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Karma Foley

John Marshall !Kung Film Collection Processing Project

Last year, the Human Studies Film Archives began to process one of the most significant ethnographic film collections in its 25 years: the John Marshall film and video outtakes from 1981-2000, as well as 23 films that Marshall edited from his 1950s film footage of the Ju/'hoansi (!Kung San) of Namibia's Kalahari Desert (also see What’s New January 2006).

The Marshall collection is being processed by Karma Foley, an archivist who worked closely with Marshall from 1998-2003, helping to complete A Kalahari Family, a six-hour series which tells the story of the Ju/'hoansi from 1950-2000. The collection includes hundreds of hours of original 16mm film and video, most of which has never been seen outside of Marshall's editing room.

Foley has also discovered additional materials that enhance the documentary record of the Ju/’hoansi and John Marshall’s work as an ethnographic filmmaker. This work has been supported in part by an Historical Archives Program grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

Photograph of Karma Foley courtesy Pam Wintle, 2007.


In Memoriam: William C. Sturtevant (1926-2007)

Bill Sturtevant

The staff of the National Anthropological Archives acknowledge with sadness the passing of William C. Sturtevant, curator of North American ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution and general editor of the Handbook of North American Indians. It was Bill who gave the archives its name when it was established as the successor to the Archives of the Bureau of American Ethnology in 1968. He outlined his vision for the archives in a letter to the Secretary of the Smithsonian:

"The BAE Archives should be strengthened and expanded in several ways. There is a great need of a permanent repository for the original field notes of ethnologists and linguists, which are now being lost with their retirement and death; an active campaign should be initiated to collect such materials, without geographical restrictions. The Archives' exceedingly important and useful collections of ethnological field photographs should be expanded, with an active program for search, exchanges, and duplicating, with the addition of color transparencies to the present black-and-white collection, gradually expanding the geographical coverage beyond the New World, and probably eventually adding archiving of ethnographic motion pictures. Such as archive would be unique and of great research value." (Sturtevant to S. Dillon Ripley, June 22, 1964).

Jason Baird Jackson's obituary appears on the Museum Anthropology blog.

Photograph of Bill Sturtevant courtesy Sheila Hicks, 1980.


Where Will Your Fieldnotes be in 2108?

All anthropologists are welcome to deposit their professional papers in the National Anthropological Archives, the nation's only repository dedicated to the collection and preservation of ethnographic fieldnotes, photographs, sound recordings, film and video. In our state-of-the-art facility, your research materials will be available for study in 2108, in 3108, and beyond.

Not ready to donate your fieldnotes? Show your support for the archives by making a tax-deductible donation. When you adopt a collection or sponsor a conservation project, your name will appear forever in our online catalog.


New Techniques Show That Several Historians Produced Lakota Winter Count

A painted muslin winter count with pictures representing Lakota history from 1752 to 1887 seemingly includes contributions from a series of different Lakota historians, according to a recent technical analysis of the overlapping painted fibers conducted by Ellen Pearlstein of UCLA. Her analysis of the Rosebud Winter Count involved methods ranging from visual inspection to X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF).

Ellen Pearlstein

One goal of the analysis was to identify stages in the production of the winter count by determining whether the media and style of application were consistent or varied throughout the piece. An analysis of the materials and their overlapping established four distinct applications of media. A second goal was to date the production of the winter count, which includes media such as graphite, chrome yellow and vermilion that were available since the 18th century. But Perlstein also identified one color, Prussian blue, that was applied to the winter count in a form that was not available until the late 19th century, allowing her to establish an "earliest possible date" for production of the winter count as a whole. Pearlstein's physical analysis complements recent studies of the history and iconography of the Rosebud winter count such as those that appear in The Year the Stars Fell: Lakota Winter Counts at the Smithsonian (Greene and Thornton, eds. University of Nebraska Press, 2007).

