The Bureau of Ethnology (1879 - 1965) was a bureau of the United States government tasked with transferring the records, archives, and other materials relating to Native Americans from the Interior Department to the Smithsonian Institution. The bureau's visionary founding director, John Wesley Powell, saw the bureau's mission as a much broader endeavor. He believed from the start that the bureau's mission was 'to organize anthropologic research in America'. Under Powell's leadership, the bureau sponsored ethnographic, archaeological, and linguistic field research; organized research-intensive multi-year projects; promoted the fledgling discipline of anthropology; and initiated publication series, including its Annual Reports and Bulletins. The bureau also collected anthropological samples for the Smithsonian United States Museum and prepared exhibits for expositions. The bureau's name changed in 1897 to the Bureau of American Ethnology, indicating the scope of its work, and in 1965 the Bureau of American Ethnology merged with the Smithsonian's Department of Anthropology to for the Smithsonian Office of Anthropology within the United States National Museum (today known as the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History).

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