Photographs of African people and culture
Scope and Content Note
The majority of this collection consists of photographs and photographic postcards of African people, locations and objects. Many of the photographs are portraits and various cultures are represented. Most of the images are captioned and several items are accompanied by brief notes.
The earliest dated item is among a group of photographs collected by Franz Uri Boas for research (Folder 1). These include various objects of ritual and daily use, pygmies at the 1904 St. Louis Exposition photographed by Jesse Tarbox Beals, a portrait of Michael Ansah, a student at the Tuskegee Institute, and two photographs marked “A daughter of the Kraal” and “A native hut.” Boas is considered the “Father of Modern Anthropology” for his pioneering work on race, culture, and language, particularly within the cultures of American Indians. Boas became Curator of Ethnology at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) from 1900-1903 and served as Curator of Anthropology at AMNH from 1904-1905. Boas also studied the culture of African-Americans.
There is a 1922 photograph of Jose Goncalves Correia, a collector on many American Museum of Natural History ornithological expeditions, with a group of Cape Verdean men (Folder 2). Accompanying the photograph is a descriptive note on Ornithology letterhead from Robert Cushman Murphy dated 1944. Murphy, an authority on ocean birds and a conservationist, worked at the AMNH for 35 years as curator and later as chair of Ornithology. He retired in 1955. The note is addressed to Dr. Harry Lionel Shapiro and discusses the physical characteristics of Cape Verdeans. Dr. Shapiro, curator of physical anthropology and chair of the department of anthropology at AMNH, studied the effects of environment on race and is credited with laying the foundation for forensic anthropology.
Other notable items include photographs of a Kikuyu circumcision (Folder 3), and depictions of Zulu kraals and an African chief with his family in western dress donated by H. Nilson and Fred R. Bunker (Folder 6). Three sculptures are represented: a Benin bronze head, one of a pair on view in the AMNH Hall of African Peoples (Folder 9), a figurative sculpture (Folder 7), and a Bakuba (Kuba) cup (Folder 10). There are three remarkable studio portraits of a San man of South Africa (Folder 4). A set of fourteen printed postcards and one snapshot, dated 1950, focus on hairstyles and scarification from Niger, Sudan, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire. The snapshot is labeled on the verso with a personal anecdote (Folder 12).
- circa 1904-1950
- Boas, Franz, 1858-1942 (Person)
Access Conditions and Restrictions Note
Requests to use the collection should be made in advance to the Senior Special Collections Librarian, who may be contacted at 212-769-5420 or at [email protected]
0.25 Linear Feet (1 box)
Language of Materials
This collection did not appear to follow an obvious arrangement and has been kept as one series in the order of the original inventory created in 1989. The Boas photographs in folder one, originally part of this collection, were at some point removed and placed with the Franz Boas collection, PPC.B63. It was subsequently decided that they would be more appropriately housed with this collection and returned to PPC.A381
Good. Some mounted photographs very curved, may prevent vertical storage. Three photographs in folder 3 somewhat dirty
Source of Acquisition Note
Collection found in Enid Schildkrout’s office and transferred to Special Collections by Paula Dowling in Anthropology in April, 1989
Separated Materials Note
An item, #11 on the original container list, Field Notes – Trip to Nigeria 1911, is not in box
Physical Description Note
73 Photographs, loose and mounted, including 14 photographic postcards, accompanied by handwritten notes on several photographs and separate sheets of paper
- Art, African
- Chapin, James Paul, 1889-1964
- Correia, José G., 1881-1954
- Côte d'Ivoire
- Dakar (Senegal)
- Foster, Robert
- Kikuyu (African people)
- Klein, Alfred J.
- Kuba (African people)
- Murphy, Robert Cushman, 1887-1973
- Photographic Print Collection
- San (African people)
- Sao Vicente -- Barlavento -- Cape Verde
- Sculpture, African
- Shapiro, Harry L. (Harry Lionel), 1902-1990
- South Africa
- Zululand (South Africa)
- Photographs of African people and culture, circa 1904-1950
- Multilevel Complete
- Deborah Tint
- October, 2011
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script
- Language of description note
- Finding aid created with support from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Hidden Collections grant, 2012.