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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.

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