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Department of Anthropology

James Mooney

Anthropologist James Mooney (1861-1921) of the Bureau of American Ethnology. Undated. Photographer unknown.

Cherokee syllabary

An example of the Cherokee syllabary (detail of letter by Inali). Click image to enlarge.

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Efe boy hunting

Efe boy hunting. Photograph by William F. Wheeler.


a member of the Uru camp making backcloth

Ndole, a member of the Uru camp, is making backcloth. Photograph by William F. Wheeler.

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


John V. Murra

John V. Murra was born Isak Lipschitz in Odessa, Ukraine in 1916 and spent his youth in Bucharest, Romania. He immigrated to Chicago in 1934 to escape the worsening political turmoil in Romania.

After completing a BA in sociology at the University of Chicago (1936), he enlisted in the International Brigade and served as an infantry corporal in the Spanish Republican Army. When the Spanish Civil War ended in 1939, Murra spent nearly six months in refugee internment camps. When he returned to Chicago, he began to use the name Murra. He received a PhD from Chicago in 1956 for his dissertation The Economic Organization of the Inca State.

The Murra Papers document his personal and professional life through correspondence, diaries, graduate school class notes, lectures, photographs, published material and archival documents collected by Murra, reading and research notes and his own writings. For many years, Murra also kept personal diaries, originally intended as records of his dreams, which form his Dream Archives. (The National Anthropological Archives also has an extensive record of dreams maintained by anthropologist Paul Riesman.)



Meredith Shuba

Meredith Shuba and other conservation volunteers construct customized sink mats to house broken glass plate negatives. The broken pieces can be scanned and the images reassembled digitally

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On the Home Page
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.



Museum of the Cherokee Indian and Archives Collaborate on Endangered Languages Program

The National Anthropological Archives and the Museum of the Cherokee Indian are collaborating on a two-year project to digitize 8,000 pages of Cherokee language manuscripts under a Documenting Endangered Languages grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded to the museum in May.

The NAA is one of the most important repositories of materials related to Cherokee culture, language, and history in the world. Its collection includes manuscripts written in the Cherokee syllabary by Swimmer, Inali, and other Cherokee individuals as well as ethnographic accounts of Cherokee culture written by James Mooney (whose association with the Cherokee began in 1887) and Frans Olbrechts, who wrote about Cherokee language and medicine in the 1920s and early 1930s. The collection includes songs and musical transcriptions; lists of Cherokee personal names and place names; early maps and censuses; copies of Cherokee treaties; and a wealth of ethnobotanical material.

The Cherokee Museum will make high-resolution digital images of Cherokee linguistic manuscripts created by the NAA available to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians through an online system housed at the museum, and will also carry out fieldwork with elders and native speakers in order to assess these materials, translate them, and develop ways to use them in Cherokee language preservation programs. Portions of the collection will also be available to researchers through the Smithsonian's online catalog.

Documenting Endangered Languages — an interagency partnership of the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Museum of Natural History — supports projects to develop and advance knowledge concerning endangered human languages. The NAA participates in the partnership as a research host. Thirteen fellowships and 26 institutional grants were awarded in 2005. Proposals for the next competition are due Nov. 1.

William F. Wheeler Donates 5,200 Photographs of Efe Pygmies

California physician William F. Wheeler recently donated an extraordinary personal collection of more than 5,200 35mm color slides along with field journals, video and sound recordings created during five extended visits to the Efe people between 1990 and 1998. The Wheeler collection complements the Human Studies Film Archives' extensive documentary film record of Congo pygmies, which includes edited film and footage shot by Paul Travis (1927-28); Armand Denis and Lewis Cotlow (1946); Ethel Cutler Freeman (1949-1950); Howard Hill (1951); Frances Chapman and Colin Turnbull (1954); Joseph Towles (1954); Turnbull and Towles (1971-1972); and Hugh Tracy.

