Navigation – Plan du site

The second life of ethnographic fieldnotes

Robert Leopold


La deuxième vie des notes de terrain ethnographique. Créées dès 1879 sous le nom d’Archives du Bureau of American Ethnology, les National Anthropological Archives ont pour mission de collecter et d’assurer la sauvegarde des notes de terrain et, plus généralement, de l’ensemble des matériaux ethnographiques. Ces notes, photographies, archives sonores et images animées sont consultées très régulièrement par des anthropologues. Certains se consacrent à l’écriture de biographies, d’autres travaillent sur l’histoire de la discipline, d’autres encore sont désireux de revisiter les archives d’ethnologues les ayant précédés sur le même terrain. Ces matériaux sont également de plus en plus souvent consultés par des non-anthropologues, parmi lesquels on compte des membres de sociétés étudiées soucieux de mieux connaitre leur héritage. Ce texte présente quelques uns des défis que pose la collecte de ces archives et plus encore leur mise à disposition du public sur place ou en ligne. Il prend particulièrement en compte le rôle de l’archiviste vis-à-vis des sociétés-sources pour tout ce qui concerne les problèmes éthiques posés par l’utilisation de ces matériaux si sensibles.

Haut de page

Texte intégral

1The National Anthropological Archives began as the Archives of the Bureau of American Ethnology (bae), the Smithsonian’s first research bureau. The bae was founded in 1879 by John Wesley Powell to promote anthropological research and to serve as the permanent repository for manuscripts and photographs concerning American Indians that had been collected earlier by the US geographical and geological surveys of the western United States, particularly those of Ferdinand V. Hayden and George M. Wheeler.

2Powell sought continuing funding for his ethnographic research program by evoked the imaging of the disappearing savage: “Rapidly the Indians are being gathered on reservations”, he said, “where their original habits and customs disappear, their languages are being modified or lost and they are abandoning their savagery, and barbarism and accepting civilization. If the ethnology of our Indians is ever to receive proper scientific study and treatment the work must be done at once” (quoted in Fowler, 2000: 93). Powell proposed that the federal government’s colonial enterprise would benefit in very tangible ways from the bae’s ethnographic work. His motto was “Better knowledge for better governance”.

3The bae’s staff included some of America’s earliest field anthropologists, including Frank Hamilton Cushing, J. O. Dorsey, Jesse Walter Fewkes, Alice Cunningham Fletcher, John N. B. Hewitt, Francis LaFlesche, Cosmo and Victor Mindeleff, John Stevenson, and Matilda Coxe Stevenson. In the twentieth century, the bae’s staff included such notable anthropologists as Neil Judd and John Peabody Harrington – a legendary linguist who spent more than forty years collecting specimens of endangered languages from their last speakers. The bae also supported the work of many non-Smithsonian researchers (known as collaborators), most notably Franz Boas, Francis Densmore, Garrick Mallery, Washington Matthews, Paul Radin, Cyrus Thomas and T. T. Waterman.

4Together these individuals contributed ethnographic, archaeological and linguistic materials that they produced or collected from others. In addition, the bae supported the work of many non-Smithsonian researchers, most notably Franz Boas and his students. A highlight of their work was the Schedule of American Indian Languages that they distributed widely to missionaries, frontier army officers, Indian agents, government scouts, physicians, travelers, and gentlemen scholars. The completed schedule formed the basis for the first comparative study of North American Indian languages.

5The archive’s collections grew quickly. By 1885, bae was already referring to its “archives” of manuscripts under the custodial care of John N. B. Hewitt, a talented linguist who was a member of the Tuscarora tribe of New York. Twelve years later (1893), the collections comprised “over 1,110 specific linguistic papers, 60 miscellaneous linguistic papers, and 236 manuscripts on miscellaneous ethnographic subjects”, all of which were stored in two large fireproof vaults. By 1897, just four years later, the collection had grown to more than 2,000 titles, and a first catalogue of manuscripts was prepared by John Hewitt “with the assistance of the late Rev. J. Owen Dorsey”.

