Found 114,068 Resources containing: Smithsonian Institution Archives
The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, is the only museum in the nation devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design. Originally established in 1896 as the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration, the museum was formally transferred to the Smithsonian on July 1, 1968. The museum was renamed the Copper-Hewitt Museum of Design at the time of transfer, but was later known as the Cooper-Hewitt Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in 1969 and then in 1994 it became the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, with its current name being adopted in 2014.
The museum moved into its present home, the Carnegie Mansion in 1970, which was renovated and reopened to the public in 1976. Closed for renovations since 2011, the redesigned museum will open to the public on December 12, 2014.
- Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum history, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum collections
- Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum records, Smithsonian Institution Archives
In 1894 a room on the fourth floor, East Wing of the Smithsonian Institution Building (SIB), the "Castle," was converted for use as the Smithsonian Institution Archives. It was furnished with walnut cabinets for storage of early manuscripts and correspondence as well as drawings, photographs, and plans of the Institution. Over a large worktable in the center of the room, a combination gas-electric chandelier hangs from the pressed tile ceiling. Beneath the two framed pictures to the right of the door can be seen the mouth-piece of an "oral-annunciator," an early type of intercom installed throughout the East Wing in 1884.
A bust of the first Smithsonian Secretary, Joseph Henry, is on the wall to the right. A replica of the James Smithson memorial plaque in Genoa, Italy, can be seen on the floor to the right of the door.
Three years ago, on August 22, 2011, Smithsonian staff members in buildings on the National Mall and the Museum Support Center stopped whatever they were doing and headed into doorways as they experienced a rare event in this region – a 5.8 magnitude earthquake. Next as we headed down the staircase to evacuate the Capital Gallery building, my colleague, Courtney Bellizzi, and I took comfort in knowing that Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough was an expert in earthquake engineering. While the damage was not devastating, facilities like the Museum Support Center did have significant damage as shelving vibrated away a foot or more from its normal location. Dr. Clough knew just what to do.
Clough is the third Secretary of the Smithsonian with seismological expertise. The first Secretary, Joseph Henry (1795-1878), a physicist, was very interested in documenting reports of earthquakes and developing measurement tools. After an April 1852 earthquake on the East Coast, Henry sent out a “circular,” asking his meteorological observers to describe its effects on their region.
Charles Doolittle Walcott (1850-1927), the fourth Secretary, was a paleontologist who had directed the US Geological Survey and is best known for discovering the bizarre Burgess Shale deposits in Canada. In 1906, the San Francisco earthquake, one of the worst in history, destroyed the city and took over 3,000 lives, galvanizing the scientific community into action. Walcott was a central figure in an effort to create a Seismological Institute to compile data and ensure long term documentation of these geological events to understand them better – and this effort was to be part of the Smithsonian.
Members of the US Congress knew the country needed to be better prepared for these events and were concerned that earthquake work was carried on by numerous government programs, with little coordination, creating duplicative work that wasted taxpayers’ resources. Walcott proposed that the Smithsonian serve as the central point for earthquake research – compiling scientific data, specimens, images, news reports, etc., in one place, and making these resources readily available to all government agencies involved in responding to earthquakes. This was similar to the role of the Smithsonian’s US National Museum which held the collections amassed by government scientists, so duplicate collections were not created, and made the collections available to all who needed to study them.
In Record Unit 45 - Records of the Office of the Secretary, are four folders documenting the plans for the Seismological Institute. Walcott had the support of the American Philosophical Society, Geological Society of America, National Academy of Sciences, and distinguished scholars, such as Harry F. Reid at The Johns Hopkins University. In 1907, the secretary of the Seismological Society of America, George D. Louderback, wrote to Walcott that the society had approved a proposal to create a Seismological Institute under Smithsonian aegis – with its headquarters in California. In 1910, the Seismological Society of America passed a resolution supporting the creation of a seismological institute which would:
- collect seismological data;
- establish observing stations;
- study special earthquake regions;
- cooperate with organizations and individuals to develop and disseminate seismological knowledge; and
- be placed under the Smithsonian’s aegis because of its tradition of active cooperation with government science units and other scientific organizations.