Perlstein's work was performed in the Smithsonian's Museum Conservation Institute, directly above the National Anthropological Archives, which allowed this extensive analysis of the winter count to be conducted on-site. A few pigment samples were further tested by Raman microspectoscopy, using samples that Pearlstein submitted to a colleague at the Getty Museum Scientific Lab. Ms. Pearlstein is Academic Coordinator and Adjunct Assistant Professor for UCLA/Getty Program in the Conservation of Ethnographic and Archaeological Materials, which provides  graduate education and training in conservation practice and related materials analysis.



Memescapes, a live digital remix of world travel images from the Human Studies  Film Archives, was performed on the opening night of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival at Ithaca College (March 26, 2007).  Quatro Estaciones Portenas (The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires) by Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla was a four-hand piano recital with multimedia projections and tango performance at the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture annual conference in Austin, Texas (October 17-10, 2007).  This piece showcased HSFA world travel moving images with Piazzolla’s tango music and tango dancing to visually suggest world influences on his haunting and rhythmic music.



Illustration from Garrick Mallery's collection

Illustration from Garrick Mallery's collection on sign language and pictography (Ms 2372), prepared for the 1st Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology.


National Anthropological Archives and the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana Collaborate on Language Digitization Project

The National Anthropological Archives and the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana are collaborating on a project to digitize more than 11,000 pages of Koasati (the Coushatta tribal language) manuscripts in the archives.  The project is partially supported by a Documenting Endangered Languages grant awarded to the Coushattas by the National Science Foundation in 2007. Digital surrogates of the collection will be available through SIRIS, the Smithsonian's online catalog, as well as in the Coushatta Heritage Center that the Tribal Council is building in Allen Parish, Louisiana, to preserve its heritage and revitalize its language.

"The Heritage Center will use state-of-the-art technology to preserve the Coushatta Tribe's native language for future generations," said Dr. Linda Langley, a research professor in anthropology at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, LA. Working with Dr. Langley on the Koasati language project is her husband, Bertney Langley, a native Koasati speaker, and Dr. Jay Precht, a post-doctoral research associate who recently received his Ph.D. in history from Arizona State University after completing his dissertation on the 20th century history of the Coushatta Tribe.

Some of the materials being developed are books, tapes, computer games and a "talking" audio-dictionary. The Tribe is also locating and digitizing photographs, maps, explorers’ accounts, correspondence and other records related to their history and culture. Utilizing these materials, Dr. Langley said the Tribe will be able to develop Koasati history and language booklets, which can be used in local schools, as well as in the community and online, to teach the history and culture of the tribe. She said these efforts would provide a model for other communities initiating similar projects.

"Language is power," said Dr. Langley. "A culture must have language to survive.”  Kevin Sickey, the Tribal Chairman, put it another way: "We need to draw strength from our past, while doing everything we can to preserve our future.  Our partnership with the National Anthropological Archives provides us with an important opportunity for achieving our overall project goals.”  This concept is echoed in the slogan of the Koasati Language Committee, which states: “Skon-na-ka-than-nan Koasati: Koasati Na-thi-hil-kah We Must Not Lose Our Koasati Language: We Must All Speak Koasati.”

Archives Acquires Records of the American Committee for Preservation of Archaeological Collections (ACPAC)

The National Anthropological Archives is pleased to announce its acquisition of the Records of the American Committee for Preservation of Archaeological Collections (ACPAC), an association whose members oppose the repatriation of Native American remains and maintain that museum collections that were legally made should remain in museums as an important part of the nation's heritage.

The ACPAC records include member correspondence; copies of Congressional legislation passed and/or proposed; court transcripts of cases related to repatriation and archaeologists; newspaper clippings, magazines and newsletter articles related to repatriation controversies; publications concerning repatriation; inventories of collections in various archives; policy, positions and resolutions by universities, museums, governmental agencies and others concerned with preservation of Native American materials; and materials documenting controversies between Native American Indians regarding the Repatriation issue.

