During FY 1964 major changes were made in the administrative organization of the Museum of Natural History. The Division of Insects was abolished as part of the Department of Zoology, and a new Department of Entomology was established with Divisions of Neuropteroids, Lepidoptera, Coleoptera, Hemiptera, and Myriapoda and Arachnida. The Department of Geology was abolished and in its place were created the Departments of Paleobiology and Mineral Sciences. The Department of Paleobiology included the Divisions of Invertebrate Paleontology, Vertebrate Paleontology, and Paleobotany. The Department of Mineral Sciences contained Divisions of Mineralogy and Meteorites (the equivalents of the old Division of Mineralogy and Petrology).
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 158, United States National Museum, Curators' Annual Reports
17.56 cu. ft. (35 document boxes) (1 folder oversize material)
1930-1932, 1937-1984 and undated, with related records from 1882
The Archives would like to thank Frederick J. Collier and Martin A. Buzas for their assistance in the transfer of these records to the Archives.
The Chairman's Files, Department of Paleobiology, Records, represent the
administrative history of both the last fifteen years of the Department of Geology and the first ten
years of the Department of Paleobiology after the Department of Geology was divided into two
separate departments. This collection provides strong documentation of research, reviews of the
departments, the Exhibits Modernization Program, and the construction of the East Wing of the
Natural History Building and the Museum Support Center. Although the records primarily
document the activities of the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), documentation
relating to the close relationship with scientists in the United States Geological Survey (USGS) is
Series 1, 2, and 3 contain administrative documents for the Departments of Geology and
Paleobiology, including annual reports (1963-1982), budget requests and plans of operation
(1963-1984), and research progress reports written by staff members (1963-1980). Memoranda
and management reports are also included in these series, providing more detailed information on
certain requests and reports. In addition, series 8 contains administrative correspondence for the
Department of Paleobiology between various institutional officers and department personnel. It is
worthy to note that the quantity of material documenting the Department of Geology is
substantially less than for the Department of Paleobiology and documentation of daily activity is
much more sparse.
The chairman's administrative files for the Department of Paleobiology contained in series 5
provide a more detailed view of the department. This division includes administrative
memoranda, incoming and outgoing correspondence, and general records. Although these
documents span the twenty year period of the departmental records, a separate set of
administrative and institutional files was maintained that represents administrative and
institutional activities only during the tenure of Martin A. Buzas as chairman between 1977 and
1982. These files can be found in series 6.
Series 4 consists of research proposals and grant allotments for the staff of both departments.
The files document proposals both within the Smithsonian and to outside funding agencies.
These files also provide documentation of the types of research undertaken by the scientists
during a twenty year time period.
Subject files from the Departments of Geology and Paleobiology are found in series 7. These
files contain information about specific aspects and activities of the departments as well as
institutional activities relevant to the departments. Significant affiliations between the
departments and the Paleontology and Stratigraphy Branch of the USGS are represented in these
files, as well as detailed documentation of the construction of the East Wing of the National
History Building and the Museum Support Center. Also included is documentation of the
symposium between the Department of Paleobiology and the Institute of Paleozoology of the
Polish Academy of Sciences and the Paleontology Department of the University of Warsaw, held
in Poland during August and September of 1968.
All divisions within the Departments of Geology and Paleobiology are represented in annual
reports, research progress reports, and budget requests. However, series 9 and 10 contain the
correspondence and subject files for the Division of Invertebrate Paleontology and Paleobotany
(Department of Geology) and therefore, provide detailed documentation of this division's
activities. The correspondence includes both public and professional inquiries; however, only
correspondence files for correspondents beginning with letters between K and Z have survived.
Of special interest are the nineteenth century correspondence between David Starr Jordan and
Gardiner Greene Hubbard and the substantial amount of correspondence documenting the early
career of G. Arthur Cooper. Records for the Division of Vertebrate Paleontology can be found in
Record Units 156 and 248. Field notes, manuscripts, and photographs for the Divisions of
Vertebrate and Invertebrate Paleontology and Paleobotany can be found in Record Unit 7264.
