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This guide describes the collections of an archives founded as the library of the Bureau of American Ethnology in 1879. The earliest description of the collection was James C. Pilling's "Catalogue of Linguistic Manuscripts in the Library of the Bureau of American Ethnology" (First Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, 1879-1880). Since Pilling produced his list of 277 manuscripts, the collection has never ceased to grow and to prove its usefulness to scholars and to the people whose cultures it documents.

Each entry in the guide includes a title, biographical data or administrative history, an indication of the type of documents available and a description of contents (often including lengthy lists of authors, photographers, and correspondents). Data about overall dates, quantity, arrangement, finding aids and restrictions are also provided. Entries are linked to their respective finding aids, where available, and many are cross-referenced to other relevant entries.

The guide includes descriptions of more than 650 collections acquired before 1996, but no guide is comprehensive. Many collections deserve much fuller treatment than they have received here, and new collections have yet to be added. Descriptions of all collections are available upon request.

Using the Guide

The entries in this guide refer to collections. In our usage, a collection may consist of a single manuscript or photographic print or may comprise thousands of manuscripts produced by many authors and assembled over a period of many years. One such collection is the Numbered Manuscripts, a miscellany of some 5,600 ethnological, linguistic, archaeological, physical anthropological and historical documents produced or collected by the staff of the Bureau of American Ethnology and its research collaborators. It also includes material collected between 1965 and 1996 but considered too small to be designated separate collections – in all, some 635 linear feet of fieldnotes, correspondence, writings, drawings, cartographic material, photographs, administrative records, collections of personal papers and other types of documents.

This guide provides separate entries for several of the more prominent anthropologists and organizations whose papers or records are included in the numbered manuscript collection – among them, Philip Drucker, Alice Cunningham Fletcher, Francis La Flesche, Frans Olbrechts, Frank H.H. Roberts, Matilda Coxe Stevenson and Sol Tax. The work of several hundred other anthropologists, linguists and historians, represented in the numbered manuscript collection but not in the guide, is described in the Catalog of Manuscripts in the National Anthropological Archives (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1975. 4 Vols.) and in SIRIS, where searches can be performed by author/creator, title, subject and keyword.

Photographic collections are arranged by photographer, collector or subject in the table of contents. (The photo lot numbers used as titles in previous versions of the guide appear in the call number field below each entry.) Fifteen photographic collections entitled "Miscellaneous Photographs," Miscellaneous Views" or "Miscellany" appear in the table of contents under Photographs: Miscellaneous Collections.

A comprehensive index of personal names, geographic entities, cultures and subjects is available in the printed version of the guide.

Additional Catalogs, Guides and Lists

These printed catalogs may be consulted in the archives and also may be available in public libraries and university libraries:

Catalog of Manuscripts in the National Anthropological Archives. (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1975. 4 Vols.) is a comprehensive catalog of the "Numbered Manuscript Collection" of the Bureau of American Ethnology. Descriptions of most items also appear in SIRIS.

The Papers of John P. Harrington in the Smithsonian Institution 1907-1957, edited by Elaine L. Mills (Kraus International Publishers, 1985. 9 Volumes). (Descriptions of Harrington's audio recordings appear in SIRIS.)

Card catalog to photographic negatives. This catalog includes copy negatives of NAA photographs maintained by the Smithsonian's Office of Imaging, Printing and Photographic Services (OIPPS). Main entries are ordered by tribe; archeological material is ordered by state. Cross-references appear for personal names and, to a more limited extent, for photographers and subjects (cross-referenced terms do not appear in the Guide). The card catalog includes many records of photographs that do not appear online in SIRIS, including those for NAA refererence prints (see the following).

Reference print file. Visiting researchers may examine copies of most photographs described in the catalog to photographic negatives (see above). Exceptions are prints from the Subject and Geographic File, from which only selected images are available. Basic descriptive data appears on the reverse side of each reference print.

The reference print is arranged by tribe, supratribal entity, or regional groups of tribes. There are also files for states that include selected archeological sites as well as photographs from the subject and geographic file. In addition, there are files for foreign countries and for subjects such as BAE history, the Hayden survey, historical, miscellaneous, and non-Indian portraits.

Vertical file. This file is maintained by the archives for reference and project work, although its contents are available to researchers. The file is a miscellany with headings by personal, tribal, geographic, and organizational names and topical subjects. Materials include copies of individual staff reports from the Bureau of American Ethnology annual reports, obituaries (particularly of Smithsonian anthropologists), newspaper clippings, bibliographies of Smithsonian personnel, catalogs of collections held by other repositories, and reprints of articles.


Guide to the Collections of the National Anthropological Archives is a revised and amended version of Guide to the National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Revised and Enlarged, by James R. Glenn. (Washington, D.C.: National Anthropological Archives, 1996). Introduction by James R. Glenn and Robert Leopold.

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