Wheeler was born in Blackville, S.C. in 1943 and received an M.D. degree from Duke University after completing his internship at UC-San Diego and a specialty degree in anesthesiology at Massachusetts General in Boston. After practicing medicine for 12 years, he bought a Land Rover and began traveling Africa on his own, chalking up 40,000 miles over a five year period. To gain a more intimate experience, he returned to the most remote places and began to explore them on foot. His detailed safari journals, written in the style of 19th century explorers, describe camel journeys in the Sahara, foot safaris with Maasai in Kenya and Tanzania, and hundred of miles of treks with Efe through the rainforest of the Ituri river basin, a tributary of the Congo River. The Efe are one of four Pygmy groups (the others are the Mbuti, Tswa, and Aka). They number about 5,000 people.

A selection of Wheeler's images were published as Efe Pygmies: Archers of the African Rain Forest (Rizolli, 2000). Wheeler has also donated an important collection of Efe backcloth and other materials to the National Museum of Natural History's ethnology collections.

Papers of John V. Murra Now Available

The National Anthropological Archives is pleased to announce the availability of a Register to the Papers of John Victor Murra, an anthropologist and ethnohistorian whose research focuses on Andean cultures and the Caribbean. Murra is the author of Survey and Excavations in Southern Ecuador (with Don Collier, 1943); The Economic Organization of the Inca State (1956); Cloth and its Functions in the Inca State (1962); Current Research and Prospects in Andean Ethnohistory (1970); Formaciones económicas y políticas del mundo andino (1975); Historia general de América Latina / 1. Las sociedades originales (with Teresa Rojas Rabiela, 1999); and El mundo andino: población, medio ambiente y economía (2002), and is the editor of American Anthropology, the Early Years (1976) and Anthropological History of Andean Polities (with Nathan Wachtel and Jacques Revel, 1986).

Trained at the University of Chicago, Murra taught at Chicago, Vassar, the University of Puerto Rico, Brooklyn College, Yale and Cornell, and held visiting professorships in Chile, England, France, Peru and Spain. He served as the president of the American Society of Ethnohistory (1970-71), the American Ethnological Society (1972-73), and the Institute of Andean Research (1977-83). Murra’s efforts to cultivate educational opportunities for South American graduate students and promote an international dialogue among students produced three well known programs: the Comparative Seminar on the Andes and Mesoamerica (1972), the Lake Titicaca field project (1973) and the Otoño Andino held at Cornell University (1977).

Following his retirement from Cornell, Murra served as a consultant to the Banco Nacional de Bolivia at the Museo Nacional de Etnografía, La Paz. In 1983, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship to pursue archival research in Spain, later teaching at the Universities of Madrid and Seville and at the Institut Catalá d’Antropologi in Barcelonia (1985-86). He was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of the Sun, Peru, and Doctor Honoris Causa from the Universidad de Barcelona. Murra currently lives in Ithaca, New York.

Earliest Archaeological Photos of Chaco Canyon Discovered During Move of Collections

The earliest known photographs of the Chaco Canyon archaeological site occupied by the Anasazi people were recently discovered during an inventory of 19th century glass plate negatives in the NAA's off-site cold storage facility. The discovery includes what is probably the earliest photograph of Penasco Blanco (one of the smaller remote sites at Chaco Canyon), which today consists only of rubble. The photograph was taken in 1887 by Victor Mindeleff (1860-1948). It was one of 140 photographs identified by Phillip Trella of the Chaco Digital Initiative, who also identified upper story levels of Pueblo Bonito and additional structures at Chaco that have never been recorded and have since collapsed.

The inventory of the Subject and Geographic File, comprising more than 6,000 negatives of archaeological sites and objects, was undertaken in preparation for the collection's move to the National Anthropological Archives, where photographs created or collected by the Smithsonian's former Bureau of American Ethnology are undergoing extensive preservation work funded with a Save America's Treasures grant awarded to the archives last year. The archives is using the grant to prepare portions of the collection for cold storage; treat and stabilize glass plate negatives and selected high-value prints and photo albums; process and rehouse components of the print collection; and create digital reference images to reduce handling of fragile images. The preservation work is lead by conservation technician Norine Carroll, who joined the project in late February.

Since then, Carroll and a staff of interns and volunteers have moved some 6,000 negatives; created enclosures for more than 5,000 lantern slides; removed thousands of photographic negatives from deteriorating acidic envelopes; and constructed custom sink mats to reduce breakage or abrasion of the emulsion on the broken edges (see photo at left). The next phase of the project will identify highly flammable nitrate negatives located within collections and transfer them to a safe, off-site storage facility operated by the Library of Congress.

