George Brown Goode (1851-1896), the Smithsonian’s Assistant Director and later its Director for the first 15 years, helped to shape the policies and organization of the Institution. He turned his attention to the security of the Arts and Industries (AIB) (then the National Museum) in 1882, shortly after it opened to the public. Theft had been a persistent problem at the Smithsonian Castle, and Goode was eager to safeguard the exhibits within the AIB from the “mania of the relic hunter.”
Originally, the National Museum had a sophisticated security system, which was tied into the communication system. It included a 50-drop telephone switchboard, with 34 connections, 14 of which were located in the museum (others were located in the Smithsonian Castle, as well as outside). Three hundred windows and eighty-five doors in the AIB were connected to an electric 100-drop annunciator that indicated to an attendant at the main office which window or door was open. Specimen cases were connected to an 81-drop annunciator. In 1883, the journal Nature reported that the museum “is one of the best cases in the United States of the practical application of electricity. In so large a building it was found advisable to take advantage of the best means of communications, first being its systems of telephones and call- bells, by which those in any room can communicate with every room in the building.”
In addition to the electric security system, the first floor windows in the pavilions and towers were fitted with metal grilles, in an effort to further deter potential vandals.