Agency history, 1957-1994

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  • Hitchcock, Romyn 1851-1923
  • Lewton, Frederick L (Frederick Lewis) 1874-1959
  • Atwater, W. O (Wilbur Olin) 1844-1907
  • Adrosko, Rita J
  • Cooper, Grace Rogers
  • Kulik, Gary
  • McHugh, Maureen Collins
  • Watkins, William N
  • Eisler, Milton


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
  • The Smithsonian established a Section of Foods and Textiles as a part of the United States National Museum (USNM) in 1883. Romyn Hitchcock, an experienced microscopist and chemist, was selected as Curator of Textiles and also acted as Assistant Curator along with Honorary Curator W. O. Atwater in the analysis of food products. Many of the textile specimens assigned to Hitchcock were acquired at the close of the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. The Section was renamed the Section of Textiles shortly before its abolition in 1890.
  • In 1912, the Division of Textiles was re-established, reporting to the Assistant Secretary in charge of USNM. Frederick L. Lewton became Curator of the Division. From 1916, Lewton was also responsible for medical collections, and between 1931 and 1938 the collections were administered jointly by a single Division of Textiles and Medicine. In the latter year textiles became a Section within the newly established Division of Crafts and Industries, of which Lewton served as Curator through 1946.
  • Textiles was reestablished as a division in 1957 and was made part of the Department of Arts and Manufactures. When in 1969 the Museum of History and Technology was reorganized as the National Museum of History and Technology, Textiles moved into a new Department of Applied Arts until 1978, when a new reorganization shifted it from the now-defunct Applied Arts to the Department of History of Technology. After a 1980 reorganization Textiles moved to the Department of Social and National History and then to Social and Cultural History in 1981. A 1994 change placed the Division of Textiles functions under a Department of History.
  • The Division of Textiles documented the historical, cultural, and economic development of American textile fabrics, implements, and machinery since the seventeenth century. In addition to American technical progress in the production of textiles, work of the Division focused on the earliest methods of textile making throughout the world. Research interests of the Division and its predecessors included tapestry, weaving, household and costume textiles, woolen goods, silks, sewing threads, hand spinning-wheels, sewing machines, patent models, textile techniques from fiber to fabric, fiber identification, dyes, quilts, and other needlework. The Division staff also has developed exhibitions, presented lectures on the history of textile manufacturing, published catalogs, and collected and conserved objects.
  • Staff of the Division have included Rita J. Adrosko, Associate Curator, 1963-1970, and Curator, 1971-1994; Grace Rogers Cooper, Assistant Curator, 1949-1956, Associate Curator, 1957, and Curator, 1958-1976; Gary Kulik, Assistant Curator, 1979-1981, and Associate Curator, 1982; William N. Watkins, Curator, 1947-1957; Milton Eisler, Conservator, 1960-1963; and Maureen Collins McHugh, Conservator, 1963-1970.
  • 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


  • 1957
  • 1957-1994


Textile museums


Mixed archival materials

Local number

SIA AH00132

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