Edmund Snow Carpenter (1922-2011) was an archaeologist and visual anthropologist who worked extensively with the indigenous peoples of the Canadian Arctic as well as Papua New Guinea. With his colleague and close collaborator Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980), he laid the groundwork for modern media theory. Carpenter is also known for his work as an ethnographic filmmaker and as a collector of Paleo-Eskimo art. The Papers of Edmund Carpenter, circa 1938-2011, document the research interests and projects undertaken by Carpenter in the fields of cultural anthropology, ethnographic filmmaking, media theory, archaeology, and indigenous art.
Scope and Contents:
The papers of Edmund Carpenter, 1940-2011, document the research interests and projects undertaken by Carpenter in the fields of cultural anthropology, ethnographic filmmaking, media theory, archaeology, and indigenous art. Specific research projects and interests documented are: his 1950s fieldwork among the Aivilik Inuit in the Canadian Arctic as well as his studies into Inuit concepts of space, time, and geography; his partnership and collaboration with media theorist Marshall McLuhan and his ethnographic studies of Papua New Guinean tribal communities; his early-career archaeological digs at Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) burial mounds in Sugar Run, Pennsylvania, as well as later archaeological interest in Arctic peoples, Siberia, and the Norwegian artifact dubbed the "Norse Penny"; his reflections on the disciplines of anthropology and media studies; his editing and completion of the work of art historian Carl Schuster at the Museum der Kulturen (Museum of Ethnology) in Basel, Switzerland; his editing of The Story of Comock the Eskimo, as told to Robert Flaherty; and his museum exhibitions compiled on the topics of surrealist and tribal art. The collection also documents Carpenter's correspondence with fellow scholars, ethnographers, filmmakers, and colleagues; his published writings; and elements of his personal life, such as obituaries and personal photographs.
Materials in this collection include artifact and burial records; correspondence; drawings and illustrations; essays; interviews and oral histories; inventories and catalogues; manuscripts and drafts, and fragments of drafts; maps; memoranda and meeting minutes; notes, notebooks, and data analysis; obituaries and memorials; photographic prints, slides, and negatives, including personal photographs and portraits; proposals and plans for museum exhibits; reports; resumes and bibliographies; reviews; and sound recordings on CD-Rs and audio cassettes. Additional materials include books and book chapters; journal copies and journal excerpts; magazine, newspaper, and article clippings and excerpts; museum and gallery catalogues, brochures, and guides; pamphlets; and reprints. A portion of the material collected here consist of consolidated research into specific topics, gathered from archival repositories, museums, correspondence, and published works. This material consists of research reprints and archival reference photocopies and photographic prints from various repositories.
Items worthy of special mention in this collection include: annotated draft chapters from Marshall McLuhan's seminal work on media theory, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (Series 2); a 1957 letter from e. e. cummings to Carpenter, written in verse (Series 3); an undated thank-you note addressed to "Sadie" from Helen Keller (Series 3); and a transcript of an interview of Carpenter by his former student, Harald Prins (Series 2).
Audiovisual material in this collection is currently undergoing processing.
The collection is organized into the following 7 series:
Series 1. Fieldwork and drafts, 1940-2011 (bulk 1940-1959)
Series 2. Research and project files, 1940-2011
Series 3. Correspondence, circa 1938-2011
Series 4. Publications and lectures, circa 1942-circa 2006
Series 5. Personal, 1942-2011
Series 6. Film and visual material (in-process)
Series 7. Writings by others, 1960-2009, undated
Edmund Snow Carpenter (1922-2011) was an archaeologist and visual anthropologist who worked extensively with the indigenous peoples of the Canadian Arctic and Papua New Guinea. With his colleague and close collaborator Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980), he laid the groundwork for modern media theory. Carpenter is also known for his work as an ethnographic filmmaker and as a collector of Paleo-Eskimo art.
Born in 1922 in Rochester, New York, Edmund (nicknamed "Ted") Carpenter served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II before receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1950 under Frank Speck for work on Iroquoian prehistoric archaeology. Carpenter began teaching at the University of Toronto in 1948 while simultaneously working as a programmer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). In the 1950s, he undertook fieldwork in the Canadian Arctic among the Aivilik (an Inuit Igloolik subgroup). This fieldwork resulted in several publications in the field of cultural anthropology, including Time/Space Concepts of the Aivilik (1955), Anerca (1959), and Eskimo (1959, republished as Eskimo Realities in 1973).