The ACPAC records were maintained by Clement W. Meighan (1925-1997), who served as chairman of ACPAC from 1963-1997, and were donated to the archives by his widow, Joan Meighan of Bend, OR. Public access to the ACPAC records is restricted until 2017 to maintain the confidentiality of ACPAC members' correspondence. A summary of Clement Meighan's views on repatriation, including information on ACPAC's positions, can be found in his 1992 article, Some Scholars' Views on Reburial. [JSTOR] American Antiquity 57(4): 704-710 .

For Further Reading:

Archaeological Ethics in Print: An Annotated Bibliography (Janet Levy, Alison Wylie, et. al.)

Bibliography on Repatriation and Reburial Issues compiled by Barb Bocek, Green Library General Reference Department Guide, Stanford University, 1992.

Douglas H. Ubelaker and Lauryn Guttenplan Grant. Human Skeletal Remains: Preservation or Reburial? American Journal of Physical Anthropology 32 (S10): 249-287.

Ethnic Studies Produced by Nazi Anthropologists Transferred from Smithsonian to Polish Archives

The Records of the Institut für Deutsche Ostarbeit were recently transferred from the National Anthropological Archives to the Jagiellonian University Archives (Krakow, Poland).

The Institut für Deutsche Ostarbeit opened in German-occupied Kraków on June 20, 1940. Among its eleven sections was the Rassen- und Volkstumforschung (Racial and National Traditions Research), an anthropological unit that sought to classify the peoples of occupied Poland in order to facilitate their subjugation and administration. The Sektion conducted investigations until the summer of 1944, when the advancing Soviet Red Army forced an evacuation of the Sektion and most of its materials to Bavaria. After the War, US and British armies seized Nazi documents that were deemed important for prosecuting war criminals or containing propaganda regarding Nazi racial theories, including those in this collection. The IDO-SRV papers include anthropometric and genealogical data, fingerprints, photographs, hair samples, administrative records and research notes concerning Polish citizens and Polish cultural institutions. After the U.S. Army determined the IDO-SRV papers were of no value for military intelligence purposes, they were given to the Smithsonian on permanent loan.  
The Polish government requested the transfer of the collection in October 2003. A task force charged by the Secretary of the Smithsonian to inquire into the legal, scientific, ethical and archival issues associated with the return of captured war records recommended, in September 2004, that the records be returned to Jagiellonian University after the creation of a microfilm copy and digital surrogate. The task force engaged archivist Beth Schuster to arrange and describe the collection and assure the quality of the digital surrogates.

The task force, chaired by Edie Hedlin (then Director of the Smithsonian Institution Archives) included representatives from the National Anthropological Archives, the SI Archives, the Director's Office at the National Museum of Natural History, and the Smithsonian's Office of the General Counsel. The IDO records were transferred to Jagiellonian University Archives on September 27, 2007 at a ceremony at the Polish Consulate in New York that was attended by His Excellency Lech Kaczynski, President of the Republic of Poland, and Ruth Selig, Special Assistant to the Acting Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.

A finding aid for the Records of the Institut für Deutsche Ostarbeit, Sektion für Rasse- und –Volkstumforschung, 1940-1943 is now available. The electronic and microform copies of the IDO Collection, generously supported by the Jagiellonian University Archives and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, will be available from the NAA in early 2008.

IWF's Encyclopaedia Cinematographica transferred to Smithsonian

The Human Studies Film Archives recently acquired 900 films produced by the Encyclopaedia Cinematographica, a documentary project developed by the Institut für den Wissenschaftlichen Film in Göttingen in the 1950s. The aim of the project was to produce scientifically accurate ethnographic documentation of isolated kinetic activities ("thematic units") for comparative study. Topics ranged from food production to the creation of objects of material culture, and occasionally certain aspects of ceremony and ritual. Anthropologists who produced or served as consultants on the films were expected to have cultural expertise, participate in training provided by the Encyclopaedia Cinematographica and maintain a detailed camera log of the shots. In addition to ethnological films (including anthropology and folklore), the IWF produced films in biology (zoology, botany and microbiology) and technical sciences.

