This year, the American Historical Association is offering a behind-the-scenes tour of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History‘s Department of Anthropology collections and National Anthropological Archives (NAA) at the museum’s off-site storage site, the Museum Support Center, in Suitland, Maryland.  This tour will be held on Friday, Jan. 5th, from 2:30-4:30 pm, and is open to 20 participants.  Interested historians should RSVP to Caitlin Haynes, NAA Reference Archivist at by Dec. 29, 2017 with your name and contact information to reserve your spot.

The National Anthropological Archives collects and preserves historical and contemporary anthropological materials that document the world’s cultures and the history of anthropology.  The collections include fieldnotes, journals, manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, maps, artwork, and sound recordings created by Smithsonian and non-Smithsonian anthropologists, Native peoples, and other scholars, scientists, and researchers.  Created out of the merger of the Smithsonian Institution’s Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE) and Department of Anthropology (DOA) in 1965, the NAA holds one of the world’s largest and richest archival collections related to North American archeology and ethnography, indigenous artwork, and historical photographs.  The National Anthropological Film Collection (formerly the Human Studies Film Archives) merged with the NAA in 2017.  Begun in 1975 as the National Anthropological Film Center, the audiovisual collection which includes some of the classics of visual anthropology, spans the history of filmmaking and documents all regions of the globe.  Together with the NAA, these collections are an unparalleled archival resource for world cultures.

The Department of Anthropology’s Ethnological and Archeological collections are comprised of more than a million objects representing 19th, 20th and 21st century cultures from around the globe. Exploring expedition collections document periods of early contact worldwide, while the Bureau of American Ethnology materials represent the results of large scale, systematic collecting as an integral part of in-depth research in Native American communities. While the collection is particularly strong in material from North America, there are significant collections from Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, Oceania, and South America, including many examples of lost craft forms and artifact types. In addition to supporting scholarly research about the past, the collections are a source of information and inspiration for Native communities reviving cultural practices and craft traditions.

*Please be aware that transportation will not be provided, but the Museum Support Center in Suitland, MD is accessible by Metro (green line), or via complimentary Smithsonian shuttle to and from the National Museum of Natural History in DC.  Free parking is also available on site.