By: Colleen O’Brien, ARB Student Assistant
The acronym BAE does not refer to a common slang term amongst young folks or even to the Danish word for “poop.” Rather, in this instance it is a term which means Bureau of American Ethnology.
How did the Bureau of American Ethnology come to be and why is it important?
In 1879, as the discipline of anthropology was taking hold in universities across America, Congress established an agency called the Bureau of Ethnology. There is some controversy over the exact purpose for which this department was founded, but one explanation is that the Department of the Interior needed to transfer archives and other materials to the Smithsonian Institution because the two entities were set to merge shortly thereafter. Thus Congress decided to create a department to ease this change. The second reason, on the other hand, states the Bureau of Ethnology was established as a purely research division of the Smithsonian. Regardless, John Wesley Powell, the Bureau’s key founder, believed it should be used to promote anthropological research in the Americas. In fact, in 1897, the Bureau of Ethnology changed its name to Bureau of American Ethnology in order to limit geographic interests. Continue reading