Summary
Collection ID:
Record Unit 529
Creators:
National Museum of American History. Division of Photographic History
Dates:
circa 1883-1984
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
10 cu. ft. (10 record storage boxes)
Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives

Descriptive Entry
Descriptive Entry
These records consist mostly of curatorial and staff correspondence and memoranda documenting activities of the Division and its predecessors, especially during the tenures of Thomas W. Smillie, Alexander J. Wedderburn, and Eugene N. Ostroff. The records also include information on the Hall of Photography, organized by Ostroff; newspaper clippings pertaining to the field of photography; historic photographs; annual reports; and administrative files.

Historical Note
Historical Note
The history of photography at the Smithsonian Institution dates from the 1850s. In 1859, Secretary Joseph Henry proposed that a photographic record be assembled of Native American delegations visiting Washington, D.C. In 1867, with the support of Ferdinand V. Hayden, a geologist, and William H. Blackmore, a wealthy English collector and speculator, Washington photographers Alexander Gardner and Antonio Zeno Shindler began photographing the Native American delegates. These images and others formed the earliest Smithsonian photograph collection.
In 1883, the Section of Photography was established in the Department of Preparation, with Thomas William Smillie as photographer. Smillie, a former photographer at the United States Fish Commission, had been employed by the Institution as its official photographer since 1870. Smillie was named custodian of the Section in 1896, but also continued to function as the Institution's photographer until his death in 1917. His successors also retained these dual responsibilities until 1943, when the duties were separated and Gurney I. Hightower became the Institution's official photographer.
In 1897, the Section became a part of the Division of Graphic Arts, where it remained until 1969. At that time, the Division was redesignated Graphic Arts and Photography. In 1972, the two functions divided, and the Division of Photographic History was established in the Department of Applied Arts. At that time, Eugene N. Ostroff, associate curator and curator of photography under the previous divisions, was made curator of photographic history. Successively, the Division was affiliated with the Department of History of Technology, 1978-1980, and then the Department of the History of Science and Technology.
The Division of Photographic History and its predecessors primarily documented the history of photographic science and technology in America since the nineteenth century. The Division collected cameras, patent models, motion picture apparatus, and photographs such as daguerreotypes, tintypes, and calotypes.
Curators and staff of the Division included Thomas W. Smillie, photographer, 1871-1895, custodian and photographer, 1896-1917; Loring W. Beeson, custodian and photographer, 1917-1920; Arthur J. Olmsted, custodian and photographer, 1920-1930, assistant curator and photographer, 1931-1941, associate curator and photographer, 1942, associate curator, 1943-1946; Alexander I. Wedderburn, associate curator, 1947-1960; Eugene N. Ostroff, associate curator of photography, 1960-1966, curator, 1966-1972, curator of photographic history, 1972- , and David E. Haberstich, assistant curator, 1970-1976.

Notes
SI Records

Using the Collection
Prefered Citation
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 529, National Museum of American History. Division of Photographic History, Records

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Smillie, Thomas William, 1843-1917 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Wedderburn, Alexander J. Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ostroff, Eugene Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Henry, Joseph, 1797-1878 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hayden, F. V. (Ferdinand Vandeveer), 1829-1887 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Blackmore, William, 1827-1878 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Gardner, Alexander, 1821-1882 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Shindler, A. Zeno (Antonio Zeno), 1823-1899 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hightower, Gurney I. Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Beeson, Loring W. Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Olmsted, Arthur J. Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Haberstich, David Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Museum of American History (U.S.). Hall of Photography Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States National Museum. Division of Graphic Arts Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States National Museum. Division of Graphic Arts. Section of Photography Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States National Museum. Department of Preparation Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States Fish Commission Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Museum of History and Technology (U.S.). Division of Graphic Arts and Photography Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Museum of History and Technology (U.S.). Division of Photographic History Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Museum of History and Technology (U.S.). Department of Applied Arts Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Museum of History and Technology (U.S.). Department of History of Technology Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Museum of American History (U.S.). Department of the History of Science and Technology Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Museum curators Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Museum exhibits Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photography -- History Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Graphic arts Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Manuscripts Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Brochures Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Black-and-white photographs Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

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