Initially Walcott worried about funding for the Institute but David Starr Jordan, president of Stanford University, A. C. Lawson of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and other proponents lobbied the Congress and approached philanthropists for financial support. Walcott coordinated the effort to push for the Institute. Legislation was introduced every year between 1907 and 1913, with some congressional support, but the legislation never made it through to law. The National Weather Service objected, since they wanted to retain their appropriation for collecting seismological data, and the legislation languished in committee through 1913. But then the nation was confronted with an even bigger crisis – one that would take more lives and cause more destruction than the 1906 quake. As World War I broke out in 1914, plans for a new institute were lost amidst the need to prepare for war.
Archives do not just trace past accomplishments, they also show us the roads not taken.
- Record Unit 45 - Office of the Secretary, Records, 1890-1929, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Joseph Henry and the Origins of American Seismology, O say can you see? blog, NMAH
- The San Francisco Earthquake, 1906, in color, O say can you see? blog, NMAH
- Earthquake Shakes DC, Chronology of Smithsonian History
Thanksgiving is gone and over
The Turkey is in the stew
When the pot is empty
What then, will you do?
Mayhap, glance at the calendar
And conceive with joyful delight
That the furious little snowflakes are here
And Christmas is almost in sight
The bearded man will soon take leave
To make place for the young
And soon we'll all be gaily caroling
A happy Easter song.
By Leroy Wells, Biological Sciences International Exchange
From The Torch, December 1956 - Record Unit 371 - Office of Public Affairs, The Torch, 1955-1960, 1965-1988, Smithsonian Institution Archives
HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION ARCHIVES!
This month marks the 10 year anniversary of the twin Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity's arrive on the surface of Mars. The National Air and Space Museum exhibition, Spirit & Opportunity: 10 Years Roving Across Mars, celebrates the amazing images and achievements of the two Mars Exploration Rovers after 10 years of exploring the Red Planet.
The National Air and Space Museum is America's most visited museum. Here's a look at just a few images from their past.
- History of the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution Archives
It's time again to celebrate all the wonderful things archives have and do! The Society of American Archivists declares each October American Archives Month and the Smithsonian theme for this year is "Discover and Connect." At the Smithsonian Institution Archives, we handle over 6000 reference requests per year and have an ambitious digitization plan to serve people worldwide through our website. This past year alone, over 380,000 people accessed our resources online.
Archivists and conservators at the Smithsonian are top-notch, and to celebrate the occasion, we make them available to you for an entire day to answer your questions about preserving your own collections. Our 4th Facebook Q&A will be held on October 27th, from 10am-4pm EST, on the Smithsonian's Facebook page. Four of our staff members will be there with skills in a/v, digital, and paper archives. Here's the line-up:
- Joe Hursey, National Museum of American History's Archives Center, Reference Coordinator
- Michael Pahn, National Museum of the American Indian Archives Center, Head Archivist (A/V specialty)
- Lynda Schmitz Fuhrig, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Electronic Records Archivist
- Dave Walker, Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives, Audio Digitization Specialist
Also check out past Q&A's to see if your question has already been answered!
There are several other ways to connect with the Smithsonian's 16 archives this month:
- Blog's across the Smithsonian will give an inside look at collections and practices.
- If you're a Pinterest fan, check out the Smithsonian's October is Archives Month board.
- Archivists across the Smithsonian will share sound, video, and film on the Smithsonian AV Archivists Tumblr.
- Digital volunteers can explore and help us transcribe letters, diaries, and field books on the SI Transcription Center.
- And if you're local to DC, a selection of artists' diaries from the Archives of American Art is on exhibit in the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery in Washington, D.C. 11:30am-7pm daily.
We'd love to have you participate in any way you can. Three cheers for archives!
This year, the United States team is sending 230 athletes to Sochi, Russia, the most any nation has ever sent to a winter Olympics. Some of the most promising American athletes are the ice dancing team of Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Though traditionally the other divisions of skating are more talked about in the United States, it seems that the Smithsonian has a strong history in the sport.
In the early eighties the Smithsonian had several skate “clubs.” One of the clubs was a competitive group who practiced two to three times a week throughout the year. The group included Lydia Paley, a museum technician in the National Museum of Natural History’s (NMNH) Discovery Room; Bette Walker, a secretary at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; Martha Goodway, a metallurgist for the Conservation Analytical Lab (now Museum Conservation Institute); Christine Smith, a paper conservator at the National Portrait Gallery; and Gary Sturm, a specialist in the National Museum of American History’s Division of Musical Instruments. For the club, winter practices got much easier when they met at the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden outdoor rink where the skaters would learn the twenty defined ice dancing routines required by the United States Figure Skating Association. For this group, practice made perfect, and Smith and Strum were awarded the Walter C. Sheen and Sidney Asher trophies Ice Club of Washington for Male and Female Skaters of 1980 for their ice dancing achievements throughout the year.