Series 11 contains museum exhibition scripts and provides extensive documentation of the
development of the new paleontology halls as part of the Exhibits Modernization Program during
the early 1960s. Committee reports and plans documenting another exhibit renovation plan
undertaken in the 1970s can also be found in this series.
Series 12 contains blueprints and mechanical drawings for items constructed for the
Departments of Geology and Paleontology. Of special interest are drawings of a sink constructed
for G. Arthur Cooper for the acid-etching program he began at the museum. Please note that the
documents contained in this series are housed off-site, and it is recommended that researchers
make prior arrangements with the reference staff when requesting this material.
Additional information about the Department of Paleobiology can be found in Record Unit
7318, the G. Arthur Cooper Papers, 1904-1987, 1993, with related material from 1865-1892 and
Record Unit 84, Department of Geology, Biographical File.
1930 -- Ray S. Bassler appointed head curator, Department of Geology
1938 -- C. W. Gilmore, curator of Vertebrate Paleontology, discovers skeleton of a large sauropod dinosaur of the family Titanosauridae, the first of its kind found in North America
1948 -- William F. Foshag appointed head curator, Department of Geology
1954 -- Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology begun
1956 -- William F. Foshag dies; G. Arthur Cooper appointed head curator, Department of Geology
1957 -- United States National Museum divided into National Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of History and Technology
June 3, 1961 -- Hall of Fossil Plants and Invertebrate Animals; Hall of Fossil Fishes, Amphibians, and Primitive Reptiles; and Hall of Age of Mammals in North America opened
1962 -- Oceanography Program begun
1962-1963 -- Moved to office space in East Wing of the Natural History Building
October 15, 1963 -- Department of Geology divided into Departments of Mineral Science and Paleobiology. G. Arthur Cooper appointed chairman of Department of Paleobiology
June 25, 1963 -- Hall of Dinosaurs and Other Reptiles opened
1963 -- Program of International Paleobiology (PIP) formulated
1966 -- Scanning Electron Microscope installed in department
1967 -- Advisory Committee Review of Department of Paleobiology
1967 -- Porter M. Kier appointed chairman, Department of Paleobiology
1968 -- Conference between staff of the Department of Paleobiology and both the Institute of Paleozoology of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Paleontology Department at the University of Warsaw
1972 -- Richard E. Grant appointed chairman, Department of Paleobiology
1977 -- Martin A. Buzas appointed chairman, Department of Paleobiology
1982 -- Advisory Committee Review of Department of Paleobiology
1982 -- Ian G. Macintyre appointed chairman, Department of Paleobiology
May 16, 1983 -- Museum Support Center opened
The paleontological collections of the United States National Museum (USNM) were
located in the Department of Geology, from its creation in 1880 until its dissolution in 1963. The
Department of Geology had three divisions devoted to paleontology: Vertebrate Paleontology,
Invertebrate Paleontology, and Paleobotany. The Department of Geology was led by Ray S.
Bassler as head curator between 1930-1948. He was succeeded by William H. Foshag,
1948-1956, and G. Arthur Cooper, 1957-1963.
The Department of Paleobiology was created in the National Museum of Natural History
(NMNH) on October 15, 1963, with the division of the former Department of Geology into two
departments: Paleobiology and Mineral Sciences. The Department of Paleobiology was
organized into three divisions: Paleobotany, Invertebrate Paleontology, and Vertebrate
Paleontology. G. Arthur Cooper assumed the chairmanship for the department with Francis M.
Hueber, Richard S. Boardman, and Charles Lewis Gazin appointed as division heads,
respectively. Cooper was succeeded as chairman by Porter M. Kier, 1967-1972, Richard E.
Grant, 1972-1977, Martin A. Buzas, 1977-1982, and Ian G. Macintyre, 1982- .
