The title of Director General of Museums was established in 1968 concurrent with the establishment of the Office of Special Museum Programs. The Director General had previously been known as Director, United States National Museum. In FY 1969 both titles, Director General of Museums and Director, United States National Museum, were assumed by Frank A. Taylor.
Congress began to make small appropriations for the maintenance of the National Museum in 1858. The National Museum became the largest element of the Smithsonian, and its programs, collections, and curators were placed early under the direction of an assistant secretary for the museum. The position of Director, United States National Museum, later became a separate office. With the development of the programs of the Museum of History and Technology, the construction of its new building, and the concurrent expansion of the Museum of Natural History, these two components of the National Museum each required its individual director. Frank A. Taylor became the first Director of the National Museum of History and Technology and served from April 1958 to 1964. Arthur Remington Kellogg became Acting Director of the National Museum of Natural History as well as Director, United States National Museum. Both individual directors continued under the general direction of the Director, United States National Museum, who also continued to administer programs common to both components, including the Office of Exhibits, the Conservation-Analytical Laboratory, the Office of the Registrar, and the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Service. Taylor was named Director, United States National Museum, in the fall of 1962 upon the retirement of Kellogg. As of 27 June 1967 the United States National Museum was established as a fully separate administrative unit of the Smithsonian. At this time the Director, United States National Museum, was relieved of line responsibility for the National Museum of History and Technology and the National Museum of Natural History. The Director, United States National Museum, continued to have broad responsibilities for the review and coordination of all museum and exhibit activities within the entire Smithsonian. He became the Secretary's adviser to evaluate the Smithsonian's performance and recommend research, development, and innovation in museum education, public services, and exhibits. Under the direction of the Secretary, the Director continued to carry out the directives of the National Museum Act of 1966 and continued to administer the Office of Exhibits, Conservation-Analytical Laboratory, Office of the Registrar, and Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. The Office of Special Museum Programs was created during FY 1968, and Frank A. Taylor was named Director General of Museums. In FY 1969 the title "Director, United States National Museum" was revived, probably for legislative purposes. From FY 1969 to his retirement on 23 January 1971, Frank A. Taylor served as Director General of Museums and Director, United States National Museum. Peter C. Welsh was named Assistant to the Director General, and Lloyd E. Herman became Program Manager in FY 1969. Under Special Museum Programs the Office of Museum Programs was established in FY 1971. The Director was Peter C. Welsh (January-December 1971); Assistant to the Director was Katherine Goldman (January-July 1971); Research Assistant was Jean H. Eisenberg (January 1971-June 1972); Research Associate was Frank A. Taylor (January 1971- ). The Office of Museum Programs changed its name to Office of Smithsonian and National Museum Programs in FY 1972 in order to reflect its broad scope of services. This office was headed by Assistant Director Frederick Schmid after the resignation of Peter C. Welsh in December 1971. Research Assistants were Katherine Goldman (July 1971-May 1972) and Jean H. Eisenberg. Frank A. Taylor remained as Research Associate, and Stephen Johnston was appointed Special Consultant in February 1972. Effective 1 August 1972 Paul N. Perrot became Assistant Secretary for Museum Programs (Director, United States National Museum). The Assistant Secretary for Museum Programs assumed essentially the same duties and responsibilities previously performed by the Director General of Museums.
The Director General of Museums acted as an adviser to the Secretary and Smithsonian museum and gallery directors on museum practices, programs, and administration. The Director General developed and directed assistance programs to museums in the United States and abroad, as well as directing Smithsonian museum programs, offices, and services, including the Office of Exhibits, Conservation-Analytical Laboratory, Office of the Registrar, Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, and Smithsonian Exposition Hall. He acted as a liaison with: The American Association of Museums, including Regional Conferences; Advisory Council for Historic Preservation; American Revolution Bicentennial Commission; Presidential Libraries; National Endowment for the Arts and the Humanities; International Council of Museums; and American Friends of the Korean National Science and Cultural Center. Additional duties assumed by the Director General included those to: increase visibility of Negro history in Smithsonian museums and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, coordinate Smithsonian programs for the Bicentennial of the American Revolution; consult with New York University at Buffalo; determine space solutions, e.g., research park development at Silver Hill; advise Anacostia Neighborhood Museum; advise "Lamont Street"; coordinate circulation of units with the expansion of the Smithsonian Associates; develop film capability for the enhancement of exhibits; and coordinate exhibits for Presidential Libraries.