Introduction

Wilma Riley at Work, by Clark, Chip, 1978, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 94-8335.

 

The Smithsonian has been the home to creative individuals since its founding in 1846. Scientific illustrators sketched insect wings, taxidermists prepared dioramas of life groups, expedition photographers captured the majestic geology of the American West, and designers arranged objects in exhibit displays.

Many of the Smithsonian Institution's jobs demand creativity and artistic skills. Natural history and other observational sciences require strong visual skills. Thus, many scientists who worked at the Smithsonian were painters, photographers, or craftsmen at home. Art curators used their aesthetics in their vocation and avocations. Whether they use their artistic skills at work or only in their free time, artists have played a significant role in the history of the Institution since its founding.

This exhibit served as the introduction to the first Smithsonian Staff Art Show sponsored by the Community Committee held in 1996 as part of the celebration of the Smithsonian's 150th anniversary. It takes a look at four artists from years gone by.