Archive Center Collections

Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation Records
The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Archive Center is the primary repository of administrative records and other archival materials from the Museum of the American Indian (MAI), Heye Foundation. Documenting the history and administration of the organization, the MAI, Heye Foundation records represents one of the museums largest manuscript collections. The records include correspondence, memoranda, and other papers pertaining to MAI founder George Gustav Heye, and such notable MAI staff members as E.K. Burnett, Frederick Dockstader, Roland W. Force, Frederick W. Hodge, George H. Pepper, and William F. Stiles, as well as other curators, anthropologists, and scholars associated with the museum. In addition, the records contain unpublished manuscripts, field notebooks, site diagrams, and maps, as well as scrapbooks, object collection listings, exhibit planning materials, and correspondence pertaining to research expeditions, collecting projects, and collectors.

The MAI, Heye Foundation amassed an extensive collection of photographic materials depicting the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere. During MAI object collecting trips, MAI collectors and anthropologists made thousands of photographs intended to document the artifacts, dress, daily habits, and ceremonial lives of the peoples they encountered and to establish the provenance of MAI-acquired objects. For example, the collection contains photographs of MAI excavations at Hawikku and the Nahoochee Mound, and photographs made during the MAI-sponsored Bartlett East Greenland Expedition of 1930.

The MAI records include important, unique motion pictures and other recordings documenting the lifeways and material culture of Native American communities during the early twentieth century. The MAI sponsored the creation of films, most notably eleven ethnological films of the Zuni Indians of New Mexico made during the 1923 Hawikku excavation. The MAI also acquired films from independent anthropologists and filmmakers.

Other Archival Collections
Archival collections held at the NMAI Archive Center include the personal papers of contemporary Native American leaders such as Helen Peterson (Oglala Lakota), George Nelson (Rappahannock) and Reuben Snake (Ho-Chunk); artists and filmmakers including Larry Beck (Chnagmiut Yupik) and Phil Lucas (Choctaw); and the administrative records of prominent organizations including the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the National Tribal Chairmen's Association (NTCA). The Archive Center generally collects the papers and records of Native American individuals and organizations, though it also holds collections from non-Native anthropologists and researchers, including Andean anthropologist Elayne Zorn (1952–2010) and Leuman Waugh (1877–1972), a dental researcher in Labrador and the Alaskan Arctic.

The archival collections consist of primary source materials, including correspondence, unpublished manuscripts, field notebooks, artists’ sketchbooks, board minutes and meeting transcripts, and other unique documents. In addition, there are photographic materials, including prints, slides, negatives, and lantern slides. Audio recordings, video recordings, and motion pictures include filmmakers’ production materials, interviews, and meeting recordings.

Heye and the MAI also solicited, purchased, and collected photographic objects made by important non-MAI anthropologists and archaeologists, among them Frederick Johnson, Jesse Nusbaum, Frank Speck, and Frederick Starr; and nineteenth- and twentieth-century amateur and important professional photographers, including Clara and Frank C. Churchill, Alexander Gardner, George Bird Grinnell, William Henry Jackson, Joseph Keppler, Sumner Matteson, Hannah and Richard Maynard, Fred E. Miller, Lee Moorhouse, Roland W. Reed, Frank A. Rinehart, E. P. Squier, Cree photographer Richard Throssel, A. Hyatt Verrill, and Paul J. Woolf. The MAI also acquired from the Harriman family photographs and hand-colored lantern slides made by Edward S. Curtis during the 1899 Harriman Expedition to Alaska, and from the Miles family General Nelson Appleton Miles’s personal photograph collection.

The NMAI continues to add photographs to the collection. More recently, the museum has acquired contemporary work by John Willis, Susanne Page, Anne Pearse-Hocker, and Toba Pato Tucker, and by Native photographers, including Shan Goshorn (Eastern Band Cherokee), Dorothy Grandbois (Turtle Mountain Chippewa), Tom Jones (Ho-Chunk), Lee Marmon (Laguna Pueblo), Larry McNeil (Tlingit), and Horace Poolaw (Kiowa).

The Archive Center additionally manages the NMAI Film Video Center’s collection of published contemporary Native American cinema. For information about accessing this material, please email NMAIarchives@si.edu or NMAIphotos@si.edu.