Summary
Collection ID:
Record Unit 250
Creators:
National Museum of History and Technology, Division of Electricity and Modern Physics
Dates:
1886-1978
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
1.64 linear meters.
Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives

Introduction
Introduction
This finding aid was digitized with funds generously provided by the Smithsonian Institution Women's Committee.

Descriptive Entry
Descriptive Entry
These records of the Division of Electricity and Modern Physics relating to electricity consist of some early general correspondence, primarily of George C. Maynard, but also including that of J. Elfreth Watkins and Carl W. Mitman, concerning the inventions of Alexander Graham Bell, Samuel F. B. Morse, Alfred Vail, and inventors of dynamos and incandescent electric lighting; general correspondence of more recent curators with manufacturers of electrical equipment, donors of artifacts, and historians and researchers concerning dates and patents of electrical equipment, objects in the Division's collection, and exhibits, particularly on early electrical appliances; reading files; annual reports and plans of operation; exhibit files consisting of exhibit scripts, photographs, correspondence and memoranda, and floor plans primarily for the Hall of Electricity; and requisitions.

Historical Note
Historical Note
The earliest artifacts in the United States National Museum's (USNM) collections relating to electricity, including Samuel F. B. Morse's telegraph, were curated by the staff of the Collection of Historical Relics, Department of Arts and Industries, Division of Anthropology. From 1891 to 1892 these artifacts were the responsibility of the Section of Transportation and Engineering. A Section of Physical Apparatus in the Department was organized in 1893, which maintained the electrical artifacts until 1895 when the Section of Technological Collections was created. A Section of Electricity, Division of Technology (Modern Phases), Department of Anthropology, existed from 1898 to 1903. From 1903 to 1919, the electrical collections were administered with the other technological collections by the Department of Anthropology, with a Division of Technology, 1904-1911, and Division of Mechanical Technology, 1912-1919, and from 1920 to 1939 by the Department of Arts and Industries. The latter department had a Division of Mechanical Technology (administered with the Division of Mineral Technology from 1921 to 1931) from 1920 to 1932 and a Section of Mechanical Technology, Division of Engineering, from 1933 to 1938. In 1939 a Department of Engineering and Industries was created, with the Section of Electrical Engineering and Communications, Division of Engineering, 1939-1946, and the Section of Electricity, Division of Engineering, 1947-1957, responsible for the electrical collections.
When the Museum of History and Technology (MHT) was created in 1957, the Division of Electricity, Department of Science and Technology, became responsible for collecting and preserving electrical artifacts. In 1969 MHT was renamed the National Museum of History and Technology, and the Division of Electricity was changed to the Division of Electricity and Nuclear Energy. In 1978 the Division was renamed the Division of Electricity and Modern Physics, under the newly organized Department of History of Science.
A. Howard Clark, assistant curator of the Collection of Historical Relics, was the first individual in charge of the USNM's electrical artifacts. In 1891, J. Elfreth Watkins was appointed curator of the Section of Transportation and Engineering. William Crawford Winlock, curator of Physical Apparatus, assumed responsibility for the electrical collections in 1893; the next year his title was changed to honorary curator. In 1895 Watkins was appointed curator of the Section of Technological Collections and retained that position until his death in 1903. George C. Maynard was appointed honorary curator of the Electrical Collections in 1896. Subsequently, he held positions as custodian of the Electrical Collections, 1897, and of the Section of Electricity, 1898-1903; aid, Division of Technology (Modern Phases), 1899-1901; assistant curator, Division of Technology, 1901-1911, and curator, 1912-1918. R. G. Paine served as aid in the Division of Mechanical Technology in 1919. From 1920 to 1931, Carl W. Mitman was curator of the Division of Mechanical Technology, and from 1943 to 1945, head curator in charge, Division of Engineering. In 1932, Frank A. Taylor was appointed assistant curator of the Section of Mechanical Technology and later held the positions of curator in charge of the Section of Mechanical Technology, 1933-1938; curator, Division of Engineering, 1933-1947; curator in charge, Section of Electrical Engineering and Communications, 1939-1946; and curator in charge, Section of Electricity, 1947-1948. Other curators have included Kenneth M. Perry, associate curator, 1948-1956; W. James King, Jr., associate curator, 1956-1958, and acting curator, 1958-1961; Robert P. Multhauf, acting curator, 1961-1963; and Bernard S. Finn, associate curator in charge, 1963-1965, and curator, 1965- .

Notes
SI Records

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 250, National Museum of History and Technology, Division of Electricity and Modern Physics, Records

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Bell, Alexander Graham, 1847-1922 Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Watkins, J. Elfreth (John Elfreth), 1852-1903 Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Finn, Bernard S., 1932- Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
King, W. James (William James), 1915- Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Maynard, George Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Mitman, Carl Weaver, 1889- Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Vail, Alfred, 1807-1859 Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Forman, Paul Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Morse, Samuel Finley Breese, 1791-1872 Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hall of Electricity (NMHT) Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Electricity -- History Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Physics -- History Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Floor plans Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Smithsonian Institution Archives
Washington, D.C.
Contact us at osiaref@si.edu