G. Brown Goode

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George Brown Goode, very interested in fishes. Director of the Smithsonian Institute.

George Brown Goode, 1851 - 1896

George Brown Goode was born in New Albany, Indiana in 1851. His mother died when he was one and a half. His father remarried and the family moved to Amenia, New York. He received his early education at home from private tutors. He then attended Wesleyan University, in Middletown, Connecticut where he studied natural science. He then attended Harvard Universityfor a short time.

After Harvard, Goode took charge of the Natural History Museum at Wesleyan University. Goode also started to volunteer for the U.S. Fish Commission. While working for the U.S. Fish Commission he met Spencer Baird who became a great teacher and partner to Goode. Goode and Baird spent many years working in museums together. Following Baird’s death, Goode was put in charge of the museum at the Smithsonian Institution.

Goode was very interested in fish. He went on three scientific expeditions to research fish of the deep sea. This was called oceanic ichthyology and little was known about it at the time. He went on many expeditions with his fellow scientist Talton Bean. Talton was interested in ichthyologic taxonomy. On his first expedition he studied the primitive chimera. On his second expedition he observed and studied flatfish and halibut. They learned about its many aggressive behaviors. His observations helped the fisheries in the United States learn more about the vicious fish. His third expedition included the discovery of gulpers. These were fish that could eat fish twice their size. These fish lived in the deep seas and were very interesting to Goode. This discovery changed modern ichthyologic anatomy.

From his experiences in the field he wrote many books. His first publication was Catalog of the Fishes of the Bermudas. This was a record of the fish he had observed while in Bermuda. He also wrote a giant report called The Fisheries and Fishing Industries of the United States. He used the census information to write these detailed reports on American fish. His most important publication was called Oceanic Ichthyology, which gave detailed information about fish of the high seas. He shows his fine writing skills in his book American Fishes in which he summarized his knowledge of American fish.

Goode was married to Sarah Lamison Ford Judd. They had four children together. Goode continued to work in Museums and on ichthyology until his death from pneumonia in 1896. References:

“George Brown Goode.” National Museum of Natural History [1] 10 Oct. 2001 “George Brown Goode.” Manila Science High School [2] 10 Oct. 2001

—Mark Abbenhaus, 2001

George Brown Goode (1851-1896), ichthyologist and museum administrator, received his B.S. degree from Wesleyan University in 1870. After a year of postgraduate study with Louis Agassiz at Harvard University, Goode returned to Wesleyan to direct the Judd Museum of Natural History.

In 1872, Goode met Spencer F. Baird, Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and United States Fish Commissioner. He quickly became Baird’s chief pupil and assistant. In 1873, Goode was appointed Assistant Curator in the United States National Museum (USNM), a position he retained until 1877 when his title was changed to Curator. In 1881, when the new USNM building was completed, Goode was promoted to Assistant Director. On January 12, 1887, Goode was appointed Assistant Secretary in charge of the USNM, and he remained the chief administrative officer of the museum until his death.

Goode’s primary scientific interest was ichthyology, and he published both specialized and popular works on fish and fisheries. In addition to his duties at the USNM, Goode also served in various capacities for the United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries. After Baird’s death in 1887, Goode assumed the position of Fish Commissioner until January 1888.

Goode was regarded as the premier American museum administrator of his era. In 1881, he issued Circular No. 1 of the National Museum which set forth a comprehensive scheme of organization for the museum. Goode was involved in designing and installing Smithsonian and Fish Commission exhibits at many of the international expositions held during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Goode was also a historian, bibliographer, and genealogist, and he published several papers on the history of American science. Selected quotes on the purpose and function of museums from G. Brown Goode:

“The people’s museum should be much more than a house full of specimens in glass cases. It should be a house full of ideas. . . .” Museum History and Museums of History, p. 306

“The museum cultivates the powers of observation, and the casual visitor even makes discoveries for himself, and, under the guidance of the labels, forms his own impression. In the library one studies the impressions of others.” Museum History and Museums of History, p. 310

“The museum of the future must stand side by side with the library and the laboratory, as a part of the teaching equipment of the college and university, and in the great cities cooperate with the public library as one of the principal agencies for the enlightenment of the people.” Museums of the Future, p. 332

“The museum…is the most powerful and useful auxiliary of all systems of teaching by means of object lessons.” Museums of the Future, p. 322

“The museum likewise must, in order to perform its proper functions, contribute to the advancement of learning through the increase as well as through the diffusion of knowledge.” Museums of the Future, p. 337

Quotes taken from: Goode, George Brown, The Origins of Natural Science in America, edited by Sally Gregory Kohlstedt, Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991.



The untimely death of George Brown Goode has left a great break in the ranks of the scientific men of America. One of the most accurate and devoted of students, the ablest exponent of museum methods, a man of the most exalted personal character, Doctor Goode occupied a unique position in the development of American science.

