These papers consist of unpublished studies of birds in some of the collections mentioned above, and notes and lists compiled during Riley's research on the avifauna
of the West Indies.
Joseph Harvey Riley (1873-1941) first came to the Smithsonian Institution in 1896 on a temporary appointment as Aid to assist Charles Emil Bendire in arranging the
collection of eggs of North American birds in the Division of Birds. In 1898 he was appointed Aid as a regular member of the staff. In 1928 he became Assistant Curator, and
in 1932, Associate Curator of the Division of Birds, a title which he held until his death.
Riley's early research interests centered around the birds of the West Indies, but later he turned his attention to describing the avifauna of Asia, publishing many papers
based on collections made for the United States National Museum by William Louis Abbott in Southeast Asia, Henry Cushier Raven in the Celebes, Joseph Francis Rock in China,
F. R. Wulsin in Mongolia, and David Crockett Graham in China and Tibet.