William Henry Holmes (1846-1933) was an anthropologist, archeologist, artist, and geologist. Born near Cadiz, Ohio, Holmes graduated in 1870 from McNeely Normal School in Hopedale. After teaching for a brief period, Holmes left Ohio for Washington, D.C., where he studied art under Theodore Kauffman. In Washington, Holmes became acquainted with the Smithsonian and soon began sketching natural history specimens for staff members of the National Museum.
In 1872, Holmes was appointed artist-topographer to the United States survey of the territories under Ferdinand V. Hayden, and in 1874 was appointed assistant geologist. Holmes' survey in New Mexico and Arizona eventually led to his career in archeology and his interest in the cliff-dwellings of the southwest.
Holmes joined the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in 1880 and remained with the survey until 1889 when he transferred to the Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE). Between 1882 and 1889, Holmes was also honorary curator of aboriginal ceramics, United States National Museum (USNM).
Holmes left the BAE to serve as head curator of anthropology at the Field Columbian Museum in Chicago, 1894-1897, and subsequently held positions as head curator of the Department of Anthropology, USNM, 1897-1902, and chief of the BAE, 1902-1909. Holmes served as curator of the National Gallery of Art from 1907 to 1920, and as head curator of the Department of Anthropology from 1910 to 1920. When the National Gallery of Art (now known as the National Collection of Fine Arts) became a separate bureau of the Smithsonian, Holmes severed his ties with the USNM and served as director of the National Gallery from 1920 until his retirement in 1932.