George Brown Goode was born in New Albany, Indiana, on February 13, 1851, and died of pneumonia at his home in Lanier Heights in Washington City on September 6, 1896. According to Doctor Marcus Benjamin, to whom I am indebted for many of the details of this sketch:

"Doctor Goode was of Colonial descent. His family lived in Virginia, and he traced with pride his paternal line to John Goode, who came to that colony prior to 1660, and settled four miles from the present site of Richmond, on an estate named `Whitby.' John Goode was one of the advisers of Bacon in 1676, in the first armed uprising of the Americans against the oppression of royal authority. On his mother's side he was descended from Jasper Crane, who came to New England before 1630, and afterwards settled near the present site of Newark, New Jersey. Doctor Goode's father was Francis Collier Goode, who married, in 1850, Sarah Woodruff Crane, and their distinguished son was born at the home of his maternal grandmother."

In 1857 Doctor Goode's parents moved to Amenia, in New York State, where the boy passed his early youth, and where he was prepared for college. In due time young Goode was matriculated in Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, where he graduated in 1870, at the too early age of nineteen.

The fixed curriculum of the college gave him little opportunity for the studies in which he was chiefly interested, and his standing in the conventional branches on which the higher education was then supposed to depend was not unusually high. He was, however, regarded as "a man exceptionally promising for work" in natural history.

Doctor Goode spent part of the year of 1870 in graduate work in Harvard, and there fell under the stimulating influence of the greatest of teachers of science, Louis Agassiz. Before the year was over he was recalled to Middletown to take charge of the Museum of Natural Science then just erected by Orange Judd. His work in Judd Hall was a prelude to his reorganization of the National Museum in Washington, an institution which will always show in its classification and arrangement the traces of his master hand.

In 1872 he first met Professor Baird in Eastport, Maine, and in 1873, while at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in Portland, Maine, he renewed his acquaintance. Professor Baird, with his characteristic insight into the ambitions and possibilities of promising young men, - one of his notable qualities, - invited Doctor Goode to aid in the work of the newly organized Fish Commission. At that time Professor Baird was Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in charge of the National Museum, and also United States Fish Commissioner.

The organizations were managed in similar fashion and all their activities directed to the same high ends. Very soon Doctor Goode was brought into the service of them both. In the summer he was employed by the Fish Commission in investigations and explorations along the Atlantic Coast. In the winter he divided his time between Wesleyan University and the National Museum, until the former institution was reluctantly compelled in 1877 to wholly give him up. Till that date his only compensation for work done in Washington was found in duplicate specimens of fishes and other animals, which in turn were presented by him to the museum in Middletown.

In 1887 he became Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in charge of the National Museum. On the death of Professor Baird, he became for a time United States Fish Commissioner, holding the office without pay until a change in the law permitted the appointment of a separate salaried head. In his later years Mr. Goode devoted his whole energies to museum administration, a kind of work for which no one in the world has ever shown greater aptitude. Two important publications, 1 "Museums of the Future" and "Principles of Museum Administration," admirably embody his views and experiences in this regard. [1 "The Museums of the Future." Report of the United States National Museum, 1889, page 427. This paper was originally delivered as a lecture before the Brooklyn Institute, on February 28, 1889. "The Principles of Museum Administration." Annual Report of the Museums Association, 1895, reprinted as octavo pamphlet of 73 pages.

In addition to the foregoing, Doctor Goode published the following papers on Museum Administration: "Museum History and Museums of History," "Papers of the American Historical Association," Volume II, 1889, page 251 (495); "Genesis of the National Museum." Report of the United States National Museum, 1891, page 273. In this connection it is also proper to mention his "Annual Reports" as director of the United States National Museum, beginning with the year 1881.] His appreciation of the importance of such work is characteristically shown in his dedication of an interesting genus of deep-sea fishes to "Ulysses Aldrovandi, of Bologna, the founder of the first natural history museum."

His interest in museum administration caused a large amount of "exposition work" to be entrusted to his hands. An exposition is a temporary museum with a distinctly educational purpose. It can be made a mere public fair on a large scale, or it can be made a source of public education. In Doctor Goode's hands an exhibition of material was always made to teach some lesson. He had charge, under Professor Baird, of the Smithsonian exhibits in the Centennial Exhibition of 1876, in Philadelphia. He served as United States Commissioner in the Fisheries Exhibition held in Berlin in 1880, and in London in 1883. He was a member of the Board of Management of the government exhibit in the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, and also prepared the general plan of classification adopted for the exhibition. 1["First Draft of a System of Classification for the World's Columbian Exposition," submitted to the President of the World's Columbian Commission. Report of the United States National Museum, 1891, page 649.] He was equally active in minor expositions held in New Orleans, Cincinnati, Louisville, Atlanta, and elsewhere. He was also concerned in the Columbian Historical Exposition held in Madrid 1892-'93, and for part of the time acted as Commissioner-General for the United States. 2 ["The Report of the United States Commission to the Columbian Historical Exposition at Madrid, 1892-'93, with Special Papers," Washington, 1895, was prepared under Doctor Goode's direction.] His services in that connection were recognized by the conferment of the order of Isabella th Catholic, with the rank of Commander. From the Fisheries Exposition in London he received a medal in honor of his services to the science of ichthyology.

