July 06, 2011
By Elisabeth Grant
The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is celebrating its centennial. To look back over the past 100 years, the museum has created a section on its website to highlight items from its collections, present accounts of scientific expeditions, tell stories and collect oral histories of those who’ve worked at the museum over the years, and more.
Take a look through the profiles of the people who’ve been a part of the National Museum of Natural History for the past 100 years to get a glimpse behind the scenes. These employees and contributors have helped create exhibits, lead expeditions, and offer all sorts of expertise to enrich the visitor experience at the Natural History museum. Below we’ve picked out a few of the people profiled on the site, and encourage you to peruse the Celebrating 100 Years section on your own.
Following the completion of his presidential term in 1909, Theodore Roosevelt embarked on an expedition to Africa that was co-sponsored by the Smithsonian. He was accompanied by his son Kermit, who acted as the expedition’s official photographer, Dr. Edgar A. Mearns, a surgeon and field naturalist, two zoologists, J. Alden Loring and Edmund Heller, and photographer and filmmaker Cherry Keaton. The group collected thousands of specimens for the museum. Watch two films from the trip, one that features the Zulu people and Roosevelt at camp, and another showing a stream crossing.
Tichkematse, a Cheyenne Indian and naturalist who prepared bird and mammal samples, worked for the Smithsonian from 1879 to 1881. He also participated in an expedition to Florida to meet with the Seminole tribe, taught researchers Indian sign language, and illustrated aspects of his tribe’s culture (buffalo hunts, battles, and daily life).
Though Robert Kennicott began his work with the Smithsonian in the 1850s he’s quite literally still a part of the museum. After unexpectedly and mysteriously dying in an expedition to the Yukon he was returned to his boyhood home and buried. Then, in 2001 forensic analysts unearthed his bones to try and determine his cause of death, and his remains have since found their place at the National Museum of Natural History. Before his premature death, Kennicott collected and catalogued hundreds of birds, mammals, fish, snakes, plants, and more.
Hear more oral histories and learn the stories of others, like zoologist and marine specialist Mary Rice, taxidermist Watson Perrygo, Museum Support Center employee Elizabeth Dietrich, and grass specialist Mary Agnes Chase, at the NMNH site.