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Monday, June 28, 2021

From March to Marketing: The Changing Face of Pride

By Franklin A. Robinson, Jr.

The Stonewall uprising of 1969 was triggered by a New York Police Department (NYPD) raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar located at 53 Christopher Street in New York City’s Greenwich Village.  Although a common NYPD practice at the time, on this particular occasion patrons rebelled and fought back, igniting the spark leading to the modern gay rights movements. The Archives Center at NMAH has been actively collecting documents, ephemera, and Pride-related materials since the early 2000s.

While the uprising may have been the spark, the marches commemorating the uprising the following year were the fire. The first celebrations, termed “Gay Liberation Day” or “Christopher Street Liberation Day,” later to be known as Pride, were held on June 27 and 28, 1970 in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, and San Francisco. Many LGBTQ organizations, including the Daughters of Bilitis, Gay Activists Alliance, Gay Liberation Front, the Mattachine Society, and others converged on these major cities to, in the words of one New York City marcher, “serve notice on every politician in the state and nation that homosexuals are not going to hide any more.” Even though the number of national and international Pride celebrations continues to grow annually, the road to universal celebration has not been smooth, with local LGBTQ organizations often encountering social and legal roadblocks before being allowed to celebrate. * 

Program for the Christopher Street Pride Celebration in Los Angeles, California, July 1976.

Central Intelligence Agency poster collected at Washington, DC Pride in 2019.

As the LGBTQ community has gained broader acceptance, one aspect of Pride that has changed radically is the corporate and community presence at Pride street fairs. During early Pride celebrations recognizable corporate logos, participating community organizations, churches, educational institutions, and locally based businesses were few or non-existent. During present-day celebrations more and more groups, businesses, and entities look to celebrate the event and compete to be a Pride sponsor. Multi-national corporations such as Comcast, Lockheed Martin, and Price Waterhouse Coopers, LLP, actively promote their companies at Pride. Government agencies, among them, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Park Service, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) showcase their internal LGBTQ affinity groups as well as highlight employment opportunities. Colleges, universities, local businesses, and community organizations all vie for prime table space at Pride street fairs.

Modern day Pride has become an opportunity for not only celebration and commemoration but also for product and service advertising, educational and community organizations to dispense information, businesses to target potential customers, all the while remaining a diverse platform for performers, activists, and community leaders. The progression of Pride will be the subject of an upcoming NMAH Tuesday Colloquium on August 10, illustrated with items from the Archives Center's collections.

* Sources:

“Thousands of Homosexuals Hold a Protest Rally in Central Park,” Fosburgh, Lacey, New York Times, June 29, 1970, page 1.

“15 to 20,000 Join Homosexual March.” Battenfeld, John for United Press International. The Atlanta Constitution, June 29, 1970, page 2A.

“Homosexuals Get ACLU Aid in Fight for Parade Permit.” Houston, Paul, Los Angeles Times, June 13, 1970, page A1.

“Homosexuals Stage Hollywood Parade,” Houston, Paul. Los Angeles Times, June 29, page 3.

“Gay Liberation Stages March to Civic Center,” Chicago Tribune, June 28, 1970, page A3.

Franklin A. Robinson, Jr., Archivist, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.

If you wish to attend Franklin Robinson's August 10 colloquium on Zoom, which will feature Archives Center collection items, contact David Haberstich at

Seeking Pride in Our Collections

By Hannah Byrne 

Like so many employees across the Smithsonian (and at museums, libraries, archives, and cultural heritage institutions around the world), at the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives we are anxious to get back into collections to pick up research projects we put down at the start of the pandemic.  At the Archives, we help collect, preserve, and tell the stories of Smithsonian employees and community members. One research project that was halted by our departure, was looking more closely at our collections to understand the history and experience of LGBTQ+ employees at the Institution. 

As we celebrate Pride this year, we’re looking back at one of the founding documents of the Smithsonian Lesbian and Gay Issues Committee. In this memo, Smithsonian employees Leonard Hirsch and Eric Keller, as representatives of the committee, sought formal recognition from Smithsonian administration for the group to operate and advocate effectively for LGBTQ+ employees across the Institution. The memo--luckily for us was already digitized--accompanied the group’s founding guidelines. We learn so much from this document: the group’s origin and connection to National Coming Out Day, the invisibility of LGBTQ+ employees at the Smithsonian, and the work they hope to accomplish as an advocacy group. When we return to the archives, we hope to explore more collections related to this topic to learn more about this group, more about the diversity of their members, more about their initiatives, and more about their successes and challenges to advocate for LGBTQ+ employees at the Institution. 

Memorandum from Leonard P. Hirsch to James Early, June 3, 1991, page 1, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Acc. 15-218, Image no. SIA2017-045374a.

Memorandum from Leonard P. Hirsch to James Early, June 3, 1991, page 2, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Acc. 15-218, Image no. SIA2017-045374b.

Hannah Byrne, Program Assistant, Institutional History Division,

Monday, June 21, 2021

Joseph Cornell Study Center Processing Project

By Anna Rimel

Joseph Cornell with Book Object, circa 1940

In the summer of 2017, I began work as the archivist of the Joseph Cornell Study Center collection in the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM). My task, to put it simply, was to arrange, describe, and make accessible a room full of the studio contents, personal and family papers, and library and record collection of collage artist and avant-garde filmmaker Joseph Cornell (1903-1972).

Joseph Cornell's Basement Studio. Photographed by Terry Schutte.

