William E. Baxter

Head, History and Culture Department

William E. Baxter is head of SIL’s History and Culture Department and has responsibility for several SIL branch libraries (Anacostia, MSC, NASM, NMAAHC, NMAH, NMAI, NPM, SILRA/PennSIL).

Mr. Baxter came to SIL in May, 1995 as Head of the Special Collections Department and SIL Exhibitions Officer; managing both the Special Collections Department and the Dibner Library as well as SIL’s exhibitions program. In addition, he managed the Dibner Resident Scholars program and chaired the selection committee that chose the annual Dibner scholars. During Bill’s time in Special Collections, the Joseph Cullman 3rd Natural History Rare Book Library was designed, the Dibner Library Newsletter was begun, and the Spencer F. Baird Resident Scholars Program was launched. Mr. Baxter worked closely with staff to develop “From Smithson to Smithsonian”, the SIL contribution to the Institution’s Sesquicentennial observance and managed SIL’s exhibitions program and, with outside curators the development of three exhibitions: “Audubon & the Smithsonian”, “Make the Dirt Fly!: Building the Panama Canal”, and “Underwater Web: Cabling the Seas”.

In 1998, Bill served as curator of SIL’s exhibition “Frontier Photographer: Edward S. Curtis.”  This exhibition examined the adversities encountered by Edward Curtis in the development of his monumental work “The North American Indian”; a project commenced in 1900 and completed in 1930.  After this exhibition closed in 1999, a virtual version of his exhibition was launched (http://www.sil.si.edu/Exhibitions/Curtis/) . In addition to this exhibition, Bill curated “Samuel P. Langley, Aviation Pioneer” (in two parts) (http://www.sil.si.edu/ondisplay/langley/) and co-curated “Taking to the Skies: The Wright Brothers and the Birth of Aviation” (http://www.sil.si.edu/ondisplay/flight/) with Paul McCutcheon.

From 2001-2010, Mr. Baxter served as branch librarian of the National Air and Space Museum Library.

Prior to joining SIL, Baxter was Director of the Library and Archives of the American Psychiatric Association (APA).  He oversaw national programs of the Association to foster the teaching of the history of psychiatry and the history of the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness in the U.S. Using the Association’s Sesquicentennial observance in1994 as a catalyst to further interest in the history of psychiatry, Bill wrote a number of articles for the psychiatric and medical literature on the history of psychiatry, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illness.  He also published a book and developed a video history on the same subjects that was published in 1994.

Bill is the president of the Washington Rare Book Group.

Bill holds a BA in History and an MA in American History from St. Louis University and an MS from Drexel University.



Among Bill’s publications are:

America’s Care of the Mentally Ill: a photographic history.

Baxter, William E. and Hathcox, David.

American Psychiatric Press, Washington, DC 1994

America's Care of the Mentally Ill: A Photographic History is the first ever photographic volume depicting the history of the care of the mentally ill in the United States and the development of state mental hospitals. The book tells the story of our nation's care of the mentally ill, starting from the 18th century, through the birth of the American Psychiatric Association and hospital-based care in 1844, up to the present.

American psychiatry celebrates 150 years of caring.

Baxter, William E.

Psychiatric Clinics of North America, Vol. 17(3), Sep 1994, 683-693.Presents a short history of psychiatry and the American Psychiatric Association (APA) since it was founded in 1844. A review of APA's commemoration of its sesquicentennial anniversary is also provided. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved.

American Psychiatry Celebrates 150 Years of Caring (video).

Baxter, William E.

American Psychiatric Association

One can see that the history of the American Psychiatric Association is the history of psychiatry and vice-versa. The last 150 years have seen significant advances in the humane treatment of the mentally ill. Stigma has been reduced, and significant numbers of patients are now leading productive and useful lives. One hundred and fifty years of caring; while commemorating our heritage, also challenges us to prepare for our future in our never-ending quest for a cure. This video provides the student of the history of medicine a good overview of the development of psychiatric treatment in the United States.

Marion Edwena Kenworthy, M.D., 1891-1980

Baxter, William E.

American Journal of Psychiatry, 1993;150:1725

Dr. Kenworthy was the first woman president of the American Psychiatric Association. Among her many interests was the collecting of numerous rare books to document evidence of mental illness manifest in behaviors depicted in early printed works as well as the iconography used in depicting the insane.