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Monday, June 14, 2021

Collections-Based Research and Zoom Programs

     The pandemic of 2020-2021 suddenly and ruthlessly limited human interaction, but educational institutions and organizations responded rapidly to fill the gaps. Everyone had to “pivot” in some manner from old ways to the “new normal.” Much formal learning took place in virtual classrooms, while separate Zoom and YouTube programs on a wide variety of specialized topics proliferated. As the National Museum of American History prepared to shut down in March 2020, one of my disappoint-ments was having to cancel or postpone indefinitely the remaining schedule of speakers for the weekly NMAH Tuesday Colloquium series which I had assembled. After a few months, as it became clear that the health crisis was not going to disappear soon, it seemed like a good idea to “pivot” the Tuesday Colloquium from its in-person setting in a conference room, complete with tea and cookies, to a virtual Zoom room. The procedures for hosting and managing a Zoom meeting are relatively simple and easy; I’ve had far more technical trouble over the years just trying to project a computer image onto a conference room screen!

Our ability to expand colloquium audiences is aided by Zoom. People who might be unable to attend in person can watch on their computers, and I can provide recordings on demand to those with schedule conflicts. Audiences were very large for a series of eleven related colloquia called “Pandemic Perspectives,” woven through our general schedule to fill gaps. This special mini-series was assembled by a team of NMAH curators who utilized the usual colloquium mailing list, plus targeted audiences and wider publicity. Rather than featuring a single speaker, each “Pandemic Perspectives” program was built around a panel composed of NMAH staff and outside experts for each topic. Nearly all of those programs were illustrated with NMAH collection materials as points for analysis and discussion—for example, objects from the medical history collections.

Mulford Rabies Vaccine Outfit, ca 1921. From the Division of Medicine and Science, National Museum of American History. This particular image was not part of a "Pandemic Perspectives" colloquium, but other NMAH collection materials related to pandemics, vaccination, and related topics were included.

The NMAH Tuesday Colloquium has been a tradition in the museum for decades. (See my post about its history at
It was originally intended as a forum for curators, other staff, and fellows to present their research, but we invite outside speakers as well, especially colleagues recommended by staff. Programs presented by staff and fellows frequently feature information about collection items from the museum. After all, the need to study materials in the museum’s rich collections is usually part of the rationale for research projects by staff, fellows, and visiting scholars. Collection artifacts have been featured in many NMAH Tuesday Colloquium presentations, including a recent illustrated lecture by Jennifer A. Porter-Lupu, an NMAH fellow and Ph.D. candidate in anthropology, Northwestern University: "Excavating Healthcare Inequalities: Mapping Disease and Drug Access in Washington, DC, 1890-1920."

If you would like to be on the mailing list for the NMAH Tuesday Colloquium, please leave your request in a comment here, or email me.

David Haberstich, Curator of Photography, Archives Center, National Museum of American HistoryCoordinator, NMAH Tuesday Colloquium;

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Elizabeth Peratrovich: An Early Civil Rights Activist from Alaska

By Mikaela Hamilton and Nathan Sowry

On February 16th, 1945, nearly 20 years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the first anti-discrimination law in the United States was signed into effect. The Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945 was created to address discrimination against Indigenous populations within the Alaskan territory by banning segregationist policies based on race. The successful passing of this act has often been credited to the dedicated work of Elizabeth Wanamaker Peratrovich (Tlingit), a prominent figure in the fight for equality and civil rights in the early twentieth century.

As of this month, the Peratrovich family papers are now available online, and will soon be available for research and reference in the National Museum of the American Indian Archives Center. This collection includes photographs, audio recordings, correspondence, and newspaper clippings documenting the life and important civil rights work of Elizabeth and her husband Roy. 

Elizabeth Wanamaker Peratrovich, 1911-1958.
Peratrovich family papers (NMAI.AC.078), NMAI.AC.078_001_01_021.

Elizabeth (Ḵaax̲gal.aat) was born on July 4, 1911, in Petersburg, Alaska, as a member of the Lukaax̱.ádi clan, in the Raven moiety of the Tlingit nation. Elizabeth spent the first decade of her life in Sitka, a coastal city in southeast Alaska, until her family moved further southeast to the Native village Klawock, where Elizabeth met her future husband, Roy Peratrovich (Tlingit). Although Elizabeth and Roy spent their early years at segregated boarding schools, they were able to graduate from Ketichikan High School, which was integrated following a lawsuit won by attorney William Paul (Tlingit). In 1931, Elizabeth married Roy Peratrovich. They had three children: Roy Jr., Loretta Marie, and Frank Allen. 