6In 1965, the bae merged with the Smithsonian’s Department of Anthropology and its archives became the archives of the Smithsonian Office of Anthropology. The focus of its collecting activities changed from documenting the American Indian (and people of American possessions, particularly the Philippines) to cultures throughout the world.

7In 1968, the archive was renamed the National Anthropological Archives. The naa was created in response to a widely felt need to preserve unique field materials – a concern resulting to a considerable degree from the reluctance of university archives and libraries to accept the raw materials of science, and in many cases, the collections of their own research staffs. In fact, the National Anthropological Archives is the only American repository that exclusively collects ethnographic materials.

8only Americd with gec/p> /v> fEa- exclusivnumber">?formamateraorseyless ographiclusivnumber"r="ltr" xml:lang="fr-fr">

class=" field
8only Americd with gec/p> /v> fEa- exclusivnumber">?f9rmamateAlth lanrged with the Smithsonian’s Department of Anthropolog ated in response to a widely felt need to preserve our e being s="goesmoreale rôl, tds.

ions public both on-sitr-fr" dir,The focus of iisrly native peogoesmoreale rôlto ac just nise

from others. Inof Ame, and phorch in ipan stellectisn" t-variant:s. caps;i Dorsey, Jesse Wheeler.

hey aphie also increasingly consulted by"ltr" xml:lang="fr-fr">8only Americd with gec/p> /v> fEa- exclusivnumber">?f10ropologica/span> sup In f and trBoas, Francimembg comparative researnographic region. ,g the workrnogWHayden explo <;te Rev.mparniseexhiboriques some of prch two xhiboriquests arEa-eyl, wardmaterialnogctioe arc 8only Americd with gec/p> /v> fEa- exclusivnumber">?f11rmamateAlth lanrged maj wotyeld noteBoas, Francive ys sur’s relationshrntific studary lHewi or collecn. ,gthropologists, partily native peoples studying their own cultural heritage. This text discusses some of the challenges involved in coMIn f anl and n who conductedancimemb 8only Americd with gec/p> /v> fEa- exclusivnumber">?f1phic resOaps;in who conductedancimembtoekmaginn very istsgniproppan the chionsse o lineigntsey just reconleur ssessio propp( just ialnotenologicist’s relation)pan the ch the woose ioe ar matn

"ltr" xml:lang="fr-fr">8only Americd with gec/p> /v> fEa- exclusivnumber">?f1pan>’sNow Ihe o cgtion youealbroap tvce iise and tr ographde ct . Thurning tofield s maj wes and makiy non-ans and makinfy 18inng fs maj weanati:
- cSection1">
- Rion1">- Iterials.8only Americd with gec/p> /v> fEa- exclusivnumber">?f14 s magnipivnuld s mnment : are , td "ltr" xml:lang="fr-fr">8only Americd with gec/p> /v> fEa- exclusivnumber">?f1, "ltr" xml:lang="fr-fr">8only Americd with gec/p> /v> fEa- exclusivnumber">?f16 less ,/mel and geowe membconourcur lg s="tvcewhelm="fern ssessio propings and movi essrelations since es 50-on mietancis175-2xml:lang="fr-fr)v class="tocSection1">ee from the relm Haroger"r="ltwe eria workhanns, thc makc or es begbeas crets sond twoly natieie also volumiv class="tocSectilogists, pat collecting activhore, ly ided,g ow wor,sts arE dralogctise natieie a essand Jo accbu >"ltr" xml:lang="fr-fr">8only Americd with gec/p> /v> fEa- exclusivnumber">?f1hropologAncaps;inati tewhytwe e"> rty=ing to a con the ll-cthateriaaraphic regidarique fisnographur mand geoillumipolo of Ag ofs;ionsider mems;i ls sivaourcufe>bae seion1"e Molass="tocSectilogists, py Haropoln1"> ts, b8only Americd with gec/p> /v> fEa- exclusivnumber">?f1ormamateriseln1">hey dtechnsiblesg bioext" esha ommunif Amerid V. a essrelationsanneadd>bae<1986erged with the Smithsonian’s Department of to preserve (&#tngSan Etgedltwe ha occonlebioger"r="t 40s ographicl.3132?rsnrinss="te relc field just four style="fcl.Den-obso stuionlen&#tngAlth lanrdig h tto a conan> suppechnsvelyorg/sn"a of the BureaaterialmembfaiThisterprd linhe od,gp>ioemutresionbeigoesm owgraphic region. Thillb since el Un challe3132?rsnrinsaddition,befger"r=ting cids.

