The Bureau of Ethnology was created in 1879 to continue studies of the American Indians begun by the Geological Survey of the Rocky Mountain Region. It was renamed the Bureau of American Ethnology and placed under the Smithsonian in 1897, but it enjoyed considerable freedom of action under John Wesley Powell, its Director (1879-1902). After that time it was more closely regulated by the Smithsonian. Its concern remained research on the Indians of the Western hemisphere. After Powell its Directors (some Acting) were William Henry Holmes, 1902-1909; Frederick Webb Hodge, 1910-1918; Jesse Walter Fewkes, 1918-1928; Matthew William Stirling, 1928-1957; Frank H. H. Roberts, 1957-1964; and Henry B. Collins, 1964-1965.
The Department of Anthropology also pursued its work from the Institution's early days, and under a variety of organizational forms. Its objective was to collect anthropological specimens, and its scope was world-wide, especially in the growth of its non-Western collections after World War II. In 1965, as part of a reorganization of the National Museum of Natural History, both BAE and the Department of Anthropology were merged into a Smithsonian Office of Anthropology. By 1968 the Department of Anthropology had reappeared, and the former activities of the Bureau of American Ethnology were incorporated into its structure, most notably the National Anthropological Archives.
Head Curators and Chairs of the Department have included William Henry Holmes, 1897-1902, 1910-1920; Otis Tufton Mason, (acting) 1902-1903) and Head, 1904-1908; Walter Hough, (acting) 1908-1909, 1920-1923, and Head, 1923-1935; Frank M. Setzler, 1935-1960; Thomas Dale Stewart, 1960-1962; Waldo R. Wedel, 1963-1965; Richard B. Woodbury, 1965-1967; Saul H. Riesenberg, 1967-1970; Clifford Evans, 1970-1975; William W. Fitzhugh, 1975-1980; Douglas H. Ubelaker, 1980-1984; Adrienne L. Kaeppler, 1985-1988; and Donald J. Ortner, 1988- .
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Agency History. Record 217825