In 1941, the Peratroviches moved to Juneau, the capital of the Alaska Territory, in search of more opportunities for themselves and their children. Although they encountered hostile white homeowners who refused to rent to Native Americans, they persevered to become one of the first Indigenous families to live in a non-Native neighborhood. They soon took on leadership roles within the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood. Throughout Juneau, discrimination was ubiquitous; local businesses commonly displayed signage reading "No Natives Allowed," "No Dogs, No Natives," and “We cater to white trade only." After encountering a “No Natives Allowed Sign” on a local inn just weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Elizabeth and Roy were driven to write a letter to Governor Ernest Gruening in protest, marking the beginnings of their political activism to establish legal protections for Indigenous people in Juneau and beyond. The letter read, in part:

“The proprietor of ‘Douglas Inn’ does not seem to realize that our Native boys are just as willing as the White boys to lay down their lives to protect the freedom that he enjoys. …We as Indians consider this an outrage because we are the real Natives of Alaska by reason of our ancestors who have guarded these shores and woods for years past."

Letter from the Elizabeth and Roy Peratrovich to Ernest Gruening, Governor of Alaska, December 30, 1941.
Peratrovich family papers (NMAI.AC.078), NMAI.AC.078_001_02_001.

Successfully gaining Governor Gruening’s support, Elizabeth and Roy began a campaign to pass an anti-discrimination bill in 1943. With a vote of 8-8 in the House of Alaska’s two-branch Territorial Legislature, it failed to pass. Undeterred, Elizabeth continued to tirelessly campaign across the Alaskan territory. After garnering public support, Elizabeth and Roy, representing the Alaska Native Brotherhood/Sisterhood, brought a new anti-discrimination bill before the Alaska Senate in 1945. In an eloquent two-hour long testimony, Elizabeth stood before a white male majority and eloquently argued for an end to racial discrimination within Alaska. 

During the hearing, Allen Shattuck, a Juneau territorial senator, asked Elizabeth “Who are these people, barely out of savagery, who want to associate with us whites, with 5,000 years of recorded civilization behind us?” Elizabeth famously responded, “I would not have expected that I, who am ‘barely out of savagery,’ would have to remind gentlemen with five thousand years of recorded civilization behind them, of our Bill of Rights.” A local newspaper printed that she “shamed the opposition into a ‘defensive whisper.’” The Alaska Equal Rights Act of 1945 was signed into law by Governor Gruening on February 16, 1945. The Act provided that all Alaskans be entitled to “full and equal enjoyment” of public areas and businesses and banned signs that discriminated based on race. This marked the end of “Jim Crow” laws within Alaska.

Transcript of Alaska Territorial Senate Hearing regarding proposed Equal Rights Bill, February 6, 1945.
Peratrovich family papers (NMAI.AC.078), NMAI.AC.078_001_02_082 and NMAI.AC.078_001_02_083.

In recognition of her antiracist advocacy to provide equal accommodation privileges to all citizens regardless of race, in 1988 the state of Alaska posthumously established February 16th as Elizabeth Wanamaker Peratrovich Day. More recently, celebrating the 75th anniversary of Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Law, Elizabeth Peratrovich appeared on the 2020 Native American $1 coin design. That same year, a Google doodle featuring the work of Tlingit and Haida artist Michaela Goade (Sheit.een) commemorated Elizabeth’s life and activism. Elizabeth and Roy’s efforts helped to pave the way for continued Indigenous activism within the United States. 

Mikaela (Mik) Hamilton, Intern, National Museum of the American Indian Archives Center

Nathan Sowry, Reference Archivist, National Museum of the American Indian Archives Center

Thursday, April 1, 2021

New Virtual Finding Aids for Three Smithsonian Institution Anthropology Collections

By Katherine Christensen

In addition to collections which were maintained and donated by individual scientists, the National Anthropological Archives (NAA) holds collections created and maintained by anthropology departments and divisions within the Smithsonian Institution and for projects conducted by those departments. This post covers three of those collections, whose finding aids have recently been made available through the Smithsonian Online Virtual Archives (SOVA).

