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 Archives, Record Unit 134, United States. Canal Zone Biological Area, Barro Colorado Island, Records
Smithsonian Institution Archives
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