Doctor Goode was always deeply interested in the historical and biographical side of science, and in the personality, the hopes, and the sorrows of those who had preceded him in the study of fishes and other animals. This showed itself in sympathetic sketches of those who had to do with the beginnings of American science as well as with the dedication of new genera to those who had done honor to themselves by honest work in times when good work was not easy, and was not valued by the world. Among those thus recognized by him was Thomas Harriot, of Roanoke (an associate of Raleigh), who published the first work in English on American natural history.

His interest in the biographical side of science led him to the scientific side of biography. From boyhood he was interested in genealogy. His only family records were published by him under the title of "Virginia Cousins." 1 ["Virginia Cousins. A study of the ancestry and posterity of John Goode, of Whitby, a Virginia colonist of the Seventeenth Century, with notes upon related families. A key to Southern Genealogy, and a history of the English surname Gode, Goud, Goode, or Good, from 1148 to 1887.

By G. Brown Goode, with a preface by R. A. Brock, secretary of the Virginia and Southern Historical Societies." Richmond, Virginia: J. W. Randolph & English, MDCCCLXXXVII. Quarto, XXXVI + 526 pages, 54 plates.] This has been regarded as a model genealogical monograph. Doctor Goode believed that the way to do any piece of work is to do it thoroughly. Nothing crude or incoherent ever left his pen.

Doctor goode was one of the founders of the American Historical Association, and a member of its executive council from 1889 until his death. He contributed to its proceedings in 1889 his valuable paper on the "Origin of the National Scientific and Educational Institutions of the United States." He was also a member of the "Southern Historical Society," organized in 1896. Much of his leisure during his last two summers was given to the preparation of the material that is used in the present volume, which was his project, and which when published will be a monument to his knowledge of science in this country during the first half-century of the existence of the Smithsonian Institution.

Doctor Goode was one of the founders of the Society of the Sons of the American Revolution in the District of Columbia, and after filling various offices was, in 1894, made President. He was also Vice-President of the Society of the Sons of the Revolution, and Lieutenant-Governor of the Society of Colonial Wars in the District of Columbia.

He was very prominent in the organization and conduct of scientific societies, which he regarded as valuable agencies in the spread of scientific knowledge. He had been President both of the Philosophical Society and the Biological Society of Washington. He was elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 873, and to the National Academy of Sciences in 1888. He was also a member of the Zoological Society of London. His work in science was recognized in 1886 by the degree of Ph. D. From the University of Indiana, his native State. It was the fortune of the present writer to accept as a thesis from him the "Catalogue of the Fishes of the Bermudas," and to move the granting of this degree. His relation to general culture and executive work was recognized by the Wesleyan University by the degree of LL.D conferred in 1888.

The writer first met Doctor Goode in 1874, while he was engaged in work for the United States Fish Commission in Noank, Connecticut. He was then a young man of scholarly appearance, winning manners, and a very enthusiastic student of fishes. In body he was of medium height, rather slender, and very active. His countenance was intellectual, and he seemed always to have a very definite idea of what he wished to do.

Our first meeting was in connection with an effort on his part to find the difference between the two genera of fishes called Ceratacanthus and Alutera. At this time I was greatly impressed with the accuracy and neatness of his work, and especially with his love of what may be called the literary side of science, - a side too often neglected by scientific men. He detested an inaccuracy, a misspelled name, or a slovenly record, as he would have despised any other vice. Indeed, in all his work and relations moral purity and scientific accuracy were one and the same thing.

He had inherited or acquired "the Puritan conscience," and applied it not only to lapses of personal integrity, but to weaknesses and slovenliness of all sorts. Hence he became in Washington not only a power in scientific matters, but a source of moral strength to the community. His influence is felt in the Museum not only in the wisdom of its organization, but in the personal character of its body of curators. The irresponsible life of Bohemia is not favorable to good work in science, and the men he chose as associates belong to another order.

As to Doctor Goode's moral influence and youthful characteristics, the following extracts from a private letter of Professor Otis T. Mason, Curator of Ethnology in the United States National Museum, will be found valuable:

"Two characteristics of the man fixed themselves upon my mind indelibly: I found him to be intensely conscientious, and I could see that he was a young man who not only wished to live a correct life himself, but abhorred the association of evil men.

"Another characteristic which forced itself upon me was his devotion to the museum side of scientific investigation. He wrote a beautiful hand, and on one occasion he told me that it was just as much the duty of a scientific investigator to write a good hand and spell his names correctly, so that there would be no mistake in the label, as it was for him to make his investigations accurately. You will find, if you will look over some of the specimens which he marked at that time, beautiful numerals, clear and distinct, so that there is no mistaking one from the other.

