National Anthropological Archives and Human Studies Film Archives

Monga Grey Bear, Candace Greene, and Vivian High Elk

A traditional star quilt serves as a background for computer workstations in the Si Tanka Huron University library on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. Librarians Mona Grey Bear (left) and Vivian High Elk (right) hosted Candace Greene's presentation on the winter count project.

To learn more, see:

Raymond J. DeMallie and Douglas R. Parks, "Tribal Traditions and Records," in the Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 13, Plains (Washington: Smithsonian Inst., 2001)


Autoradiograph evidence from the O.J. Simpson trial

This autoradiograph shows DNA sequencing presented as evidence in the trial of O.J. Simpson in 1995.


On the Home Page
Sir Lawrence Olivier and Vivian Leigh in a June 1937 performance of Hamlet at Kronborg Castle, Elsinor, Denmark. 16mm silent Kodachrome. John Hansen Collection.


Anthropologist Frank Spencer with cat on lap

Frank Spencer and his cat, Mimi. Photograph by Elena Peters-Spencer.


“The faker must have known more about primate anatomy than all the highly distinguished anatomists he deluded.”


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Man at entrance to Tomb of Ramoses

In this frame from John V. Hansen's film, Tombs of the Nobles, a local guide stands near the entrance to the Tomb of Ramose, visier to Amenophis IV (ca. 1365 BC).

Drawing of Egyptians sowing seeds

Hansen's 1929 film is considered to be the first filming of the paintings inside the tombs. This agrarian scene from the Tomb of Nakht, late 15th century BC. , shows people sowing seeds ...

Drawing of Egyptians picking grapes

... and picking grapes.


Hansen intertitle

The filmmaker's clear yet humorous documentary style is evident in this title.



Man in speeding racing car

Kiowa calendar entry from the Summer of 1921 (Ms 2002-27). To learn more about Kiowa art, see:

Candace S. Greene, Silver Horn: Master Illustrator of the Kiowa (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2001).



New This Month:
Most Entertaining Online Ethnography

Junior's Juke Joint  

Here's your chance to visit Mississippi Delta juke joints with a blues-loving cultural anthropologist. If you want to know the difference between a juke joint and a honky tonk, this site is for you.



Sylvanus G. Morley

The Film Archives also recently acquired film of Sylvanus Griswold Morley (1883-1948), a leading American Mayan archeologist, and Mayan ruins in the Yucatan.

In this photograph, most likely taken in the mid 1920s, Morley (left) stands with Earl Halstead Morris in a doorway at Chichen Itza. Photo Lot 84-4.



Group of Rapanui beside stone walGroup of Rapanui beside stone wal

Group of Rapanui beside stone wall at Vaihu, near Hanga Tee, December 1886.

The photograph may have been taken by William J. Thomson, paymaster aboard the U.S.S. Mohican, who was on the island that month collecting artifacts for the Smithsonian Institution.






The Year the Stars Fell: Lakota Winter Counts

The Department of Anthropology has launched a project to publish its collection of Lakota winter counts, pictorial calendars that the Lakota (Sioux) kept to mark the passage of time, reckoned in winters. Each year is named for a notable event, such as "The Year the Stars Fell." This was the Leonid meteor storm of November 1833, a remarkable display visible throughout much of North America. Because all of the calendars depict this event, they can be correlated with each other. The earliest Smithsonian winter count begins in 1700. Most counts include entries up to the time that they were copied for the Smithsonian in the 1870s, with one noting year names to 1919.

The publication will make full information easily accessible for 22 Lakota winters counts in the NAA and the National Museum of the American Indian, as well as related calendar records from the Blackfeet and Kiowa, several of which are already available online. The volume is being co-edited by Candace S. Greene and Russell Thornton, with contributions by Christina Burke and assistance from Gayle Yiotis and Marit Munson. This project has received generous support from the Smithsonian’s Repatriation Review Committee.