While some Smithsonian skaters competed, others simply used the activity to clear their mind during the work day. Almost every day during the winter of 1980 a crowd of Smithsonian staff glided over to the rink on the National Mall to take a break and skate up a sweat. One pair, Phyllis Spangler, a Museum Technician for the Medical Entomology Project of the NMNH’s Department of Entomology, and her husband Paul Spangler, an Associate Curator in the NMNH’s Department of Entomology, put their work on ice, and strapped on their skates to perfect a pair’s routine.
The frigid temperatures this year ensure that you’ll have good ice conditions, if you want to take up a new activity, and the National Gallery ice skating rink could not be more convenient. So whether you are a competitor, amateur, or just someone who wants to get into the Olympic spirit, check out the history of the featured sports and you might be surprised how popular they are!
- Record Unit 371 - Smithsonian Institution Office of Public Affairs, The Torch, 1955-1960, 1965-1988, Smithsonian Insttution Archives
When asked what the Smithsonian Institution Archives collects, we say we hold records about the history of the Smithsonian and its people, programs, research, and activities. While accurate, this doesn’t really give anyone a clue about what is actually in those records.
The Smithsonian Institution Archives Reference Term handles an average of around 6,000 queries per year, and if you us what people have been researching at the Archives recently, you’ll get some pretty interesting responses. Although not comprehensive, here’s a snapshot of the diverse range of information encompassed by the history of the world’s largest museum complex!
Over the past three months, researcher projects have included:
- National Museum of American History’s upcoming 50th anniversary
- Theodore Roosevelt’s African expedition
- Post-Modern historicism in exhibits
- History of the American Society of Icthyologists and Herpetologists
- Plant geography
- The Paleontology Hall at the National Museum of Natural History, for renovations to the Dinosaur Hall
- Collecting & interpreting objects relating to George Washington
- William Healey Dall
- The history of tropical research in the US
- Zoological imagination in America
Upcoming publications using the Archives' photos or documents include:
- Wright Brothers National Memorial, State of the Park Report
- Leslie Bedford, The Art of Museum Exhibitions
- Ted Binnema, Enlightened Zeal: The Hudson’s Bay Co. and Scientific Networks
- The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, The Clark: the Institute and its Collections
- Robert Kett, "Ornithologists in Olman," The Museum Journal, April 2014
- Julian Zelizar, A Great Society: The Fight for Liberalism, 1963-1968
Annual List of Publications by Smithsonian Institution ArchivesFellows and Interns
- Gibson, Abraham H. 2013. "Edward O. Wilson and the Organicist Tradition," The Journal of the History of Biology, 46 (3)
- Gibson, Abraham H., Kwapich, Christina L. and Lang, Martha. 2013. "The Roots of Multilevel Selection: Concepts of Biological Individuality in the Early Twentieth Century." History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, 35 (4)
- Henson, Pamela M. 2013. "O Instituto Smithsonian: Arquivos e a Historia da Ciencia." Acervo, Revista Da Arquivo Nacional, 26 (1): 113-122.
- Leventhal, Richard M. and Daniels, Brian I. 2013. "'Orphaned Objects,' Ethical Standards, and the Acquisition of Antiquities." DePaul Journal of Art, Technology, and Intellectual Property Law, 23 (2): 339-361.
- Takarabe, Kae. 2013. "Bibliographical Essay on The History of Science and Technology at the Smithsonian Institution: Focusing on women in science and technology." The History of Science of Tokai, 5: 43-51.
- Takarabe, Kae. 2013. "Essay on B. S. Lyman's Collecting Ainu Objects: Focusing on General Instructions to the Assistants of the Geological Survey of Hokkaido." Bulletin of the Historical Museum of Hokkaido, 41: 147-152.
- Takarabe, Kae. 2013. "Research on Technological Innovation in Science Museums and the Use of its Results: A Case Study of the Smithsonian Institution." Lectures and Reports of 31th Symposium-Range and Scope of History of Technology in Japan: Learning about the History of Technology, and Technological, 3: 24-39.
- Takarabe, Kae. 2012. "Study on the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation: Science Communication at the Smithsonian Institution." Journal of the Museological Society of Japan, 37 (2): 135-159.
