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image from a Lakota winter count

Lakota Winter Counts includes 16 calendars on hide, muslin and paper from the collections of the National Anthropological Archives and the National Museum of the American Indian. These two drawings of armed conflict are from Battiste Good's winter count.


pictographs from Lakota winter counts

The pictographs provide a point of entry to an interactive database of historical explanations by 19th century winter count keepers, supplemented with additional commentary by the Smithsonian.


screenshot of a historical image database

The historical image database is supplemented by video interviews with six Lakota men and women with personal connections to the winter-count-keeping tradition. They provide contemporary perspectives on the winter counts in more than four hours of streaming video interviews, relating the indigenous calendars to a wide range of historical and contemporary concerns, both local and global.


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Tim Asch, Afghanistan, 1975

Tim Asch, Afghanistan, 1975.

Asch taught visual anthropology at Brandeis (1966-73), New York University (1968-70) and Harvard (1974-76). As a senior research fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies, Australian National Unversity, Asch and his wife Patty collaborated with Australian colleagues on their Indonesian film projects (1976-81). He later taught at the Center for Visual Anthropology, University of Southern California (1983-94)

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



Party on North Cliff, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, 192

CHACO DIGITAL INITIATIVE The NAA's digital imaging lab has now produced more than 5,300 images for the Chaco Digital Initiative. Read more about CDI.

Above: Party on North Cliff, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, 1925 (detail). Left to Right: Ann Morris, Sylvanus Morley, Alfred V. Kidder, Earl Morris, Monroe Amsden, Neil M. Judd, Frank H.H. Roberts.


Ethnographic Films Used in University Teaching Donated to HSFA

Twenty 16mm ethnographic films representing a cross-section of anthropological interests were recently donated to the HSFA by the Department of Anthropology at the University of Illinos. Two of the films relate directly to existing HSFA collections: Magical Death, an edited film from footage found in our [Yanomamo Film Project, 1971], and Trobriand Cricket: An Indigenous Response to Colonialism, for which the HSFA had already acquired the archival original but no reference copy for research use. Other titles include:

  • Animal Communications
  • Child of the Andes
  • DNA and the Evidence for Evolution
  • Farm Songs
  • Full Moon Lunch
  • Glaciation
  • In Search of Ancient Astronauts
  • In the Footsteps of Taytacha
  • Lost World of the Maya
  • Lucy in Disguise
  • The Nuer
  • The Ollero Yucateco
  • Sociobiology: The Human Animal
  • Trance and Ritual of Bali
  • Tut: The Boy King
  • Vervet Monkeys
  • Vocalization of the Wild Chimpanzees
  • Where Man Lies Buried

The films join an expanding collection of audio-visual materials used in teaching university anthropology courses, including 16 edited films on the history and culture of Japan that were donated by the University of Illinois last winter.



Totonac dancers from Huehuetla, Puebla, Mexico

Video Clip: Totonac dancers from Huehuetla, Puebla, Mexico, from "The Tree of Knowledge." Bruce "Pacho" Lane, director [18 sec.]

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Digital Images Viewed Online 3 Million Times in 2004

Did you know that more than half of the 63,000 photographs and works of art we've scanned are available in SIRIS, our online catalog? Last year, researchers viewed these images 3,428,376 times.

You can download the images from SIRIS for research or personal use. We also provide a scan-on-demand service for collections that have not yet been digitized.


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Two drawings depicting armed conflict from Battiste Good's winter count, one of 10 pictographic calendars featured in Lakota Winter Counts, our new online exhibit.


New Online Exhibit: Lakota Winter Counts

The National Anthropological Archives' latest online exhibit, Lakota Winter Counts, provides unprecedented access to the world’s largest collection of Lakota (Sioux) winter counts. Winter counts, or waniyetu wowapi, are pictographs of memorable events created by Lakota Indians to mark the passage of time. The Smithsonian's exhibit features 16 of these Native American calendars from collections in the National Anthropological Archives and the National Museum of the American Indian.

