A Brief History

by Elaine R.S. Hodges


Before 1966 the few trained or experienced scientific illustrators working in the United States had little or no contact with one another, even at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, where there was a concentration of scientific illustrators. Each stayed in a corner of the National Museum of Natural History, often not knowing other illustrators in the same building. This situation still exists in some other museums. Carolyn Bartlett Gast, Smithsonian scientific illustrator for both Departments of Vertebrate and Invertebrate Zoology at the time, decided to remedy the situation. She organized a series of luncheons featuring speakers on topics relevant to scientific illustration such as printing or exhibits preparation. Elaine R. Snyder Hodges, then a contract illustrator of crustacea, typed and distributed notices of the meetings to the twenty or so scientific and medical illustrators that could be found in the Washington, DC area. More and more illustrators heard about and attended the luncheons. A need had been identified.


Carolyn had been interested in the medieval development of Guilds for professions and suggested that a Guild be established for scientific illustration. On September 17, 1968, a meeting of illustrators was held to discuss such an organization. Lawrence B. Isham, scientific illustrator for the Smithsonian Department of Paleobiology, agreed to write a first draft of a Constitution. The Guild of Natural Science Illustrators was born on December 2, 1968, following the adoption of the document (with changes made by a committee composed of Jack R. Schroeder, Carolyn Gast, Naida Page, Marsha E. Jessup, Peter Stone, Art Cushman, and Larry Isham). There were twenty-one charter members.


Monthly meetings with featured speakers began at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. First officers were President: Larry Isham; Vice President: Elsie Herbold Froeschner (Smithsonian Department of Entomology); Treasurer: Peter Stone (Georgetown University Medical School); Recording Secretary: Naida Page (Howard University Medical School); Corresponding Secretary: Elaine Hodges (South East Asia Mosquito Project, Walter Reed and Smithsonian); and Executive Committee (now the Board of Directors): Arthur Cushman (USDA Systematic Entomology Laboratory), Carolyn Gast (Smithsonian Department of Invertebrate Zoology), and Jack Schroeder (freelance scientific illustrator, Chestertown, MD). Thelma Ford Smith was the first historian. Carolyn set up the Guild's post office box at Ben Franklin Station, Washington, DC, 20044. Dues were $5.00 per year. Membership burgeoned by word of mouth from the original twenty-one members in Washington, DC, to over 1,100 members in fifteen countries around the world by our anniversary in 1993.


Threaded through the history of the Guild has been the support of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. Meeting space has been generously provided. In September, 1969, the Museum helped host the first exhibit of scientific illustration, providing a room for technique demonstrations, and a reception. Since then several exhibits of scientific illustration have been held at the Museum, including two permanent exhibits installed in 1988 and 1996. In June of 1986 the Smithsonian co-hosted the Guild's annual meeting with George Washington University and again in 1996.


Note: This is a summary version of the Guild history as found in the 12/93, 1/94 and 2/94 issues of the GNSI Newsletter.