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American Museum of Natural History Department of Forestry and General Botany papers

Identifier: DR 080

Scope and Contents

The Department of Forestry and General Botany papers pertain to the planning, construction, and exhibit design of the Landscape and North American Forest Halls and the planning of the Botany Hall. Most material concerns the planning for exhibit design, construction, and costs as well as notes, edits, and sketches concerning particular exhibits. There is correspondence with outside institutions such as the United States Department of the Interior and the National Park Service regarding exhibit content and requests for samples, photographs, and brochures. Also present are sketches of exhibition layout, mural elements, and floor plan drawings. There are budgets, estimates, and receipts for construction of the different exhibits. For some exhibits there are topographic and geologic maps with the locations on which the dioramas are based. There are also department records and internal correspondence including receipts for books ordered by the department, accessions, and inquiries into the department’s history.

Materials are mostly arranged by the exhibit they pertain to. The majority of material is about the planning of the Landscape Hall and the North American Forest Hall. There is also a proposal and materials associated with a Botany Hall, most notably twelve prints from Calvin’s Exhibits in Photosynthesis at Brussels in 1958 that illustrate plant biology and the mechanisms of photosynthesis.

Most materials are loosely organized and folders are titled for their predominant content; however as many exhibits were being simultaneously constructed, there are some instances where general information regarding construction is filed with materials pertaining to a specific exhibit.

BOX 1 Item 1 contains material predominantly from 1954-1957. It contains sections on the exhibits of Food Web, How Man Harvests, and How Nature Harvests the Forests including specifics for the exhibits on insects, fire, and wind. The content relates to the logistics of designing and constructing the exhibits, including: plant/animal specimens to include and in what numbers; preliminary sketches of concepts; input about case design; suggested text; budgets and breakdown of costs. There is also correspondence regarding research for exhibits as well as inter-departmental correspondence and notes. Additionally there are academic pieces regarding insect tree relationships. Also includes final text for exhibit. The majority of correspondence is from Jack McCormick and Richard Pough of the American Museum of Natural History to different persons associated with the United States Forest Service. Folder 2 contains material from 1954-1958 pertaining to the Food Web and How Man Harvests exhibits. Correspondence is between Pough and McCormick to University of Arizona professors, United States Forest Service, and the United States Department of the Interior/National Park Service offices from Arizona, Missouri, Arkansas, New Hampshire, Minnesota. Letters are filed by topics that are denoted by a letter that sometimes corresponds to the first letter of the topic, but not always. Folder 3 contains information for the construction of the Giant Cactus exhibit. It includes an outline for the giant cactus diorama including species present. There is a United States Geologic Survey map of Arizona (Pima County), the Tucson quadrangle, including pencil-location of diorama. There is also a Saguaro National Monument fire control map, 2 newspaper clippings from Vyacheslav M. Molotov visiting museum and photographed in front of the “Giant Cactus” exhibit, and 4 tourist pamphlets regarding Saguaro National Monument. Folder 4 contains the outline for a Botany Hall, by Murray F. Buell, 1954. It contains five identical copies. Folder 5 contains notes on conferences and preliminary exhibit outlines for the Hall of North American Forests, 1955. Includes lists of display units, costs of particular sections, an outline of the ecology units and their concepts, materials still needed as of 1955, cost estimates, and suggested text. Folder 6 contains records for the construction of How Man Uses the Forest exhibit, 1955-1957. It includes the budget for constructing the exhibit, changes to the exhibit design, comments on exhibition design, and a draft of the exhibit text. Folder 7 contains the Warburg Hall label text. There are no dates. It contains the plans, diagrams, and notes for the Stissing Mountain exhibit including specifics of text. Also includes text for Geologic History and Soil Types. Folder 8 contains a photograph of a 1,650 year old pine tree, and a pamphlet on Giant Sequoias. Folder 9 relates to the How We Use Our Wood exhibit. It contains correspondence, labels, text, cost estimates, and notes on agreed upon work from 1955-1958. Folder 10 contains information gathered about tree rings from 1955-1958. There is correspondence and a photograph relating to the bristlecone pine tree section, and correspondence regarding the life history of a hemlock tree and how to read it in the tree rings. Folder 11 contains information for the Elm exhibit. Folder 12 pertains to the Forest Protection exhibit and includes notes, literature, and labels as well as information on pests, fires, and statistics on the causes of forest fires from 1954. Folder 13 contains drawings by Alexander K. V. Seidel for the North American Forestry Hall. Title of exhibit is given as S. Carolina. Includes sketches and final drawings that seem to be plans for label illustrations.

