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Department of Anthropology

Portrait of Cheedobau or Richard W. Shunatona

Portrait of Cheedobau or Richard W. Shunatona, born 1873, interpretor for the 1900 Oto Delegation to Washington. Photograph by De Lancey W. Gill.

Crowd awaiting a foot race at the San Geronimo Day Festival, Toas Pueblo, New Mexico, 1916

Crowd awaiting a foot race at the San Geronimo Day Festival, Toas Pueblo, New Mexico, 1916. Photograph by H.T. Cory.


The skirmish with General H.H. Sibley's wagon-train on the Missouri River, near the mouth of Apple Creek, June 1863

The skirmish with General H.H. Sibley's wagon-train on the Missouri River, near the mouth of Apple Creek, June 1863. Sitting Bull, facing heavy fire (as shown by the flying bullets), charges a mule-skinner armed with a blacksnake whip, counts coup on him, and makes off with a saddled mule. Pictographic Autobiography of Sitting Bull and Jumping Bull, 1870. Drawing by Four Horns. Colored pencil and ink on the reverse side of loose-leaf roster pages of the 31st U.S. Infantry.

Sitting Bull, 22 Years Old, Killing a Crow Chief

Sitting Bull, 22 Years Old, Killing a Crow Chief. Pictographic Autobiography of Sitting Bull, 1882. Drawing by Sitting Bull. Colored graphite pencil.

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In this scene, a White Father hears confessions in an outdoor church

Video Clip: Nyasaland, 1950 [30 sec.]

In this scene, a White Father hears confessions in an outdoor church.

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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.

image from The Tahitian

Video Clip: The Tahitian
[1.3 min]

Shot on 16mm film and enlarged to 35mm for theatrical presentation, The Tahitian did not enjoy much box office success. The filmmaking was described as “woefully inept” and the amateur cast had not the talent to pull the story together. Still, the music and dancing give the film a realistic edge and the Tahitian scenery and people are beautiful and engaging.

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image from The Tahitian

Video Clip: The Tahitian
[1 min.]

Chief Morro (Tehapaitua Salmon) refuses to help the foreign doctors (played by real-life Drs. George Thooris and Henry Beye) until his own son falls ill.

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More New Acquisitions
NAA and HSFA collections received between 1997 and 2003 are listed here.


Did you know?
The NAA maintains the Records of the Society for American Archaeology and the professional papers of at least 14 of its past presidents:

Neil Judd (1939)
Frederick Johnson (1946)
Waldo Wedel (1948)
Frank Roberts Jr. (1950)
W. Duncan Strong (1955)
R. B. Woodbury (1958)
James A. Ford (1963-64)
Albert C. Spaulding (1964)
Marie Wormington (1968)
C. Irwin-Williams (1977)
Fred Wendorf (1979)
Don D. Fowler (1985)
Dena Dincauze (1987)
Bruce D. Smith (1993)

The NAA also maintains the Records of the American Anthropological Association as well as the papers, fieldnotes and photographs of 30 of its past presidents.

Looking for the papers of other anthropologists? Guide to Anthropological Fieldnotes and Manuscripts in Other Archives is a good place to start.

Archived News

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ARTstor Collaboration Makes Native American Collections Accessible to Scholars, Educators

The National Anthropological Archives and ARTstor have reached an agreement to collaborate on the distribution through ARTstor of approximately 12,000 high quality digital images of Native American art and culture from the NAA collections.

The collaboration will focus on two of the NAA’s most important archival collections, which it has already digitized at high resolution for preservation and access reasons: an archive of ca. 2,000 Plains Indian ledger drawings and a collection of ca. 10,000 historic photographs of Native American subjects (portraits, scenes, etc.), made from glass plate negatives collected by or produced under the auspices of the Smithsonian’s Bureau of American Ethnology beginning in the late 19th century. Plains Indian ledger drawings, mostly produced in the middle to late decades of the 19th century, represent an important indigenous artistic tradition of great and increasing interest to art historians and other scholars. These drawings on paper, often done on the pages of ruled ledger books acquired through trade, continue a long tradition of painting on buffalo hides and other available media.