Most Unusual Reference Inquiry: Does the Smithsonian have Radar's teddy bear from the TV show, M*A*S*H?
Most people assume the teddy bear owned by Radar (actor Gary Burghoff) came to the Smithsonian when the program ended. After all, we received the donation of a large collection of M*A*S*H memorabilia that was displayed in a 1983 exhibit at the National Museum of American History.
A "Radar's Teddy bear" file in Record Unit 360 - National Museum of American History, Office of Public Affairs, Records, circa 1970-1985, contains several 1984 memos planning an event at the National Museum of American History for the proposed donation. However, there's nothing that indicates that such an event ever occurred. The registrar's office at the National Museum of American History confirmed that the teddy bear had not been accessioned. Something must have happened to prevent the teddy bear donation.
Online research revealed that the teddy was missing until 2005, when it brought $10,000 at auction. In a 2007 Orlando Sentinal interview, Burghoff confirmed that the bear was never at the Smithsonian, had disappeared 30 years earlier, and was purchased at the aforementioned auction by a medical student who then sold the bear to him.
Now where was that bear between 1984 and 2005?
- Reference Services, Smithsonian Institution Archives
Secretary S. Dillion Ripley commissioned Charles Eames to design a structure for the carousel located on the National Mall. The pavilion was intended to protect it from the elements and allow the carousel to be enjoyed year round. Although never realized, Eames did produce a sketch and a model of the structure.
- A Favorite - The Smithsonian Carousel, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
"Smithsonian Enters Cyberspace with Information-Packed World-Wide Web Home Page" announced the press release.
Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of the Smithsonian's first "internet 'web' site" on May 8, 1995. The web site included more than 1,500 pages and overviews of the site were available in Spanish, German, and French. In addition to text and graphics, the pages also included images, audio, and video. Peter House, the National Science Foundation staff member who was detailed to the Smithsonian for the technical development of the website, considered the site to be very large at the time.
The Smithsonian Home Page was designed to allow users to visit the Smithsonian in much the same way as they would in person. Users can begin by viewing general information pages, just as many visitors begin with the information center in the Castle, or they can go directly to page for an individual museum. Many of the Smithsonian's museums and other facilities established home pages at the same time.
A sneak preview of "Ocean Planet On-Line" was available several weeks ahead of the Smithsonian Home Page. It was demonstrated during the press preview of the "Ocean Planet" exhibition at the National Museum of Natural History, held April 20, 1995. The website was a joint project of the Smithsonian's Environmental Awareness Program and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Gene Feldman, an oceanographer at the Goddard Space Flight Center and creator of the online exhibition, described the site as "one of the most comprehensive and advanced exhibitions available through the Internet via the World Wide Web." He believed it had "capabilities that will amaze even the tekkies." Although hosted on a NASA server, "Ocean Planet On-Line" was considered to be a component of the larger Smithsonian website. It still exists today in close to its original form.
The Smithsonian Home Page included multimedia messages from the Secretary, general information, frequently asked questions (known as "Encyclopedia Smithsonian"), press releases, museum highlights, online exhibitions, virtual museum tours, a staff directory, and the "electronic Shopping Mall." The "Perspectives" section of the site allowed users to search for specific topics across the entire website. Many of these features still exist, in an updated form, in the current Smithsonian website.
In the first 24 hours after the home page was launched, it received approximately 100,000 hits, some as far away as Japan. By May 17, 9 days after the launch, there had been over 600,000 hits.
Secretary Heyman noted that "James Smithson's goal of the 'increase and diffusion of knowledge' has been reborn for a new century."
According to House, "The Smithsonian has been waiting 150 years for the Internet. What we do here is perfect for it."
- Tracking Down the Elusive 'Treasure House of Learning', The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Accession 98-094 - Office of the Secretary, Smithsonian Website Records, 1995, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Accession 01-081 - Smithsonian Institution, Office of Public Affairs, The Torch, 1994-1999, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Accession 12-545 - National Museum of Natural History, Office of Public Affairs, Press Releases, 1992-2002, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Historic Smithsonian Home Pages on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine and on Archive-It
July is birthday celebration month for my family. There is at least one birthday every week, mine so happens to be today, my son’s next week, my daughters the following week, and of course we can’t forget Americas birthday on the 4th of July. So to say the least I have been making check lists non-stop making sure everything is in place. While doing this I thought I would draw on some inspiration through some of our photos we have at the Archives. Below is my part of my “To Do” party checklist, accompanied with photos I found in our collections.