DNA-related Materials from O.J. Simpson Trial

The archives recently received DNA-related materials from the O.J. Simpson trail, which first drew the nation's attention to DNA profiling. The acquisition expands the scope of the archives's physical anthropology collection to include technologically advanced, cutting-edge forensic materials and adds to an extensive collection of forensic case files produced by former Smithsonian curators Ales Hrdlicka, T. Dale Stewart, and Lawrence Angel in the course of their work assisting the FBI and local law enforcement agencies, a relationship that began in the 1940s.

The collection includes raw data from the DNA evidence analyzed by Cellmark Diagnostics (now Orchid Cellmark), the laboratory retained by the prosecution, as well as autoradiographs (the clear films displaying the DNA bands used to generate the final results of the analyses), materials attesting to chain of custody safeguards for the evidence, and correspondence between Cellmark and the prosecution. The NAA's acquisition of the Simpson trial materials was covered in the BBC Online, the Guardian, The New York Times, and the Washington Post.

Frank Spencer: Anthropologist and Microbiologist Exposed Identity of Piltdown Perpetrators

The NAA is pleased to announce its acquisition of the professional papers and correspondence of Frank Spencer (1941-1999), who held a chair in physical anthropology at Queens College of the City University of New York. Spencer was perhaps best known for his scholarly account of the infamous Piltdown hoax, in which an orangutan mandible, human cranium, and stone tools, purported evidence of a new line of hominids, were cunningly arranged in a gravel pit near Sussex, England, then "discovered" by Charles Dawson, a lawyer and amateur geologist. Announced in 1912, the fraud went undetected for more than 40 years. The fabrication of Eoanthropus (Piltdown Man), which many leading scholars considered the oldest known hominid in Europe, helped delay acceptance of alternate theories of human evolution for several decades

In Piltdown: A Scientific Forgery (1990), Spencer presented a scholarly history of the hoax and proposed that the fraud was concocted by Dawson with the assistance of Sir Arthur Keith of the Royal College of Surgeons. (Other suspected perpetrators have included Teilhard de Chardin, Arthur Conan Doyle and Grafton Elliot Smith, among others.) Spencer presented his detailed evidence in The Piltdown Papers (1990), allowing his colleagues to examine the evidence for themselves.

Among other achievements, Spencer wrote a biography of Smithsonian physical anthropologist Ales Hrdlicka (1982), A History of American Physical Anthropology, 1930-1980 (1982), and a two-volume History of Physical Anthropology: An Encyclopedia (1997). Keenly interested in preserving the history of the discipline, he compiled "The Records of Physical Anthropology" (with Jane Buikstra and Michael A. Little), which we relied upon for our Guide to Anthropological Fieldnotes and Manuscripts in Other Archives. The Spencer papers include unpublished manuscripts, audiotape interviews and research notes on Hrdlicka, as well as course files and photographs.

Filmmaker John V. Hansen Captured Egyptian Tombs, Danish Castles ... and Hamlet

Highlights of an outdoor performance of Hamlet on the steps of Kronborg Castle at Elsinore, featuring Laurence Olivier as the depressed Danish prince and a young Vivian Leigh as the doomed Ophelia, were captured in color by amateur filmmaker John V. Hansen in June 1937. Hansen, a Danish-born American citizen, was an avid, innovative amateur filmmaker who served as vice president and eventually president of the Amateur Cinema League. Films based around his world travels were donated to the archives by Mrs. Peggy Hope.

Although we expected to find wonderful early images of northern Africa and Europe, we were surprised to discover images of theatrical celebrities and award-winning films such as Tombs of the Nobles, cited as one of the ten best amateur films of 1931 by Movie Makers, the Amateur Cinema League magazine. The 16mm film is outstanding not only as a record of these hauntingly beautiful images but a triumph of technical ingenuity and use of natural resources. Confronted with insufficient light inside the cramped tombs, Mr. Hansen strategically placed and manipulated sheets and mirrors to cast light from the doorways deep into the interiors for filming.

