The Archbold Collections at the American Museum of Natural History, 1928-1980.
Scope and Contents
The Archbold Collections at the American Museum of Natural History is comprised of material that documents the expeditionary fieldwork of Richard Archbold and the Archbold Expeditions. It is housed within the AMNH Department of Mammalogy Archive, and encompasses a variety of formats, including photographs, slides, film, scrapbooks, correspondence, financial records, and field documentation such as catalogs, specimen lists, field notes and journals. These describe both the day-to-day activities of the expedition participants as well as the study of the scientific collections. The bulk of the items were created by or attributed to Richard Archbold, Austin Rand, Leonard Brass, William Richardson, Geoffrey M. Tate, G. H. H. Tate, and Hobart Van Deusen. All the Archbold-sponsored expeditions are represented in some way, some more thoroughly than others. Locations include Papua New Guinea, Madagascar, Queensland, Arizona, and the eastern United States. Dates range from the late 1920s to the 1980s, with the bulk of the material dating 1930 to 1964. Note that some of the notes and images are found repeated in various reproduced forms within the collection.
Series 1 (Archbold Archives) is a distinct collection of Archbold Expeditions related material. It was previously processed and arranged by Bill Glover and volunteers in 1988 and was described in the ‘Archbold Archival Index.’5 That written index was sourced to create the current series inventory, and the original arrangement into three subseries of Expeditions, Correspondence, and Billings has been maintained. Expeditions is organized by expedition name and includes correspondence, radio logs, specimen lists, field notes, journals, and administrative papers. Dates range from 1933 to 1976, and subjects include all seven Archbold Expeditions to New Guinea, the Cape York Expedition, the Arizona Expedition, and Musser’s Sulawesi Expedition. Correspondence has been arranged by subject, agency, or person, and includes letters and other communication regarding the management of Archbold Expeditions and Archbold Collections. Noted headings include the Archbold Biological Station, the seaplane Guba, and the papers kept by Leonard Brass and Hobart Van Deusen. Series II (Mammalogy field books), contains items found in the Department’s Field Book collection that are associated with expeditions undertaken by or sponsored by Archbold. Material types include field journals, research and reference material, catalogs, specimen lists, and photographic indexes. Dates span 1928 to 1980s and include Archbold’s early collecting experiences in the United States and Madagascar, as well as the Archbold Expeditions and the Cape York Expedition. Series III (Scrapbooks) are mostly bound volumes contain news clippings related to the Archbold Expeditions, dating from 1934 to 1956, with the bulk dating 1938-1939. One volume is dedicated to articles reporting the fabled 1945 military plane crash which purportedly discovered “Shangri-La” in Papua New Guinea. In actuality that area of the Grand Baliem Valley had been found and explored in 1938 by the 3rd Archbold Expedition. Series IV (Photographs and slides) is an unprocessed collection of visual material including photographs, lantern slides, slides, negatives and film, dating from the 1920s to 1964. Much has been loosely organized and arranged by expedition or topic, and many are captioned. Main subjects are the expedition locations and collecting subjects, as well as aerial photographs, and participants.
- 1928 - 1980
- Majority of material found within 1930 - 1964
- Archbold Expeditions (Organization)
Conditions Governing Access
Requests to use the collection should be made in advance to the Special Collections Librarian, who may be contacted at 212-769-5420 or at [email protected]nh.org
Biographical / Historical
Richard Archbold (1907-1976) was an American mammalogist, photographer, aviator, environmentalist, explorer, and patron of scientific research. Independently wealthy, he had developed an interest in ecology as a child and a mastery in photography. He began his association with the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in 1929 with his participation in the Mission zoologique franco-anglo-américaine à Madagascar. He became a Research Associate at AMNH on his return in 1931. Under the encouragement and advisement of Leonard Sanford and Ernst Mayr he immediately began arranging what would become the first in a series of expeditions to New Guinea.1 Ultimately there were seven Archbold Expeditions to New Guinea (1933-1934, 1936-1937, 1938-1939, 1953, 1956, 1959, 1964) as well as the Cape York Expedition (1948), the Spalding-Peterson Expedition (1959), field work in Arizona (1940), and Guy Musser’s Sulawesi expeditions (1973-1976). With the exception of the wartime Arizona Expedition, exploration was centered in New Guinea and northern Australia. Archbold led the first three of the New Guinea trips and a cadre of scientists repeatedly participated, including Austin Rand, William Richardson, G. H. H. and Geoffrey Tate, Leonard Brass, and Hobart Van Deusen. These expeditions were extremely fruitful and technologically innovative, pioneering the use of air transport and radio communications.2 Material was collected for all disciplines, including Mammalogy, Ornithology, Herpetology, and Ichthyology. Collections were distributed to the various scientific departments upon return. The collections of botanist Leonard Brass (who also acted as leader for four expeditions) were given to other institutions, including the New York Botanical Garden and Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum.
During WWII, Richard Archbold acquired land from childhood friend Daniel Roebling, and founded the Archbold Biological Station (ABS) in Florida.3 This was the first research station to be associated with AMNH, where he would spend the rest of his life. He continued to actively support and maintain the collecting work through his corporation Archbold Expeditions. Founded as Biological Explorations in 1935 and renamed in 1940, this non-profit organization sponsored all the Archbold expeditions as well as the Archbold Collections at AMNH.4 The Archbold Collections were related to and located in the AMNH Department of Mammalogy. It had a dedicated curatorial staff of expedition scientists (including Brass and Van Deusen) to manage the material. Shortly after Archbold’s death in 1976, the Collections and staff were defunded, and the material was absorbed into the overall collection of the Department of Mammalogy.
56 Linear Feet
Language of Materials
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The Archbold Collections were the product of projects funded by Archbold Expeditions (originally named Biological Explorations) from the late 1930s until defunding in the 1980s, when it was absorbed into the Mammalogy Department’s main collection.
- Archbold Expedition to Arizona (1940)
- Archbold Expedition to New Guinea (1st : 1933-1934)
- Archbold Expedition to New Guinea (2nd : 1936-1937)
- Archbold Expedition to New Guinea (3rd : 1938-1939)
- Archbold Expedition to New Guinea (4th : 1953)
- Archbold Expedition to New Guinea (5th : 1956-1957)
- Archbold Expedition to New Guinea (6th : 1959)
- Archbold Expedition to New Guinea (7th : 1964)
- Archbold Expeditions
- Cape York Expedition (1948)
- Mission Zoologique franco-anglo-américaine à Madagascar (1929-1931)
- Scientific expeditions -- Africa.
- Scientific expeditions -- Oceania.
- Scientific expeditions -- United States
- Spalding-Peterson Expedition (1959)
- Sulawesi Expeditions (1973-1976)
- The Archbold Collections at the American Museum of Natural History, 1928-1980.
- Kendra Meyer
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script
- Language of description note
- This finding aid was developed as part of the Leon Levy Foundation-funded field notes cataloging project and collates the Archbold Expeditions-related material in the Department of Mammalogy Archive.