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American Museum of Natural History Department of Public Instruction outreach and communication

Identifier: DR 055

Scope and Contents

This collection represents six years (1906 to 1912) in the life of the Department of Public Education (at that time, the Department of Public Instruction). The collection includes letters to and from its Curator, George H. Sherwood, and various documents concerning the Department’s Nature Study Collection and visits to the Museum by schoolchildren.


  • 1906-1912


Language of Materials


Access Conditions and Restrictions

Requests to use the collection should be made in advance to the Senior Special Collections Librarian, who may be contacted at 212-769-5420 or at [email protected]

Historical Note

1881 – The Department of Public Instruction began its work. Its first curator, Professor Albert S. Bickmore, “…conceived and planned a system to make the Museum a factor of large usefulness by taking an active part in the education of the pupils of our public schools.”

1906 – George H. Sherwood is appointed Curator of the Department of Public Education. Nature Study collections are created and loaned to public schools. Lecture series begin for school children, teachers and the public. .

1906 – The Museum appoints an Instructor who works with school classes visiting the museum and supervises the newly created Children’s Room.

1911 – 870 public school teachers are invited to the Museum for the first Teachers Day, part of a drive to expand this department.

1912 – The educational methods of the Museum receive attention from educators in the United States and abroad.


American Museum of Natural History, Annual Reports, 1906-1908, 1911, 1912 (QH70.U52N39).

American Museum of Natural History, Special Collections, Vertical Files, Sherwood, George H.

Osborn, Henry Fairfield. The American Museum and Education. (QH70.U52 N4578 1925).

Osborn, Henry Fairfield. The American Museum of Natural History : its origin, its history, the growth of its departments to December 31, 1909. (QH70.U52N458 1911a).



George H. Sherwood joined the American Museum of Natural History in 1901 as Assistant Curator of the Department of Invertebrate Zoology. In 1906, he became Curator of the Department of Public Education, a post he held until 1924 when he became Acting Director and the Director of the Museum. In 1935, he resigned as Director due to poor health and returned to the Department of Public Education as Curator-in-Chief.

Of all his work in the Museum, he was most interested in education, particularly public education. By 1934, there had been more than 30 million museum contacts with schoolchildren.

During his time as Curator of the Department of Education, the department expanded to include classes in Museum Instruction for teachers; lectures for the public and members of the museum; lectures for children (“The Development of New York City,” “Hiawatha’s People.”); and lantern slides and nature collections that were loaned to public schools via “electric delivery wagons.”


0.5 Linear Feet

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Interdepartmental transfer from AMNH Department of Education, November, 1995, with: AMNH Department of Public Health: Exhibits, 1914-1916 and AMNH American Museum War Relief Association (AMWRA), 1917-1919.

Physical Description

Typed and handwritten notes and letters.

American Museum of Natural History Department of Public Instruction outreach and communication, 1906-1912
Blossom Gelernter, December, 2006
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Language of description note
The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation provided support to make this finding aid available in ArchivesSpace (2016-2017). Minimal level collection record created with support from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Hidden Collections grant, 2010.

Repository Details

Part of the Research Library Special Collections Repository

American Museum of Natural History
Library Services, Special Collections
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York 10024-5192 USA US
(212) 769-5420