Originally trained in geology, Henry Bascom Collins became involved in anthropology as an assistant on Neil M. Judd's expeditions to Pueblo Bonito in New Mexico in 1922-1924. In 1924, he became an aid in the Division of Ethnology of the United States National Museum. In 1924, he was promoted to assistant curator and in 1938 associate curator in the same division. In 1939, he was made a senior ethnologist with the Bureau of American Ethnology and became that organization's acting director in 1963. When the BAE and the Department of Anthropology were merged in 1965, Collins became a senior scientist in the new Smithsonian Office of Anthropology.
He was appointed archeologist emeritus when he retired in 1967. Collins's independent field work during the early part of his career focused to a considerable extent on his native American South, an interest developed during a short appointment with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. His broad anthropological interests in the area were channeled into investigations, both archeological and physical anthropological, relating to the large Choctaw tribe and explorations of areas whose cultural history was little known. He was particularly interested in the culture history and relationships among the peoples who had inhabited the Gulf Coast.
Collins thus worked during the mid and late 1920s at village and mound sites in eastern and southern Mississippi, carried out archeological reconnaissance and excavations in southern Louisiana, and explored areas of southwestern Florida, becoming especially concerned there with problems concerning the Calusa. He also carried out anthropometric studies of living Choctaws of Mississippi. Collins is best known, however, for his efforts in Arctic archeology. In the northlands of North America, he became involved in the puzzles of Eskimo origins and cultural development and devoted most of his career as a field archeologist in explorations that resulted in solutions to these problems.
Between 1927 and 1936, he and colleagues, notably including James Alfred Ford, focused their field work on the Bering Sea area and the Arctic coasts of Alaska, including St. Lawrence Island, Nunivak Island, the Diomedes, Punuk Island, Bristol Bay, Norton Sound, Point Hope, Cape Prince of Wales, the Aleutians, and the interior of the Seward Peninsula. They concerned themselves with the Asian affinities, western origins, culture sequences, and non-Eskimo influences of Eskimo culture. For his report on his work on St. Lawrence Island, which represented a major and lasting revision of Eskimo culture history, Collins won a gold medal of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters in 1936.
The report was issued as a Smithsonian publication under the title Archeology of St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, volume 96, number 1. In 1948-1955, his field work expanded eastward to Baffin, Cornwallis, and Southampton islands and included further concerns with the development of Eskimo cultures, such as affinities with European Mesolithic and Siberian Neolithic cultures. In this and earlier work, Collins's field activities were supplemented by study of collections in many museums. Collins has also been quite active with several anthropological organizations.
He has served in several capacities with the International Congresses of Ethnological and Anthropological Sciences, including vice president of the second congress in Copenhagen in 1938, member of the permanent council in 1952, member of the organizing committee in charge of foreign delegations, and president of the seventh congress in Moscow in 1965. For the International Congress of Americanists, which met in Copenhagen in 1956, he served as an honorary vice president.
Collins also served in various capacities with the Arctic Institute of North America. A founding member in 1944, he was on its board of governors in 1944-1958, 1951-1956, and 1960-1965, and he served as the boardʹs chairman in 1948. In 1946, he became chairman of the directing committee of the Arctic Bibliography, an AINA project. In 1960, he was chairman of the advisory committee and also became chairman of the advisory committee for AINAʹs Russian Translation Project.
He was president of the Anthropological Society of Washington in 1938-1939 and vice president of the Society for American Archaeology in 1952. For the Ethnogeographic Board, a World War II agency, he served as assistant director in 1943-1944 and director in 1944-1946. In 1945, he was a member of the National Research Councilʹs Council on International Relations and Anthropology and had direct charge of delivering CARE packages to European anthropologists.
Register Available without charge from the National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. 20560 Robert Lynn Montgomery Nigel Elmore, Register to the Papers of Henry Bascom Collins, National Anthropological Archives, 1994.
The papers were donated to the National Anthropological Archives by Henry Bascom Collins, Jr., in 1977.
PAPERS RELATING TO COLLINS'S PERSONAL RESEARCH, including (1) articles about Collins and his work, ca. 1932-1949; (2) documents about Collins, 1924-1981; (3) calendars; (4) incoming letters, 1922-1958; (5) outgoing letters, 1924-1958; (6) incoming letters from Collins's family, 1922-1932; (7) correspondence on specific subjects; (8) published papers, 1925-1976; (9) unpublished papers, 1924-1952; (10) reference information; (11) diaries; (12) material relating to Collins's archeological expeditions, 1922-1955; (13) material relating totravel; (14) manuscripts collected by Collins, 1730-1965; (15) cataloged reprints, 1840-1970; (16) uncataloged reprints, 1920-1975; (17) exhibits, ca. 1930-1973; (18) miscellany, 1930-1972; (198) drawings; (20) maps; (21) photographs, 1924-1965; (22) financial records; (23) sound recordings, 1977; PAPERS RELATING TO THE ARCTIC INSTITUTE OF NORTH AMERICA, including (24) general papers, 1944-1970; (25) papers relating to the board of governor, 1945-1956; (26) papers relating to committees, 1947-1970; (27) papers relating to the Arctic Bibliography and roster projects, 1947-1967; (28) papers relating to the Russian translation project, 1959-1968; (29) papers relating to projects supported by the AINA and Office of Naval Research; PAPERS RELATING TO THE COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS IN ANTHROPOLOGY, including (30) general papers, 1945-1955; (31) papers relating to the Fifth International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, Philadelphia, 1956; (32) papers relating to CARE package distribution, 1948;
PAPERS RELATING TO OTHER ORGANIZATIONS, including (33) papers relating to the "Encyclopedia Arctic," 1947-1953; (34) papers relating to the Ethnogeographic Board, 1942-1950; (35) papers relating to the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1963-1965; (36) papers relating to the Smithsonian Office of Anthropological Research (SOAR); (37)(26) papers relating to the Bureau of American Ethnology; 1963-1965; (27) papers relating to the Smithsonian Office for Anthropological Research (SOAR), 1964; (28) papers relating to the Smithsonian Office of Anthropology (SOA), 1963-1966.papers relating to the Smithsonian Office of Anthropology (SOA); 1963-1966; (38) papers relating to the Center for the Study of Man, ca. 1968-1971; (39) papers relating to the Smithsonian Relief Association, 1924-1931; (40) papers relating to the council of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1953-1961; (41) papers relating to the Society for American Archaeology, 1934, 1939, 1984; (42) papers relating to the Early Sites Foundation, 1965-1968; (43) papers relating to the Explorer's Club, 1929-1937, 1981; (44) papers relating to the Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, 1960-1973; (46) papers relating to the Alaskan Science Conference
The papers reflect the professional life of Henry Bascom Collins, Jr., including his curatorial and research duties at the Smithsonian and his activities with a several anthropological organizations, especially the Arctic Institute of North America. Some of the material are historical documents collected for reference purposes. Included are manuscripts by Walter Hough, T.W.R. MacRae and C.T.R. Bohannan, Riley D. Moore, Regis Du Roullet, and Thomas Wilson. In addition, there are numerous historical maps of Alaska and Canada. Collins also acquired photographs made on expeditions he did not join, including phtotographs by Moreau B.C. Chambers on the Smithsonian's 1931 expedition to Alaska, photograph by William E. Taylor and Bob Jasse on the 1951 Resolute Bay expedition, and photographs by Taylor and C.H. McNutt during the 1956 Southampton Island expedition.
Henry Bascom Collins Papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Museum Support Center, Suitland, Maryland