The heart of the exhibit is a timeline of images showing the events that Lakota winter count keepers recorded in their communities from 1701 to 1905. Pictographs representing the same year in ten different winter counts are displayed side by side, allowing researchers to compare how different historians illustrated the same year and, occasionally, the same event. One of those events — “The Year the Stars Fell” — was widely known to non-Lakota people as the Leonid Meteor Storm of November 1833, providing a base to correlate the winter counts with the Western calendar.

The pictographs provide a point of entry to an interactive database of historical explanations by 19th century winter count keepers, supplemented with additional commentary by the Smithsonian. The database can be searched by keyword or a menu of selected topics such as health, plants and animals, or U.S. government relations. Search results are presented in a separate table and superimposed onto the original pictographic image timeline to show the prevalence of certain types of events, such as epidemics or warfare, over time. The exhibit allows visitors to select images and zoom in to view them in minute detail from multiple angles. Visitors can collect individual winter count images and associated commentary for later study by sending them to their “My Winter Counts” file which, in turn, can be sent to their personal email.

The historical image database is supplemented by video interviews with six Lakota men and women with personal connections to the winter-count-keeping tradition. They provide contemporary perspectives on the winter counts in more than four hours of streaming video interviews, relating the indigenous calendars to a wide range of historical and contemporary concerns, both local and global. Their narratives illustrate the range of knowledge still held about winter counts and the diversity of perspectives about their meaning.

Other features in the exhibit provide background about Lakota history, culture, and environment, richly illustrated with historic photographs and drawings from Smithsonian collections. A 33-page Teachers' Guide (available in Adobe PDF format) provides curriculum materials and suggestions for enhancing K-12 classroom instruction with primary historical sources.

Lakota Winter Counts was conceived by Candace S. Greene (exhibit curator); Robert Leopold (project manager); Christina Burke (research and community liaison); and Anh-Thu Cunnion (educational consultant). It was produced by the National Anthropological Archives with generous support from the Smithsonian Women's Committee, the Dakota Indian Foundation, and the South Dakota Humanities Council. The exhibit was designed and developed by the award-winning INVIONI Web Strategy & Design.

Timothy Asch Collection Finding Aid Available

The National Anthropological Archives is pleased to announce the availability of a finding aid to the papers of Timothy Asch (1932-1994), a seminal figure in the professionalization of visual anthropology and ethnographic filmmaking. Asch's work is notable for its critical approach to understanding the roles of texts and images in the teaching of anthropology. Among the best known of Asch's films are The Feast (with Napoleon Chagnon, 1970) and The Ax Fight (with Napoleon Chagnon, 1975), The Sons of Haji Omar (with Asen Balikci, David Newman and Patsy Asch, 1978), A Balinese Trance Séance (with Linda Connor and Patsy Asch, 1979) and A Celebration of Origins (with E. Douglas Lewis and Patsy Asch, 1993). Asch's film record of the Yanomamo is housed in the Human Studies Film Archives.

Born in Southampton, Long Island in 1932, Asch spent the summers of 1950-51 in California where he studied photography with Minor White, Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. In 1953, after a year at Bard College, Asch was conscripted into the U.S. Army and served as a photographer for Stars and Stripes in Japan. Following his tour of duty, he resumed his undergraduate studies in anthropology at Columbia University where he became a teaching assistant to Margaret Mead, who encouraged Asch's interest in ethnographic film. From 1959 to 1962 Asch served as a film editor for John Marshall and Robert Gardner at Harvard’s Peabody Museum. There he worked on editing many of Marshall’s Ju/’hoansi (Bushmen) films. This work shaped many of his later ideas about the development of film sequences for teaching purposes. In 1965 he completed post-graduate work for an M.A. in anthropology at Boston University. 

Asch shot his first film Cape Breton Island, Canada in 1960. In 1961 he traveled to Uganda as a still photographer and cinematographer for Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, a trip which resulted in a short film on the Dodoth. In 1968, Asch co-founded Documentary Educational Resources with John Marshall, a non-profit organization that produces and distributes ethnographic and documentary films. From 1968 until his passing in 1994, Asch, working in partnership with his wife Patsy, continued to produce ethnographic films in collaboration with anthropologists, nearly all of whom had long-term ethnographic field projects. In 1975, Asch was among a core group of visual anthropologists who helped to found the National Anthropological Film Center at the Smithsonian Institution (now the Human Studies Film Archives).