The annual report for 1964 noted two reasons for the division. First, the character and
administrative needs of departmental practitioners of mineral sciences and paleobiology were
recognized as obstructions to productive research. With their divergent activities, difficulties
arose regarding the fair allocation of resources and administrative responsibilities. In addition,
the emphasis in the field of paleontology began shifting away from the use of fossils for
stratigraphic and geological applications to a study of the biological aspects of fossils. Zoological
or botanical training became a significant addition to geological training. By using the term
"paleobiology" to denote departmental activities, the institution recognized this shift toward
reconstructing and interpreting paleoenvironments.
The establishment of a separate Department of Paleobiology provided the necessary impetus
for further growth in the field of paleontology at the Smithsonian. In 1933, five curatorial
positions were devoted to paleontological collections: Ray S. Bassler (invertebrates), G. Arthur
Cooper (invertebrates), Charles Lewis Gazin (vertebrates), Charles W. Gilmore (vertebrates), and
Charles E. Resser (invertebrates). In 1948, following the end of the Second World War, the staff
numbered six including: Ray S. Bassler, Arthur L. Bowsher, G. Arthur Cooper, David H. Dunkle,
Charles Lewis Gazin, and Alfred R. Loeblich, Jr. The department continued to grow, numbering
nine in 1963 (R. S. Boardman, Porter M. Kier, Richard Cifelli, E. G. Kauffman, Francis M.
Hueber, Martin A. Buzas, Charles Lewis Gazin, David H. Dunkle, and Nicholas Hotton III) and
nineteen in 1984 (Walter H. Adey, Anna K. Behrensmeyer, Richard H. Benson, Richard S.
Boardman, Martin A. Buzas, Alan H. Cheetam, Richard Cifelli, Robert J. Emry, Richard E.
Grant, Nicholas Hotton III, Francis M. Hueber, Porter M. Kier, Kenneth M. Towe, Ian G.
Macintyre, James F. Mello, Jack W. Pierce, Clayton E. Ray, Daniel J. Stanley, and Thomas R.
Research on the national paleontological collections is also conducted by paleontologists
from the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Researchers from both organizations have
always maintained close working relationships, and this is documented in the files.
The growth of both the staff and the collections placed a strain on museum facilities. This
problem was temporarily relieved with the opening of the East Wing of the Natural History
Building in 1962, and the Museum Support Center in 1983. Even with these additions, space
allocation and staff positions always fell short of what was needed. Outside reviews of its
programs in both 1967 and 1982 also emphasized these problems.
In the 1960s, the paleontological exhibit halls underwent extensive renovation as part of the
museum Exhibits Modernization Program. In 1966, modern research was facilitated by the
acquisition of a Scanning Electron Microscope.
United States National Museum. Division of Vertebrate Paleontology Search this
9.25 cu. ft. (18 document boxes) (1 half document box)
These records document the history of the Division of Vertebrate Paleontology, 1889-1957, and to a greater extent, document the professional and administrative activities
of Charles W. Gilmore when he was a staff member with the Division (1905-1945). Materials include daybooks and journals kept by Gilmore, containing the daily work activities
of himself and other staff members in the Division, 1905-1931; incoming and outgoing correspondence most of which, from 1905-1945, was written or received by Gilmore; examination
and reports of specimens and outgoing correspondence; and article drafts, notes, speeches, and radio talks, mostly written by Gilmore.
The Division of Vertebrate Paleontology maintains fossil collections, the earliest of which were gathered during the United States Exploring Expedition in the 1830's
and forwarded to the National Institute. From 1846 to 1858, these collections were transferred to the Smithsonian. Unfortunately, most of the specimens have subsequently been
discarded presumably because they lacked data pertaining to origin and locality.
Joseph Leidy of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia was commissioned in 1850 by the Smithsonian as a collaborator to study the fossil collections housed in
the Institution and those to be collected in the field. Leidy's studies continued into the late 1860's and were published in part in the Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge.
Leidy's study of fossils included those gathered during the General Land Office surveys (1849-1858), Pacific Railroad Survey (1854-1855), and by the United States Geological
Survey under the direction of F.V. Hayden (1856-1872).