The BAE photographic collections, supported by extensive documentation, are a foundation for our visual knowledge of the American Indian past. They were critical in shaping perceptions of Native Americans in the last quarter of the 19th century and thereafter and they constitute an unparalleled visual record of historic Native American art and culture. The approximately 10,000 historic photographs to be distributed through this collaboration range from studio portraits of individual Native Americans to tribal scenes, documenting treaty councils, official expeditions of exploration, and early anthropological and archeological inquiry in America. All major tribal groups are represented, many having been photographed during formal meetings of tribal delegations with members of Congress. These two landmark archives will greatly enrich ARTstor’s value to a wide audience in the history of art and beyond.

Under the agreement, ARTstor is supporting the post-processing of these 12,000 already digitized high-resolution images for inclusion in the ARTstor Library, a database of digital images of art and cataloging data that is being assembled for noncommercial, educational, and scholarly purposes. ARTstor is also supporting a variety of related cataloging activities that will enhance the value of these materials to scholars. The National Anthropological Archives will also retain a set of the processed digital images, and will continue to make these images available in lower resolutions through the Smithsonian Institution’s online public access catalog (SIRIS).

In reaching this agreement, Robert Leopold, Archives and Collections Information Manager at the National Anthropological Archives, and James Shulman, Executive Director of ARTstor, expressed their enthusiasm in collaborating to use digital technologies to make these important scholarly resources more broadly available for noncommercial pedagogical and scholarly purposes. “The National Anthropological Archives is delighted to make its existing high-resolution digital images available in a secure, online environment that promotes the use of authentic, well-documented historical images for research, lectures and classroom presentations,” commented Leopold.

ARTstor was created in 2001 as a nonprofit initiative of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and is now an independent non-profit organization dedicated to serving education and scholarship in the arts and the humanities.

1950s Film of Malawi by Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) Now Accessible

Edited footage of missionary activity in Malawi (formerly Nyasaland) was recently transferred to videotape, the first 16mm film reel from the Missionaries of Africa collection to be made more accessible for research and study by the Human Studies Film Archives. The film provides excellent documentation of a missionary directed construction project, most likely near Lilongwe, Malawi's capital, where the Missionaries of Africa have been most active. Included are scenes of working clay, molding and firing bricks, building walls, and masonry work, as well as scenes of harvesting and rope production. The film reel was selected for video transfer at the request of a researcher studying the development and cultural impact of tobacco cultivation in Malawi.

The Missionaries of Africa – known as the White Fathers because of their distinctive North African-style white robes – have been active throughout Africa since their Catholic order was founded in Algeria in the 19th century. The White Fathers donated their film and photograph collection to the Smithsonian Institution in 1998. The motion picture film (ca. 300,000 ft.) is primarily the work of Rev. Gordon Fournier, who established the African Film Center (a distributor of educational and documentary films) at the White Father's Washington, D.C. facility in the early 1950s. In addition to Fournier's films, the White Fathers collection includes numerous independently produced edited films.

Human Studies Film Archives Safeguards Hollywood Film on Tahitian Epidemic

The Tahitian (1956), a feature length drama that increased public awareness of the filaria (elephantiasis) that spread throughout Tahiti after WWII, was recently transferred to video at the request of the Archives of the Institut de la Communication Audiovisuelle in Papeete, Tahiti. This expensively made, independent Hollywood production employs a cast of Tahitian actors and a story line based on actual events. The film was responsible for bringing the filaria epidemic to the attention of American and French physicians, which ultimately resulted in a Rockefeller Foundation-funded research program at the University of Southern California and the creation of the Institut de Recherches Médicales de l’Océanie in Papeete.

The Tahitian was developed and produced by people with a personal interest in the filaria epidemic – William Robinson and his brother-in-law Cornelius Crane, who financed much of the film. Robinson (who appears as himself in the movie) and Crane had Tahitian friends who had been afflicted by the disease. Co-producer and cameraman James Knott had worked intensively with filaria victims while stationed in the Pacific during the WWII. (It appears Dr. Knott had a dual career as medical researcher and Hollywood cameraman, having worked in feature films including Jerry Lewis’ The Patsy (1966) and Adventures of Don Juan (1948), an adventure-romance starring Errol Flynn. Knott was married to B-movie actress Lotus Long who gets a writer’s credit for The Tahitian.)

