Yellowstone and the Smithsonian: Centers of Wildlife Conservation

Usage Conditions Apply
The Smithsonian Institution Archives welcomes personal and educational use of its collections unless otherwise noted. For commercial uses, please contact


  • In the winter of 1996-97, state and federal authorities shot or shipped to slaughter more than 1,100 Yellowstone National Park bison. Since that time, thousands more have been killed or hazed back into the park, as wildlife managers struggle to accommodate an animal that does not recognize man-made borders. Tensions over the hunting and preservation of the bison, an animal sacred to many Native Americans and an icon of the American West, are at least as old as the nation's first national park. Established in 1872, in part "to protect against the wanton destruction of the fish and game," Yellowstone has from the first been dedicated to preserving wildlife along with the park's other natural wonders.
  • The Smithsonian Institution, itself founded in 1846, viewed the park's resources as critical to its own mission, looking to Yellowstone for specimens to augment its natural history collections, and later to stock the National Zoological Park. How this relationship developed around the conservation and display of American wildlife, with these two distinct organizations coming to mirror one another, is the theme of the volume. Even before its founding as a national park, and well before the creation of the National Park Service in 1916, the Yellowstone region served as a source of specimens for scientists centered in Washington, D.C.
  • Tracing the Yellowstone-Washington reciprocity to the earliest government-sponsored exploration of the region, Smith provides background and context for many of the practices, such as animal transfers and captive breeding, pursued a century later by a new generation of conservation biologists. She shows how Yellowstone, through its relationship with the Smithsonian, the National Museum, and ultimately the National Zoo, helped elevate the iconic nature of representative wildlife of the American West, particularly bison. Her book focuses on understanding the wildlife management and conservation policies that followed.


  • Hornaday, William Temple 1854-1937
  • United States. Army
  • National Zoological Park (U.S.) Exhibits
  • United States National Museum
  • United States. National Park Service
  • National Zoological Park (U.S.)


Smithsonian History Bibliography


Diane Smith is a research historian with the US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service and the author of "Pictures from an Expedition" and "Letters from Yellowstone." Dr. Smith wrote a dissertation, "Animals and Artifacts: Specimen Exchanges and Displays in Yellowstone National Park, the National Museum, and the National Zoo, 1846 to 1916," at Montana State University in 2012.

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,




  • American bison
  • Zoology
  • Exchange of Specimens
  • Science
  • Museums
  • Zoo exhibits
  • Habitat conservation
  • Wildlife
  • Moving of Specimens
  • Specimens
  • Exhibitions
  • Collection and preservation
  • National Collections
  • Zoological specimens--Collection and preservation
  • Wildlife conservation
  • Museum exhibits


  • Yellowstone National Park
  • United States




First edition

Physical description

Number of pages: 208; Page numbers: 1-207

Full Record

View Full Record