The material consists mostly of photographic prints. A few negatives, photomechanical prints, tintypes, drawings, newspaper clippings, notes, and letters are also included. Much of the material is annotated. In part, the file was assembled for or relates to many accessions and cataloging units of the division.
The material was received from professionals and amateurs, mostly working in North America. The images are of artifactual and skeletal specimens, fradulent specimens, collections of specimens, sites, excavations, site features, ruins, petroglyphs, and field parties. A few are reproductions of maps and portraits of native people. Some of the specimens are in the Smithsonianʹs collections, but many are not.
Included among the many subjects are photographs of Dighton Rock in Massachusetts; many ruins of the 1931 Moundville, Alabama, excavation; Tlingit burial boxes; excavations, specimens, and Aleut portraits taken by Waldemar I. Jochelsonʹs Ethnological Section of the Riaboushinsky Expedition, 1909-1912; Richard Wetherillʹs party in Mancos Canyon, Colorado, and F. S. Hempsteadʹs Archaeological and Topographic Map of Portsmouth," [Ohio].
Some of the material relates to the work of Charles L. Bernheimer in Utah, Burnham S. Colburn in Georgia and North Carolina, Thomas Featherstonehaugh in Florida, Otto William Geist in Alaska, A. T. Hill in Nebraska, Walter Hough in Arizona (for the Gates-United States National Museum Expedition, 1901), George Langford in Illinois, Henry Montgomery in North Dakota, Clarence B. Moore in Florida, Henri F. Pittier in Costa Rica, and F. B. Stebbins in Tennessee. Collections are those of Charles Artes (filed Indiana), Thomas Beckwith (filed Missouri), C. W. Branch (filed West Indies), Burham S. Colburn Cherokee relics (filed North Carolina), James Pillars (filed Ohio), Governor Price (frauds from New Mexico), Ephraim George Squier and Edwin Hamilton Davis (filed Ohio).
The material is from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas Utah, Virginia, Washington, Costa Rica, British Columbia, Canada, New Zealand, Nova Scotia, South Pacific, and West Indies.
The works of many photographers are included. Among them are John K. Hillers, William Henry Jackson, Sumner W. Matteson, Edgar A. Mearns, Victor Mindeleff, and Timothy H. OʹSullivan.