Timothy Asch was an anthropologist and ethnographic film maker who devoted his professional life to using film as a recording and teaching medium. His papers cover the period from 1966 until his premature death in 1994 and reflect his active career in the field. A large portion of the files relates to his work among the Yanomami people of Venezuela and to his concern with bias in film making.
Scope and Contents:
The papers of Timothy Asch document his career as an anthropologist, educator,
photographer and filmmaker through correspondence, photographs, research files
(articles and notes), and teaching materials (course information and lecture notes). The
files relating to Asch's film projects include articles, field notes, and reviews. The major
correspondents in this collection are Patsy Asch, Tom Beidelman, Napoleon Chagnon,
James Fox, Robert Gardner, Douglas Lewis, Peter Loizos, David & Olga Sapir, and
The collection is arranged into the following 13 series:
Series 1) Correspondence (1953-1994)
Series 2) College and graduate School (1955-1965)
Series 3) Teaching materials (1964-1993)
Series 4) Film projects (1964-1991)
Series 5) Articles and reviews (1972-1994)
Series 6) Alpha-Subject (1955-1989)
Series 7) Conferences, film festivals, and film organizations (1963-1993)
Series 8) Grants (1962-1993)
Series 9) Other people's work (1952-1995)
Series 10) Personal and family (1951-1994)
Series 11) Photographs (1947-1991)
Series 12) Sound recordings (bulk 1960s-1970s)
Series 13) Note slips, rolodexes, and business cards (1987, undated)
Asch studied photography at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. While serving in the United States Army in Japan from 1951-55 he spent his off-duty hours photographing rice production and household activities in remote Japanese villages. After his military service, he enrolled in Columbia University graduating in 1959 with an undergraduate degree in Anthropology. After graduation, he went to work at the Peabody Museum at Harvard as an assistant editor to John Marshall on the Kung Bushmen film project. In 1964, he received a Masters Degree in Anthropology from Boston University where he studied in the African Studies Progam and read Anthropology with T.O. Beidelman at Harvard. In 1968, Asch and Marshall founded Documentary Educational Resources, a film distribution company. Anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon approached Asch in 1968 to film among the Yanomammmi people of Venezuela. This collaboration led to a major project resulting in over thirty films.
1950-1951 -- California School of Fine Arts and Apprenticeships with photographers Minor White, Edward Weston and Ansel Adams
1953-1954 -- Military Service in Korea
1959 -- B.S. in Anthropology Columbia University
1959-1962 -- Ethnographic film consultant, Harvard University's Peabody Museum
1964 -- M.A. in Anthropology Harvard University
1965-1966 -- Curriculum Consultant, Ethnographic studies and the Bushmen Social Studies Curriculum Project (initially Educational Services, Inc., later called Educational Development Center)
1966-1968 -- Lecturer in Anthropology and Theater Arts, Brandeis University
1966-1968 -- Anthropology Curriculum and Media Consultant to the Newton Public Schools
1967-1994 -- Co-Founder and Director of Documentary Educational Resources, Watertown, Massachusetts, a non-profit curriculum development corporation distributing educational media
1968-1970 -- Visiting Assistant Professor, Anthropology Department, New York University
1969-1973 -- Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, Brandeis University
1973-1979 -- Research Fellow in Ethnographic film, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University
1974-1976 -- Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University
1975 -- Research Cinematographer, National Anthropological Film Center, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
1976-1981 -- Senior Research Fellow, Department of Anthropology, Institute of Advanced Studies, the Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
1982 -- Visiting Research Scholar, Department of Anthropology at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
1983-1994 -- Director, Center for Visual Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, University of Southern California
The Human Studies Film Archives holds 93,000 feet (43 hours) of original film footage and the accompanying sound as well as the edited films from the 1968 and 1971 film projects by Timothy Asch and Napoleon Chagnon documenting the Yanomamo Indians of southern Venezuela and northern Brazil (between the Negro and Upper Orinoco rivers).
Donated to the National Anthropological Archives by Patsy Asch in 1996.
Restrictions on access. No duplication allowed listening and viewing for research purposes only.
Moses and Frances Asch Collection, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution.