This record unit contains a variety of records documenting the planning, design, and production of permanent and temporary exhibitions at the NMNH. It also contains smaller amounts of records concerning exhibitions held at the National Museum of History and Technology, National Air and Space Museum, National Collection of Fine Arts, Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, and Arts and Industries Building. A few records documenting office administration are also found.
The records were created by the Office of Exhibits, 1955-1969; the Office of Exhibits Programs, 1969-1973; and the Office of Exhibits, NMNH, 1973-1990. Staff of the Office of Exhibits, NMNH, and its predecessor offices, represented in the records include John E. Anglim, 1956-1972; A. Gilbert Wright, 1963-1970; Dorothy Guthrie, 1965-1970; James A. Mahoney, 1969-1973; William F. Haase, 1969-1983; Harry T. Hart, 1970-1977; Eugene F. Behlen, 1977-1983; and Carl A. Alexander, 1969-1987. Also included are a few records of Lawrence P. O'Reilly, 1984-1990.
The records offer primary documentation of natural history exhibition production at the Smithsonian, and they help to illustrate a period of intense exhibit modernization at the Institution. They include correspondence, memoranda, photographs, blueprints, layouts, scripts, work contracts, schedules, notes, and publications. Of special interest are records documenting the renovation of permanent exhibition halls during the 1960s; efforts to make NMNH exhibits more accessible to the handicapped; the development of the Insect Zoo; planning and preparation of the NMNH Bicentennial Exhibition in the 1970s; activities of the NMNH Exhibits Committee; and professional activities of the staff.