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Department of Anthropology

Museum Support Center

The Museum Support Center also houses more than 3 million archaeological and ethnological artifacts from the Smithsonian's Department of Anthropology.

NAA's Reading Room

The NAA's new reading room is spacious, comfortable and wired: high-speed Ethernet connections are available on every desktop. Photo by D.E. Hurlbert.



Lunch festival after Sunday Baptist Church

Lunch festival after Sunday Baptist Church, Shrimp Creek, Georgia, 1950. Photograph by Simon Ottenberg, from the Papers of Simon Ottenberg.

Geechee man crabbing from rowboat

Geechee man crabbing from a rowboat, Shrimp Creek, Georgia, 1950. Photograph by Simon Ottenberg, from the Papers of Simon Ottenberg.


Glynn Isaac and colleagues

Archaeologist Glynn Isaac (center) and colleagues.






On the Home Page
Johannes Neurath, curator of ethnology at Mexico's National Museum of Anthropology, and Ramiro Matos, curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, visiting the Human Studies Film Archives. Photo by D.E. Hurlbert.



























Pakhtun youths

Pakhtun youths, from the Pashtoon Nomad Research Film Project, 1975-1976.


Pakhtun elder and grandson

Pakhtun elder and grandson, from the Pashtoon Nomad Research Film Project, 1975-1976.





Sarajane Archdeacon

Documentary filmmaker Sarajane Archdeacon (1926-2002).















Lynanne Rollins processing film

Film archivist Lynanne Rollins processing film collection. Photo by D.E. Hurlbert.



John L. Brom holding camera on tripod

John L. Brom (1908-1969).






Margaret Mead's face superimposed on Mead Crater

The Mead Crater bears a uncanny resemblance to the famed anthropologist.

At Long Last, Archives Reopen in Maryland

The National Anthropological Archives and Human Studies Film Archives reopened on March 12 at their new location at the Museum Support Center, in Suitland, Maryland, after being closed to the public for more than a year. Researchers who visited the NAA at its former location at the National Museum of Natural History know that the move was long overdue. Our old reading room was cramped and noisy and collections storage was outdated. Our new location is a state-of-the-art research, conservation and collections-storage facility that sits on six wooded acres of federal land adjacent to the Museum of the American Indian's Cultural Resource Center.

The move to MSC provided the perfect opportunity to perform preservation rehousing for much of the collection. During the past year, archives staff and scores of volunteers rehoused and stabilized hundreds of thousands of photographs and placed the majority of our manuscript collection (more than 7,800 linear feet) into new acid-free folders and boxes, in some cases replacing original storage containers that arrived with collections in the 19th century.

The Museum Support Center offers free parking. It can also be reached by Metrorail or an hourly shuttlebus that leaves from the National Mall in downtown Washington. Look here for directions and transportation information.

Simon Ottenberg Donates Geechee Fieldnotes

The NAA is pleased to receive Simon Ottenberg's fieldnotes, correspondence, unpublished manuscripts, and photographs from ethnographic fieldwork conducted among the Geechee of Georgia in the summer of 1950. Ottenberg, professor emeritus at the University of Washington and past president of the African Studies Association, writes, "My study was of a small Geechee community, some 15 miles south of Savannah by road, a community most of whose members had come off of Sea Islands in the early part of the 20th century. The Geechee were known in South Carolina as the Gullah. Both peoples are closely related in culture. They lived in isolated plantations during the slave days working on plantations growing rice and indigo. Due to their isolation they retained elements of African culture beyond those which usually occurred with African-Americans on the mainland. Many were pushed off the islands by whites wanting their land for residences, resorts, hotels and marinas." Ottenberg's donation also includes articles on the Gullah by William R. Bascom, Beth Bethel, Charles W. Joyner and himself.

Ottenberg conducted research among the Geechee at the end of his first year of graduate studies at Northwestern University, where he worked with Bascom and Melville J. Herskovits, both of whom were interested in African diaspora cultures. Ottenberg is best known, however, for his ongoing anthropological and art historical research among the Limba of Sierra Leone and the Igbo of Nigeria. His most recent book is New Traditions from Nigeria: Seven Artists of the Nsukka Group (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997). Earlier, Ottenberg donated his photographs from Nigeria to the Elliot Elisofon Photographic Archives of the National Museum of African Art, his Limba fieldnotes (1978-1998) to the archives at Michigan State University, and his Limba field recordings to the Ethnomusicology Archives at the University of Washington.

