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REPORT OF THE PROGRESS AND CONDITION OF THE UNITED STATES NATIONAL MUSEUM FOR THE YEAR ENDED JUNE 30, 1925
By ALEXANDER WETMORE
Assistant Secretary, Smithsonian Institution
The Congress of the United States in the act of August 10, 1846, founding the Smithsonian Institution, recognized that an opportunity was afforded, in carrying out the design of Smithson for the increase and diffusion of knowledge, to provide for the custody of the Museum of the Nation. To this new establishment was, therefore, intrusted the care and development of the national collections. At first the cost of maintaining this activity was paid from the Smithsonian income; then for a time the Government bore a share, but since 1877 Congress has provided for the expenses of the Museum.
The museum idea was fundamental in the organic act establishing the Smithsonian Institution, which was based upon a 12-years' discussion in Congress and the advice of the most distinguished scientific men, educators, and intellectual leaders of the Nation during the years 1834 to 1846. It is interesting to note how broad and comprehensive were the views which actuated the Congress in determining the scope of the Museum, a fact especially remarkable when it is recalled that at that date no museum of considerable size existed in the United States, and the museums of England and of the continent of Europe, although containing many rich collections, were still to a large extent without a developed plan.
The Congress which passed the act of foundation enumerated as within the scope of the Museum "all objects of art and of foreign and curious research and all objects of natural history, plants, and geological and mineralogical specimens belonging to the United States," thus indicating the Museum at the very outset as the Museum of the United States and as one of the widest range in its activities. It was appreciated that additions would be necessary
to the collections then in existence, and provision was made for their increase by the exchange of duplicate specimens, by donations, and by other means.
The maintenance of the Museum was long ago assumed by Congress, the Smithsonian Institution taking upon itself only so much of the necessary responsibility for its administration as is required to coordinate it with its other activities. The Museum as a part of the Smithsonian is an integral part of a broad organization for increase and diffusion of knowledge, for scientific research, for cooperation with departments of the Government, with universities and scientific societies in America, and with all scientific institutions and men abroad who seek interchange of views with men of science in the United States.
Since 1846 the only material changes in the scope of the National Museum have been (1) the addition of a department of American history, intended to illustrate, by an appropriate assemblage of objects, important events, the domestic life of the country from the colonial period to the present time, and the lives of distinguished personages, and (2) provision, in 1920, for the separate administration of the National Gallery of Art as a coordinate unit under the Smithsonian Institution. From 1906 to 1920 the gallery was administered as the department of fine arts of the Museum.
The development of the Museum has been greatest in those subjects which the conditions of the past three-quarters of a century have made most fruitful-the natural history, geology, ethnology, and archeology of the United States, which have been supplemented by many collections from other countries. Opportunities for acquisition in these various directions have been mainly brought about through the activities of the scientific and economic surveys of the Government, many of which have been the direct outgrowths of earlier explorations stimulated or directed by the Smithsonian Institution. The Centennial Exhibition of 1876 afforded opportunity for establishing a department of industrial arts, of which the fullest advantage was taken. The historical series has been greatly augmented since 1918 by large collections illustrative of the World War, and large additions to exhibits in aircraft and kindred subjects have come in this same period.
Public interest in the growth and development of the National Museum is reflected in a steady increase of recorded attendance, and in correspondents and requests for information.
OPERATIONS OF THE YEAR
The maintenance of the National Museum for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1925, was provided for in the following regular items of appropriation carried in the executive and independent offices act approved June 7, 1924:
Increase in the total sum appropriated was due mainly to the inauguration of salary schedules provided in the reclassification act of 1923, which became effective July 1, 1924, and carried an addition of $44,534 to the salary rolls. Subsequent reallocations of employees by the Personnel Classification Board led to increase in salary allotments of approximately $9,000 beyond the estimated amount, which came from current funds since it was not included in the original salary allocation. The amounts available for operating expenses were thus actually less than during the preceding year. A decrease in production value of the amount allotted for printing and binding may also be noted since the reclassification act alluded to, carried definite increases in salaries in the Government Printing Office which caused commensurate increase in cost of services rendered by that establishment.
Funds available for administration were barely sufficient for actual necessities in the way of supplies when expended with the most careful economy, and made wholly inadequate provision for needs that arise constantly in connection with the care and preservation of the steadily growing collections. Lack of funds was further felt through inability to purchase specimens to round out available materials, and to provide curators with needed temporary assistance in routine work. The results obtained in curatorial work and exhibition have been accomplished only through unremitting endeavor on the part of the staff.
Satisfactory growth of the collections of the Museum is recorded in the accessions or separate lots of material received during the year, and in the number of specimens that these represent. There were 2,020 accessions during the year, an increase of 294 over the previous year, comprising 363,490 specimens, or 385 more than during the year 1924, a total well over the average for the past several years. The specimens received were divided among the various departments or divisions as follows: Anthropology, 4,444; geology, 79,674; biology, 262,365 (of which 116,636 were plants); arts and industries, and history, 17,007, of which 145 were assigned to mechanical technology, 33 to mineral technology, 271 to textiles, 7,493 to organic chemistry, 425 to wood technology, 17 to foods, 635 to medicine, 802 to graphic arts, 616 to the Loeb collection of chemical types, and 6,570 to history. Additional material to the extent of 1,232 lots, was received from various sources, mainly from private individuals, for examination, identification and report. The material identified as always has been of a highly miscellaneous character. Of the specimens submitted for this purpose the Museum has been permitted to retain certain things of value to it, while others have been returned to the senders.
As in previous years, duplicate specimens available, to the numbe of 23,244, were distributed as gifts to educational institutions, or were utilized in exchanges for specimens needed toward completion of our own collections. The gifts distributed totaling 2,099 specimens included 5 of the sets of mollusks prepared for distribution to schools, each of which contained approximately 149 carefully labeled shells; the remainder were sent in response to special requests and to meet particular needs. Many desirable specimens were secured through the distribution of the 21,145 specimens sent out as exchanges. A third class of distributed material comprised specimens forwarded by request to specialists and students for study in which connection 33,966 specimens were sent out as loans during the year.
The additions to the collections during the year contained many things of special importance, the details of which are given in the departmental reports forming part of this volume.
The anthropological collections were materially increased during the year both from private and governmental sources. As a result of the Marsh-Darien expedition, there was received through R. O. Marsh, of Brockport, N. Y., an exceptional collection of ethnological material which is supplemented by a collection from the same general region presented by William Markham. The addition of 124 California Indian baskets, bequeathed by the late Miss Ella F.