In 1867, Edward Drinker Cope began his collaboration with the Smithsonian, and his studies on fossils collected at the Smithsonian were published both in the Smithsonian
Contributions to Knowledge and the Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections.
From the organizational beginning of the United States National Museum until 1887, the custody of vertebrate fossils was placed under the Department of Comparative Anatomy.
Osteologists from the Department carried out the preparation and exhibition of the collection.
Vertebrate fossils emerged as an administrative organization in 1881, when Othniel Charles Marsh, in charge of vertebrate paleontology at the United States Geological Survey,
was appointed honorary curator of the Department of Vertebrate Fossils. The Department came under the supervision of the Division of Zoology. Since then, the Department of
Vertebrate Fossils has undergone numerous transformations both in name and administration.
The Department became a section under the Department of Paleontology in 1894 and when the USNM was reorganized in 1897, Vertebrate Fossils remained a section under the
newly created Division of Stratigraphic Paleontology.
When Marsh died in 1898, Frederic Augustus Lucas, an osteologist, was made acting assistant curator of the Section. Lucas had been an assistant curator of the Section intermittently
since 1891, and had been made curator of Comparative Anatomy in 1894. Lucas became acting curator of Fossils in 1903 only to resign from the USNM in 1904. Fossils disappeared
as an administrative unit from 1905 to 1908. However, it remained a viable and functioning unit without a name as Charles W. Gilmore (1904) and James W. Gidley (1905) were
appointed preparators to the section. George P. Merrill, head curator of the Department of Geology, administered the collection.
When the Division of Stratigraphic Paleontology was reorganized in 1908, with each of its sections becoming a division, Fossils reemerged as the Division of Vertebrate
Paleontology. Gidley became custodian of the mammalian collection and Gilmore custodian of the reptilian collection.
In June 1911, Vertebrate Paleontology became a section under the Division of Paleontology; during the following month, Gidley and Gilmore became assistant curators of fossil
mammals and fossil reptiles, respectively. Gilmore became associate curator of the Section in 1917-1918, and in May 1923 became curator of Vertebrate Paleontology.
Vertebrate Paleontology again became a Division in June of 1924, when the Division of Paleontology was renamed the Division of Stratigraphic Paleontology.
James W. Gidley died on September 26, 1931. The vacancy was filled when Charles L. Gazin was appointed assistant curator to the Division on March 1, 1932. Gazin became
associate curator on March 1, 1942, and subsequently became curator of the Division on January 1, 1946, upon the death of Gilmore, September 27, 1945.
Other staff members appointed to the Division include David H. Dunkle, who was appointed associate curator in 1946-1947. Dunkle retired in March of 1968. Peter P. Vaughn,
appointed associate curator in July, 1957, resigned in January of 1959. Nicholas Hotton III was appointed associate curator in June of 1959 and became curator of the Division
in 1968-1969. Clayton E. Ray was appointed associate curator in 1963, and when Gazin became senior paleontologist in 1968 in order to devote full time to scientific studies,
Ray became curator and supervisor of the Division.
On October 15, 1963, the Department of Geology was disbanded with its administrative function divided into two departments, Mineral Science and Paleobiology. The Division
of Vertebrate Paleontology came under the supervision of the latter.
Most of the papers within these records pertain to the professional and administrative activities of Charles W. Gilmore while he was a staff member of the Division (1905-1945).
Gilmore, who was selected in 1932 by J. McKeen Cattell, editor of Science, as one of the twenty-five leading geologists in the United States, was born in Pavilion, New York,
in 1874. He began his interest in fossils and museum work at an early age, after visiting Ward's Natural Science Establishment. Gilmore attended the University of Wyoming
where he studied and collected fossil specimens, and from 1901-1904, he was a collector in the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh.
From 1904 until his death in 1945, Gilmore was a staff member of the United States National Museum. He participated in sixteen expeditions and because of his work, the results
of the most important excavations and studies at the Dinosaur National Monument have been analyzed and recorded. Among the numerous scientific societies to which he belonged,
Gilmore was president and member of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, the Paleontology Society of Washington and the Geological Society of America.