Barbara Isaac Donates Glynn Isaac Papers to the NAA

The NAA is pleased to receive Glynn L. Isaac's papers and photographs. These include his fieldnotes and logs, field maps, scientific correspondence, teaching notes, publication files and all other papers, together with 35mm slides and black-and-white negatives relating to his career as a Quaternary archaeologist in East Africa. The collections cover the years from 1958 to his death in 1985 at the age of 47.

Having taken a B.Sc. in Geology, Zoology and Archaeology at Capetown University and a B.A. in Stone Age Archaeology at Cambridge, Isaac became Warden of Prehistoric Sites in Kenya (1961-1965), where he worked on the geology and excavation of the Acheulean site of Olorgesailie. In 1964, Isaac and Richard Leakey explored the Peninj Delta area, west of Lake Natron, Tanzania, resulting in the discovery of an australopithecine mandible and the excavation of more Acheulean sites. A year at Cambridge as a graduate student writing up the Olorgesailie research for his Ph.D. (1968) was followed by a move to UC Berkeley as assistant professor in anthropology. There, with J. Desmond Clark and other African specialists, he participated in developing the program for Old World Prehistory.

During his 17 years at Berkeley, Isaac did field research in the Naivasha/Nakuru area, Kenya (1969-1970), West Natron (1981, 1982), and Koobi Fora, Kenya, where he was co-director with Richard Leakey of the interdisciplinary Koobi Fora Research Project. He also continued to develop research at Olorgesailie on landscape use. The time periods covered by this research range from the Oldowan at 2 my, through the Acheulean to the Middle and Later Stone Age. The collections record his accumulation of data on geology, chronology, dating, site formation, taphonomy, artifact variation, artifact use, artifact replication, faunal remains, and landscape use, some of which is unpublished due to his untimely death. It also records the development of his interests in the archaeological evidence for food-sharing, and central place foraging.

In 1983, Isaac moved to the Department of Anthropology at Harvard (papers from the two years of teaching at Harvard are lodged in the Harvard University Archives). The preservation of the Glynn Isaac Papers at the NAA was made possible by a grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

HSFA Receives Kenneth Orr's Film Footage of Burma

American anthropologist Kenneth G. Orr's footage of Burma, containing rare scenes of archeological excavations, was recently acquired by the Human Studies Film Archives through the assistance of Curator Louise Cort of the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler/Freer Gallery of Art. Some of the film rolls were received with advanced acetate decomposition and were sent to a film specialty organization, Restoration Film House Group, Bellville, Ontario, for chemical treatment. A new negative with videotape copies was produced at Cinema Arts, Inc.

Frederica de Laguna Receives Wenner-Gren Support to Prepare Papers for NAA

The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research recently awarded an Historical Archives Grant to assist Frederica de Laguna in preparing her papers for deposit in the NAA. The grant provides $15,000 for a research assistant, a contract archivist, and archival supplies. Dr. de Laguna, a former president of the American Anthropological Association (1967), has conducted research in France, Greenland and Alaska and is the author of Chugash Prehistory (1956), Under Mount Saint Elias: the History and Culture of the Yakutat Tlingit (1972), Tales from the Dena (1995) and Travels among the Dena: Exploring Alaska's Yukon Valley (2000), among other works.

Sons of Haji Omar

In 1975 and 1976 Smithsonian's National Anthropological Film Center (now the HSFA) and the National Film Board of Canada, with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, launched a research filming project of the Pashtoon (Pakhtun) Nomads of northeastern Afghanistan. In 1978, the Film Board produced Sons of Haji Omar, which features a wealthy patriarch's settled nomadic family near the town of Nahrin. The film explores changes in traditional economy and the conflicts which ensued by examining the lives of each of Haji Omar's grown sons - one of whom continues a traditional nomadic life; one being schooled for an eventual government job; and one who is drawn to a settled agricultural lifeway. The project's team consisted of anthropologist Asen Balikci, ethnographic filmmaker Timothy Asch, Film Board cameraman Eugene Boyko and Afghani scholar Bayazid Atsak.

