History of the Collections
The Smithsonian Institution's commitment to Anthropological research and collections dates back to its first secretary, Joseph Henry in 1846. In the early years of the Institution, the collection was established with the artifacts assembled by 19th century exploring expeditions, geographic surveys of the continent, diplomatic missions, and transfers from government collections that pre-dated the Smithsonian. In the late 19th and in the 20th century, both artifact and archival collections expanded through private donations, museum purchases, and the fieldwork of anthropologists in the Museum and in the former Bureau of American Ethnology (1879-1965). Today, the collections continue to grow, mainly with donations from individuals and transfers from other institutions. Together, these collections document the cultural, linguistic, and biological diversity of humankind, past and present.