Skip to main content

W. Douglas Burden papers

Identifier: Mss .B87


  • 1920-1978 (bulk 1926-1961)


Restrictions on Access

Please contact Special Collections; materials are sometimes restricted.

Biographical sketch

W. Douglas Burden was a geologist, naturalist, hunter, filmmaker and author, affiliated with the American Museum of Natural History. Burden was a trustee of the AMNH, 1926-1961, chaired a committee on the preparation of homolosine (equal-area projection) maps, and established the AMNH Dept. of Experimental Biology in 1928 (later named the Dept. of Animal Behavior). Burden formed Burden Pictures, Inc., 1928-1931, with ichthyologist Ilia Tolstoy; beginning in 1935, with Tolstoy and C.V. Whitney, Burden formed Marine Studios (later named Marineland), an aquarium project in Florida, which worked to develop a shark repellent for use by the U.S. Navy during World War II.


11 Linear Feet (12 boxes)

Language of Materials



Organized into two groups: boxes 1-12 contain papers related to Burden's scientific projects, travel, filmmaking and publishing.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Collection received in AMNH Department of Mammalogy. Date of acquisition--1983

Scope and content

The collection consists of correspondence, reports, journals, notebooks and some clippings related to Burden's scientific projects, travel and expeditions; typescripts or printed copies of Burden's published and unpublished articles and stories; the typescript of Burden's book (originally titled Hunting in many lands), published in 1960 under the title: Look to the wilderness; and personal papers. The bulk of the inventoried material covers four of Burden's projects: his 1926 expedition to Indonesia to study the Komodo dragon and collect specimens, and about which he wrote his 1927 book, Dragon lizards of Komodo; his formation of Burden Pictures, Inc., and production of the 1930 film, The silent enemy, about the Ojibwa Indians; the formation of Marine Studios, Fla.; and his study of sharks and development of a shark repellent. Burden's wide-ranging interests and travels are documented, including journeys or expeditions to Alaska, Latin America, China, Indonesia, South Asia and Kenya; and his work for the American Museum of Natural History, including serving on the nominating committee of the Board of Trustees; his work on homolosine maps; and his 1943 report, A new vision of learning, which recommended changes in the presentation of exhibits. Correspondents include Roy Chapman Andrews, G. Kingsley Noble and Henry Fairfield Osborn of the AMNH; other correspondents include J.C. Faunthorpe of the 1922-1923 Faunthorpe-Vernay Expedition to India, Nepal and Burma; former U.S. Secretary of Defense James Forrestal; editor Maxwell Perkins; Kermit Roosevelt; and cinematographer J.B. Shackelford. There is also material from various zoological, conservation and exploring organizations. Other manuscripts and publications include: Big game of the Kenai Peninsula, describing Burden's experiences in Alaska in 1919; his log of a hunting trip to North China in the 1920s, with letters written from Beijing and Tianjin, including one from Andrews describing the political turmoil of 1926; Burden's master's thesis on the geology of the north shore of Long Island, N.Y. (1926); and manuscripts of Burden's two plays: The wilderness road; and Pauline Bonaparte.

W. Douglas Burden papers, 1920-1978 (bulk 1926-1961)
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation provided support to make this finding aid available in ArchivesSpace (2016-2017). Minimal level collection record created with support from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Hidden Collections grant, 2010.

Repository Details

Part of the Museum Archives at the Gottesman Research Library Repository

American Museum of Natural History
200 Central Park West
New York NY 10024 USA
(212) 769-5420