"Again, I discovered the pedagogic feeling to be very strong in him, and the interests of the public no less that of the investigator were constantly before his mind. Indeed, there was nothing about Doctor Goode in his admirable management of the Museum in later years that did not make its appearance to some extent when he had the work to do with his own hands. The germ of our present discipline manifested itself in the discipline which he exerted over his own conduct when he was junior assistant instead of director.

"About the time that Doctor Goode came to the Museum, I undertook to arrange the ethnological collections. I can remember the delight which it gave him to consider a classification in which the activities of mankind were divided into genera and species subject to the laws of natural history, of evolution, and geographic surroundings. The development of the Department of Arts and Industries has been the result of these early studies."

Doctor Goode had a wonderful power of analyzing the relations or contents of any group of activities, or of any objects of study. This showed itself notably in his two catalogues 1 [1"Classification of the Collection to Illustrate the Animal Resources of the United States. A list of substances derived from the animal kingdom, with synopsis of the useful and injurious animals and a classification of the methods of capture and utilization." Washington, 1876. "Bulletin Number 6, United States National Museum." "Catalogue of the Collection to Illustrate the Animal Resources and the Fisheries of the United States, exhibited at Philadelphia in 1876 by the Smithsonian Institution and the United States Fish Commission, and forming a part of the United States National Museum." Washington, 1879. "Bulletin No. 14, United States National Museum."] of collections illustrating the animal resources of the United States. These catalogues were written with reference to the arrangement of materials for the exhibits of the Smithsonian Institution and the United States Fish Commission at the Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia. "It was," says Doctor Gill, in his admirable biographical sketch, 2 [2 Science, New Series, Volume IV, 1896, page 665.] "the ability that was manifested in these catalogues and the work incidental to their preparation that especially arrested the attention of Professor Baird and marked the author as one well adapted for the direction of a great museum. For signal success in such direction special qualifications are requisite. Only some of them are a mind well trained in analytical as well as synthetic methods, an artistic sense, critical ability, and multifarious knowledge, but above all the knowledge of men and how to deal with them. Perhaps no one has ever combined, in more harmonious proportions, such qualifications than G. Brown Goode. In him the National Museum of the United States, and the world at large have lost one of the greatest of museum administrators."

The most striking character of Doctor Goode's scientific papers was perhaps their scholarly accuracy and good taste. He never wrote a paper carelessly. He was never engaged in any controversy, and he rarely made a statement which had later to be withdrawn. Yet no one was more ready to acknowledge an error, if one were made, and none showed greater willingness to recognize the good work of others. The literature even of the most out-of-the-way branch of zoological research had a great fascination for him, and he found in bibliography and in the records of the past workers in science a charm scarcely inferior to that of original observation and research. In his later years administrative duties occupied more and more of his time, restricting the opportunities for his own studies. He seemed, however, to have as great delight in the encouragement he could give to the work of others.

The great work of his life - "Oceanic Ichthyology" - was, however, written during the period of his directorship of the National Museum, and was published but a month before his death. Almost simultaneous with this were other important publications of the National Museum, which were his also in a sense, for they would never have been undertaken except for his urgent wish and encouragement. If a personal word may be pardoned, "The Fishes of North and Middle America," which closely followed "Oceanic Ichthyology," would never have been written except for my friend's repeated insistence and generous help.

In the earlier days of the scientific activities of the Smithsonian Institution, there was scarcely a young naturalist of serious purposes in the land who had not in some way received help and encouragement from Professor Baird. With equally unselfish effectiveness and lack of ostentation, Doctor Goode was also in different ways a source of aid and inspiration to all of his scientific contemporaries. The influence of the National Museum for good in the United States has been great in a degree far out of proportion to the sums of money it has had to expend. It has not been a Washington institution, but its influence has been national.

The first recorded scientific paper of Doctor Goode is a note 1 [1 The American Naturalist, Volume V, page 487.] on the occurrence of the bill-fish in fresh water in the Connecticut River. The next is a critical discussion of the answers to the question "Do snakes swallow their young?" In this paper he shows that there is good reason to believe that in certain viviparous snakes, the young seek refuge in the stomach of the mother when frightened, and that they come out when the reason for their retreat has passed.

The first of many technical and descriptive papers on fishes was the "Catalogue of the Fishes of the Bermudas," 2 [2 Bulletin Number 5, United States National Museum."] published in 1876. This is a model record of field observations and is one of the best of local catalogues. Doctor Goode retained his interest in this outpost of the great West Indian fauna, and from time to time recorded the various additions made to his first Bermudan catalogue.

After this followed a large number of papers on fishes, chiefly descriptions of species or monographs of groups. The descriptive papers were nearly all written in association with his excellent friend, Doctor Tarleton H. Bean, then Curator of Fishes in the National Museum.

In monographic work Doctor Goode took the deepest interest, and he delighted especially in the collection of historic data concerning groups of species. The quaint or poetical features of such work were never overlooked by him. Notable among these monographs are those of the Menhaden, the Trunk-fishes, and the Sword-fishes.