The Department of Anthropology records

Staff of the Department of Anthropology, United States National Museum, 1904, standing in front of the Arts and Industries Building. Standing from left to right: Edwin H. Hawley, G. C. Maynard, Alěs Hrdlička, Thomas W. Sweeney, Walter Hough, H. W. Hendley, Richard A. Allen, E. P. Upham, Paul Beckwith, Immanuel M. Casanowicz, and J. Palmer. Seated from left to right: Miss Malone and Miss Louisa A. Rosenbusch. SIA-NAA-42012-000002 Smithsonian Institution Archives.

There have been a number of incarnations of the Department of Anthropology through the years as the Smithsonian Institution and its component museums restructured. These include the Section of Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution, the Division of Anthropology of the United States National Museum, the Office of Anthropology of the National Museum of Natural History, and the Department of Anthropology of the National Museum of Natural History. This collection holds papers and photographs generated by the department and its members in each of these forms.

Staff of the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), 1931. Seated (L. to R.): T. Dale Stewart, Frank M. Setzler, Neil M. Judd, Walter Hough, Aleš Hrdlička, Herbert W. Krieger, Henry B. Collins. Standing (L. to R.): Charles Terry, William H. Short, Richard A. Allen, George D. McCoy, William H. Egberts, Richard G. Paine, W. H. Bray, Leta B. Loos, and Helen E. Heckler. SIA-MNH-18107A, Smithsonian Institution Archives.

The department was originally focused primarily on collections care and fieldwork as a means of growing the collections, while research was conducted by the Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE). In the 1950s the department shifted to a greater emphasis on research, leading to a merge with the BAE in 1965 in order to eliminate redundancy.1 The Department of Anthropology collection holds some archival materials related to the BAE, such as documents from the River Basin Surveys, but the majority of the BAE’s materials are housed within the Bureau of American Ethnology records.

Staff of the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), October 29, 1959. Top row (left to right): Saul Reisenberg, Cliff Evans, Robert A. Elder, George Metcalf(?), Joseph Andrews, and unidentified man; second row (left to right): Neil Judd, Eugene Knez, Robert G. Jenkins, G. Robert Lewis, George Phebus (?), and Gus Van Beek (?) ; third row (left to right): Gordon Gibson, T. Dale Stewart, unidentified man, unidentified man, and Waldo Wedel; and bottom row (left to right): Willie Mae Pelham, Jeraldine M. Whitmore, unidentified woman, unidentified woman, Mildred Wedel (?), and Betty Meggers. Smithsonian Institution Archives.

The collection primarily contains institutional records, rather than records of the research conducted by the department’s members. The papers of many members of the department through its long history have been transferred to the NAA, so there are numerous other collections2 which contain materials relating to the activities of the department. There are additional departmental materials in the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

Staff of the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), 2007. Top row (left to right): Chris Dudar, Bill Billeck, Doug Ubelaker, Mike Frank, Randal Scott, Eric Hollinger, Christopher Parker, Bruno Froilich, Sarah Zabriskie, and Dave Hunt; second row (left to right):  Kim Neutzling, Gail Solomon, Carrie Beauchamp, Bob Laughlin, Mary Jo Arnoldi, Lynn Snyder, Paulina Ledergerber-Crespo, Ron Bishop, Jim Krakker, Rob Leopold, and Dave Rosenthal; third row (left to right): Bruce Bernstein, Cheri Botic, Bill Crocker, Nancy Shorey, Pam Wintle, Stephanie Christensen, Jai Alterman, Jim Blackman, and Don Ortner; fourth row (left to right): Georgia O’Reilly, Bill Fitzhugh, Cindy Wilczak, Noel Broadbent, Paul Michael Taylor, Vyrtris Thomas, unidentified woman, Lorain Wang, Daisy Njoku, Christie Leece, Roy (Chip) Clark, and Mark White; fifth row (left to right): Don Tesoro, Ruth Selig, unidentified woman, Cesare Marino, P. Ann Kaupp, Carmen Eyzaguirre, unidentified man, and Jim Haug; sixth row (left to right):  Kari Bruwelhide, Paula Cardwell, Betty Meggers, Bill Merrill, and Stephen Loring; seventh row (left to right): Jane Walsh, Barbara Watanabe, Laurie Burgess, Ruth Saunders, Candace Greene, and Risa Arbolino; eighth row (left to right): Doug Owsley, Jake Homiak, Dennis Stanford, Letitia Rorie, Rick Potts, Jennifer Clark, and Carole Lee Kin; and ninth row (left to right): Erica Jones, Dan Rogers, Deloris Walker, Peggy Jodry, Zee Payne, JoAllyn Archambault, Joanna Scherer, and Felicia Pickering.

