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image from David Efron's gesture study  illustrated by Stuyvesant Van Veen

David Efron's gesture study was lavishly illustrated by Stuyvesant Van Veen, although only a portion of the artist's sketches have been published.

Ghetto Jew: Sketched on the lower East Side, NY.

Most sketches are captioned. This one reads: "Ghetto Jew: Sketched on the lower East Side, NY. Note: Restricted gestural radius, movement from elbow; note also variety of manual shapes while gesturing."

Semi-Americanized Italian: Secretary of the Italian Club at Casa Italiana at Columbia University

Efron's interest in assimilation is apparent in the caption for this sketch, which reads: "Semi-Americanized Italian: Secretary of the Italian Club at Casa Italiana at Columbia University, gesticulates slightly, posture characteristics unnoticeable, but not typical of the second generation Italian youths mentioned in 86,7,8 above. Residence and primary and secondary schooling in Brooklyn, lives in a mixed neighborhood."

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




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Hand movements of a Ghetto Jew from New York's Lower East Side. Illustration by Stuyvesant Van Veen for David Efron's gesture research, 1930-40. Ms 2004-07.


Phillip Trella

Chaco Canyon Initiative researchers Phillip Trella, Carrie Heitman (below left) and Emily Cubbon.

Carrie Heitman and Emily Cubbon


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Michael Jordan

ARTstor project intern Michael Jordan with ledger drawing. Below: Katherine Williams O’Donnell and Martin Earring (Cheyenne River Sioux).

David Efron Gesture Research, Stuyvesant Van Veen Illustrations (1930-40)

The National Anthropological Archives recently acquired several hundred original captioned illustrations created by Stuyvesant Van Veen for anthropologist David Efron's landmark study of conversational gesture among Italian and Jewish communities in New York. A student of Franz Boas, Efron conducted the study to examine differences in the gestural repertoire of different neighboring immigrant communities, as well as the effect of assimilation on the range of gestures used by their first generation descendants. Efron's demonstration of the cultural basis of gestural style challenged Nazi "scientific" claims that gestural style was racially inherited. The results of his research were published as Gesture and Environment (King's Crown Press, 1941), republished as Gesture, Race and Culture (Mouton, 1972).

Efron's was perhaps the first ethnographic research to combine meticulous participant observation and artistic collaboration with the analysis of everyday social behavior recorded on motion picture film. According to Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, who uses Efron's work in her Jewish Folklore and Ethnology class at New York University, "the book was prepared under the auspices of the Columbia University Council for Research in the Social Sciences as part of Project #26, Heredity and Environment, which was approved for funding in 1933 and ran for about five years. Efron's dissertation was one of several Project #26 projects. It generated some 2,000 sketches, 5,000 feet of motion picture film, photographs, and many graphs." The Efron collection also includes a 115-page Bibliography of Gesture and Posture, which Efron apparently never published.

Efron collaborated on his gesture research with Stuyvesant Van Veen (1910-1988), a New York City artist who studied at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students league and worked with the muralist Thomas Hart Benton. Van Veen is also known in anthropological circles for the illustrations he produced for Franz Boas' research on Kwakiutl dances. In addition to the illustrations in the NAA, Van Veen's papers are maintained by the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art, which also has a 1981 interview with Van Veen in which the artist discusses his work with Boas.

The Efron-Van Veen Collection was donated to the archives by Paul Ekman, a noted scholar of gesture research who previously donated his own films on symbolic gestures among the South Fore (New Guinea) to the Film Archives.

Papers of T. Aidan and Eve Cockburn and the Archives of the Paleopathology Association

A finding aid is now available for the T. Aidan and Eve Cockburn Papers and the Archives of the Paleopathology Association. Thomas Aidan Cockburn served in a variety of public health positions including Specialist in Epidemiology to the U.S. Public Health Service and W.H.O. Advisor to the Government of Ceylon. In 1971, he joined the Smithsonian Institution as a Research Associate with an interest in mummies and the evolution of infectious diseases. In 1973, Aidan and Eve Cockburn founded the Paleopathology Association, which today has 400 members in 22 countries.

