Prior to the creation of the Division of Cultural History in 1957, the cultural history collections were the curatorial responsibility of the Division of Ethnology in the Department of Anthropology. With the establishment of the Museum of History and Technology (MHT) in 1957, the Division of Cultural History became part of the newly formed Department of Civil History in the Museum. Musical instruments, which formed part of the collections of the Division of Cultural History, became a separate division in 1967.
C. Malcolm Watkins, who joined the Smithsonian as an Associate Curator of Ethnology in 1948, was appointed Curator of Cultural History in 1957. Other curators of the cultural history collections included G. Carroll Lindsay, Assistant Curator, 1956-1957, and Associate Curator, 1958; Rodris C. Roth, Assistant Curator, 1957-1959, and Associate Curator, 1960-1967; John D. Shortridge, Associate Curator, 1959-1960; John N. Pearce, Assistant Curator, 1960-1963, and Associate Curator, 1964; Cynthia A. Hoover, Assistant Curator, 1961-1963, and Associate Curator, 1964-1966; Anthony N. Hathaway, Junior Curator, 1961, and Assistant Curator, 1962-1963; Howard Mayer Brown, Associate Curator, 1965; Richard E. Ahlborn, Associate Curator, 1966-1967, and John T. Fesperman, Jr., Concert Director, 1966.