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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Department of Anthropology

The National Anthropological Archives and Human Studies Film Archives in the department of Anthropology, Collections and Archives Program collect and preserve historical and contemporary anthropological materials that document the world's cultures and the history of anthropology. Their collections represent the four fields of anthropology – ethnology, linguistics, archaeology, and physical anthropology – and include fieldnotes, journals, manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, maps, sound recordings, film and video created by Smithsonian anthropologists and other preeminent scholars.


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What's New?

NAA acquires Edward S. Curtis collection

The Smithsonian Institution’s National Anthropological Archives (NAA) is pleased to announce a remarkable donation of original negatives produced by the photographer of iconic Native American images, Edward Sheriff Curtis. Curtis’ work was highly influential in shaping a sympathetic although highly romanticized vision of cultures believed to be “vanishing.” His images of Native Americans, master works of photographic artistry, have lent themselves also to ethnographic and art historical study, and both scholars and the public have come to consider Curtis as one of the foremost photographers of Native Americans. To learn more, click here.

National Anthropological Archives, in partnership with the Recovering Voices Initiative, awarded $1 million grant to digitize materials

boliviaDeteriorated nitrate film, 2009, HSFA, sihsfa_collections_07.

The National Anthropological Archives (NAA) has received a $1 million grant from the Arcadia Fund to launch the first two years of a long-term project to digitize endangered-language materials currently housed in the NAA. As many of you know from first-hand experience, the materials found in this archive preserve an unparalleled collection of primary sources for investigating endangered cultures and languages, indigenous environmental knowledge and the connections between these subjects. The project will be implemented by the National Anthropological Archives Program working in collaboration with the Recovering Voices Program on development of outreach.

Through this project, the team will digitize its entire collection of ethnographic sound recordings, estimated at 3,000 hours, as well as 35,000 pages of manuscript materials, using techniques that will make these electronic sources readily available to the public through the Smithsonian’s online and openly accessible catalog system. The project team plans to create digital surrogates of voice recordings and paper documents in the NAA, and make them publicly available to support researchers and communities seeking to research, document and revitalize indigenous languages and cultures. Online access will make the material widely available for use without damage to the historic originals. 

To learn more, click here.

National Anthropological Archives needs your help with a new transcription project

Be a Smithsonian transcription volunteer! Help us transcribe a number of materials and support our commitment to make our collections digitally accessible. For more information visit:

Suzanne and Walter Scott Foundation award supports rapid capture digitization

The National Museum of Natural History implemented a pilot project to develop rapid capture methods for digitizing its collections and research holdings. During the two-year pilot from 2011 to 2013, the NAA collaborated with partners to develop high-speed digitization techniques, procedures and workflows for two-dimensional materials that can be utilized extensively by the National Museum of Natural History and help to inform and establish best practices for the wider Smithsonian community.

Accessing Anthropology: The Collections and Archives Program at the Department of Anthropology

boliviaReport on the forestry, elevation, rainfall, and drainage of the Colorado Valley, together with an apercu of its principal inhabitants, the Mahhaos Indians, October 31, 1877, Manuscript 1122, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution

Navigating the records of the Department of Anthropology’s three collecting units - the National Anthropological Archives, the Human Studies Film Archives, and the museum collections - can be confusing. The Accessing Anthropology Web Portal can help researchers discover new materials and new relationships among collection items. Visit; explore; enjoy.

Papers of Brent and Elois Ann Berlin

The National Anthropological Archives is pleased to announce an agreement to accept the papers of Brent Berlin and Elois Ann Berlin. B. Berlin, a seminal figure in the development of cognitive anthropology, and E.A. Berlin, a medical anthropologist, collaborated on many ethnobotanical projects, principally among Mayan-speaking people of Highland Chiapas. Their extensive papers, including photographic and sound materials, will join the 25,000 botanical voucher specimens already donated to the Smithsonian’s Department of Botany. Together, the Berlins’ material is an important record of endangered indigenous language and knowledge.

Papers of Marvin Harris

The papers of Marvin Harris are now available to researchers at the National Anthropological Archives. Harris (1927 – 2001) was influential in developing cultural materialism, a scientific research strategy used to explain sociocultural phenomena. He authored several books, including Patterns of Race in the Americas (1964), The Rise of Anthropological Theory (1968), Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches (1974), and Cannibals and Kings (1977).  His papers were processed with the support of a Wenner-Gren Foundation Historical Archives Program grant awarded to David Price.  

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