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Abstract

For more than three decades, from its founding in 1846, the Smithsonian Institution served, not only as a focus for what federal geology there was, but also published scholarly papers on earth sciences, and helped inform the general public about the earth and its history. The educational activity of exhibiting collections increased greatly with the opening of a distinct museum building in 1881. Starting from 1879, the growing collections of the U.S. Geological Survey served as a bond between that organization and the Smithsonian. The opening of a new and far larger museum building in 1910 stimulated further growth of this relationship, but there was little increase in scientific staff of the U.S. National Museum for the next four decades; most of the geologists at the Museum were paid by the Department of the Interior. Despite its limited staff, the Museum performed its function well as a national repository; the mineralogical collections in particular grew to worldwide prominence. Surmounting difficulties of little financial or technical support, a few dedicated individuals on the museum staff published significant papers in the 1930s and 1940s. In the post-war decades, the Museum grew dramatically both in physical size for collection storage and in scientific staff. It is now a preeminent research institution; the principal areas of strength in geological research are in meteoritics, volcanology, and the systematic study of many fossil groups, although contributions are being made in many other subjects. The collections of geological objects cannot be duplicated; the institution will continue

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