United States. Canal Zone Biological Area, Barro Colorado Island Search this
6.5 cu. ft. (13 document boxes) (oversize materials)
Barro Colorado Island (Panama)
These records document the creation and development of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, from preliminary discussions in 1918 to the selection of a site
on, and reservation of, Barro Colorado Island in 1923, and its subsequent development as a center for research into the ecology of the American tropics. The records include
correspondence of Thomas Barbour, David Fairchild, Alexander Grant Ruthven, James Zetek, and others. Records of the planning stage, 1918-1923 are particularly interesting,
though not so full as might be wished. Correspondence, research reports, administrative records, publications, photographs, and maps are included, in English and in Spanish.
Researchers should also consult Record Unit 135 and records of the Secretary's Office, Smithsonian Institution, which contain related material, c. 1926-1964.
In 1923 the Institute for Research in Tropical America, a group of private foundations and universities under the auspices of the National Research Council, first established
a research laboratory on Barro Colorado Island, Panama Canal Zone, in order to investigate the flora and fauna of tropical America. This arrangement continued until 1940,
when the facility was renamed the Canal Zone Biological Area (CZBA) and, by act of Congress, placed under control of a board composed of the heads of certain executive departments
and prominent scientists. In 1946 the operation was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution, a sponsor from 1923, and has been known as the Smithsonian Tropical Research
Institute (STRI) since 1966. In recent years the Institute has expanded its interests to include marine biology.
Smithsonian Institution, Office of the Secretary Search this
5.71 linear meters.
Because the Smithsonian's relations to STRI have been both longstanding and various, STRI files are scattered through the records of the Secretary's office. The earliest
STRI files in this unit have been interfiled with newer records or pulled forward, where they dealt with ongoing problems at the facility, so that no original order remains.
The unit also includes office files of Thomas Barbour, long IRTA's strongest supporter, which were given to the Smithsonian on Barbour's death in 1946, likewise interfiled,
and dating from IRTA's earliest days. Thus, the researcher will find three general types of records in this unit: (1) the official records of IRTA and CZBA before 1946, some
of which were created by the Smithsonian in its role as a sponsor of the organization and some because they were interfiled at a later date; (2) office files of Thomas Barbour,
which often duplicate or complement other records; and (3) official records generated by the Smithsonian in its operation of CZBA/STRI since 1946.
These records document the creation and development of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, chiefly from 1923 to 1965, and cover all phases of its operations as
a private and a federal facility during that period. Correspondents include Thomas Barbour, John Enos Graf, Frank A. Taylor, Alexander Wetmore, James Zetek, and others. Records
include correspondence, administrative records, and publications. Researchers should also consult record unit 134 for related material, 1918-1960.
From 1918 to 1923 various groups interested in tropical American research discussed the desirability of creating a research institute in Central or South America. Finally,
in 1923, the Institute for Research in Tropical America was formed by a number of private foundations and universities, under the aegis of the National Research Council. The
Smithsonian Institution was one of these early sponsors, and its ties with the Institute grew stronger still when the federal government took over the IRTA in 1940, calling
it the Canal Zone Biological Area and placing the Smithsonian's Secretary on its governing board. In 1946 entire control of CZBA was vested in the Smithsonian, which renamed
it the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in 1966.