The Center for the Study of Man records

The Center for the Study of Man (CSM) was created in 1968 to apply anthropological knowledge to problems facing all mankind. In pursuit of this goal, the CSM organized meetings of established anthropologists with specific programs and brought researchers together into special task forces. The center additionally headed a number of programs, including an Urgent Anthropology Program (which granted funds to facilitate field work in and accumulate data on cultures that were rapidly changing under the pressure of modernization), an American Indian Program (which sought both to create the Handbook of North American Indians and to undertake action anthropology projects in conjunction with various Native American groups), the Research Institute on Immigration and Ethnic Studies (RIIES), and the National Anthropological Film Center (now the Human Studies Film Archive). The center also sought to create a Museum of Man, which would host exhibits devoted to anthropology and ecology. However, due to internal disagreements over the aims of this museum, the project was never approved. Beginning in 1976, the CSM was slowly phased out due to difficulties with funding and with melding the research goals of individual staff members with those of the center as a whole.

Center for the Study of Man meeting, May 19, 1970. From left to right: William C. Sturtevant, Robert M. Laughlin, Sol Tax, Sam Stanley, Mysore N. Srinivas, Douglas W. Schwartz, T. Dale Stewart, Fredrik Barth, Wilcomb E. Washburn, Laila Shukry El Hamamsy, George W. Stocking Jr., Surajit C. Sinha, Gordon D. Gibson, and Henry B. Collins. Center for the Study of Man records, Sam Stanley papers, Box 141.

The records of the CSM document several international CSM-sponsored conferences, including a planning meeting in Cairo in 1972, several pre-session conferences (on cannabis, alcohol, population, and the transmission of culture) at the Ninth International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences in 1973, and a 1974 meeting at Bucharest on the cultural implications of population change. They also include records concerning an attempt to issue a series of monographs and the organization of special task forces concerned with questions of human fertility and the environment. Additionally, there is material pertaining to the action anthropology projects with Native Americans, focusing on economic development and including material relating to the coordination of studies of specific tribes carried out with funds from the Economic Development Administration and economic development consulting for the American Indian Policy Review Commission.

The Tulamniu CWA Project records

Beginning first cross trench north village midden mound. Tulamniu C.W.A. Project records, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution.

As part of his recovery plan for the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt created a variety of agencies whose goal was to provide work to the unemployed. Under the auspices of one of these, the Civil Works Administration (CWA), the Smithsonian Institution sponsored a number of archaeological excavations around the United States. One of these, during the winter of 1933-1934, excavated four sites searching for the historic Tulamni Yokuts village of Tulamniu in Kern County, California.

Beginning survey baseline first trench. Tulamniu C.W.A. Project records, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution.

The project was headed by William Duncan Strong (whose papers were previously profiled on this blog) and recovered thousands of artifacts and, in keeping with the practices of the time period, many Native American burials. These artifacts and remains were shipped to the United States National Museum for study after the excavations were complete. The Smithsonian Institution began repatriations to U.S. tribes in 1982 and, in 2013, collections from the project were repatriated jointly to the Tule River Indian Tribe and the Santa Rosa Rancheria of Tachi Yokuts Indians; they were reburied at the Tule River Indian Reservation.3

Closeup of first trench in north village midden mound. Tulamniu C.W.A. Project records, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution.

The collection primarily contains correspondence, the field notes of the archaeologists, catalogs, maps, and charts.


Katherine Christensen
Contract Archivist
National Anthropological Archives

1 For more information, see

2 Some notable collections include the Betty J. Meggers and Clifford Evans papers, the Aleš Hrdlička papers, the Priscilla Reining papers, the Ralph S. and Rose L. Solecki papers, the Thomas Dale Stewart papers, the Matthew Williams Stirling and Marion Stirling Pugh papers, and the William C. Sturtevant papers.

3 See Repatriation Office Case Report Summaries California Region for more information. Accessed November 2, 2020.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Geneva Townes Turner

 By Jennifer Morris

Geneva Calcier Townes Turner married Lorenzo Dow Turner, a pioneering African American linguist and celebrated father of Gullah studies, who conducted groundbreaking research in the Sea Islands off the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia. Geneva worked as an unofficial research associate and scribe for her husband’s projects in the early years of his research. She participated in creating recordings of the Gullah people’s songs and dialect, and studied the international phonetic system at Brown University in order to better identify and transcribe Gullah speech. While her contributions to the formative years of Dr. Turner’s Gullah research were never fully acknowledged, she took pride in “sharing in his accomplishments.”

