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Shippee-Johnson Peruvian Expedition aerial nitrate negative collection, 1931-1999

Identifier: NNC .S551

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of approximately 3600 black-and-white nitrate negatives housed in 23 boxes. Of these, 2470 are aerial photographs, most of them oblique views photographed through the open window of the plane; 546 are vertical views shot through a mount in the belly of the plane, on five uncut 10-inch wide film rolls. The remaining 1128 images are ethnographic images taken on the ground. In addition to the nitrates, photographic prints, interpositives and safety film copies exist for some or all of the images.

The most extensive coverage is in the Ayacucho and Colca valleys, providing detailed images of the agricultural terracing, but many other archaeological sites associated with prehispanic civilizations are represented. Several previously undocumented archaeological sites were discovered, including the "Great Wall of Peru," over 60 km. long. Civilizations (and sites) depicted include the Mochica ("Temple of the Moon"); Chimu (Chan Chan); Huari (Pikillacta); and Incas (Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo and others). Urban areas photographed include Lima, Arequipa, Cajamarca, Huancayo and Cuzco. Geographic and geological features photographed include the guano islands off the Pacific coast and the craters of Misti Volcano.


  • Majority of material found within 1931 - 1999


Historical note

The 1931 Shippee-Johnson Peruvian Expedition, which lasted eight months, including 454 hours of flight time, was undertaken to create an aerial survey of the Pacific coast and Andes region of Peru. It was the first use of aerial photography to locate and document both archaeological sites and geographical features in South America. The survey covered several thousands of kilometers of terrain, with specific emphasis on prehistoric ruins, lost villages and unusual landforms. Photographs of indigenous people were also taken on the ground. Robert Shippee was a Harvard-educated geologist and pilot. Inspired by Johnson's photographs, published in 1930, Shippee raised funds from his family and friends, as well as from the American Geographical Society and the National Geographical Society, to mount this new expedition only a few months after Johnson's return from his first trip to Peru. George R. Johnson was a pioneer in aerial photography. Johnson served as an aerial photographer with the U.S. Army in France in World War I; was chief photographer of the Peruvian Naval Air Service and instructor in aerial photography at the naval air base at AncoĢn from 1928 through 1929; and founded the Servicio Aerofotographico Nacional (SAN-the National Aerial Photograph Service). Some of his photographs from this period were published in his 1930 book, Peru from the air.


approximately 3600 Film Reels (approximately 3600 ) : Nitrate negatives

Language of Materials


Related Materials

Shippee-Johnson Peruvian Expedition aerial photographs, 1931-1999

Related Materials

Shippee-Johnson Peruvian Expedition aerial interpositives, 1991-1999

Condition Description


Shippee-Johnson Peruvian Expedition aerial nitrate negative collection, 1931-1999
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

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