The Smithsonian Institution's "Section of Photography"

Beginning the Collection

With the support of Secretary Langeley, the Smithsonian's Section of Photography was established in 1896. Assistant Secretary G. Brown Goode, and Thomas W. Smillie, the newly appointed Honorary Custodian of the Section, began to document the history of photography from its beginnings in 1839. The acquisition of fifty photographs from the 1896 Washington Salon for this new collection was the first major purchase of art photography by any museum in the United States. Smillie hoped to collect amateur photography from the Washington Salon yearly. The salon did not become the annual event the organizers had promised, but the Smithsonian has continued to collect and document amateur photography for a century.

Thomas W. SmillieThomas W. Smillie (1843-1917), whose dedication to the study of the history of photography was crucial to the creation of a national collection. He served as Smithsonian Official Photographer(1871-1917) and Honorary Custodian of the Section of Photography (1896-1917).
Facsimile of ticket Facsimile of ticket mounted near the photographs purchased for the Section of Photography from the 1896 Washington Salon.
G. Brown Goode Smithsonian Assistant Secretary G. Brown Goode (1851-1896) had great influence on the development of collections for the United States National Museum.

Step Left to see the previous photograph in detail. Step Back to see the whole wall again. Step Right to see the next panel in detail.