The couple separated after nineteen years of marriage, and Geneva went on to enjoy a successful career as an elementary school educator in Washington, DC.  She also collaboratively published and distributed two children’s books.                                  

KatieGrovener [Grovernor] Brown, Gullah Informant, Sapelo Island, Georgia, 1933

Parris and Rosa Capers, Gullah Informants, St. Helena Island, South Carolina, 1932 

SamPolite, Gullah Informant, St. Helena Island, South Carolina, 1932 

Jennifer Morris, Archivist

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Spotlight on Women Amateur Photographers No. 3

 By Pamela Wintle

"For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.” Virginia Woolf

Mayme Lou Bruce, known as Stevey, was married to James Bruce, a prolific amateur filmmaker and explorer who had a particular interest in Melanesia but also filmed in other areas of the world.  As with other husband-and-wife teams, in the Human Studies Film Archives collections, we know that Stevey accompanied her husband and photographed their adventures. As is so often true, the full extent to which she contributed remains “anonymous.” 

Indonesia, ca. 1975, photograph by Stevey Bruce (James S. and Stevey Bruce Collection, sihsfa_2002_17_op_Indonesia75_026

Ecuador, 1976, photograph by Stevey Bruce (James S. and Stevey Bruce Collection, sihsfa_2002_17_op_Ecuador76_005)

Nepal, ca. 1968, photograph by Stevey Bruce (James S. and Stevey Bruce Collection, sihsfa_2002_17_op_Nepal68)

Pamela Wintle

Human Studies Film Archives

Friday, March 19, 2021

Spotlight on Women Amateur Photographers, No. 2

 By Pamela Wintle

“The rule seemed to be that a great woman must either die unwed ... or find a still greater man to marry her. ... The great man, on the other hand, could marry where he liked, not being restricted to great women; indeed, it was often found sweet and commendable in him to choose a woman of no sort of greatness at all.”

― Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (1935)

Anne Hansen married John V. Hansen, a Danish adventurer and accomplished amateur filmmaker, and fully participated in his journeys to various European countries, the American West, Alaska and Central America. We know that Anne Hansen served as the travel photographer, necessitating her own intrepid spirit and sense of adventure. We don’t know for certain if this is Anne Hansen with the rope tied around her waist, but one can imagine that it is she risking a perilous slide in order to witness a geologic feature. Below this image are two of her photographs from their many other travels.

Grinnel Glacier at fissure, Glacier National Park, Montana, ca. 1942, photograph by Anne Hansen
(John and Anne Hansen Collection, sihsfa_1999_10_op_americanwest_007)

Tikal Guatemala, 1968, photograph by Anne Hansen (John and Anne Hansen Collection, sihsfa_1999_10_mexico037)

Mendenhall Glacier, ca. 1945, Anne Hansen (John and Anne Hansen Collection sihsfa_1999_10_americanwest028)

Pamela Wintle

Monday, March 15, 2021

Spotlight on Women Amateur Photographers, No. 1

By Pamela Wintle 

“Not content with making sandwiches and massaging feet, these women were active both in the field and in post-production. They recorded sound, shot film, edited, wrote, narrated, co-hosted, and co-directed.”  Smithsonian Collections Blog: Women in the frame, March 23, 2010

The Human Studies Film Archives has a number of husband-and-wife collaborations in the collections, but rarely do we know the extent to which “these women” contributed.  However, in a few of these collections we do know that the woman in the team was the main still photographer in addition to many other duties!

These women were usually behind the camera, so photos of them in the field are rare. Thus, although we cannot see her face, we believe from images in the Hassoldt Davis collection that the photographer of the image below is Ruth Diawara (nee Staudinger, also formerly Ruth Rozaffi, Ruth Cadoret, Ruth Davis, and Ruth Schaffner, 1914-1996).  After her death, her personal slides and films documenting travels to Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and various African countries were discovered in a Los Angeles storage unit and donated to the Human Studies Film Archives.

    Mount Fuji, 1966, photographer unknown (Ruth Diawara Collection, sihsfa_2013_002_op_003)

    Japan, 1966, photograph by Ruth Diawara (Ruth Diawara Collection, sihsfa_2013_002_op_002)

Pamela Wintle