As part of the Encyclopaedia Cinematographica's strategy, film prints (called the "archives") were sent to repositories in Austria, Japan, the Netherlands and the US for archival storage and distribution. The Human Studies Film Archives's recent acquisition of the Encyclopaedia Cinematographica results from the recent closure of the former American distributor, Penn State Audio-Visual Services. This remarkable German contribution to the development of visual anthropology is available for research use in the HSFA through the kind permission of Knowledge and Media (Wissen und Medien), as the IWF is now known.

All of the films are relatively short (three to 30 minutes) and without sync sound or commentary. Cultural groups include the Senufo (Upper Volta, Africa), Mende (Sierra Leone), Songhai (Niger), Fellahin (Egypt), Taureg (Hoggar Mountains, Africa); Craho (Brazil) Waica (Venezuela), Atacameno (Puna de Atacama, Argentina), Ma’dan Arabs (Iraq), Kuttia Khond (Orissa, India), Dard (Gilgit District, Pakistan), Tadzhik (Badakhshan, Afghanistan), Polynesians (Ellice Islands, Niutao), Micronesians (Gilbert Islands, Nonuti), Miao (Tak Province, Thailand), and numerous films of European folklore subjects.

Preservation of American Indian Sign Language: Developing a Digital Archive of Smithsonian Institution Collections

Sign language was used as an independent communication system within most of the language families indigenous to North America, but by the early 20th century "hand talk" (as Indians referred to it) was already considered an endangered language. In 1930, with the support of an act of the US Congress, General Hugh Scott produced and directed a motion picture documentary and film dictionary entitled "Preservation of Indian Sign Language."

The film is part of a large corpus of Indian sign language materials that Jeffrey Davis, a linguist at the University of Tennessee, is transforming into an online digital language corpus with annotations, translations and captions during his research fellowship in the National Anthropological Archives. His goal is to make these materials accessible to a wider audience, particularly individuals from the communities where these signed languages once thrived, and contribute to further scholarship and language revitalization efforts. Hand talk continues to be used within some native groups in storytelling, rituals, legends, prayers, and by American Indians who are deaf.

The NAA holds some of the richest documentation available for the study of American Indian Sign Language, including the illustrations produced by Smithsonian ethnologist Garrick Mallery between 1879 and 1894, and research conducted by founders of the field of anthropological linguistics such as Franz Boas, Albert Kroeber, Carl Voegelin and John Peabody Harrington. According to Davis, signed language has been documented at every level of social interaction among and within numerous indigenous groups. Davis's research is supported by a Documenting Endangered Languages fellowship from NEH and NSF. His book, "Hand Talk: Sign Language among American Indian Nations," will be published by Cambridge University Press later this year.

MP3 Recordings of Endangered California Indian Languages Now Available Online

A collection of 180 historic sound recordings of endangered native California Indian languages recorded by John Peabody Harrington and his associates between 1912 and 1941 is now available online in SIRIS, the Smithsonian's online public access catalog, and in the Rosetta Project language portal. The languages represented in the recordings include Cahuilla, Chimariko, Chumash, Ohlone (Costanoan), Juaneño, Luiseño, Miwok, Salinan, Tolowa, and Tubatulabal. [Listen to an example.]

The digitization of the recordings was supported by a grant to the Rosetta Project (Long Now Foundation) from the Christensen Fund. Cataloging in the National Anthropological Archives was supported by a grant from the Smithsonian Women's Committee.