Timothy Asch’s ability to work successfully with colleagues to create anthropologically-informed films for teaching was the distinguishing feature of his career. Many of these collaborations spanned decades. They include his filmmaking projects with Napoleon Chagnon on the Yanomamo (Venezeula), perhaps the most well-known and widely used of all ethnographic films; the Pashtoon nomad film project (Afghanistan) on which he worked with Asen Balikci, and a series of films in Indonesia. The latter include films shot in Bali with Linda Connors and in eastern Indonesia where he worked with James Fox in Roti and E. Douglas Lewis on Ata Tana ‘Ai. — Contributed by Jake Homiak. A bibliography and filmography is available in Timothy Asch and Ethnographic Film, edited by E. Douglas Lewis (Routledge 2004).

Non-Verbal Behavior Research Documented in Paul Ekman Collection

The NAA and HSFA recently acquired the research film, video and professional papers of Paul Ekman, emeritus professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. Ekman's career has focused on non-verbal behavior, the expression and physiology of emotion, and interpersonal deception. Among his accomplishments, Ekman developed the Facial Action Coding System (FACS), a tool used for recognizing and interpreting facial expressions. The FACS atlas describes 43 movements which facial muscles can perform, as well as the various combinations of these "action units" from which more than 10,000 possible facial expressions can be created. According to Smithsonian Magazine, Ekman's work

has created a weirdly diverse following. The Dalai Lama has helped finance Ekman's classes on developing "emotional balance." Federal counterintelligence agencies routinely hire him to teach the nuances of facial expression for use in interrogating suspected Al Qaeda terrorists. Ekman's FACS atlas has also enabled Toy Story's Buzz Lightyear, and a generation of cartoon characters since then, to arch their eyebrows and otherwise make faces like real people.

His many honors include the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association (1991) and an honorary doctor of humane letters from the University of Chicago (1994).

Ekman's research collection includes fieldnotes, original film and video, photographs of South Fore, New Guinea, as well as original photographs depicting facial actions. Correspondents include Gregory Bateson, Noam Chomsky, David Efron, Derek Freeman, Carleton Gajdusek, Erving Goffman, E.H. Gombrich, Karl Heider, Charles Osgood, Jay Ruby, Richard Shweder, and Thomas Sebeok. Ekman’s footage of symbolic gestures in South Fore, Papua New Guinea (1967 & 1968), donated to the HSFA earlier, has been of considerable interest to researchers in recent years. Excerpts from his films have been shown in television science series produced by the BBC and Australian Broadcasting Company. Read more about Ekman in the The New Yorker (August 5, 2002).

Ethnographic Filmmaker Bruce "Pacho" Lane Donates Films

The Film Archives also recently received original film and video materials from Bruce "Pacho" Lane, an ethnographic filmmaker who teaches anthropology at Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Morelos, Cuernavaca, Mexico. His donation includes:

  • Tree of Life (1973) — presents the 1500 year-old rite sacred to Quetzalcoatl, Los Voladores (the Flyers), as practiced by Totonacs living in the Huasteca region of Mexico.
  • The Tree of Knowledge (1988) — contrasts the public school education that encourages adoption of the national culture of Totonac Children in Huehuetla, Puebla in east central Mexico with the community's efforts to encourage maintaining their own culture.
  • The Eagle's Children (1988) — explores the rediscovery of the indigenous heritage through the dance, La Danza de la Conquista del Gran Tenochititlan.
  • Original film footage shot in Afghanistan in 1987 for two productions, Inside Afghanistan (1988) and The Black Tulip (1988), which explore various Russian and Afghan viewpoints of the 1987 Afghan civil war.

The films and video can be viewed in the Film Archives. Information on video rentals is available from Ethnoscope Film and Video.

