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Studio photograph of unidentified Navajo man by William Marion Pennington

Studio photograph of unidentified Navajo man by William Marion Pennington. From Photo Lot 82-2, one of several Navajo collections currently being digitized.

Photograph by William Marion Pennington.

Photograph by William Marion Pennington.

Aleut visitors viewing drawing

Unangan visitors examine a 19th century painting by Henry Wood Elliott in the NAA reading room. From left: Vlaas Shabolin, Mary Bourdukofsky and Daria Dirks. Photo courtesy of Barbara Johnson.


Fishing from Kaiaks, Captain's Harbor, Unalaska

One of the paintings viewed was Elliott's "Fishing from Kaiaks, Captain's Harbor, Unalaska." The painting is featured in Henry Wood Elliott: An American Artist in Alaska, an online exhibit written by Lisa Morris.

On the Home Page
Korean official and servant. One of a series of 18 watercolor paintings on mulberry paper collected by William Woodville Rockhill, secretary of the U.S. Legation to China (1884-88). Ms. 7339.


John C. Ewers

John C. Ewers (1909-1997)


Read Ewers Online

Smithsonian Institution Libraries has published online editions of two works by Jack Ewers:

Hair Pipes in Plains Indian Adornment: A Study in Indian and White Ingenuity

The Horse in Blackfoot Indian Culture


More New Acquisitions
NAA and HSFA collections received between 1997 and 2002 are listed here.






Merriam basket

Merriam coiled basket


Chitimacha basket from Louisiana (top) and an unidentified basket, both from the C. Hart Merriam Collection (digitally enhanced).

From his first expedition as a member of John Wesley Powell's explorations of Wyoming in 1867 until his death in 1942, Merriam was a consummate field person, meticulously collecting data and specimens and placing them into logical typologies.

Conservator Susan Peckham

Conservator Susan Peckham treats a Frederick Catherwood drawing of an archaeological site in Yucatan, which hung on an wall exposed to light and fluctuating temperatures for decades.



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Navajo Nation Donates Funds for Digital Collections

The National Anthropological Archives is pleased to announce its receipt of a generous donation from the Navajo Nation to support the digitization of virtually all Navajo photographs in the archives, including historic vintage prints and glass plate negatives. The creation of digital images will increase the accessibility of more than 1,100 images created by James Mooney, Matilda Coxe Stevenson, Cosmos Mindeleff, Ales Hrdlicka, John Hillers, Charles Milton Bell, Antonio Z. Shindler, William Dinwiddie, De Lancey W. Gill and others.

The digital collections include the Navajo-related portions of the Bureau of American Ethnology-United States National Museum Photographs of American Indians; Glass Negatives of Indians Collected by the Bureau of American Ethnology; and the Library of Congress Copyright Deposit Collection, as well as Navajo Archaeological Sites; Photographs of Navajos; and the H.K. Wilson Albums (mainly photographs made on the Western Navajo Reservation). High-resolution digital images of the photographs will now be readily available to the Navajo; lower-resolution images will be included in SIRIS, the Smithsonian's online catalog, for researchers and the general public.

Archives Hosts Native Unangan (Aleut) Visitors

During the week of April 7-11, the NAA hosted four Native Unangan (Aleut) visitors in connection with the Alaska Collections Project, led by Aron Crowell of the Arctic Studies Center. The visitors were Elders Mary Bourdukofsky and Vlaas Shabolin from the island and village of St. Paul, and Maria Turnpaugh of Unalaska, Unalaska Island, Alaska. Mr. Shabolin is a life-long hunter, fisherman and noted story-teller; Mrs. Bourdukovsky and Mrs. Turnpaugh are expert weavers of fine grass baskets for which the Aleutian Islands are famous. They were accompanied by Daria Dirks of the Tanadgusix Foundation Oral History and Museum Project (St. Paul) and Jennifer McCarty of the ASC Office in Anchorage.

The Unangan visitors viewed and commented on paintings done in the Aleutian Islands by Henry Wood Elliott in the 1870s through 1890s. All of the visitors from St. Paul had worked in the island's commercial fur seal harvest, which was started by Russian fur traders in the 18th century and continued under U.S. federal management until 1980. Their comments about the fur seal industry, which brought Elliott to the islands as an advocate for regulation of the harvest, will add immensely to the historical documentation of the Elliott collection at NAA. Mr. Shabolin provided valuable detail on Unangan fishing methods, as depicted in several of the Elliott paintings. All of the interviews were professionally videotaped and audiotaped.

Arctic Collections Program consultations with indigenous cultural experts are providing detailed documentation and Native language names for hundreds of items in the anthropology collections at both the National Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of the American Indian. The research will yield a major exhibition in Anchorage, traveling exhibits for Alaskan communities, a Smithsonian web site, publications, and detailed information to be incorporated into the Department of Anthropology's collections records.

This was the fifth ACP trip in a series of seven. Future visits will include Tlingit visitors from southeastern Alaska and Athabascans from interior villages.

Now Available: The Papers of John C. Ewers

The NAA is pleased to announce the availability of the Register to the Papers of John Canfield Ewers, by Susan McElrath. Ewers was curator of North American Ethnology in the Department of Anthropology of the National Museum of Natural History, founder of the Museum of the Plains Indian on the Blackfeet Reservation, founding director of the National Museum of History and Technology (now the National Museum of American History), and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation (now the National Museum of the American Indian).

