The Background of the Smithsonian's Museum of Engineering and Industries

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  • Work discusses the history of the Department of Engineering and Industries in the United States National Museum (USNM), and the plans for an Engineering and Industries Museum. Discusses George Brown Goode's intensive plan for the National Museum but explains that the new National Museum building (Arts and Industries) proved inadequate to house exhibits, having been crowded out by laboratories and scientific workshops. Explains that the Department of Engineering and Industries was abolished, but its work prevailed through the tireless work of early pioneers such as J. Elfreth Watkins, George C. Maynard and Thomas W. Smillie. Traces the revival of interest in the Department from 1910-1914 when the new National Museum building (Natural History Building) created space in the Arts and Industries Building.
  • Richard Rathbun then "reactivated and revived old sections, added new curators, and encouraged them in their work." This continued until it was halted by the Federal economy program, which caused many staff to leave and doubled the workload of the remaining employees. Discusses the reorganization of the Department in 1932, and the appointment of Carl W. Mitman as head curator. Mentions the aircraft collection begun by Paul E. Garber and the textile collection of Frederick L. Lewton (one of the remaining staff from the first boon of 1910). Article concludes with discussion of how World War II caused a shift in the emphasis in the Department and how the conclusion of the war allowed them to focus their attentions more fully on the possibility of a museum solely dedicated to Engineering and Industries.


  • Lewton, Frederick L
  • Watkins, J. Elfreth
  • Mitman, Carl W
  • Maynard, George C
  • Garber, Paul Edward 1899-1992
  • Goode, G. Brown (George Brown) 1851-1896
  • Rathbun, Richard 1852-1918
  • Smillie, T. W (Thomas William) 1843-1917
  • National Museum of History and Technology (U.S.)
  • National Museum of American History (U.S.) (NMAH)
  • Arts and Industries Building
  • National Museum of Natural History (U.S.)
  • United States National Museum
  • United States National Museum Dept. of Engineering and Industries
  • Natural History Building


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


Taylor was Curator, Division of Engineering, United States National Museum. His efforts eventually led in 1964 to the National Museum of History and Technology, now the National Museum of American History, and he served as its first director..

Contained within

Science Vol. 104 (Journal)

Contact information

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




World War, 1939-1945

Physical description

pp. 130-132

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