Staff News

Vyrtis Thomas retired in January after 33 years of dedicated service to the National Anthropological Archives. Vyrtis (known to friends as "VT") was responsible for the care and preservation of photographic collections, photo-related reference inquiries, and duplication orders for photographs and microfilms. Researchers will recall that Vyrtis had an uncanny ability to identify the source of almost every photograph in our collection, a talent that researchers appreciated when they called on her to locate images that were published without proper credits or captions. Vyrtis could perform miracles because she had a photographic memory; she could also rely on the extensive annotations she had made to our reference collection of BAE Bulletins and Annual Reports.

Staff of the BAE Archives and the NAA are remembered for their long years of service: Mae Tucker (1937-52), Margaret Blaker (1953-72), James R. Glenn (1972-96) and Paula Fleming (1970-2003); but only John N.B. Hewitt (1902-1937), our first custodian of manuscripts, had a longer tenure in the archives than Vyrtis. Those who've used our photo collections often knew to call Vyrtis directly; there was never any reason to waste time speaking with the new kids in the archives. Researchers and staff will miss her thoughtful and comprehensive reference assistance and her cheerful, knowing presence in the reading room. We wish Vyrtis well in her retirement.

Jake Homiak (former director of the NAA and HSFA) chaired "Expeditions, Anthropology and Popular Culture: Reinventing First Contact" at the American Anthropological Association annual meeting. The session, hosted by former Smithsonian fellow Josh Bell and Alison Brown, discussed Hamilton Rice Seventh Expedition to the Amazon (1924-25) and Sugar Plant Hunting by Airplane in New Guinea (1929), both from the HSFA. Both films were screened the following day at the National Museum of Natural History.

Leanda Gahegan has joined our staff as a reference archivist. A graduate of the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin (MSIS 2007), Leanda earlier worked at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center and Austin Community College.

Robert Leopold discussed the NAA's history and collections in an interview in Anthropology News (Jan 2008). His article, "A Brief History of the Loma People," appeared in the Liberian Studies Journal (June 2007). Leopold and Sydel Silverman (CUNY/Wenner-Gren) organized a panel called What Should I Do With My Fieldnotes? at the AAA annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Stephanie Ogeneski gave a tutorial workshop on "Digitizing Historical Negative Collections" at the IS&T (Imaging Science and Technology) Archiving 2007 Conference and gave a presentation on "Digitization Activities at the National Anthropological Archives" at the National Archives' 21st Annual Preservation Conference, both in May. Stephanie's article, "Film Base to Pixels: The Juan Cachu-Ramirez Collection: A Cross-Over Education Experience" has been accepted for publication in Topics of Photographic Preservation 12, published by the Photographic Materials Group of the American Institute of Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.

Pam Wintle and former Human Studies Film Archives director Jake Homiak co-authored a chapter on the film archives in Mining the Home Movie: Excavations in Histories and Memories (edited by Patricia R. Zimmerman and Karen L. Ishizuka). To celebrate the book's publication, Wintle and Zimmerman were invited to host a session on amateur films for the Virginia Film Festival held in Charlottesville, Virginia (Nov 1-4, 2007).  Their presentation featured HSFA collections including Czech Invasion (1968), Brooklyn Giglio (1956), Civilization on Trial in South Africa (ca. 1950) and Reverend J.C. Glessner’s Footage of Iraq (1928-1957).


Cheryl Beredo (University of Hawai'i at Manoa) is conducting research on the Bureau of American Ethnology and the Making of American Archival Practice, 1879-1903, as a Smithsonian Institution Fellow.


Jenny Ferretti is assisting digital imaging specialist Stephanie Ogeneski in a joint digitization project with the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Together they will digitize over 7,300 acetate negatives taken by noted New York photographer Walter Rosenblum for major galleries, collectors and artists in the New York City area between 1945 and 1962. The collection reflects the art of his time and is particularly strong in American and European avant-garde, surreal and abstract works and includes some photographic portraits of artists and other prominent public figures. Jenny received her BFA in photography this past May from the Maryland Institute College of Art.

More News ...

Publication date: January 2008

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