Archival Collections
Columbia University Archives

Department of Anthropology Records, 1930-1985 

Columbia University. Department of Anthropology
Phys. Desc: 
3.42 linear feet (3.42 linear feet 3 record cartons 1 document box)
Call Number: 
Columbia University Archives
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Biographical Note

The Department of Anthropology at Columbia University was established in 1902 as part of the Faculty of Philosophy, under the direction of Professor Franz Boas. At the time of its establishment, the department was also staffed by Livingston Farrand as Adjunct Professor and Joseph Hershey Bair as Assistant. Courses offered in 1902 included Anthropology, General Introductory Course, Ethnography of America, Ethnography of the Pacific Islands and of Africa, The Statistical Study of Variation, introductory and advanced course, Ethnology-Primitive Culture, Physical Anthropology, and American Languages and Research Work in Physical Anthropology, Ethnology, and North American Languages. Courses in anthropology were first offered in 1896 by the Department of Philosophy and Education, then called Philosophy, Psychology, and Education. Courses were consolidated under one department in 1897 in the Faculty of Philosophy with Livingston Farrand as Instructor and Franz Boas as Lecturer. The following year, the Department of Philosophy and Education was staffed by James Cattell and Boas, later changing its name to the Division of Philosophy, Psychology and Anthropology. A renowned anthropology scholar and professor, Franz Boas was trained in Germany, immigrated to the United States in 1888, taught at Clark University, and was curator at the American Museum of Natural History. He was first appointed as lecturer in physical anthropology at Columbia in 1896. Boas attracted many students to the program during his tenure, advancing the department as a leader in the field. Students of Boas included Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead. Benedict, Associate Professor of Anthropology, eventually served as Executive Officer for the Department. The Department conducted several projects funded by Columbia's Council for Research in the Social Sciences (CRSS), a multidisciplinary organization that promoted social science research at Columbia University. Professor Benedict headed Project no. 35: "Acculturation" Professor Franz Boas headed Project no. 19: "Race and Heredity" and Federico De Onis and Ruth Bunzel contributed to project no. 39. "Religion and Culture in Mexico." Established in 1925, Columbia's CRSS was modeled after the national council founded two years earlier, in 1923. Although the field of archaeology is often found within departments of anthropology at other colleges and universities (and some archaeological expedition records are found in this collection), these courses are currently offered by the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University. Relevant courses may be found in other departments as well, reflecting the field's multidisciplinary nature. Classical archaeology courses were first offered by the Department of Greek and Latin in 1890. Prior to the founding of the Department of Fine Arts and Archaeology in 1934, courses on ancient art and architecture were offered in the School of Architecture - a department established in 1881as part of School of Mines and housed in that school until 1902.

Scope and Contents

Documenting the operations of the Anthropology Department, these records reflect administrative and instructional or research functions of the department. Correspondence, financial reports, budgets, newspaper clippings, contracts, personnel records, flyers, supply orders and receipts, and other material document the operations of the Anthropology Department. Research projects conducted by graduate students and faculty and funded by the Columbia Council for Research in the Social Sciences (CRSS) contain research proposals and progress reports. Material includes routine correspondence regarding expenditures and dispersement of funds, salaries, appointments, fieldwork arrangments, progress reports, publications, and other research project issues. Prof. Benedict headed the project "Acculturation" and Prof. Franz Boas headed: "Race and Heredity." Correspondence for chairmen Charles Wagley, Joseph H. Greenberg, Conrad M. Arensberg, Morton H. Fried, Robert F. Murphy, Elliott P. Skinner, Ralph S. Solecki, and Ralph L. Holloway documents the Department during the 1960s-1980s, including the student strike in 1968 and the Department's participation in the subsequent restructuring of the University's governance.