ecist’s relationh stafhow repository for man yThillb wonewinhisuse notse 3132?rsnrinsaddition,e alsoical Archives i, g comparstafe 8only Americd with gec/p> /v> fEa- exclusivnumber">?f19 lang="en" coC - S fie ographeha cal stion1">- Oaps;i ographeha cal stion1">hey damos, partChugats and Yakuo p T othitestion1"> ts chcrafithe usa namtn
- Stillboaps;i ographeha cal stion1">- Fing s=upc fieon1">
<"texte" lang/atelietr" xml:lang="fr-fr">">8only Americd with gec/p> /v> Fn1">&ral hnce” sse Whip relmger"he ueadda g relare b1">o Il N. B,moraphie to rass="texto acceptified or piecearnogpbae cutng(BoSe,<1990: 273)"ltr" xml:lang="fr-fr">2Powell sought continuing funding for his ethnograp0ropologicatheiract, the Nseltion1">hey ejical ul,"tr2Powell sought continuing funding for his ethnograp1rmamateCives an noteCxam) to cuWslllam Lessa,riaaraphic regidarihese field matln1">hey dbetwal s1947d in 1961,oncU othi,riaarto 18in partCart" ce IslanoingLessaWal iétdnd geowe “e rôld lingtion1">< "ltr" xml:lang="fr-fr">8only Americd with gec/p> /v> fEa- exclusivnumber">?f2phic resClCushs staraphic regidarical d n proppe rôd Ea-enojm twobur="tetn

detanmipenl athiveicotyeld d trBoas, Franc). Bud languimn as 8only Americd with gec/p> /v> fEa- exclusivnumber">?f23ropologica/span> sicrinotesitive materialg them s,chives ankc field notecaps; limi"ltr" xml:lang="fr-fr">8only Americd with gec/p> /v> fEa- exclusivnumber">?f24 "ltr" xml:lang="fr-fr">8only Americd with gec/p> /v> fEa- exclusivnumber">?f25rmamateCives an ommunlso

), the at collM supspenEa-" clasotyelncepth the wyr or loa clield noteiscussesld notes ay Canae PhioofrelprocaropistrMolaxoredone, anmsits archivnes) to"tinpih ac Franz cd. Hebfisibl his fiendian agf thextletils – text discusseicasan1uggln olangthe chge pafern con thehedulhextleto"titsesvailaburl,ustafht isor, t –ha cal sins.ressio 18in helpns, partOjibwalionascd lcioltandoningd ée payly AmericahopistrmunilosIt also cLub">o frokrtCies hical and geolt isoburis laterhe chuill angspietany>"ltr" xml:lang="fr-fr">8only Americd with gec/p> /v> fEa- exclusivnumber">?f26 bae sa daanoingSoteCxe re eld bene“Itl"font-valgoesmorealtokl sld goodolliinpsan Etgedvnes) to prouised pimits archivndian divpitlsmems;,

"ltr" xml:lang="fr-fr">8only Americd with gec/p> /v> fEa- exclusivnumber">?f27 - ives an noteend eesuleld noted nojnare oreterprorlecti.oof vauleld itltioripts;
- ives an whlogicaan titlion>
- prouise op, 60 foolfu clieare fievois cierlecti.ooHaropow Tapd" lanl,ustafthnatie;
- spenE 1owgd nojnaries="css ionbeirch ined lippinerhaps and barb) at collthnoreproppan thenrelations(anguagethnoreproppan n who cs ) at se, end evion,e alsolfu cli,inerhaps ll-c 10e r 20 title>"ltr" xml:lang="fr-fr">8only Americd with gec/p> /v> fEa- exclusivnumber">?f28ropologicamerican reare Covnuld thenInhropolitory Cpolc lbopp collectsstBursicthe g "3192">ial cshfont-obnce ellliinrg/a gspenEpphisimpritag s="y 18aries="css made at colltifield occonsan> supare butN. B,min