1. Theme of the Party: I personally don’t do a theme type party because with my kids being so close in birthdays we have joint parties, and getting a boy and girl to agree on something at their age is about pointless. However here at the Smithsonian the birthday parties’ range from Smithsonian wide birthday parties to parties for exhibits and right on down to personal birthday parties for employees. To say the least the Smithsonian loves to celebrate birthdays.
2. Guest List: Having a soon to be 6 and 7 year old I find this one of the hardest parts for planning a party because I never know how small or big to have it. If you are like my daughter a small simple tea party birthday party would be perfectly fine. However if you are like my son, inviting everyone under the sun like the Smithsonian did during its 150th Birthday Celebration is more the way to go.
3. Cards: This is always one of my kid’s favorite things to do when it comes to birthdays. Standing in the card aisle playing every singing birthday card they can put their hands on is almost like Christmas for my kids. But I don’t think there is anything more personal and fun then creating your own card like the one that was presented to Helena Weiss for her birthday.
4. Cake: In my opinion, my kids would argue otherwise, the birthday cake is what makes or breaks a birthday party. I would have to say the cake from the Smithsonian’s 150th birthday and the cake from Mickey Mouse’s 60th birthday celebration are definitely crowd pleasers.
5. Activities: My kid’s favorite part of a party. Simple games such as pin the tail on the donkey or water balloon toss is sufficient enough for my kids now, but at the Smithsonian, we really like to throw a celebration. Native American ritual dancing and fireworks were just a few of the many activities that happened during the Smithsonian 150th birthday celebration.
Last insight on birthday parties, no matter how big or small the best thing to remember when celebrating a birthday is to have fun!
- Images from the Smithsonian's 150th birthday celebration, Smithsonian Institution Archives
This month marks the 45th anniversary of Smithsonian magazine. The subscription-only publication was initially available to Smithsonian Associates members for $10 per year. The first issue exceeded a circulation of 200,000 and was unique in that it encompassed science, arts, and the humanities in a single magazine. Subject matter in the April 1970 issue included the relationship between the Earth and humankind; the breeding of elephants on Ceylon; the destruction of the Pacific coral reefs by the crown-of-thorns starfish; the centennial of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; education in a multimedia environment; the University of Maryland's Black Studies program; the revival of the ancient craft of macramé; and overpopulation predictions by John B. Calhoun based upon experiments with rats and mice. The issue also included commentary by Secretary S. Dillon Ripley, book reviews, and a listing of Smithsonian events.
Edward K. Thompson served as the first editor of Smithsonian, c. 1969-1979, and was awarded the Joseph Henry Medal in 1973 for exceptional service to the Smithsonian Institution.
- Magazine Debuts (page 2), The Smithsonian Torch, April 1970
- Noxious Bogs and Amorous Elephants: Smithsonian's birth, 35 years ago, only hinted at the splendors to follow, Smithsonian magazine, November 2005
- Smithsonian magazine records, Smithsonian Institution Archives
With Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing a recent memory, and with the recent opening of the Renwick Gallery, here is a look back at an exhibition that was at the Renwick from February 9-April 29, 1973, titled: Objects for Preparing Food.
From the Introduction:
Almost as basic as food itself are the objects used for the preparation of food. Man's [sic] ingenuity and culture are reflected and expressed in the great variety of forms of food utensils.
The objects in the exhibition were grouped by processes (heating, cutting, etc.) to show basic functions common to all food preparation and to make visual comparisons between the varied utensils, regardless of their geographic or chronological occurrence.
- Record Unit 333 - National Museum of American Art and Portrait Gallery Library, Exhibition Records, circa 1910-1986, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
One of the questions most frequently asked of anyone with a badge on the National Mall is "Where is the Smithsonian?" Many visitors assume that the Smithsonian is a single building where they can see the 1903 Wright Flyer, the Ruby Slippers, and the Hope Diamond all under one roof.
The often confusing reality is that the Smithsonian is actually made up of 19 museums, the National Zoo, and 9 research centers. Many of the museums are along the National Mall, but others are scattered around Washington, DC and the surrounding region. There are even two Smithsonian museums in New York City and research facilities in locations as diverse as Massachusetts, Florida, Arizona, Panama, and Belize.
