In the early 1970s NBS Director Lewis Branscomb authorized the establishment of a gallery of portraits of distinguished scientists, engineers, and administrators. Originally, the gallery was limited to a wall in the Senior Lunch Club room (now called the Heritage Room). In 1985, NBS Director Ernest Ambler asked the newly established Standards Alumni Association (SAA) to assume the responsibility for establishing criteria for selection and a process for soliciting nominations from the staff, managers and alumni of the institution. The Portrait Gallery was relocated to the hallway outside of the Heritage Room.
Annually, the SAA Portrait Gallery Committee issues a call for nominations, empanels a group of jurors to evaluate the nominations and forwards its recommendations for honorees to the NIST Director for approval. The SAA organizes an annual induction ceremony and NIST displays the portraits and biographical information for the honorees. In 2016, the Gallery has grown to 318 portraits.
In 2013, a new Digital Portrait Gallery was developed by NIST with assistance from the SAA. It provides enhanced access to information about the honorees. Large, touch-screen, flat-panel displays are located with the portraits at NIST Gaithersburg and in the atrium area of the Precision Measurement Laboratory at NIST Boulder.
In 2014, all of the portraits were reframed and mounted on new display panels that match the designs of the displays in the Administration Building lobby and awards hallway.