BOX 2 Folder 14 contains mounted color prints of the illustrations used in Calvin’s Exhibits in Photosynthesis at Brussels in 1958. The illustrations are of plant morphologies (3), chloroplasts, grana, solar radiation, light absorption in leaves, light absorption in algae, light absorption in pigments, special assimilation in marine algae, and hand-illustrated text on fungi. Folder also contains “The Story of the Landscape” by Harry K. Svenson and Farida A. Wiley. Item 15 contains information on the Soil Horizons exhibit from 1953-1958. It includes the soils group final check, forest soils estimates, text for Soil Horizons, correspondence regarding murals, text, and funding. Specific sections pertain to notes on forest animals, a,b, and c soil horizons, fungi, bacteria, and soil animals. Also contains a map of New Jersey land capability classes for Warren county, notes on different soil series in different areas, and information on financing the exhibit including potential donations from TWA Airlines. Item 16 contains information obtained for the construction of the Hall of Local Landscapes, Felix M. Warburg Hall. It includes a Harvard forest models pamphlet from 1936 as well as information on the Warburg Hall construction, common native trees of New York State, and articles on the rise and fall of industries in New York State related to forests such as tanning. There are detailed descriptions of the seasons in the woods exhibit in landscape hall, a trail guide for visiting the Felix M. Warburg, a topographic map including location of Stissing Mountain diorama, a 1955 pest control schedule from the department of entomology, botany, and pomology at University of Massachusetts Amherst.

BOX 3 Item 17 contains information about the Life of the Forest Floor exhibit. It includes exhibit text and index cards with species to be included in the exhibit. Materials date from 1958. Item 18 contains miscellaneous department records from 1949-1958. It includes a list of photographic materials received, a list of kodachromes from glacier park and cove forest, and accession records. There is a section on the Jesup Collection from 1954 regarding plans to reduce the size of some specimens. There is also mention of a new section of the department to include a herbarium. Also includes dried botanical specimens from Chicago Museum of Natural History for the Hall of Ecology (1952), and a list of department purchased books from 1949-1956. Folder 19 contains records for the Department of Conservation and General Ecology including book purchases from 1952-1956, pricing lists, receipts, and budgets. Also contains a suggested outline for “An Introduction to the Forms of Vegetation” by Richard H. Whittaker in 1956.

Item 20 contains research for the Botany Hall. It includes notes on botany texts, correspondence regarding fungi research, pamphlets and conference advertisements for biology publications, specifically plant physiology and plant pathology. There are preliminary suggestions for a Hall of Botany from 1956 that includes preliminary exhibition outlines and ideas. Folder 21 contains loose papers from the binder of item 4.


  • 1949-1960
  • Majority of material found within 1953-1958


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

The Department of Forestry and General Botany was established in 1946. The Department of Forestry and General Botany was previously known as the Department of Forestry and Conservation from 1938-1945, and the Department of Woods and Forestry from 1910-1937. The Department of Woods and Forestry was established in 1910 to curate the Jesup Collection of North American Woods.

The Jesup Collection of North American Woods was created shortly after Morris K. Jesup became president of the museum in 1881. Originally known as the Jesup Collection of North American Woods, it was curated by President Jesup until his death in 1908. After Jesup’s death, the Department of Woods and Forestry was established to curate the collection. The collection was housed in the Jesup Woods Hall, which was later known as the Hall of Forestry and the Jesup Hall of North American Woods (used interchangeably from 1908-1946). The collection was curated by the Department of Woods and Forestry from 1910 until 1939, when the department was retitled the Department of Forestry and Conservation. The department underwent further transformation in 1946 and was renamed the Department of Forestry and General Botany.

In 1946, Henry Knute Svenson (1897-1986), formerly Curator of the Herbarium at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, was appointed Consultant in the Department of Forestry and General Botany. Svenson oversaw the planning and construction of the Landscape Hall, also known as the Felix M. Warburg Memorial Hall of Ecology, from 1949-1951. This hall was constructed to provide insight, education, and appreciation for the native landscape of New York State.

In 1951, the Department of Forestry and General Botany began construction of the Hall of North American Forests. In 1953, the Department of Forestry and General Botany was transformed into the Department of Conservation and General Ecology. Richard Pough, Chairman of the Department, and his assistant Jack McCormick took over construction of the Hall of North American Forests. In 1956 the Department of Conservation and General Ecology became the Department of Vegetation Studies, and in 1958 the Hall of North American Forests opened to the public.

After the Hall of North American Forests opened in 1958, plans began to prepare exhibits for a Botany Hall, and a proposal for the Botany Hall was created in 1959.


1.5 Linear Feet (3 boxes)

Language of Materials



Good condition. Papers are in three-ring binders or non-archival envelopes.

Physical Description

Handwritten and typed letters, photographs (2), prints (10), maps (4), pamphlets, sketches

American Museum of Natural History Department of Forestry and General Botany Papers, 1949-1960 (bulk 1953-1958)
Hannah Begley
January 2012
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation provided support to make this finding aid available in ArchivesSpace (2016-2017). Finding aid was created with support from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Hidden Collections grant, 2010.

Repository Details

Part of the Museum Archives at the Gottesman Research Library Repository

American Museum of Natural History
200 Central Park West
New York NY 10024 USA
(212) 769-5420