Agency history, 1886-1972

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  • Wedderburn, Alexander J
  • Brockett, Paul 1872-1946
  • Harris, Elizabeth M
  • Kainen, Jacob
  • Koehler, S. R (Sylvester Rosa) 1837-1900
  • Morse, Peter
  • Ostroff, Eugene
  • Smith, Ralph Clifton 1898-
  • Tolman, Ruel P (Ruel Pardee) 1878-1954
  • Olmsted, Arthur J
  • Beeson, Loring W
  • Sherwin, C. Allen
  • Fite, Eugene J
  • Griffith, Fuller
  • Smillie, T. W (Thomas William) 1843-1917
  • National Museum of American History (U.S.) Division of Graphic Arts
  • National Museum of American History (U.S.) Division of Photographic History


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 1996
  • G.A. 100: The Centenary of the Division of Graphic Arts, Smithsonian Institution, 1986
  • Abstracts of the History of Photography Group Symposium, Manhattanville College, June 6-7, 1997,, August 11, 2000
  • The Division of Graphic Arts and Photography began when, in 1886 a Section of Graphic Arts was created in the United States National Museum, with S. R. Koehler as Acting Curator. In 1896 a Section of Photography was also created, with Thomas William Smillie, Smithsonian photographer, as Honorary Custodian. In 1897 the Section was attached to the Section of Graphic Arts, and a new Division of Graphic Arts was created.
  • From 1897 to 1919 the various non-scientific units of the National Museum reported to a Department of Anthropology. After a 1919 revival of the Department of Arts and Industries, the Division of Graphic Arts reported to that unit. It remained within this Department and its successors until 1957.
  • In 1957, the Division was located in the Department of Arts and Manufactures, Museum of History and Technology. From 1896, the Division had contained a Section of Photography; and in the 1969 reorganization of the Museum, the Section was abolished and the Division was renamed Graphic Arts and Photography. In 1972 the photographic and graphic arts collections were divided, and new divisions of Graphic Arts and Photographic History were formed.
  • Staff have included S. R. Kohler, Curator, 1886-1900; Thomas William Smillie, Custodian, 1896-1917; Paul Brockett, Custodian, 1904-1920; Alexander J. Wedderburn, Associate Curator, 1947-1960; Ruel P. Tolman, Aide, 1912-1919, Assistant Curator, 1920-1931, Curator, 1932-1946; Loring W. Beeson, Custodian, 1917-1920; Ralph Clifton Smith, Aide, 1921-1926; Arthur J. Olmsted, Custodian, 1920-1930, Assistant Curator, 1931-1941, Associate Curator, 1941-1946; C. Allen Sherwin, Aide, 1935-1937; Jacob Kainen, Aide, 1942-1945, Curator, 1946-1966; Eugene J. Fite, 1947-1950, Assistant Curator, 1951; Fuller O. Griffith, III, Aide, 1955-1957, Assistant Curator, 1958-1960, Associate Curator, 1961-1964; Peter Morse, Associate Curator, 1965-1967; Eugene Ostroff, Associate Curator, 1960-1966, Curator, 1966-1972; and Elizabeth M. Harris, Assistant Curator, 1965-1972.
  • 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


  • 1886
  • 1886-1972


  • Photography
  • Graphic arts


Mixed archival materials

Local number

SIA AH00085

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