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Department of Anthropology

Alice Cunningham Fletcher
Alice Cunningham Fletcher. Photograph by Anty Emilio Edits, Napoleón, Barcelona. Neg. No. 55,375



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The NAA was selected as a Daily Pick (3.07.01) and Pick of the Week (3.12.01)



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Alice Fletcher (center) at the Omaha Mission, ca. 1883-84. Photo Lot 24, No. 4473




Pam Wintle

Pam Wintle of the Human Studies Film Archives





Archaeologist Matthew Stirling beside an Olmec stone head from, Exploring Hidden Mexico, 1943




Worker with an Olmec stone head, from Exploring Hidden Mexico, 1943

Worker with an Olmec stone head, from Exploring Hidden Mexico, 1943




Marion Stirling Pugh and children holding the Society of Women Geographers flag

Marion Stirling Pugh and children holding the Society of Women Geographers flag, from Aboriginal Darien:  Past and Present, 1954




A camp site on the Cocle del Norte River, from Hunting Prehistory on Panama's North Coast, 1952

A camp site on the Cocle del Norte River, from Hunting Prehistory on Panama's North Coast, 1952


Move News

After months of preparation, the National Anthropological Archives has begun its move to a new facility, the Museum Support Center, in Suitland, Maryland. In January, the archives moved its 20,000-item artwork collections to MSC (view photos), as well more than five tons of ethnographic fieldnotes, manuscripts, photographs and film. More collections will be relocated as new cabinets arrive and the build-out of our new space is completed. Meanwhile, architects have put the finishing touches on plans for the NAA's reading room and staff offices. We expect to be settled into our new facility by January 2002.

In preparation for the move, the Human Studies Film Archives staff has begun testing the reference film and audio collections for acetate deterioration (also known as "vinegar syndrome" because of the odor given off by acetic acid by-products of the deteriorating film base). Once testing is complete, the deteriorating film and accompanying audio will be rehoused in a separate collection storage area at the Museum Support Center.

Camping with the Sioux: Fieldwork Diary of Alice Cunningham Fletcher

a new online exhibit produced by the archives, features transcripts of Fletcher's fieldnotes, reproductions of her sketches of Native American life, and photographs of Nebraska and South Dakota from several Smithsonian collections. The online exhibit documents Fletcher's earliest period of fieldwork, an eight-week excursion through Omaha, Ponca and Sioux Indian territory with traveling companions Susette La Flesche, an Omaha Indian, and Thomas Henry Tibbles, a journalist.

The diary provides a rare glimpse of the trials early ethnographers faced and chronicles Fletcher's burgeoning understanding of fieldwork methodology. The final diary entries recount Fletcher's interview with Sitting Bull, who was imprisoned at the time at Fort Randall. Also included in the online edition is a complete bibliography of works by Alice Fletcher and Francis La Fleshe, her protege and adopted son, as well as links to Fletcher's papers in other archives

In February, the online exhibit was selected by the Exploratorium as one of its "Ten Cool Sites for Educational Excellence."

Pamela Wintle Nominated to National Film Preservation Board

Pamela Wintle, Assistant Director of the Human Studies Film Archives, has been appointed as alternate member to the National Film Preservation Board, one of two representing the Association of Moving Image Archivists. Established by the National Film Preservation Act of 1988, the Board serves as a public advisory group to the Librarian of Congress on implementation of the National Film Preservation Plan (1994) and the yearly selection of up to 25 culturally, historically or aesthetically significant films for the National Film Registry. The Board consists of 40 members and alternates representing the diversity of the American motion picture community.

New Reference Collection of Archeological Films

The Human Studies Film Archives has begun processing the lecture films of Matthew W. Stirling, former Director of the Bureau of American Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution, and his wife, Marion Stirling. The eight films were taken during the Stirlings' Central American archeological work between 1942 and 1954. Using video reference copies of the films, Robert Griffin, a student of anthropology from the University of Virginia, has researched, documented and cataloged the films and begun the annotation process with Mrs. Marion Stirling Pugh. His work will eventually result in synchronous audio commentary for all these films, which are silent.

Born in California in 1896, Matthew Stirling became interested in archaeology as a young man studying arrowheads on his Grandfather's ranch. His fledgling interest in anthropology was cultivated in undergraduate study at the University of California under A.L. Kroeber. After receiving a Masters degree from George Washington University in 1922, Stirling went on to become Director of the BAE. From the 1930s through the 1960s, accompanied by his wife, he led several joint Smithsonian–National Geographic expeditions to Central and South America. There, among other accomplishments, his excavations established the early date and significance of the Olmec culture, which flourished from approximately 800 BC to 400 BC on the Gulf Coast of Mexico. The artifacts recovered from these excavations were dispersed among several Central American museums and the Smithsonian.

These films are valuable not only as records of the original excavation of several important archaeological sites, but also as historical documentation of the public's involvement and interest in this type of expedition at this particular time in American history. In addition to documenting the excavations, the films also provide a detailed visual record of the experience of travel and camp life during this era. Several expeditions were filmed, resulting in eight silent movies, which were presented by Matthew and Marion Stirling as illustrated lectures to audiences throughout the U.S.

Although recent attention has been given to Stirling's films of his expeditions to Dutch New Guinea, the films of the Central and South American expeditions have yet to garner much interest. The collection includes:

Exploring Hidden Mexico. Combining footage from two separate films, this work documents excavations at the Olmec sites of La Venta and Cerro de las Mesas. The film records the techniques used to unearth several important altars and tombs. Good detail is given to the recovered artifacts.

Hunting Prehistory on Panama’s Unknown North Coast. This film concentrates on the 1952 excavations of many small sites in Northern Panama, with detail given of the recovered artifacts. The film balances the archaeological focus with footage of the local environment.

Aboriginal Darien: Past and Present. This 1954 film documents the experience of traveling through Panama by boat, horse and foot, recording the flora and fauna of various parts of the country but focusing mainly on ethnographic research.

On the Trail of Prehistoric America. This film, which follows Stirling’s 1957 expedition to Ecuador, includes footage of several archaeological sites and documents the environment and social conditions in many areas throughout the country. Also includes brief ethnographic footage of the Colorado Indians.

In addition to these films, the Stirling Central and South American Collection also includes Mexico in Fiesta Masks, Uncovering an Ancient Mexican Temple, and Exploring Panama’s Prehistoric Past. Another film in the collection, Uncovering Mexico’s Forgotten Treasures, is included in "Smithsonian Expeditions: Exploring Latin America and the Caribbean," on exhibit at the Miami Museum of Science until 2004.

NAA Joins Language Cataloguing Initiative.

The NAA has joined the Open Language Archives Community, a worldwide network of language archives. OLAC is developing an Internet portal to a proposed centralized union catalog of language resources, including texts, recordings, lexicons, annotations, software, protocols, models, and formats. The NAA joins other archives with significant inguistic materials, such as the American Philosophical Society, which have agreed to provide their cataloguing metadata to this new initiative. Other participating projects and institutions include the Alaska Native Language Center, the Comparative Online Bantu Dictionary, the Foundation for Endangered Languages, the Perseus Project, and SIL International. OLAC's technical infrastructure builds on the Open Archives Initiative and the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative.

The Digital Imaging Lab.

The imaging staff is currently digitizing three collections: the Asian photographs in the Division of Ethnology "USNM" Collection (Photo Lot 97), the Acee Blue Eagle Artwork Collection, and the Bureau of American Ethnology Collection of Glass Negatives, an ongoing project. To date, the imaging lab has produced more than 25,121 high-resolution digital images.

The Web Pages Formerly Known as "What's New"

Publication date: February 2001


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