Also in the 1950s, Carpenter began a working relationship with media theorist Marshall McLuhan. Together, they received a Ford Foundation grant (1953-1955) for an interdisciplinary media research project into the impact of mass communications and mass media on culture change. Carpenter and McLuhan's partnership resulted in the Seminar on Culture and Communication (1953-1959) and the journal series Explorations. In 1957, Carpenter was the founding chair in the interdisciplinary program "Anthropology and Art" at San Fernando Valley State College (now California State University, Northridge). There, he collaborated with Bess Lomax Hawes and other colleagues in the production of several ethnographic films, including Georgia Sea Island Singers about Gullah (or Geechee) songs and dances. During this period, Carpenter worked with McLuhan on the latter's seminal book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964). The article published as "Fashion is Language" in Harper's Bazaar under McLuhan's name (1968) was actually written by Carpenter. It was later published in book form under Carpenter's name, with the title They Became What They Beheld (1970).
In 1969, Carpenter took a research professorship at the University of Papua and New Guinea sponsored by the government of Australia. Alongside photographer Adelaide De Menil (whom he would later marry), he applied many of the ideas about media literacy and culture change to indigenous communities of Papua New Guinea. These activities led to developments in the field of media ecology, as well as the publication of Carpenter's best-known work, Oh, What a Blow the Phantom Gave Me! (1976).
Carpenter taught intermittently at various universities throughout his career, including Fordham University, the University of California-Santa Cruz, Adelphi University, Harvard University's Center for Visual Anthropology, the New School for Social Research, and New York University. He spent eight years associated with the Museum of Ethnology in Basel, Switzerland (1973-1981), editing art historian Carl Schuster's research.
In addition to his teaching and research, Carpenter, with his wife Adelaide De Menil, collected tribal art, eventually amassing the largest private collection of Paleo-Eskimo art in the United States. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Carpenter curated various exhibitions on art and visual culture, including the Menil Collection's Witness to a Surrealist Vision and the Musée du Quai Branly's Upside Down (later reconstructed at the Menil Collection). In later years, Carpenter resumed his archaeological interest in Arctic peoples, researching and collaborating on the Zhokhov Island Mesolithic site in the Russian Arctic with Russian scientists from the Institute for the History of Material Culture and archaeologists from the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History.
Carpenter died on July 1, 2011 at his home in New York.
Grimes, William. "Edmund Carpenter, Archaeologist and Anthropologist, Dies at 88." The New York Times. 2011 July 7. https://www.nytimes.com
Prins, Harald E. L. and John Bishop. "Edmund Carpenter: Explorations in Media and Anthropology." Visual Anthropology Review 17:2 (Fall-Winter 2001-2002): 110-140.
1922 September 2 -- Born in Rochester, New York
circa 1940-1941 -- Archaeological field work, Sugar Run mounds, Pennsylvania
1942-1946 -- Served in the United States Marine Corps
1948-1957 -- Anthropology Department, University of Toronto
circa 1950 -- Began work for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)
1950 -- Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania (Anthropology)
1950s -- Fieldwork among the Aivilik Inuit
1953-1959 -- Ran the Seminar on Culture and Communication with Marshall McLuhan
1957-1967 -- "Anthropology and Art" program at San Fernando Valley State College (California State University, Northridge)
1967-1968 -- Schwitzer Chair, Fordham University (with Marshall McLuhan)
1968-1969 -- Carnegie Chair in Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz
1969-1970 -- Research Professor, University of Papua and New Guinea
1973-1981 -- Associated with the Museum of Ethnology in Basel, Switzerland for Carl Schuster papers project
circa 1989-2005 -- Collaboration regarding Zhokov Island archaeological site
2011 July 1 -- Died in East Hampton, New York
Film and video recordings are retained by the Human Studies Film Archives (HSFA) as the Edmund Carpenter-Adelaide de Menil Collection (HSFA 2004-04). Once processing is complete, they will be described in the following finding aid in Series 6.
The Edmund Snow Carpenter papers were donated to the National Anthropological Archives in 2017 by Adelaide de Menil on behalf of the Rock Foundation.
The Edmund Snow Carpenter papers are open for research.
Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice. Please contact the archives for information on availability of access copies of audiovisual recordings. Original audiovisual material in the Human Studies Film Archives may not be played.
Digital media in the collection is restricted for preservation reasons.
Access to the Edmund Snow Carpenter papers requires an appointment.
This collection consists of reel to reel audio tapes relating to the United States space program. The material includes recordings of events, missions, press conferences, and other happenings from the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs.
