Graphical version

Natural History Museum



Reference code(s): GB 0060 DF DIR

Held at: Natural History Museum


Date(s): 1838-1990

Level of description: Collection (fonds)

Extent: 10 series

Name of creator(s): Director's Office | Natural History Museum


Administrative/Biographical history:

In the 1880s the Director's Office consisted of the Director himself, the Assistant Secretary, the Assistant in charge of the General Library, clerks and attendants. To this were added an attendant for the Index Museum (1885), a staff officer (1922), a photographer (1923), a guide lecturer (1927), an accountant (1931), superintendents and publications sales staff (1940), and an exhibitions officer (1946). In 1970 the Director's Office numbered 77, and was responsible for administration, finance, establishments and security, as well as the Exhibition, Education, Photographic and Publications sections and the General Library. A Department of Central Services was set up in 1971 under the Deputy Director, initially consisting of the biometrics, electronic data processing and electron microscopy units, but incorporating the General Library in 1973, the Photographic Section in 1974, and Publications in 1976. The Department of Public Service was set up in 1975, taking over the old Exhibition and Education sections, and finally, the Department of Administrative Services was set up under the Museum Secretary in 1976. This left a Directorate of only six members. The archives of the Director's Office are divided into four parts: The Director, Central Administration, the General Library, Exhibitions and Education sections, and Publications Section.

The position and duties of the Director of the Museum were laid down in the different editions of the Statutes and rules for the British Museum published by the Trustees over the years. From 1856 to 1883 the natural history departments were under the general control of a Superintendent, who was himself one of the subordinate officers who assisted the Principal Librarian. The 1886 edition of the Statutes, drawn up after the move to South Kensington, gave the 'Director of the Museum (Natural History)' equality with the Principal Librarian in most respects. The 1898 edition removed the power of summoning Trustees meetings from the Director of the Natural History Departments, but otherwise left matters unchanged. In 1908 however, following the stormy directorship of E Ray Lankester (1847-1929), the rules were revised to make the Director of the Natural History Departments subject to the general authority of the Principal Librarian. This clause was retained in the 1922 revision, and only disappeared in 1932 when the Director of The Natural History Museum was once again accorded equal status to the Principal Librarian. Following the passing of the British Museum Act, 1963, the Director became responsible for the newly independent Natural History Museum to the new Board of Trustees. A Deputy Director post was created in 1971 to improve surveillance of the Museum's scientific work, and Ronald Henderson Hedley appointed.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of the Director's Office comprising: DF930 The Principal Librarian's correspondence and files; DF931 Official papers of the Superintendent; DF932 Correspondence of the Director; DF933 The Director's subject files; DF934 The northern boundary; DF935 Departmental annual reports; DF936 Museum notices; DF937 Press notices; DF938 The Index Museum: correspondence and papers; DF939 Papers and correspondence of the Secretary.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

As outlined in the Scope and Content.

Conditions governing access:

By appointment with the Archivist, by email to or by post to the Museum Archivist, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD.

Conditions governing reproduction:

At the Archivist's discretion. Photocopying service available. Digital photography (without flash) permitted for research purposes on completion of a photography permit form.

Finding aids:

Detailed catalogue



Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Transferred from the Director's Office and central administration units.



Archivist's note: Entry copied from the Natural History Museum online catalogue by Sarah Drewery.

Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: Sep 2008

Museum administration | Museum policy

Personal names

Corporate names
Natural History Museum