The Hansen collection also includes Cathedral of Chartres, which used Kodacolor (an early short-lived color film technique) to capture the beauty of the famed windows of Chartres. Despite the difficult filming process, Mr. Hansen proved again to be a master of the art of filmmaking. Cathedral was one of Movie Maker's top ten films of 1932.

This collection is also accompanied by over 7,000 35mm slides and scrapbooks of travel ephemera created by Mr. Hansen's Danish-born wife, Anne V. Hansen, as well as news clippings from the American and Danish press covering Hansen's films and his active participation in wartime society life of Washington, D.C.

Kiowa Calendars Added to NAA Collections

Two new Kiowa calendars were recently added to the NAA's already outstanding collection of Kiowa materials, which includes materials assembled in the late 19th century by Smithsonian anthropologist James Mooney, who first brought these pictorial records to scholarly attention in 1898. These newly discovered calendars, which mark the passage of time with individual pictures for each summer and winter, demonstrate that the Kiowa calendar tradition continued well into the 20th century. One calendar drawn on a 7-foot long strip of muslin has entries dating from 1860 through 1900.  The other features 171 pictographs drawn in pencil, ink, and watercolor on card stock, and covers the years from 1825 through 1921. The authors of the calendars have not yet been identified.

A Kiowa calendar by the artist Silver Horn is available online. A Guide to the Kiowa Collections at the Smithsonian Institution (Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology, No.40) is available from the Smithsonian Institution Press.

New Collections from Anthropologists Linda Klug, Molly Schuchat, Virginia Watson, Walter Zenner

Linda Klug, professor emeritus at Central Washington University, recently donated research materials relating to her cultural and linguistic research among the Samal of the Philippines, with special emphasis on Samal children. The collection features her fieldnotes, film, photographs, audio recordings, linguistic materials, census, dissertation, expense accounts, grant applications, scripts, and slides, as well as her documentary film, "Life on Samal Island.”

Cultural anthropologist Molly G. Schuchat has donated her collection of field materials relating to her work with Hungarians immigrants beginning in1956. Schuchat, a Visiting Professor and Anthropologist in residence at Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi (1991-2001), also donated materials relating to her experiences at Rust, an historically Black college, which are illustrated through course catalogs, newspaper clippings, presentations, and student papers. Dr. Schuchat first visited the archives when we held a reception for distinguished senior anthropologists in November 1997.

Virginia D. Watson has donated fieldnotes from her research with the Cayua of Brazil (1943) and the Agarabi, Tairora, and Gadsup of New Guinea (1954-1955,1963-1964), including correspondence (1930’s-2000), publications, thematic apperception tests, and drawings from her research.  The collection also includes drafts, notes, reviews and correspondence relating to her monograph, Anyan’s Story, and data relating to the Prehistory of the Eastern Highlands of New Guinea archaeological project.

Walter Zenner, professor of anthropology and Judaic studies at the State University of New York at Albany, has donated fieldnotes, correspondence and course materials relating to his research on ethnic identity, ethnocentrism, urbanism, and the Syrian Jewish diaspora. A prolific writer, Zenner is the author of Persistence and Flexibility: Anthropological Perspectives on the American Jewish Experience (1988), Minorities in the Middle: A Cross-Cultural Analysis (1991), Critical Essays on Israeli Social Issues and Scholarship (co-edited with Russell A. Stone, 1994), Jews among Muslims: Communities in the Precolonial Middle East (co-edited with Shlomo Deshen, 1996), Urban Life, Third Edition (co-edited with George Gmelch, 1996), and several other monographs. His forthcoming work is A Global Community: The Jews from Aleppo, Syria.