New Biological and Medical Anthropology Collections

The National Anthropological Archives is pleased to announce its acquisition of the Papers of Kaja Finkler and the Papers of Ladislav Novak. Kaja Finkler, a medical anthropologist, is professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina. She has extensive field experience in Mexico and the United States and has written five books on the topic of healing, among them Spiritualist Healers in Mexico (1986) and Women in Pain: Gender and Morbidity in Mexico (1994). Finkler's research in Mexico included studies of peasants and urban dwellers. She recently donated files relating to her study of biomedical practice and patient's perceptions of treatment conducted in Mexico City between 1986 and1988 (published as Physicians at Work, Patients in Pain: Biomedical Practice and Patient Response in Mexico, 1999). This collection contains interviews, notes of home visits, and quantitative analysis of interviews.

Ladislav Novak, a biological anthropologist, specializes in body composition, nutrition and the physiology of exercise. The Novak Papers document research on body composition and growth in children conducted at the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic. The collection also includes his physical fitness studies of corporate executives, Olympic athletes, and police officers. Born in Chlum, Czechoslovakia, Novak earned his BSC from Charles University in Prague and his MA (1961) and PhD (1962) from the University of Minnesota. From 1962 to 1966, he was an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota. He served as a consultant in the Department of Laboratory Medicine at the Mayo Clinic (1966-1972) before joining the anthropology faculty at Southern Methodist University.

New Publications

Recent NAA and HSFA researchers have been extraordinarily prolific – witness their latest wave of publications:

  • Sally Cole, Ruth Landes: A Life in Anthropology. University of Nebraska Press, 2003.
  • Alan Ferg, "Traditional Western Apache Mescal Gathering as Recorded by Historical Photographs and Museum Collections." Desert Plants (19/2), Dec. 2003.
  • Merry A. Foresta, At First Sight: Photography and the Smithsonian. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books.
  • Frank Goodyear III, Red Cloud: Photographs of a Lakota Chief. University of Nebraska Press, 2003.
  • Victor Harris and Kazuo Goto (eds.) William Gowland: The Father of Japanese Archaeology. British Museum Press, 2004.
  • Melody Herr, "Frontier Stories: Reading and Writing Plains Archaeology." American Studies Journal, 2004.
  • Suzi Jones (ed.), Eskimo Drawings. Anchorage Museum of History and Art, 2003.
  • Virginia Kerns, Scenes from the High Desert: Julian Steward's Life and Theory. University of Illinois Press, 2003.
  • Ron McCoy, "I Have a Mysterious Way: Kiowa Shield Designs and Origin Stories Collected by James Mooney 1891-1906." American Indian Art (29/1), Winter 2003.
  • William J. Peace, Leslie A. White: Evolution and Revolution in Anthropology. University of Nebraska Press, 2004.
  • David Price, Threatening Anthropology: McCarthyism and the FBI Surveillance of Activist Anthropologists. Duke University Press, 2004.
  • Lucille Watahonigie et. al. A Dictionary of the Hualapai Language. ELPR (Endangered Languages of the Pacific Rim) publications series, 2003.

If you recently published a book, article, film or video based on research in the archives, please drop us a note.

Staff News

Susan McElrath spoke about the NAA's internship program at the Spring meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC).

Jake Homiak and Amy Staples, former SI Fellow in the HSFA, presented papers at the 2004 Orphan Film Symposium, "On Location: Place and Region in Forgotten Films." Amy Staples used HSFA moving images from African travel films for her presentation, "The Safari Adventure: Re-inventing Geographies of Africa in Popular Travel Films." Jake Homiak and Jim Wehmeyer (Education Department, National Museum of Natural History) spoke about their goals for digitizing the HSFA collections in the final panel, "The Archive On-line: Practice and Theory."

More News ...

Publication date: May 2004

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