The National Anthropological Archives is the nation's only repository dedicated exclusively to preserving ethnographic, archaeological, and linguistic fieldnotes, physical anthropological data, photographs, sound recordings and other media created by American anthropologists. Since 1968, the NAA has collected the papers of non-Smithsonian anthropologists including John Honigmann, Ruth Landes, Timothy Asch, Paul Riesman, and Joel Halpern, to name a few. With a mission to document the world's peoples and cultures, past and present, the archives also collects similar cultural materials produced by non-anthropologists. In addition to the papers of Smithsonian anthropologists, it also preserves the records of anthropological organizations as well as materials of use to anthropologists. The Archives' 8,250 linear feet of fieldnotes, photographs, correspondence, journals, sound recordings, and works of art are available for use through visits to the reading room and, as possible, through correspondence. More than 53,000 digital images are now available. Most of these images are available through SIRIS, the Smithsonian's online catalog.
Highlights: Established in 1879 as the archives of the Bureau of American Ethnology, the NAA's holdings include ethnological and linguistic documents concerning North American Indians collected by the Smithsonian Institution since the 1850's and by federal geological surveys during the 1870's. George Gibbs, John Wesley Powell, and Franz Boas are among the very many anthropologists who contributed to the collection. Archaeological documents include materials of Cyrus Thomas' survey of mounds east of the Rocky Mountains, periodic reports of the Work Projects Administration, and the records of the River Basin Surveys, as well as materials of individual archaeologists and a collection of so-called "grey" literature. There is also a large photograph collection of original glass film negatives and vintage prints, the largest and best documented collection of 19th century Plains Indian drawings on paper (including ledger book drawings). There is a small but important collection of sound recordings, including material collected by John P. Harrington, James Henri Howard, and John Lyle Fischer. The NAA also houses over 23,000 items of artwork, most of North American origin produced by native people. More recent acquisitions include documents and photographs concerning cultures in all parts of the world. Collections of surprising richness can be found for virtually all parts of the world. Large portions of the Archives records serve to document the Department of Anthropology's extensive ethnological, archaeological, and physical anthropology collections. Researchers will find complementary film, video, sound and photographic collections in the Human Studies Film Archives.
The NAA also holds records of national and regional organizations, including the American Anthropological Association and the Society for American Archaeology. In addition, there are records of Indian organizations, most notably the National Congress of American Indians. Given the NAA's strong historical focus on North American anthropology, many Native Americans use the collections to study their cultural past.