The economic side of science also interested him more and more. That scientific knowledge could add to human wealth or comfort was no reproach in his eyes. In his notable monograph of the Menhaden, 1[1 "The Natural and Economical History of the Menhaden." Contained in Appendix A of Part 5 of "Report of United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries," for 1877, Washington, 1879.] the economic value as food or manure of this plebeian fish received the careful attention which he had given to the problems of pure science.

Doctor Goode's power in organizing and coordinating practical investigations was shown in his monumental work 2 [2 "The Fisheries and Fishery Industry of the United States." Prepared through the cooperation of the Commissioner of Fisheries and the Superintendent of the Tenth Census, Washington, 1884.] on the American fisheries for the tenth Census in 1880. The preparation of the record of the fisheries and associated aquatic industries was placed in his hands by Francis A. Walker, Superintendent of the Census. Under Doctor Goode's direction skilled investigators were sent to every part of the coast and inland waters of the country. A general survey of the aquatic resources, actual and possible, of the United States, was attempted, and statistics of every kind were secured on a grand scale. His directions to field agents, still unpublished, were models in their way, and no possible source of information was neglected by him. The results of all these special reports were received and condensed by Doctor Goode into seven large quarto volumes, with a great number of plates. The first section of the "Natural History of Aquatic Animals" was a contribution of the greatest value. Although the information it gives was obtained from many sources, through various hands, it was so coordinated and unified that it forms a harmonious treatise , while at the same time the individual helpers are fully recognized.

All these works, according to Doctor Goode , belong to Lamb's category of "books which are not books." His expressed ambition to write a book not of this kind, one that people would buy and read, found actuality at last. In 1888 appeared his "American Fishes," a popular treatise on the game and food fishes of North America, 1 [1 "American Fishes." A popular treatise upon the Game and Food Fishes of North America, with especial reference to habits and methods of capture. With numerous illustrations including a colored frontispiece. New York, 1888.] a work without a rival because of its readableness, its scientific accuracy, and the excellence of its text. The work is notable for its quotations, which include almost all the bright things which have been said about fishes by poets and anglers and philosophers from the time of Aristotle to that of Izaak Walton and Thoreau. In this book more than in any other Doctor Goode shows himself a literary artist. The love of fine expression which might have made a poet of him was developed rather in the collection of the bright words and charming verse of others than in the production of poetry of his own. While limiting himself in this volume to fragments of prose and verse in praise of fishes and their haunts, it is evident that these treasures were brought forth from a mind well stored with riches of many fields of literature.

The most important of Doctor Goode's scientific studies have relation to the fishes of the deep sea. In all this work he was associated with Doctor Bean, and the studies of many years were brought together in the splendid summary of all that is known of the fishes of the ocean depths and the open sea. This forms two large quarto volumes, - text and atlas, - published shortly before Doctor Goode's death under the name of "Oceanic Ichthyology." 1 [1 Oceanic Ichthyology. A treatise on Deep-Sea and Pelagic Fishes of the World, based chiefly upon the collections made by the steamers Blake, Albatross, and Fish Hawk in the Northwestern Atlantic, with an Atlas containing 417 figures." 2 volumes, I., 553 pages, II., 123 plates, Washington, 1895.] The exploration of the deep sea has been mostly undertaken within the last twenty years. The monumental work of the Challenger, under the direction of the British government, has laid the foundation of our knowledge of its fauna. The Travailleur and the Talisman, under French auspices, and the Investigator, under direction of the government of India, have added greatly added to our stock of information. The great work of Goode and Bean includes the results of these and various minor expeditions, while through the collections of the Albatross, the Blake, and the Fish Hawk they have made great additions to the knowledge of the subject. Indeed, the work of the Albatross in deep-sea exploration is second in importance only to that of the Challenger. In the work of the exact discrimination of genera and species, this work shows a distinct advance over all other treatises on the abyssal fishes. The fact of the existence of definite though large faunal areas in the deep seas was first recognized by Doctor Goode, and has been carefully worked out in a memoir still unpublished. In "Oceanic Ichthyology" and the minor papers preceding it, Goode and Bean have made known numerous new forms of deep-sea fishes, naming in the last-mentioned work alone one hundred and fifty-six new species and fifty-five new general belonging to the abyssal fauna of the Atlantic.

But Doctor Goode's interest and sympathy were not confined to the branch of science in which he was a master. He had a broad acquantaince with general natural history, with crustaceans, reptiles, birds, and mammals. On all these groups he published occasional notes. Doctor Gill tells us that "the flowering plants also enlisted much of his attention, and his excursions into the fields and woods were enlivened by a knowledge of the objects he met with." "Anthropology," Doctor Gill continues, "naturally secured a due proportion of his regards, and, indeed, his catalogues trulyembraced the outlines of a system of the science."