To address the question at the beginning of this post, the Visitor Information and Associates' Reception Center (now the Office of Visitor Services) published a flyer in March 1985 encouraging visitors to stop by the Smithsonian Institution Building (better known as "The Castle") for an orientation. The flyer – appropriately titled "Where is the Smithsonian?" – is illustrated with a frazzled woman attempting to find her way while dealing with two impatient children. On the back is a map of the museums along or near the National Mall.
The flyer was updated several times during the 1980s. Today, the Castle is still the place to go for an in-person orientation, but many visitors go to the Smithsonian's website to plan their trips. And for those who want that modern equivalent to carrying around a map, there's an app for that.
- Accession 14-034 - Office of Visitor Services, Publications, 1959, 1973-2013, Smithsonian Institution Archives
I was intrigued to receive a tweet from a digital colleague over at the NY Times pertaining to a family story that could very well be solved at the Archives. I’m continuously surprised at the variety of papers we hold here, but by now, I shouldn’t be given how far-reaching and varied the scope of the Smithsonian has been through history.
Back to the story.
THE elephant that looms large for every visitor to the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH)? Of course it has a personal connection to someone in the world! What visitors don’t realize is that there is a whole set of circumstances that brought Henry* to sit in his place of prominence in the rotunda of NMNH. The history of how our objects came to the Smithsonian is sometimes thoroughly, and other times, sparsely documented in our accession records. And since the Smithsonian rarely has had the funds to purchase collections, the stories are diverse and fascinating.
This tweet prompted a dive into Record Unit 305, Accession Records, 1834-1958 (accretions to 1976) that holds the primary documentation of the Smithsonian’s collections as well as information on collecting expeditions, Western U.S. exploration, and Smithsonian history. When reference archivist, Ellen Alers, brought the records to my office, she mentioned the State Department's involvement in this transaction, as well as other of our acquisitions. Sure enough, I found a letter from the American Consulate to Angola, Albert A. Rabida, to the State Department in Washington D.C. It reports that J.J. Fénykövi had visited the consulate and reported on the large bull elephant he hunted and shot in southeast Angola. The December 12, 1955 letter includes details on the size of the elephant, some biographical details on Fénykövi, as well as some insight into Fénykövi’s thoughts on what he intended to do with the specimen:
“Mr. Fenykovi said that he had furnished a giant sable antelope to the British Museum sometime ago and that he had never received any thanks or acknowledgement for his efforts. Accordingly, it is his intention to furnish the skin of this world record elephant to the Smithsonian Institution or to some other leading American museum of natural history…”
Now THIS is museum gossip at its best! We didn’t waste much time, and on January 6, 1956, United States National Museum (now National Museum of Natural History) Director, Remington Kellogg, cabled Fénykövi expressing our interest in acquiring the large bull elephant. Kellogg graciously offered to cover the shipping from Madrid to D.C.
I relayed these details to Jacob Harris via Twitter which is no small feat. Harris went off to confer with his father, Joseph Harris. The Harris family luckily had done an oral history with Maurice Fogler before he died, and even better, a transcript (a tip to those who looking to preserve their family’s history.) In the transcript, Fogler talks about his friend, a Hungarian engineer (Fénykövi), with whom he used to go partridge hunting in Spain. He also relays details about Fénykövi’s feelings towards the British Museum. These details were too similar to deny a likely connection between Fogler and Fénykövi.
Once the introduction between Fénykövi and the Smithsonian was made, a completely new tale begins which includes discoveries about the bull elephant based on a bullet found in its leg, the gigantic task of shipping and mounting it, a fabulous unveiling at the Natural History building, and a long-term relationship between Fénykövi and the Smithsonian. But, that is for another post.
I loved learning these details about an elephant that is beloved by many D.C. residents and Smithsonian visitors. I also was happy to help add a little evidence to family lore that will last generations.
*Henry is what some children have affectionately come to call the bull elephant. No doubt after the Smithsonian's first Secretary, Joseph Henry.
- Record Unit 305, Accession Records, 1834-1958 (accretions to 1976)
- How Uncle Maurice Saved the Smithsonian Elephant, Bigger Picture Blog
- Collections in Context, Bigger Picture Blog
Valentine's Day is just two days away, and if you haven't yet purchased a card for your loved one(s), the Archives is here to help! Just download and print one of the three cards below, fold it once horizontally and once vertically, sign it, and your done! Happy Valentine’s Day!