Archives

Searching for Boas in the Archives

In summer 1996 I had the good fortune to spend four weeks at the American Philosophical Society (APS) soaking myself in the Franz Boas archives there. The APS contains the bulk of Boas’s enormous correspondence, though hardly everything.[1] Aside from the fact that there is something special about holding the original documents in one’s hands (very carefully), there is much more Boas material in the APS besides these letters. There are, for example, translations from the German of early family correspondence as well as notes for several lecture series he delivered, and a story Boas wrote and illustrated for his children recounting his adventures in Baffinland. Continue reading

Archival Developments: The Cora Du Bois Archives

This is the first entry in our “Archival Developments” series, in which we invite scholars to write and reflect on their experiences using specific archives. If you would like to suggest a contribution, please contact us at bibliographies@histroanth.org.

Cora Alice Du Bois (1903–1991) is known for her studies in culture-and-personality and change in complex societies. Her personal and professional papers are divided among several institutions including Harvard University, the University of Chicago, and the University of California, Berkeley. Du Bois was educated at Barnard College (BA) and UC Berkeley (PhD) and spent much of her academic career at Harvard, where she would hold the Zemurray-Stone Professorship and become the school’s first tenured woman. She did fieldwork among Native Americans in the western US and in Orissa, India, and her work in Indonesia led to her landmark study, The People of Alor: A Social-Psychological Study of an East Asian Island.[i]

Susan Seymour, the Jean M. Pitzer Professor Emerita of Anthropology at Pitzer College and a student of Du Bois at Harvard, used Du Bois’s archival collections extensively when writing her 2015 biography of Du Bois, Cora Du Bois: Anthropologist, Diplomat, Agent.[ii] We asked her to write briefly about how her use of the Cora Du Bois Collection housed in Tozzer Library at Harvard, informed her work.  Continue reading

Archival Developments

Our ability to explore the history of anthropology in a substantive and empirical manner hinges upon access to primary and secondary source material. Since HAN was established in 1973, anthropologically relevant archives have gone through multiple material transformations that shape the way we do the history of anthropology.  Today an anthropological archival collection might be fully digitized, however it remains much more likely that only parts of it or only a detailed description of its contents are accessible online. For those readers less familiar with archival collections and how to locate and access them, some basic resources and strategies might be useful.

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