The Cockburn Papers include a topical reference file as well as information on Aidan Cockburn's public health career and Eve Cockburn's service as editor of the Paleopathology Newsletter (1973-1999). Also included are notes and photographs relating to the Cockburn's publications, The Evolution and Eradication of Infectious Diseases (1963) and Mummies, Disease and Ancient Cultures (1980). The Archives of the Paleopathology Association consists of annotated bibliographies, correspondence, files on annual meetings, European Biennial Meetings, symposia, members profiles, newsletters, and subject files. There are also files on the repatriation of human skeletal remains.

Chaco Canyon Project Begins in Archives

Researchers from the University of Virginia recently spent more than five weeks in the NAA as part the Chaco Digital Initiative, a collaborative effort to create an electronic research archive that will integrate much of the widely dispersed information on Chacoan history. The integrated archive will allow scholars to more effectively and efficiently address unresolved issues regarding culture change and organization in the canyon and in the surrounding region. These data are central to achieving a better understanding of Pueblo history throughout the Southwest and, more broadly, to studying the nature of human sociopolitical organization and change.

CDI researchers worked with two key bodies of data, the Papers of Neil M. Judd and the Papers of Frank H. H. Roberts, to create a fine-grained inventory of all the data objects relevant to the history of archaeology in Chaco Canyon. The inventory will serve as the first step towards tracking and integrating targeted pieces of information. Even at this early stage, the Judd and Roberts collections have yielded a vast array of ceramic, architectural, photographic, and historical data from the earliest excavations in the canyon. Once those data and digital images are entered into the CDI database, scholars and other interested individuals will be able to learn what objects came from what rooms, examine dendrochronology dates for a given context, and view a comprehensive corpus of images from the early Smithsonian excavations.

Documenting Endangered Languages: An Interagency Partnership

The National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities recently announced Documenting Endangered Languages, a multi-year funding partnership supporting projects to develop and advance knowledge concerning endangered human languages. Made urgent by the imminent death of an estimated half of the 6,000-7,000 currently used human languages, this effort aims also to exploit advances in information technology. Funding will support fieldwork and other activities relevant to recording, documenting, and archiving endangered languages, including the preparation of lexicons, grammars, text samples, and databases. Funding will be available in the form of one- to three-year project grants as well as fellowships for up to twelve months.  At least half the available funding will be awarded to projects involving fieldwork. The Smithsonian Institution's National Anthropological Archives will participate in the partnership as a research host, a non-funding role. 

Cataloguing of Bureau of American Ethnology Glass Negatives Completed

More than 1,150 new catalog records describing photographs from the Bureau of American Ethnology Collection of Glass Negatives of Indians, one of the archive’s most important collections, have been added to SIRIS, the Smithsonian's online public access catalog. In addition to their documentary value, the new catalog records allow the archives to display online even more of the collection's 10,300 images, all of which have been digitized. The cataloging project was made possible through a collaboration between the National Anthropological Archives and ARTstor, a nonprofit initiative founded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation with a mission to use digital technology to enhance scholarship, teaching and learning in the arts and associated fields. ARTstor is supporting the post-processing of these 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.

Summer Interns Study Plains Ledger Drawings

Three graduate students with an interest in Native American art interned in the NAA during June and July reviewing and revising catalog data for the archives' Plains ledger drawings under the direction of Dr. Candace Greene. Michael Jordan focused on Kiowa drawings, Katherine Williams O’Donnell looked at the Cheyenne drawings, and Martin Earring (Cheyenne River Sioux) worked on drawings produced by Lakota, or Western Sioux, artists. The information they assembled will be added to SIRIS, the Smithsonian's online catalog, and will also be incorporated into ARTstor.

Many of the 2,000 19th century Plains drawings in the collection were drawn on the pages of ledgers or other blank books. One goal of the project was to add display information to the database so that online viewers could get a sense of the original artifacts from the digital surrogates, ensuring that images sorted in the proper order and that drawings spanning facing pages would be displayed together. A second goal was to create new records for the several hundred drawings that lacked records in SIRIS so that all images could be displayed online. The third goal, and one that is ongoing, is to enhance the quality of information in the database, adding biographical information on the artists and historical notes about the time and place of collecting.