NAA Digital Images on Rapanui (Easter Island)

This summer we received an e-mail message from Grant McCall (Centre for South Pacific Studies, University of New South Wales), saying that he'd tapped into SIRIS, our online catalog, while conducting fieldwork on Rapanui. There he discovered a cache of photographs taken on the island in 1886, which he hoped to use to trace family resemblances (see photo at left). Since McCall needed higher-resolution images, we arranged for him to download them overnight via a dial-up modem.

"The Rapanui were very pleased to have seen their ancestors," writes McCall, "something they never thought would be possible. It makes for a special role for places like the Smithsonian: guardians of multiple family albums for the world's peoples. A heavy task! I am grateful that the Smithsonian permitted me to use part of its collections in this way. Not only was it emotionally satisfying, but I got excellent stories about descent and, especially, land tenure. Photographs are not only worth a thousand words; they actually cause people to produce at least a thousand words!"

Footage of Excavations at Guatacondo, Chile, ca. 1969

Video reference copies are now available for research film shot by Joan Meighan of an archaeological expedition to the Atacama Desert — one of the driest deserts in the world — led by her husband Clement W, Meighan in 1969. Guatacondo lies approximately 90 miles southeast of Iquique in northern Chile. Although it was a marginal site whose cultural developments began elsewhere, it was on a well-traveled path of contact between the coast and highlands, as shown by the artifacts. C14 dates show that it was probably settled around the first century B.C. and abandoned about the first century A.D. The culture has been identified with the Faldas del Morro complex (ca. 3000 B.C.) and is contemporaneous with the Paracas and Nazca cultures.

In addition to the Meighans, participants included Dr. Grete Mostny and Patricio Nunez of the National Museum of Natural History in Santiago, Chile; Dr. Christopher Donnan; and Leonard Foote. Assistance on the dig came from the small village of Oficina Victoria, approximately 25 miles west of the site. The intriguing footage focuses mainly on the excavations and artifacts being uncovered.

Archives Staff Are Everywhere

Media resource specialist Daisy Njoku contributed an annotated guide to repositories holding significant amounts travel film and related documentation to Visual Anthropology (January-March 2002). This special issue devoted to travelogues and travel films also includes an article by Amy J. Staples (who joins us as a Smithsonian fellow this fall) entitled "The Last of the Great (Foot-Slogging) explorers: Lewis Cotlow and the Ethnographic Imaginary in Popular Travel Film," which explores Cotlow film in the HSFA.

NAA archivist Susan McElrath served as co-chair of the Program Committee for the Spring 2002 Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference in Towson, Maryland (April 19-21). Susan and co-chair Danna Bell-Russel coordinated the work of a 15-member committee which identified speakers and topics on the theme "Beyond the Basics" and worked closely with the Local Arrangements Committee. Lynanne Rollins of the Human Studies Film Archives spoke about the preservation and management of film collections. NAA staff members Paula Fleming, Jeannie Sklar and Vyrtis Thomas also attended the meeting.

In May 2002, Jeannie Sklar and Susan McElrath were invited by Alyce Sadongei of the Arizona State Museum to present at the conference Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums: Preserving Our Language, Memory and Lifeways, which brought together more than 150 tribal representatives and archivists to discuss the unique and challenging situations facing tribal archives and other Indian cultural institutions.

Jeannie provided an overview of archival sources for tribal history and an in-depth look at what researchers should expect when visiting archives for research. Susan spoke about NAA's mission and detailed the records and resources in its collections. They also staffed an information table, giving out guides to NAA's collections, explaining the archives's resources relating to Native Americans, and generally making people aware that NAA aims to help with tribal research.

An interview with Human Studies Film Archives assistant director Pamela Wintle and images from the HSFA amateur film African Hunting Trip - 1930 are included in My Father’s Camera, a documentary film by director Karen Shopsowitz, which uses her father’s home movies as well as other amateur films to eloquently explore the history of amateur films and home movies. The National Film Board of Canada documentary was awarded the prestigious Peabody Award for excellence in television and radio broadcasting.

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Publication date: August 2002

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