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The archives room in the U.S. National Museum (now the Arts & Industries Building) in the 1890s.The Special Collections Department's rare collections in natural history include approximately 10,000 volumes in the fields of anthropology, botany, zoology, paleontology, and geology/mineralogy. These collections originated with James Smithson's own library at the Institution's founding and grew through governmental transfers (such as those from the Institution's predecessor, the National Institute), international exchanges with other scientific institutions, purchases, and gifts.

Naturalist Spencer Fullerton Baird, the first Assistant Secretary for the Museum and later Secretary of the Institution, was assiduous in gathering at the Smithsonian the scientific literature needed for research in the natural sciences, despite the transfer of the bulk of the Smithsonian's original library collections to the Library of Congress in 1865. In the early 1880s Baird donated his own library to the newly-established U.S. National Museum, of which he was also the Director. Other Secretaries, curators, and researchers who followed him at the Museum - as well as private collectors and other patrons - have been similarly generous, with the result that our holdings are unusually deep and extensive in support of the National Museum of Natural History's particular research interests.

The primary work of Museum scientists is the classic collections-based research of taxonomy and systematics - the identification and classification of species. They provide the prerequisite basic knowledge for a variety of other sciences, including biodiversity studies, ecosystem and wildlife management, and endangered-species conservation.

Former Director Barbara J. Smith in the same room in the 1990s, when it was the Smithsonian Institution Libraries' Charles Coffin Jewett Room.Defined in brief as books published before 1840, the rare-book collections necessary to this work have grown and been housed in a multiplicity of locations over the past 150 years, primarily in Museum offices, cupboards, and divisional libraries. In the late 1970s Secretary S. Dillon Ripley established a centralized rare-book room in the care of SIL's Special Collections Department for about 5,000 of these rare natural-history books. Located in the original archives room of Baird's National Museum (now the Institution's Arts & Industries building), it was named the Charles Coffin Jewett Room, in honor of the Institution's first librarian. As lovely as it is, the room presented space limitations, environmental challenges, and logistical obstacles for the researchers. When a massive construction project at the National Museum of Natural History began in the mid-1990s, creating the possibility of additional library space, SIL determined to build a new facility to bring the rare natural-history books back to their home and merge them with the numerous smaller rare-book holdings still in the Museum's working libraries. The public-spiritedness and extraordinary generosity of Mr. Joseph F. Cullman 3rd enabled SIL to make the new rare-book room a thoroughly modern facility: large enough for future growth of the collections, secure and environmentally sound for the books, and convenient for the researchers. SIL takes great pleasure in naming the room the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History.

Mr. Cullman, of New York City, was Chairman (and after his retirement, Chairman emeritus) of Philip Morris Companies, Inc. With a life-long interest in environmental conservation and related issues, he served on the boards of the World Wildlife Fund and the Atlantic Salmon Foundation (US). He was also a long-term supporter of the Smithsonian, particularly as a Founding Member of the National Board of the Smithsonian Associates (1970), and of the SI Libraries, beginning in 1993 when he helped to create the S. Dillon Ripley Library Endowment. In 1997 he and his wife Joan established the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Endowment for the Preservation of Natural History Rare Books, which will provide handsomely for the care of the 10,000 volumes now in the Cullman Library of Natural History. Mr. and Mrs. Cullman both died in 2004 and will always be gratefully and fondly remembered at the Smithsonian Institution Libraries.

Leslie Overstreet (left) and Daria Wingreen unpacking the books from the Jewett Room in the new Cullman Library, August 2002.STAFF

Leslie K. Overstreet
Curator of Natural-History Rare Books

Daria Wingreen-Mason
Special Collections Library Technician


Telephone: 202.633.1184
Fax: 202.633.0219

Mailing Address:
Cullman Library
NHB CE-G15 / MRC 154
P.O. Box 37012
Smithsonian Institution
Washington DC 20013-7012

Fed Ex/UPS Address:
Cullman Library
10th & Constitution Ave., NW
Smithsonian Institution
Washington DC 20560


James Conaway. The Smithsonian: 150 Years of Adventure, Discovery, and Wonder. Washington DC: Smithsonian Books; New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995.

Ellis Yochelson. The National Museum of Natural History: 75 Years in the Natural History Building. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1985.

Smithsonian Institution Libraries. Rare Books and Special Collections in the Smithsonian Institution Libraries. Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1995.

"Natural History Rare Book Library Named for Joseph F. Cullman 3rd." Smithsonian Institution Libraries. Information. No.88 (Spring/Summer 2001): 1, 6.