Doctor Goode was, as already stated, always very greatly interested in bibliography. No work to him was ever tedious, if it were possible to make it accurate. He had well under way the catalogues of the writings of many American naturalists among others those of Doctor Gill and the present writer. Two of these are already published under the Smithsonian Institution as Bulletins of the United States Nationa Museum, being numbers of a series of "Bibliographies of American Naturalists." The first contains the writings of Spencer Fullerton Baird (1883). Another is devoted to Charles Girard (1891), who was an associate of Professor Baird, though for his later years resident in Paris. A bibliography of the English ornithologist, Philip Lutley Sclater (1896), has been issued since Doctor Goode's death.

Doctor Gill tells us that "a gigantic work in the same line had been projected by him and most of the material collected; it was no less than a complete bibliography of Ichthyology, including the name of all genera and species published as new. Whether this can be completed by another hand remains to be seen. While the work is a great desideratum very few would be willing to undertake it or even arrange the matter already collected for publication. In no way may Ichthyology, at least, more feel the loss of Goode than in the loss of the complete bibliography."

Doctor Goode was married on November 27, 1877, to Sarah Lamson Ford Judd, daughter of Orange Judd, the well-known publisher, and the founder of Orange Judd Hall at Wesleyan University in which Doctor Goode's career as a museum administrator began. The married life of Doctor and Mrs. Goode was a very happy one. The wife and four children are still living.

As to the personal qualities of Doctor Goode, I cannot do better than to quote the following words of two of his warmest friends. Doctor S. P. Langley wrote: "I have never known a more perfectly true, sincere, and loyal character than Doctor Goode's; or a man who with a better judgment of other men, or greater ability in moulding their purposes to his own, used these powers to such uniformly disinterested ends, so that he could maintain the discipline of a great establishment like the National Museum, while retaining the personal affection of every subordinate."

"His disposition," says Doctor Theodore Gill, " was a bright and sunny one, and he ingratiated himself in the affections of his friends in a marked degree. He had a hearty way of meeting intimates, and a caressing cast of the arm over the shoulder of such an one often followed sympathetic intercourse. But in spite of his gentleness, firmness and vigor in action became manifest when occasion called for them."

Of all American naturalists Doctor Goode was the most methodical, the most conscientious and the most artistic. And of them all no one was more beloved by his fellows. Neither in his life nor after his death was ever an unkind word said of him.

Goode, George Brown, 1897. "The Smithsonian Institution 1846-1896. The History of Its First Half Century." Pp. 501-515. City of Washington.

Code of Ethics for Museums


Ethical codes evolve in response to changing conditions, values, and ideas. A professional code of ethics must, therefore, be periodically updated. It must also rest upon widely shared values. Although the operating environment of museums grows more complex each year, the root value for museums, the tie that connects all of us together despite our diversity, is the commitment to serving people, both present and future generations. This value guided the creation of and remains the most fundamental principle in the following Code of Ethics for Museums.

Code of Ethics for Museums

Museums make their unique contribution to the public by collecting, preserving, and interpreting the things of this world. Historically, they have owned and used natural objects, living and nonliving, and all manner of human artifacts to advance knowledge and nourish the human spirit. Today, the range of their special interests reflects the scope of human vision. Their missions include collecting and preserving, as well as exhibiting and educating with materials not only owned but also borrowed and fabricated for these ends. Their numbers include both governmental and private museums of anthropology, art history and natural history, aquariums, arboreta, art centers, botanical gardens, children's museums, historic sites, nature centers, planetariums, science and technology centers, and zoos. The museum universe in the United States includes both collecting and noncollecting institutions. Although diverse in their missions, they have in common their nonprofit form of organization and a commitment of service to the public. Their collections and/or the objects they borrow or fabricate are the basis for research, exhibits, and programs that invite public participation.

Taken as a whole, museum collections and exhibition materials represent the world's natural and cultural common wealth. As stewards of that wealth, museums are compelled to advance an understanding of all natural forms and of the human experience. It is incumbent on museums to be resources for humankind and in all their activities to foster an informed appreciation of the rich and diverse world we have inherited. It is also incumbent upon them to preserve that inheritance for posterity.

Museums in the United States are grounded in the tradition of public service. They are organized as public trusts, holding their collections and information as a benefit for those they were established to serve. Members of their governing authority, employees, and volunteers are committed to the interests of these beneficiaries. The law provides the basic framework for museum operations. As nonprofit institutions, museums comply with applicable local, state, and federal laws and international conventions, as well as with the specific legal standards governing trust responsibilities. This Code of Ethics for Museums takes that compliance as given. But legal standards are a minimum. Museums and those responsible for them must do more than avoid legal liability, they must take affirmative steps to maintain their integrity so as to warrant public confidence. They must act not only legally but also ethically. This Code of Ethics for Museums, therefore, outlines ethical standards that frequently exceed legal minimums.

Loyalty to the mission of the museum and to the public it serves is the essence of museum work, whether volunteer or paid. Where conflicts of interest arise — actual, potential, or perceived — the duty of loyalty must never be compromised. No individual may use his or her position in a museum for personal gain or to benefit another at the expense of the museum, its mission, its reputation, and the society it serves.