Japanese Ethnographic Television Series Acquired by Human Studies Film Archives

The English language master film of "Our Wonderful World," a popular Japanese television series inspired by Japanese anthropologists and guided by French anthropologist Jean Rouch, was recenty deposited in the The Human Studies Film Archives by Nippon A-V Productions. The television show was designed by creator and executive producer Jun'ichi Ushiyama to present other cultures to Japanese audiences via television. It ran for 24 years. In the late eighties, the best of these shows were selected, re-edited and released in an English language version called "MAN-TV."
The majority of the 36 titles received were produced between ca. 1967 and 1982, most in the seventies; they include:

  • The Trobriands-Island of Women (1974)
  • The Pygmies-Hunters in the Forest (1972)
  • The Akhas-Hill Tribe of Thailand (1974-1975)
  • The Last Great Chief of the Dani (1980)
  • Mysterious Migration of the Malagasies (1972-1975)
  • The Golden Earth-Bangladesh (1973-1975)
  • The Yanomamö Tribes in War and Peace (1974)

New Endangered Languages Program Collaboration: University of Utah

The National Anthropological Archives and the University of Utah’s Center for American Indian Languages (CAIL) recently reached an agreement to collaborate on publications, pedagogical initiatives, student internships, archiving original fieldwork materials on endangered languages and joint sponsorship of conferences on endangered American Indian languages. “The National Museum of Natural History is pleased to collaborate with CAIL on a program that will advance linguistic scholarship and contribute to the work of Native communities involved in language revitalization efforts,” notes Hans Sues, associate director for research and collections at the Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.

CAIL director Lyle Campbell, linguistics professor and recipient of the Linguistic Society of America’s prestigious "Leonard Bloomfield Book Award," notes that the partnership with the Smithsonian will further expand CAIL’s important work in the preservation of endangered American Indian languages.

CAIL, located in historical Fort Douglas on the University of Utah campus, is dedicated to urgent and ambitious research on the endangered languages and cultures of Native America; to the training of students to address scholarly and practical needs involving these languages and their communities of speakers (with training for native speakers and those whose heritage languages are involved); and to working towards linguistic and cultural revitalization in communities where languages and cultures are endangered. CAIL, whose members have strong national and international standing, leverages the strengths of the University’s American Indian linguistics and endangered languages programs.

Film Archives Condition Survey Continues

Dwight Swanson, a consultant for the Human Studies Film Archives, has completed the assessment phase of the archives' reference film collection. Nearly 4,000 cans of film were examined to determine the presence of acetate deterioration (commonly known as "vinegar syndrome") in the collection. Vinegar syndrome is a serious preservation problem which affects both motion picture film and still photographs. As the acetate film deteriorates, it begins to release acetic acid and because the condition is autocatalytic it begins to decay at an increasingly accelerating rate. Left unchecked, the film base shrinks and the image can quickly become brittle and unviewable. 

The films were tested to determine the rate of deterioration and a database has been created so that the condition of the films can continue to be checked in future years. The reels in the worst condition are being recanned and placed in freezers for long-term storage. The films are being prepared using the Critical Moisture Indicator (CMI) method, which was developed by Mark McCormick-Goodhart at the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education (SCRME). This technique protects the films in the sub-freezing temperatures and extends their potential lifespan long enough so that they can be copied onto new film stock. 

A final analysis of the relationship between the storage conditions and the rate of deterioration of the films will provide information useful not just to the HSFA, but other motion picture film and photographic collections throughout the Smithsonian Institution.

Staff News

Robert Leopold has been appointed director of the National Anthropological Archives and Human Studies Film Archives. Leopold came to the Smithsonian on a fellowship in 1988 to complete a doctoral dissertation on ritual collaboration among the Loma of Liberia and subsequently worked as a museum specialist in African ethnology, archivist, and information manager.

Pam Wintle and HSFA contractor Dwight Swanson attended the Association of Moving Image Archivists annual meeting in Minneapolis (Nov 10-13). Pam presented amateur footage shot by Dr. Thomas Stauffer in 1959 in the northwest border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Dwight chaired the panel "Reality Television: Preserving Amateur Video" and also curated and hosted a screening of original films created by AMIA members.

Norine Carroll, a conservation technician, has joined our Save America's Treasure project team. Norine will be working on the Bureau of American Ethnology Photograph Collection.

Sarah Rice, a graduate student in George Washington University's Museum Studies Program, has joined the staff of the NAA as a reference archivist.

Lorain Wang, a graduate of UCLA's School of Library and Information Science, has joined the staff of the NAA as an archivist.

More News ...

Publication date: May 2005

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