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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0060 DF ADM
Held at: Natural History Museum
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Date(s): 1881-1993
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 12 series
Name of creator(s): 'Director's Office | Natural History Museum
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

When the natural history departments of the British Museum moved to South Kensington between 1880 and 1882, they brought with them little in the way of a central administration. Thomas Nichols, the first Assistant Secretary, and Charles Edward Fagan (1855-1921) who succeeded him in 1889, had only a small clerical staff to help them and had to deal with financial as well as personnel and establishments matters. Administratively they were placed in the 'Director's Office'. The prolonged ill health of Sir William Flower during 1896-1898 and E Ray Lankester's emphasis of scientific research at the expense of administration greatly added to the Assistant Secretary's work load. Following Lankester's enforced retirement at the end of 1907, Fagan virtually ran the Museum until Fletcher's appointment as Director nineteen months later. Fagan was succeeded by George Frederick Herbert Smith (1872-1953) from the Department of Mineralogy in 1921, at which time he was assisted by a Staff Officer, five clerks and a shorthand typist. The British Museum Act, 1930, formally gave care and custody of the natural history departments to the Director of the British Museum (Natural History) and considerably increased the responsibilities of the head of the Museum's administration. In recognition of this the post was renamed Secretary and given a salary only slightly inferior to that of the Secretary of the British Museum. An Accountant, Thomas Wooddisse (b 1893), was appointed to take charge of financial matters, and he succeeded Smith in 1935. An Assistant Secretary was added to the staff in 1954.

By the time Arthur Percy Coleman (b 1922) was appointed Secretary in 1965 administrative staff numbered fifteen, and in 1976 the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) was set up with Raymond Saunders (b 1933) at its head as Museum Secretary and Establishment Officer and a staff of thirty five, including an Accountant and a Personnel Officer.

In 1994 the Front of House section was separated out to become the Department of Visitor Services, and DAS became the Department of Corporate Services (DCS). In 1997 it was decided that the Museum would be better served if the administration was not run by a single generalist administrator, but rather by senior professionals in the three main areas of Finance, Personnel (taking over the formal responsibilities of the Establishment Officer) and Estates, who would report to the Director. As a result, the following year DCS was replaced by three separate administrative departments: Finance, Human Resources and Estates.


Scope and content/abstract:

Central administration papers of the Natural History Museum comprising: DF1000 Director's Office: Reports and Letters; DF1001 Director's Office: Museum Secretary's Outgoing Letters; DF1002 Director's Office: Numerical Register of Incoming Letters; DF1003 Director's Office: Alphabetical Register of Incoming Letters; DF1004 Director's Office: Case and Policy Files; DF1005 Director's Office: Personnel Files; DF1006 Director's Office: Salary and Wage Records; DF1007 Director's Office: Registers of Payable Orders; DF1008 Director's Office: Journals, Ledgers, Abstracts and other Financial Records; DF1009 Director's Office: Establishment Officer's Files; DF1010 Director's Office: Papers of the General Foreman; DF1011 Director's Office: Printed Forms.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

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:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

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

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

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

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