The Bureau of American Ethnology

The Bureau of American Ethnology was established in 1879 by an act of Congress to  transfer archives, records and materials relating to the Indians of North America from the Interior Department to the Smithsonian Institution. The Bureau's first director, John Wesley Powell, expanded the original mission to include: “…anthropologic research in America."

The Bureau carried out and sponsored ethnographic and archeological research. It also published the results in its own annual reports and in many miscellaneous bulletins. The Bureau prepared exhibits for expositions and collected anthropological artifacts for the Smithsonian United States National Museum.

In 1965, the Bureau merged with the Smithsonian's Department of Anthropology to form the Smithsonian Office of Anthropology within the United States National Museum (now the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History). In 1968, the Smithsonian Office of Anthropology archives became the National Anthropological Archives.