The NAA’s ledger art collection has been central to scholarly study of 19th century Plains Indian art. Materials from the collection have been widely exhibited and published, but these media have been able to present only a small portion of the holdings. Through digital technology, the archives can now make the full collection accessible through the internet, and, with improved catalog data, viewers will be able to examine the full range of this remarkable indigenous art form.

Film Archives Interns Examine Southern Africa Films, Prepare Finding Aids to Collections

Toccarra Thomas, a junior at Smith College, was selected for a 2004 academic internship appointment at the National Museum of Natural History through the Smithsonian’s Minority Internship Program. Thomas is conducting research on uncataloged moving images acquired by the Film Archives since 1995 and preparing new catalog records for SIRIS (the Smithsonian's online public access catalog) to enhance researcher access to moving images of southern Africa. The finding aid will include an introductory essay, selected video clips, and the newly created catalog records. Thomas's internship will provide groundwork for her spring semester’s project on issues of representation in South Africa.

Paige Rozanski, a senior at Vassar College, is preparing a finding aid for non-film materials relating to film collections in the Human Studies Film Archives. In the process, she has been safeguarding this collection by organizing and re-housing transcripts, shot logs, field records, diaries, still photographs  and copies of published articles. The database will provide enhanced research access to these little-known HSFA collection materials.

Film Archives Surveys Condition of Films

The Human Studies Film Archives recently received an award from the Natural History Museum's Small Grant Initiative to survey the state of acetate deterioration in its collections. Consultant Dwight Swanson will be working with HSFA staff to safeguard the archives' reference film collection through testing and examination, rehousing, and freezing of the most endangered film. He is also expected to produce recommendations for future interventions.  Mr. Swanson, a graduate of the Jeffrey L. Selznick School at the George Eastman House and former archivist at Northeast Historic Film and Alaska Moving Image Preservation Association, brings considerable expertise to this six-month project.

History of Anthropology Documented in Records from More than 30 Associations

The National Anthropological Archives collects and preserves historical and contemporary anthropological materials that document the world's cultures and the history of anthropology, including the records of more than 30 professional societies and associations. Descriptions of these association records appear in our online Guide to the Collections.

  • American Anthropological Association
  • American Association for Conservation Archaeology
  • American Association of Geographers
  • American Association of Physical Anthropologists
  • American Dermatoglyphics Association
  • American Ethnological Society
  • American Indian Press Association
  • American Society for Ethnohistory
  • Anthropological Society of Washington
  • Central States Anthropological Society
  • Committee on Anthropological Research in Museums
  • Council for Northeast Historical Archaeology
  • National Congress of American Indians
  • National Tribal Chairmen's Association
  • Northeastern Anthropological Association
  • Society for American Archaeology
  • Society for Applied Anthropology
  • Society for Economic Anthropology
  • Society for Historical Archaeology
  • Society for Medical Anthropology
  • Society for Visual Anthropology
  • Society of Professional Archaeologists
  • Southeastern Archaeological Conference
  • Southern Anthropological Society
  • Southwestern Anthropological Association

Staff News

Pamela Wintle gave a presentation entitled Will the Real Mrs. Rowe Please Stand Up at the Northeast Historic Film Summer Film Symposium, The Moving Image as Biography, in Bucksport, Maine (July 30-31). Wintle drew from Mariela Rowe's journal to narrate a sequence of Rowe's husband's film of their 1956 car rally adventure from Geneva to Bombay; both the journal and film are in the HSFA collections. Wintle explored the possibilities and limitations of creating a persona in live presentation.

Dwight Swanson (HSFA consultant) gave a presentation at the Summer Film Symposium called Moving Images, New Media and Autobiography, which reviewed the range of amateur moving images currently available on personal web sites and offered case studies showing how such images are being woven into larger autobiographical statements. The film symposium, entering into its fifth year, is devoted to the history, theory and preservation of moving images. 

Susan McElrath, who joined the NAA in 2000, has left the Smithsonian to become Team Leader for Special Collections and University Archivist at American University.

More News ...

Publication date: August 2004

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