Holmes, William Henry

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Holmes, William Henry

William Henry Holmes, 1846–1933, American geologist, anthropologist, and museum director, b. Harrison co., Ohio. He was internationally recognized for his work in museum science. In 1872 he became an artist with the F. V. Hayden survey, and after it was absorbed (1879) into the U.S. Geological Survey, he was appointed geologist. He contributed pioneer reports on the phenomena of Yellowstone Park, the classic illustrative material in the famous Grand Canyon atlas, and reports of much geological reconnaissance work in Colorado. Holmes was a noted mountain climber, and peaks in Yellowstone Park and the Henry Mts. of Utah were later named in his honor. While directing the reconnaissance survey of the San Juan River district of SE Utah in 1875, he was fascinated by the cliff-dwelling remains in the region and increasingly turned to that field, becoming one of the great pioneers of Southwestern archaeology. His Art in Shell of the American Indians (1883), Pottery of the Ancient Pueblos (1886), and many essays on Native American textiles, were among the first serious contributions to the study of Native American art. His work in ceramics was especially important in the study of ethnographical relationships. Holmes left the Geological Survey in 1889 to become archaeologist of the Bureau of American Ethnology, and from 1902 to 1909 he served as its chief. From 1910 to 1920 he was chief curator of anthropology at the U.S. National Museum. In 1910 he also became curator of the National Gallery of Art and from 1920 served as its director. His later books included the important Handbook of Aboriginal American Antiquities (1919).

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