About half of the photographs in the collection appear to have been published in the Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletins, U.S. National Museum Annual Reports, and Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections; others have never been published and many are poorly identified. The NAA is making this preliminary list of archaeological photographs (in Excel format) available for researchers in hopes that they may discover similarly interesting undocumented archaeological images.

Audio Field Recordings of the Ju/hoansi Bushmen

Sound recordings of the Ju/hoansi bushmen recorded by ethnomusicologist Nicholas M. England (1921-2003) in conjunction with the Peabody-Smithsonian Expeditions to the Kalahari Desert were recently donated to the Human Studies Film Archives. England was an internationally recognized authority on African music and the founding director of Cal Arts World Music Program.

England worked closely with Laurence Marshall and his son, ethnographic filmmaker John Marshall, whose expedition film and audiotapes from 1951-1958 were donated to the film archives earlier. England's sound recordings fill in missing gaps in the record and provide valuable audio documentation of the Ju/hoansi from the 1959 and 1961 expeditions when there was no filming. England also composed the music for John Marshall’s last ethnographic film project, an award winning five part ethnographic film, A Kalahari Family, which drew on Marshall’s extensive filming spanning fifty years.

In Memoriam: Thomas R. Stauffer

The Human Studies Film Archives is saddened by the untimely loss of one of its most recent collection donors, Thomas R. Stauffer, an internationally recognized authority on water and energy issues who formerly taught at Harvard and Georgetown Universities.

At the time of his passing in March, Stauffer was producing audio commentaries for film footage he had shot in the Middle East in the late 1950s and early 1960s, which he had donated to the film archives the previous year. Stauffer’s work is an exceptional historical document of a region which continues to play a key role in international relations.        

Stauffer began making films soon after graduating from college. In 1959, he traveled with a colleague to Pakistan and Afghanistan where they hoped to produce documentary footage for the BBC. In 1961, Stauffer and his wife Ilse traveled overland by van from Germany to Iran to film the seasonal migration of the nomadic Quashqai people. From this footage Stauffer produced an edited lecture print entitled Black Tents: Nomadism in Southern Iran, which later served as an important teaching tool for his economic geography course in Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies.

In 1965, the Stauffers returned to Iran to document the production of traditional crafts and textiles of the region. This footage was later used by the Metropolitan Museum of Art for an introductory film featured in an exhibit on Islamic carpets.

Staff News

Pam Wintle received a $10,900 National Film Preservation Foundation Grant to preserve Walter O. Link’s 1928 film footage from Indonesia. Link was a geologist and oil explorer who worked for Standard Oil. His film footage and accompanying diaries document the indigenous groups he encountered in Indonesia.

Robert Leopold taught "Digital Imaging for Museums: Policy and Practice" in the Museum Studies Program at George Washington University this summer, a course he's taught since 2000.


Intern Ye-Gee Kwon (Museum Studies Program, George Washington University) is processing the manuscript and still photographs in the Hassoldt Davis collection.

Intern Rona Razon (University of San Diego, California) is assisting with the second phase of the film archives' acetate deterioration project, preserving 16mm magnetic film synchronous sound tracks that are severely deteriorating and organizing the secondary and college level film prints of ethnographic films for reference use.

Intern Raquel Sáenz (Colorado College) is cataloging sound recordings for the NAA's endangered languages program, including recordings from the collections of Timothy Asch (Diola), William H. Crocker (Canela), Frederica de Laguna (Atna, Tlingit), Ethel Cutler Freeman (Seminole), Irving Goldman (Cubeo), M. Inez Hilger (Ainu), James Howard (Choctaw), Carol Jopling (Yalalag), Jerry Leach (Trobriand), Thomas Lewis (Tiriyo), James Watson (Tairora),

Intern Paul Stavast (Museum Studies Program, George Washington University) is working in the digital imaging lab scanning photographs of Chaco Canyon from the Neil Judd and Frank H.H. Roberts collections.

More News ...

Publication date: August 2005

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