The Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Endowment for the Natural History Rare Book Library

Imagd of Joseph F. Cullman 3rd and Leslie K. Overstreet
Joseph F. Cullman 3rd with Leslie Overstreet, Smithsonian Curator of Natural History Rare Books

Joe Cullman established the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library endowment in 2001 to underwrite the operations and programs of the rare book library in the National Museum of Natural History. The Library was named in his honor.

Joseph F. Cullman 3rd, was the former Chairman Emeritus and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Philip Morris Incorporated. Mr. Cullman was a committed outdoorsman, conservationist and philanthropist, serving as chairman of the Atlantic Salmon Federation and on the board of the World Wildlife Fund. He also formed the Cullman Wildlife Project in Tanzania. In addition, Mr. Cullman served as Chairman of the U.S. Open Tennis Championship and as Chairman of the Tennis Hall of Fame. During World War II, Mr. Cullman distinguished himself as a U.S. Navy commander in the Pacific. He was awarded a Commendation Ribbon with seven stars for his service.

Today, the Joseph F. Cullman Library holds the Smithsonian's collection of rare books in anthropology and the natural sciences. Building on the foundation of James Smithson's mineralogical books and growing with Secretary Spencer F. Baird's donation of his own working library to the U.S. National Museum in 1882, the rare-books collection has been augmented over the years by institutional purchases and exchanges, as well as by gifts and bequests from other Museum researchers and private individuals alike. The Cullman Library’s world-class collection contains approximately 15,000 volumes published before 1840 and the publications of seventeenth- through nineteenth-century voyages of exploration are a special strength, as is the history of museums and scientific collecting.

Image of two curators viewing the very large volume "Botanica Magnifica"
Viewing Botanica Magnifica, a series of rare volumes housed in the vault of the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library

“For curators and visiting scholars at the National Museum of Natural History, as well as for art historians, picture editors, and all kinds of other researchers who come to the Smithsonian, access to the historical literature in the natural sciences is crucial. Yet these books are scarce and hard to find; in a few cases we hold the only copy of a title in all of North America. Mr. Cullman’s generosity in endowing the natural-history rare-book room enables us not just to maintain the existing collection properly and make the books available to readers both in person and online (through the Libraries’ separately funded Biodiversity Heritage Library project), but also to build the collections in response to research needs and curators’ requests, which we could not do on the federal budget. In addition, we use some of the funds each year to improve cataloging access to the collection and to purchase needed equipment, such as the fiber-optic “leaf light” that is used to study watermarks in paper. The Cullman Endowment will provide reliable support for the rare-book collection as it serves the Museum’s and increasingly the world’s researchers both now and into the future.”

Leslie K. Overstreet, Curator
Natural History Rare Books