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Records, 1926-1930, 1954-1988

National Museum of American History (U.S.) Division of Armed Forces History
Houchins, Lee
Jackson, Melvin H
Langley, Harold D
Lundeberg, Philip K
Peterson, Mendel
Drake, Francis 1540?-1596
National Museum of American History (U.S.) Hall of Naval History
Sperry Gyrocompass
United States Navy
National Museum of American History (U.S.) Division of Naval History
Constitution (Frigate)
Philadelphia (Gunboat)
Nautilus (Submarine : SS-73)
Constellation (Frigate)
United States National Museum Section of Historical Relics
National Museum of American History (U.S.) Department of Social and Cultural History
National Museum of American History (U.S.) Department of the History of Science and Technology
1926-1930, 1954-1988
Floor plans
Collection descriptions
Black-and-white photographs
Physical Description
10.5 cu. ft. (10 record storage boxes) (1 document box)
Local number
SIA RU000383
The record unit chiefly concerns the Division of Naval History, one component in the Division of Armed Forces History. For an administrative history of the Division's Military History component, see Record Unit 396.
Beginning in the 1880s, naval collections were curated by the Section of Historical Relics, United States National Museum, and its various successors through to the Division of History. In 1935, the Division established the Military and Naval Collection, and, in 1947, it formed a Section of Naval History. The Section was given divisional status in 1948 and was placed under the direction of Mendel L. Peterson. Additional details on the pre-1980 history of the Division are located in the introduction to the Department of Social and Cultural History. After 1980, the Divisions of Naval and Military History were placed in the new Department of the History of Science and Technology, and, in 1984, they were merged to form the Division of Armed Forces History.
The main function of the Division of Naval History was to trace the historical development of the United States Navy, beginning with maritime operations during the colonial and Revolutionary War period through subsequent years of change leading to the advent of the modern navy. Research focused mainly on United States naval personnel, vessels, weapons, uniforms, insignia, navigational instruments, and flags. Division staff were also involved in marine archeology, research, attending conferences, and collecting maritime artifacts.
Staff of the Division included Mendel L. Peterson, Acting Curator of Naval History, 1958-1960; Philip K. Lundeberg, Associate Curator, 1959-1961, Curator of Naval History, 1962-1984, Curator of Armed Forces History, 1984- ; Melvin H. Jackson, Associate Curator of Naval History, 1962-1965; Harold D. Langley, Curator of Naval History, 1969-1984, Curator of Armed Forces History, 1984- ; and Lee Houchins, Research Associate of Naval History, 1978-1984.
For a description of the record series of which these materials are a part, refer to "Forms part of" above.
(1) Division of Naval History, 1960-1975, accession number 81-023; (2) Division of Naval History, 1960-1980, accession number 85-202; (3) Division of Naval History, 1977-1988, accession number 90-097
Most of the documentation in this record unit concerns the activities of the Division of Naval History but also includes some records pertaining to the Division of Armed Forces History. These records consist of correspondence and memoranda documenting research activities, planning exhibitions for the Hall of Naval History, construction of ship models such as the USS Constitution, arrangements for acquiring the gunboat Philadelphia, studies of the submarine Nautilus and the Sperry gyrocompass, presentation in 1965 of Sir Francis Drake's Cadiz Letter to the Museum, and involvement with the restoration of the USS Constellation. Also included are administrative files of the Division; public inquiries; blueprints for the Hall of Naval History; exhibition scripts; and photographs of ship models, naval vessels, exhibitions, and staff.
Repository Loc.
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Capital Gallery, Suite 3000, MRC 507; 600 Maryland Avenue, SW; Washington, DC 20024-2520
Data Source
Smithsonian Institution Archives