin, Daniel J (Daniel Joseph) 1914-2004
  • Kennedy, Roger G
  • Crew, Spencer R. 1949-
  • Ewers, John C (John Canfield) 1909-1997
  • Kidwell, Claudia Brush
  • National Museum of History and Technology
  • United States National Museum

Category

Agency History

Notes

  • 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, 1996
  • Smithsonian Directory
  • The history of the National Museum of American History's (NMAH) collections dates from the very beginning of the Institution, when Secretary Joseph Henry began to amass a collection of scientific apparatus for historical and demonstration purposes. In 1849 the Institution made a major purchase of fine arts prints, which became the core of the graphic arts collections. In 1858, the United States Patent Office transferred to the Smithsonian the national collections, including specimens from the Wilkes Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842. In 1862, upon the demise of the National Institute, a local scientific and learned society, many of its collections came to the Smithsonian. And, most notably, after the Centennial Exposition of 1876, the Smithsonian received many objects from exhibitors at Philadelphia. Thus by the 1880s, rich collections from many different sources, some specific to natural history and geology, but many others relating to history and culture, had come to the Smithsonian.
  • The creation of the Museum of History and Technology (MHT) within the United States National Museum on July 1, 1957, gathered the historical collections under one museum. Frank A. Taylor was appointed Director of MHT on April 16, 1958, and was primarily responsible for the planning and supervision of the construction of the museum building, which opened in 1964. With the creation of MHT, the old Departments of History and Engineering and Industries of the USNM were reconfigured as Departments of Civil History, Armed Forces History, Science and Technology, and Arts and Manufactures. John Canfield Ewers, Assistant Director of MHT, succeeded Taylor as Director,1964-1965, followed in 1966 by Robert P. Multhauf, Chairman of the Department of Science and Technology and Curator of Physical Sciences. USNM ceased to exist as an administrative entity in 1967, and at that time MHT became a separate museum within the Institution.
  • In January 1969, Daniel J. Boorstin, a University of Chicago history professor, was appointed Director. That year MHT was renamed the National Museum of History and Technology (NMHT), and all curatorial divisions were realigned under the Departments of Cultural History, National and Military History, Science and Technology, Industries, and Applied Arts. Boorstin resigned as Director in 1973.
  • Brooke Hindle, a historian of early American science and technology, was appointed Director of NMHT in February 1974. Before completing his term in June 1978, Hindle reorganized the curatorial departments at NMHT. Cultural History continued as a department, while new Departments of National History, History of Science, and History of Technology were created. Otto Mayr, Chairman of the former Department of Science and Technology and Curator of Mechanical and Civil Engineering, succeeded Hindle as Acting Director of the Museum. Claudia Brush Kidwell succeeded Mayr as Acting Director, serving from September 1 to October 1,1979.
  • Roger G. Kennedy, a historian of American architecture, was appointed Director of NMHT in October 1979. In 1980 the Museum's name was changed to the National Museum of American History. A major reorganization of NMAH occurred shortly thereafter, in which the Departments of Social and National History and the History of Science and Technology were established. Also during this reorganization the National Numismatic Collection and the National Philatelic Collection -- each reporting to the Director -- were created from the former Divisions of Numismatics and Postal History. In 1981,the Department of Social and National History was renamed Social and Cultural History.
  • In 1990, the National Philatelic Collection became the National Postal Museum; it moved into the newly renovated Washington City Post Office in 1993. Kennedy resigned as Director on December 1, 1992. Spencer R. Crew, a historian and Chairman of the Department of Social and Cultural History and Deputy Director, 1991-1992, became Acting Director; and he was named Director of the Museum on January 24, 1994. Later that year a reorganization was carried out. The Department of the History of Science and Technology consisted of the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources; the Division of Biological Sciences; the Division of Armed Forces History; the Division of Computers, Information and Society; the Division of Electricity and Modern Physics; the Division of Engineering and Industry; the Division of Medical Sciences; the Division of Physical Sciences; and the Division of Transportation.
  • The Department of Social and Cultural History consisted of the Division of Ceramics and Glass; the Division of Community Life; the Division of Costume; the Division of Domestic Life; the Division of Graphic Arts; the Division of Musical History; the Division of Photographic History; the Division of Political History; and the Division of Textiles. At a later time these relationships were changed by the institution of broader entities: the Division of Cultural History; Division of the History of Technology; Division of Information, Technology and Society; Division of Medicine and Society; and the Division of Social History.

Addl. KW Subjects

(SIA AH00003)

Repository Loc.

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

Date

  • 1957
  • 1957-

Topic

  • Historical museums
  • Science museums

Form/Genre

Mixed archival materials

Local number

SIA AH00005