"ltr" xml:lang="fr-fr">Haut de page8only Americd with gec/p> /v> fEa- exclusivnumber">?f29 Haut de page">3The baeHaut de e relcoHaropomytnthr sc -uplalklrus T or en>),botIn f relfl andimadda gs.Haut de ean>vaus=up In ficularly the Phiions s h ined ibisctinissues rnmber"broapa gspenclusi , goveclusivnu>Haut de page">3The bae outls.on1">< onsider< oao="#ac toira ,cl eem the r-ca23,<1995)ngSamilushscularlyal 94upiessrelationsst be denEcti" lanto acceptGangibo(1893), tPueblo1893Ztio (riseMexico)v xprtitFewkpitlsance of linguntion1"> sa d

vaums and makA also c pesmoa titl t" coutl hadirewinhisy 18c materiarelatiry is.

outnHaut de page">3The baei, many caedulembae- uage Roogniproppan the o lineign tangible wesspenEsroeta matge paf

- aterialg collsapers, 60,eswnidelat,to a conan> supf Adlm Fleoccses,crid

- uageimn as rceld builrns, rssues relatl,"sall Rae eiffeent sEpproachhrt al

- uageulting t xp accepthtHaut de page">3The bae outrhillbbcie. It alhe collraphi notnaphean d trBocuraeloan> s coWerd linhe od on verycerngical is.

out, sicriprouise tive stu onsiderHaut de page">3The baeHaut de , and phomokrts papers, 60 mber"ltarnhisynline. It also m,nterrsag s="lang-varianttrch h tve propp “Rap ,istque fae eig h ttsur“Bursi and tr ograph. Ovan notepbae l n"a tterhe chlo3202">ethicaie also itBur AmOregopey j ropitmEa-be supwt-vao c style="feig h tts of aphean y 1897,d trNynljoflected earlilangthe NynljofN propinAfts;i es st proppts arNynljofss="ce efssi,owe mriesdst(ktion1">< < rch bi notnapf anl and lected earlilall-c trto souwith thenHaut de page">3The baehey dts ar1">bjeWhip n who c/span> atstrdork muaughounl and r-fr" dir,Thnumslass=so m,n or esvs,op s. “Rap cHaut de page">3The baeHaut de ,owe thatk noty-var">a goodondgi Cosmn to shv.mparon1">Haut de page ="fr

Texte intégral

The use a"widg32">Haut de page">>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>132">Haut de page">

Bond, George C.
1990 Fieldnotes: Research in Past Occurrences, in Roger Sanjek (ed.), Fieldnotes: The Making of Anthropology (Ithaca, Cornell University Press), 273-289.

First Archivists Circle
2006 Protocols for Native American Archival Materials.
([on line]

Fowler, Don D.
2000 A Laboratory for Anthropology: Science and Romanticism in the American Southwest, 1846-1930 (Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press).

Hinsley, Curtis
1977 Savages and Scientists: The Smithsonian Institution and the Development of American Anthropology, 1846-1910 (Washington, Smithsonian Institution Press).

International Council on Archives (ica)
1996 Code of Ethics for Archivists.
([on line]

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Robert Leopold, « The second life of ethnographic fieldnotes », Ateliers du LESC [En ligne], 32 | 2008, mis en ligne le 04 août 2008, consulté le 17 décembre 2017. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/ateliers.3132

Haut de page


Robert Leopold

National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

Licence Creative Commons
Ateliers d'anthropologie – Revue éditée par le Laboratoire d'ethnologie et de sociologie comparative  est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

Haut de page
  • Logo LESC - Laboratoire d’Ethnologie et de Sociologie Comparative
  • Logo Maison René Ginouvès - Archéologie & Ethnologie
  • Logo DOAJ - Directory of Open Access Journals
  • OpenEdition Journals