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.
Tribes covered in the photographs are: Arapaho, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Chippewa, Iowa, Iroquois, Mahican, Menomini, Ojibwa, Oto, Plains Cree, Potawatomi, Seminole, Seri, Shinnecock, Sioux, Winnebago, Zuni Pueblo. The majority of photographs (552) have Skinner listed as the photographer and presumably are photographs he took on his expeditions. However, 104 photos are of the Seminole in Florida. According to Dennis P. Carey's biography of Skinner (Unpublished? 1980) Julian Q. Dimock, a well-known photographer, accompanied him on his expedition to the Seminole in Florida; how many of the photos were taken by Dimock is unknown, but he is listed as the photographer for 23 of them. Skinner's other photographs are of the Seneca Iroquois in New York; the Zuni Pueblo and Hawikku site; several tribes in Wisconsin; the Chippewa in Minnesota; and miscellaneous shots taken in Canada, Costa Rica, Florida and New York. Two photographs of the Mahican were taken by Huron H. Smith (1923) and two of the Winnebago were taken by C.J. Van Schaick (c. 1870). The remaining photographs have no photographer listed but were in Skinner's collection of photographs and are of varying tribes with dates ranging from 1909 to 1923.
Collection arranged by item number.
Alanson Buck Skinner was born in Buffalo, New York, on September 7, 1886. His parents moved to Staten Island, New York, when Alanson was still very young. There Alanson met W.T. Davis who taught him to find arrowheads and other traces of ancient Indian life. When he was older he consulted with Prof. F.W. Putnam and George H. Pepper at the American Museum of Natural History about his interest. In the summer of 1902 Skinner went on his first fieldwork expedition near Shinnecock Hills, Long Island, for the American Museum of Natural History with Arthur C. Parker and Mark R. Harrington. Two years later Skinner and Harrington went on another archeological expedition in western New York State for the Peabody Museum and while there he attended his first Native ceremony on the Cattaraugus reservation. After high school Skinner joined the staff of the AMNH as an assistant in anthropology. In 1908 he led an expedition to Hudson Bay to study the Cree Indians. In 1910 he went to Wisconsin where he met John V. Satterlee, part Menomini, and Judge Sabatis Perote, a full-blooded Menomini, who adopted him into the tribe under the Thunder clan name of Sekosa or "Little Weasel." He later went on expeditions to collect from the Seminoles in the Florida Everglades, and other tribes in Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and other states. During these years he was also studying anthropology at Columbia under Boas, Farrand, Saville, and Bandelier, and at Harvard under Dixon, Tozzer, and Farrabee. In 1916 Skinner joined the Museum of the American Indian and remained there until 1920, when he took a position as curator of anthropology at the Public Museum of Milwaukee. He returned to the MAI in 1924 where he remained until his untimely death on August 17, 1925 in a car accident in North Dakota. He was a member of the American Anthropological Association, the Wisconsin Archeological Society, the Explorer's Club, a York Rite Mason and a Shriner. A more detailed biography by Dennis P. Carey (1980) can be found in the vertical file. A complete bibliography of Skinner's writings can be found in Indian Notes, Vol. II, No. 4 (October 1925).
Access restricted. Researchers should contact the staff of the NMAI Archives for an appointment to access the collection.