Scope and Contents:
This collection consists of a unique group of sound recordings collected by Michael Kapp, constituting an oral history of the U.S. space program from its theoretical beginnings through Apollo 13. Some recordings relating to foreign space programs are also included. The tape collection represents thousands of hours of recordings that were assembled over six years, including blockhouse recordings, launch sounds, telemetry, air-to-ground mission recordings, press conferences, and briefings. Space programs represented include Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and various satellite programs. Recordings include interviews and mission commentary of numerous astronauts, as well as media figures, U.S. Presidents, Congressional leaders, and scientists.
This collection is arranged in two series:
The audio is organized in boxes and identified by the identification number assigned by Kapp. The transcripts are arranged by mission.
Biographical / Historical:
Michael Kapp was the producer of the Bill Dana "Jose Jimenez in Orbit" record album in the 1960s and provider of many of the music tapes broadcast to the Gemini crews from mission control.
Michael Kapp, Gift, 1969, NASM.XXXX.0138
No restrictions on access
Peenemünde Interviews Project, Acc. 1999.0038, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
Peenemünde Interviews Project, Acc. 1999.0038, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
The Rand History Project Interviews constitute one of several oral history projects conducted within the National Air and Space Musuem's Department of Space History. The principal investigator for this project was Martin Collins and the following individuals were interviewed: Bruno Augenstein, Robert Bacher (with Lee DuBridge), Edward Barlow, Robert Belzer, Paul Blasingame, Edward Bowles, Frank Collbohm, Merton Davies, Richard Frick, Lawrence Henderson, Charles Hitch, Amrom Katz, Scott King, Burt Klein, David Novick, Malcolm Palmatier, Ernst Plessett, Edward Quade, Arthur Raymond, Ben Rumph, Robert Salter, Bernard Schriever, Gustave Shubert, Robert Specht, Hans Speier, George Tanham, Crawford Thompson, and Albert Wohlstetter.
Scope and Contents:
This collection consists of the compact audio cassettes and transcripts for the Rand History Project interviews, which is a dual institutional study of the RAND Corporation and its military sponsor, the Air Force. This collection covers the period 1945 though the early 1960s and consists of 104 hours of interviews with 29 individuals. The RAND interviews were conceived as another angle of inquiry on the relations between expert knowledge and the military in the early Cold War. RAND drew together engineers, scientists, and mathematicians whose specialties were oriented toward military hardware design and the physical sciences and sociologists, political scientists, economists, psychologists, and other social science and humanities specialists. All were organized within a single institution to study the problem of warfare in the cold War, especially from the perspective of the Air Force.
The RAND History Project Interviews are arranged alphabetically by interviewee. Series I (boxes 1-9) contains interviews on audio cassette tapes. Series II (boxes 10-12) contains the transcripts.
This collection contains the interviews for the RAND History Project Interviews. These interviews explore the non-profit research firm's efforts to study the various problems of U.S. national security during the Cold War, in particular, from the perspective of the U.S. Air force (USAF). RAND brought together physical scientists, political scientists, sociologists, engineers and mathematicians and organized them within this single institution to pursue such research efforts. The RAND Project constitutes one of a number of oral history endeavors conducted by the National Air and Space Museum's (NASM) Department of Space History. The principal (though, by no means the only) interviewer for this project was Martin Collins, and the interview set consists of 104 hours of interviews with 38 individuals. The following people were interviewed for this project: Bruno Augenstein, Robert Bacher (with Lee DuBridge), Edward Barlow, Robert Belzer, Paul Blasingame, Edward Bowles, Charles Carey, Frank Collbohm, Merton Davies, Robert Davis, James Digby, Gene Fisher, Richard Frick, Olaf Helmer, Lawrence Henderson, Charles Hitch, Victor Jackson, Amrom Katz, Scott King, Burt Klein, Charles Lindblom, Hugh Miser, David Novick, Malcolm Palmatier, Ernst Plessett, Edward Quade, Arthur Raymond, Ben Rumph, Robert Salter, Bernard Schriever, Lloyd Shapley, Gustave Shubert, Robert Specht, Hans Speier, George Tanham, Crawford Thompson, and Albert Wohlstetter.
Similar materials, specifically a series of videohistories on the same topic, are housed in the Smithsonian Institution Archives in the The Research and Development (RAND) Corporation Interviews, local collection number SIA 9536.
Department of Space History, NASM, Transfer, 1999, NASM.1999.0037, Varies.
No restrictions on access.