Ewer’s research focused on the Indians of the Plains, particularly as they lived in the nineteenth century. He cherished his good fortune to have interviewed the last generation of Indians who had known life on the Plains before the reservation. Studiously avoiding theoretical or methodological debate, his work nevertheless established him as a pioneer in the field of ethnohistory, reflecting his anthropological training and his interests in history and art. A hallmark of his work is the incorporation of diverse data sources — documents, interviews, artifacts, and drawings by both Indian and non-Indian artists. Among his most noted works are The Horse in Blackfoot Indian Culture (1955) and The Blackfeet: Raiders on the Northwestern Plains (1958). He published widely in general interest magazines as well as in scholarly journals, yet always found time to answer letters of inquiry or chat with visiting students. He remained active in research up to the time of his death, constantly encouraging others working with Indian collections to "bring out the music in them."

The Papers of John C. Ewers document his wide-ranging anthropological interests through correspondence, exhibit plans and scripts, fieldnotes, illustrations, lectures, maps, photographs and writings. His correspondence highlights his close collaboration with individuals such as Stu Conner, Hugh Dempsey, Claude Schaeffer and Colin Taylor. A special category of material are the 57 boxes of index cards on which Ewers classified and organized his current research projects. Organized in broad categories such as "Collecting Alpha by Collectors Name” and “Fur Trade and Trade Goods,” the files contain many additional scholarly books on Plains Indian culture and society waiting to be written.

C. Hart Merriam Collection of California Basketry

One of the least studied collections in the NAA is a set of 5,000 photographic images taken or collected by C. Hart Merriam (1855-1942), an American naturalist and avid collector of Native American basketry. The majority of the collection consists of antique glass plate negatives of baskets collected by Merriam between 1890 and 1940. And what became of the baskets themselves? About 1,200 of them are at the University of California, Davis. The field journals which describe Merriam's collecting activities are in the Library of Congress, while his correspondence is in U.C. Berkeley's Bancroft Library. It's a prime example of valuable cultural materials separated by time, space, and the good intentions of donors. But over time, the provenance of orphan collections such as these becomes ever more tenuous.

Enter Suzanne Griset, head of the Arizona State Museum's collections division and former curator of the Merriam North American Ethnographic Collection at the UC Davis Anthropology Museum. Griset visited the NAA for two weeks in April to identify and catalog our photographs of the Merriam baskets, reassociating images, baskets and fieldnotes. Griset's database (which will ultimately be available online) will be valued by scholars from a wide variety of disciplines, as well as by native peoples themselves. In addition, the database will allow us to enhance our current catalog records for the Merriam photographs in the Smithsonian's online public access catalog. A further benefit of Griset's project is the digitization of a portion of the Merriam glass plate photograph collection, which will make these fragile, awkward-to-handle materials accessible to researchers for the first time.

What We Learned About Paper Lamination

For many years, well-intentioned archivists and librarians regularly laminated fragile paper documents in an effort to preserve and stabilize them, but conservators now recognize that lamination often causes serious problems, damaging the documents directly or creating aesthetic problems that make them difficult to use. Lamination often exacerbates existing problems such as the acidity that's inherent in many papers. And over time, the laminate itself may deteriorate, placing the laminated paper (and collections stored nearby) at greater risk. In 1999, the Artwork Conservation Project began a study of laminated items in the National Anthropological Archives, supported by the Getty Grant Program.

Guidelines for the Care of Works on Paper with Cellulose Acetate Lamination explains how to identify laminated papers and assess their condition, then outlines steps that archivists and collection managers can take to reduce the risk to their own collections. The report includes a non-technical glossary of important terms and links to resources for additional information, including advice for finding a professional conservator to assess a collection's condition, provide advice on its care, and create a plan for preserving your documents.

A Unique Look at Eastern Europe, the Former Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union

For the past fifteen years, the Human Studies Film Archives has collected historical footage of anthropological value. In addition to ethnographic field footage, the archives has assembled a treasure trove of travelogues that are unique both in terms of the times and places of their creation and the ways of looking that such films construct. A well-documented and technically sophisticated collection recently processed by the HSFA that fits this mold was created by Frank and Sonia Kreznar during their travels in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union during the 1960s. Their 16mm films and accompanying narrations provide a unique look at this region at what was virtually the height of the Cold War, and Frank Kreznar's narrations are themselves an interesting artifact of American attitudes toward these formerly communist countries.

In Yugoslavia: Land of Our Fathers, the Kreznars present footage from their travels across the northern Yugoslavian republics of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Vojvodina and Serbia, including scenes of historical monuments, streetscapes from capital cities and picturesque rural landscapes. The Kreznars distinguished themselves as 'serious amateurs' by their use of technically complex soundtracks consisting of recorded music and narration. In South Slavs, the Kreznars continue their trip across Yugoslavia to visit Montenegro, the city of Dubrovnik on the Dalmatian coast (Croatia), Kosovo and Macedonia.

In 1965 the Kreznars traveled to the Soviet Union on an organized tour, stopping off in Moscow, St. Petersburg (Leningrad), Yalta, Tbilisi and the Georgian Caucasus, as well as Tashkent, Buchara and Samarkand in Uzbekistan. The resulting travelogue is a three-part film entitled Lens Behind the Iron Curtain. Again, the Kreznars added music and narration to their film, which was presented it at schools, libraries and social gatherings back home in the United States.

More News ...

Publication date: May 2003

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