For museums, public service is paramount. To affirm that ethic and to elaborate its application to their governance, collections, and programs, the American Association of Museums promulgates this Code of Ethics for Museums. In subscribing to this code, museums assume responsibility for the actions of members of their governing authority, employees, and volunteers in the performance of museum-related duties. Museums, thereby, affirm their chartered purpose, ensure the prudent application of their resources, enhance their effectiveness, and maintain public confidence. This collective endeavor strengthens museum work and the contributions of museums to society — present and future.


Museum governance in its various forms is a public trust responsible for the institution's service to society. The governing authority protects and enhances the museum's collections and programs and its physical, human, and financial resources. It ensures that all these resources support the museum's mission, respond to the pluralism of society, and respect the diversity of the natural and cultural common wealth.

Thus, the governing authority ensures that:

  • all those who work for or on behalf of a museum understand and support its mission and public trust responsibilities
  • its members understand and fulfill their trusteeship and act corporately, not as individuals
  • the museum's collections and programs and its physical, human, and financial resources are protected, maintained, and developed in support of the museum's mission
  • it is responsive to and represents the interests of society
  • it maintains the relationship with staff in which shared roles are recognized and separate responsibilities respected
  • working relationships among trustees, employees, and volunteers are based on equity and mutual respect
  • professional standards and practices inform and guide museum operations
  • policies are articulated and prudent oversight is practiced
  • governance promotes the public good rather than individual financial gain.


The distinctive character of museum ethics derives from the ownership, care, and use of objects, specimens, and living collections representing the world's natural and cultural common wealth. This stewardship of collections entails the highest public trust and carries with it the presumption of rightful ownership, permanence, care, documentation, accessibility, and responsible disposal.

Thus, the museum ensures that:

  • collections in its custody support its mission and public trust responsibilities
  • collections in its custody are lawfully held, protected, secure, unencumbered, cared for, and preserved
  • collections in its custody are accounted for and documented
  • access to the collections and related information is permitted and regulated
  • acquisition, disposal, and loan activities are conducted in a manner that respects the protection and preservation of natural and cultural resources and discourages illicit trade in such materials
  • acquisition, disposal, and loan activities conform to its mission and public trust responsibilities
  • disposal of collections through sale, trade, or research activities is solely for the advancement of the museum's mission. Proceeds from the sale of nonliving collections are to be used consistent with the established standards of the museum's discipline, but in no event shall they be used for anything other than acquisition or direct care of collections.
  • the unique and special nature of human remains and funerary and sacred objects is recognized as the basis of all decisions concerning such collections
  • collections-related activities promote the public good rather than individual financial gain
  • competing claims of ownership that may be asserted in connection with objects in its custody should be handled openly, seriously, responsively and with respect for the dignity of all parties involved.


Museums serve society by advancing an understanding and appreciation of the natural and cultural common wealth through exhibitions, research, scholarship, publications, and educational activities. These programs further the museum's mission and are responsive to the concerns, interests, and needs of society.

Thus, the museum ensures that:

  • programs support its mission and public trust responsibilities
  • programs are founded on scholarship and marked by intellectual integrity
  • programs are accessible and encourage participation of the widest possible audience consistent with its mission and resources
  • programs respect pluralistic values, traditions, and concerns
  • revenue-producing activities and activities that involve relationships with external entities are compatible with the museum's mission and support its public trust responsibilities
  • programs promote the public good rather than individual financial gain.


This Code of Ethics for Museums was adopted by the Board of Directors of the American Association of Museums on November 12, 1993. The AAM Board of Directors recommends that each nonprofit museum member of the American Association of Museums adopt and promulgate its separate code of ethics, applying the Code of Ethics for Museums to its own institutional setting.

A Committee on Ethics, nominated by the president of the AAM and confirmed by the Board of Directors, will be charged with two responsibilities:

  • establishing programs of information, education, and assistance to guide museums in developing their own codes of ethics
  • reviewing the Code of Ethics for Museums and periodically recommending refinements and revisions to the Board of Directors.


In 1987 the Council of the American Association of Museums determined to revise the association's 1978 statement on ethics. The impetus for revision was recognition throughout the American museum community that the statement needed to be refined and strengthened in light of the expanded role of museums in society and a heightened awareness that the collection, preservation, and interpretation of natural and cultural heritages involve issues of significant concern to the American people.

Following a series of group discussions and commentary by members of the AAM Council, the Accreditation Commission, and museum leaders throughout the country, the president of AAM appointed an Ethics Task Force to prepare a code of ethics. In its work, the Ethics Task Force was committed to codifying the common understanding of ethics in the museum profession and to establishing a framework within which each institution could develop its own code. For guidance, the task force looked to the tradition of museum ethics and drew inspiration from AAM's first code of ethics, published in 1925 as Code of Ethics for Museum Workers, which states in its preface:

Museums, in the broadest sense, are institutions which hold their possessions in trust for mankind and for the future welfare of the [human] race. Their value is in direct proportion to the service they render the emotional and intellectual life of the people. The life of a museum worker is essentially one of service.