Working primarily from his basement studio at home in Queens, New York – a home that he shared with his mother and brother for their whole lives – he collected a wide range of materials that he would store in cardboard boxes or cigar boxes. Images clipped from magazines, articles from newspapers, and scattered notes often resided in overstuffed folders or in stacks along various surfaces of his studio.

My first task was to familiarize myself with the history of the collection and how it came to be at SAAM – no small task, since the collection began with a donation from Joseph Cornell's sister, Elizabeth Cornell Benton, in 1978, along with several additional donations and transfers of personal materials into the 1990s. A veritable treasure trove of material giving insights and contextual clues to Joseph Cornell's work and life, the collection has been available to visiting researchers and previously included in comprehensive exhibitions and publications on the artist. But access was previously limited by the extreme extent and variety of the materials and the lack of a complete finding aid (an organizational document providing description of contents and contextual information) to the collection.

The next step was to familiarize myself with the physical materials, the extent of groups or types of material, and determine if the creator of the collection, Joseph Cornell, had any organizational systems in place and maintain those systems. I also needed to determine if there were any conservation or preservation concerns, which ultimately required going through all of the items in the collection to make a preliminary assessment.

An array of damaged negatives found in the Joseph Cornell Study Center during processing. Photograph by Anna Rimel, 2019.

An example of a rusted paperclip found in the Joseph Cornell Study Center collection during processing. Photograph by Anna Rimel, 2019.

As most gatherers of things are aware, materials kept in basements and attics where temperatures and humidity tend to fluctuate, are often more at risk for mold, rust, and pests. Since the collection has been in a climate-controlled space for upwards of 40 years, any discovered damage was likely due to the materials themselves degrading. For example, archivists are generally averse to keeping old paper clips in collections because these tend to rust and damage paper, and this was no exception for this collection. Also, in a collection like this it is not unusual to discover unstable film and paper materials, such as old newspapers and newsprint or nitrate and acetate film negatives.

Acetate film negatives were introduced in the 1930s and the popular film negative used until the more stable polyester film was introduced in circa 1960. Acetate negatives, after a number of years and depending on their storage conditions, can break down and off-gas, becoming a risk to materials stored near them, and negatives can warp and wrinkle, rendering the image inaccessible. Newspaper, inherently unstable and acidic, becomes brittle over time.

These materials need special housing considerations and take more measured and planned approaches as other processing and arrangement work continues. The extent of this type of material, material that needed more attention and care, turned out to be much more than originally anticipated, causing me to necessarily adjust workflows and timelines. 

Joseph Cornell's source material box of "Mouse Material" in the Joseph Cornell Study Center. Photograph by Anna Rimel, 2018.

But my work hasn't been all rusty paperclips and brittle pages. One of the most interesting aspects of Joseph Cornell's life has been how nostalgic he appeared to be about so many things. He might be having a good day, taking a walk, and find a rusty bit of metal or a pull tab from a soda can. He would pick up that found bit and attempt to capture that good day by scrawling a little note, or a date and a word, and fold it around that bit of metal. These were the constant surprises of the collection, in addition to whimsically labeled boxes of other stuff – "Mouse Material" being one of my favorites. Much to my relief, this box doesn't actually contain mouse fur, but what appears to be gathered dust or lint from a vacuum.

While working through what amounts to Joseph Cornell's life and a kind of fractured story of his artwork and ideas, there's a certain urge to create groups of material based on known works of art. This urge simply comes from wanting to understand Cornell's mind and present a body of material that makes sense to outside eyes. However, the work of an archivist is not to contrive groups of material or force things to fit into our need for order, it is to understand the original intent behind a stack of paper, given contextual clues, folder titles, or material type. With Cornell, the complexity of a found objects artist combined with an individual who nostalgically collected and gathered so much, this work was often like untangling an especially knotted bundle of chain jewelry. For me, this meant that I never decided a group of material was about any one thing unless explicitly stated through labels and notes by Cornell himself. Oftentimes, a group of material was about more than one thing, idea, person, memory, etc.

Understanding this, my next step, apart from reading extensively about Joseph Cornell, was to come up with a planned arrangement for the collection. With a collection numbering hundreds of boxes, a planned outline is necessary to make the work doable. Having gone through the collection and available inventories, I could estimate which boxes would include which kind of material, according to my arrangement, and approach the collection work in this way. Of course, with all great plans comes the possibility for adjustments along the way, and that is part of the work as well. Having tackled the overall high-level approach to the collection, I then spent the next several years working through each item – unfolding notes, removing paper clips and staples, removing materials from envelopes, interleaving acidic documents with archival paper to extend the life of the material, and properly housing everything in new, acid-free and lignin-free folders and boxes. I began with the paper-based documents, which made up a large part of the collection. My approach was to think of the collection as large groups of material: with the paper-based materials as one group, including photographs, prints, magazines, letters, financial records diaries, etc.; the three-dimensional objects that require special housing considerations and a different approach, as another part of the collection; the library collection of hundreds of boxed books with notes and annotations, as another part; and the record album collection as another part. Each of these larger groups has been described in the same comprehensive finding aid to the collection, but housing and planned physical approach differs for each type of material.

Shifting work in progress as files of material are placed in their appropriate locations. Photograph by Anna Rimel, 2019.

Going forward, further work can be done to physically get the collection to where it needs to be, but the collection now has a publicly accessible, comprehensive description in the form of the finding aid, which is a big step towards accessibility and findability of such a significant, unique collection of an important American artist.

To learn more about the Joseph Cornell Study Center collection at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, please visit

To view the finding aid to the collection, please visit

Anna Rimel, Joseph Cornell Study Center Archivist, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Monday, June 14, 2021

Collections-Based Research and Zoom Programs

By David Haberstich

     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