These records document an important change in the scope of the Smithsonian's concerns. Four of the bureaus and offices represented in these records existed in some form prior to 1964: the National Museum of American History, the Freer Gallery of Art, the National Museum of American Art, and the National Portrait Gallery. All the others were new enterprises for the Smithsonian and marked a great increase in the Institution's studies and collections in history and, especially, in art. These records follow the creation of major museum programs, including, in the cases of the HMSG, the NMAA, the NPG, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, the Renwick Gallery, the Anacostia Museum, and the Barney Studio House, the construction, renovation, and equipping of buildings, recruitment of staff, and development of programs.
In addition, the records concern the administration of the bureaus and offices reporting to the Assistant Secretary for History and Art, including relations with the Board of Regents and the Office of the Secretary, prospective donors, budgeting and planning for federal and private financial support, relations with other museums and scholarly institutions, recruitment and other personnel matters, and the details of routine administration.