This commitment to service derived from nineteenth-century notions of the advancement and dissemination of knowledge that informed the founding documents of America's museums. George Brown Goode, a noted zoologist and first head of the United States National Museum, declared in 1889:

The museums of the future in this democratic land should be adapted to the needs of the mechanic, the factory operator, the day laborer, the salesman, and the clerk, as much as to those of the professional man and the man of leisure. . . . In short, the public museum is, first of all, for the benefit of the public.

John Cotton Dana, an early twentieth-century museum leader and director of the Newark Museum, promoted the concept of museum work as public service in essays with titles such as "Increasing the Usefulness of Museums" and "A Museum of Service." Dana believed that museums did not exist solely to gather and preserve collections. For him, they were important centers of enlightenment.

By the 1940s, Theodore Low, a strong proponent of museum education, detected a new concentration in the museum profession on scholarship and methodology. These concerns are reflected in Museum Ethics, published by AAM in 1978, which elaborated on relationships among staff, management, and governing authority.

During the 1980s, Americans grew increasingly sensitive to the nation's cultural pluralism, concerned about the global environment, and vigilant regarding the public institutions. Rapid technological change, new public policies relating to nonprofit corporations, a troubled educational system, shifting patterns of private and public wealth, and increased financial pressures all called for a sharper delineation of museums' ethical responsibilities. In 1984 AAM's Commission on Museums for a New Century placed renewed emphasis on public service and education, and in 1986 the code of ethics adopted by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) put service to society at the center of museum responsibilities. ICOM defines museums as institutions "in the service of society and of its development" and holds that "employment by a museum, whether publicly or privately supported, is a public trust involving great responsibility."

Building upon this history, the Ethics Task Force produced several drafts of a Code of Ethics for Museums. These drafts were shared with the AAM Executive Committee and Board of Directors, and twice referred to the field for comment. Hundreds of individuals and representatives of professional organizations and museums of all types and sizes submitted thoughtful critiques. These critiques were instrumental in shaping the document submitted to the AAM Board of Directors, which adopted the code on May 18, 1991. However, despite the review process, when the adopted code was circulated, it soon became clear that the diversity of the museum field prevented immediate consensus on every point.

Therefore, at its November 1991 meeting, the AAM Board of Directors voted to postpone implementation of the Code of Ethics for at least one year. At the same meeting an Ethics Commission nominated by the AAM president was confirmed. The newly appointed commission — in addition to its other charges of establishing educational programs to guide museums in developing their own code of ethics and establishing procedures for addressing alleged violations of the code — was asked to review the code and recommend to the Board changes in either the code or its implementation.

The new Ethics Commission spent its first year reviewing the code and the hundreds of communications it had generated, and initiating additional dialogue. AAM institutional members were invited to comment further on the issues that were most divisive — the mode of implementation and the restrictions placed on funds from deaccessioned objects. Ethics Commission members also met in person with their colleagues at the annual and regional meetings, and an ad hoc meeting of museum directors was convened by the board president to examine the code's language regarding deaccessioning.

This process of review produced two alternatives for the board to consider at its May meeting: (1) to accept a new code developed by the Ethics Commission, or (2) to rewrite the sections of the 1991 code relating to use of funds from deaccessioning and mode of implementation. Following a very lively and involved discussion, the motion to reinstate the 1991 code with modified language was passed and a small committee met separately to make the necessary changes.

In addition, it was voted that the Ethics Commission be renamed the Committee on Ethics with responsibilities for establishing information and educational programs and reviewing the Code of Ethics for Museums and making periodic recommendations for revisions to the board. These final changes were approved by the board in November 1993 and are incorporated into this document, which is the AAM Code of Ethics for Museums.

Each nonprofit museum member of the American Association of Museums should subscribe to the AAM Code of Ethics for Museums. Subsequently, these museums should set about framing their own institutional codes of ethics, which should be in conformance with the AAM code and should expand on it through the elaboration of specific practices. This recommendation is made to these member institutions in the belief that engaging the governing authority, staff, and volunteers in applying the AAM code to institutional settings will stimulate the development and maintenance of sound policies and procedures necessary to understanding and ensuring ethical behavior by institutions and by all who work for them or on their behalf.

With these steps, the American museum community expands its continuing effort to advance museum work through self-regulation. The Code of Ethics for Museums serves the interests of museums, their constituencies, and society. The primary goal of AAM is to encourage institutions to regulate the ethical behavior of members of their governing authority, employees, and volunteers. Formal adoption of an institutional code promotes higher and more consistent ethical standards. To this end, the Committee on Ethics will develop workshops, model codes, and publications. These and other forms of technical assistance will stimulate a dialogue about ethics throughout the museum community and provide guidance to museums in developing their institutional codes.