Current affairs have revived interest in the 24-year-old film. In January, it was screened in the National Museum of Natural History's film and lecture series, but locating a good quality copy of the film proved to be a challenge. To our surprise, the two pristine color film prints stored in the Human Studies Film Archives' cold storage film vault had faded to red - such was the poor dye-keeping stability of color print film at that time. A one-half inch video was located in time for the screening, although it could not match the beauty of a good 16mm print. Happily, the film is now available in a variety of formats from Documentary Educational Resources and Penn State Media and Technology Support Services. The film is accompanied by a 13-page study guide written by Asen Balikci and produced by Penn State University

As a final note, Dr. Balikci reports that one of Haji Omar's sons died in the Afghan-Soviet conflict and that Dr. Atsak is living in Kandahar, Afghanistan, working for a food relief agency. Dr. Balikci hopes to mount another filming project in Afghanistan when it is once again safe to do so. Meanwhile, he is promoting the film in Asia and eastern Europe. The 37 hours of film, with synchronized field, annotation and translation sound tracks, are housed along with associated manuscript records in the Human Studies Film Archives.

HSFA Receives National Film Preservation Foundation Grant

HSFA has received funding to preserve Digging Up the Dead in Madagascar, an amateur documentary film produced in 1963 by Sarajane Archdeacon. The film records a Malgache exhumation ceremony (famadihana), a traditional practice to honor ancestors. The NFPF grant will cover laboratory work for a new negative for both picture and sound, an answer print and a video copy.

Sadly, we recently learned that Ms. Archdeacon was killed by a hit-and-run driver in New York City. She would have been thrilled to learn of the film preservation grant. At 76, she was in her prime and her enthusiasm and spirit live on in our joyful memory of her telephone calls and letters. Vagabond: Adventures of a Woman Alone in Africa, Ms. Archdeacon's unpublished manuscript of her travels, is being edited by a friend for publication.

Association of Moving Image Archivists 2001 Annual Meeting

The 2001 AMIA annual meeting was hosted by the Oregon Historical Society in Portland. A new conference innovation this year was the subject stream (a series of sessions organized by the Small Gauge Symposium that explored issues of 8mm and super 8mm film such as technology, preservation, content, documentation and ethics), which also included a number of screenings. HSFA manager Pam Wintle, a member of the Symposium task force, chaired the session Identifying and Documenting the Small Gauge Image. Pam continues to be a member of the Small Gauge and Amateur Film Interest Group.

At the very popular AMIA archival screening night, which highlights new acquisitions and preservation work, the HSFA screened a selection from the Whipple Spear Hall footage of the Philippines (described below).

More Newly Accessible Film Collections

With a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation, the film archives has preserved Whipple Spear Hall's film footage of the Philippines (ca. 1935). Film prints and video copies are now available of the 40 minute black-and-white silent footage for reference use. The film was donated by Mr. Hall's grandson, Whipple Manning, to the National Center for Film and Video Preservation at the American Film Institute, which then offered the film to the HSFA. The film was received in poor condition from acetate deterioration, including advanced shrinkage and emulsion flaking off the film base. New liquid gate, step-printed optical dupe negatives were made at Cinema Arts, Inc. in Angels, Pennsylvania, a film laboratory specializing in film preservation.

Africa Sings and Dances

by John L. Brom (color, sound, 30 minutes) is the first title from the Brom collection to be made available on video for research. The film, a vibrant and colorful work filmed in Equatorial Africa in the mid 1950's, has a sound track composed of original songs recorded throughout Brom's African journey. Brom sought to capture African people's expressions of the sentiments of life through rhythm and movement, lyric and song. Peoples depicted include the Topokes, Mangbetu, Watusi, Bahutu, and Pygmy.

John Moyers Footage of India

(ca. 1965; color, silent, 2 hours 18 minutes) is available on video. The loosely edited film footage covers images of India as diverse as Mr. Moyer's meeting with the then recently exiled Dali Lama to candid scenes of a "Bollywood" motion picture in production.


And on the Lighter Side...

Anthropologist Leaves Her Mark on Solar System

As we celebrate the centennial of Margaret Mead's birth, we're pleased to learn that the International Astronomical Union has named a Venusian crater in honor of the famed anthropologist. As befitting Mead's professional stature, Mead Crater is, at 280 km, the largest impact crater on Venus (novelist Louisa May Alcott's crater, by comparison, is a mere 66 km). Reports the BBC Online, "Mead’s youth and the relatively calm weather conditions on Venus mean that Mead is one of the best preserved large craters in the Solar System."

Closer to home, structuralists will welcome news of the following buildings named for anthropologists:

Planning a vacation? Why not visit the following anthropologists along the way:

Do you know of something named after an anthropologist? Please send your sighting to

Previous What's New Pages Enjoying Their Retirement

Publication date: April 2002


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