Hurricane Sandy has caused something of a delay to both my project and my blog posts, but everything is finally back at full steam ahead. Still, my thoughts are with everyone who is struggling with its ongoing impact.

As I have flicked through the Museum’s Annual Reports, Journal and Anthropological Papers publications, I’ve started to appreciate how enormous this task really is. Every year Museum staff (and enthusiastic volunteers) were sent out in all directions with an enormous variety of research tasks, some of which were cohesive parts of a larger project, and others which were somewhat opportunistic, such as that prompted by news of a building development on the site of unexcavated shell heaps in Florida.

While I began by focusing on one expedition at a time, which seemed like the most manageable approach, I soon realized that the sheer number of Museum staff in the field in any one year meant I would need to return to the same sources multiple times.

This approach also ignored the different levels of linkage and overlap between the expeditions. Robert H. Lowie’s expedition to Crow groups in Montana in 1910, for example, was part of a series of visits there he undertook over several years to gather, check and confirm data. It was also part of an ongoing attempt to analyze social organization among Plains Indians covering the area in the image below, which involved not only Lowie but also Clark Wissler, Alanson Skinner and Pliny E. Goddard, among others. This, in turn, was just one of several thematic studies within a broader project of investigating theories of cultural dispersal from Canada to the southwest United States, linking the Plains research with the Huntington Expedition as well as the Jesup North Pacific explorations.

Area covered by the Northern Plains research project

While this has meant my research needs to focus on several levels simultaneously, it has also been valuable in determining a scope for the project. Tangential explorations, side projects and self-sponsored volunteer investigations continue to pop up, however, so it will be interesting to see how these impact our ongoing attempt to create a framework for researchers.

One Response to Expeditions, Explorations, Investigations

  1. Barbara Mathe says:

    This convoluted expeditionary history for AMNH Anthropology, particularly in North America, tests the methods we expect to use for the more discretely defined expeditions in biology and earth sciences departments. That, along with the fact that we hope to get funding to digitize most of our photographs of Native Americans, was why Jess landed this difficult project. My suspicion is that similar difficulties will also appear in North American Paleontology expeditions for the same reason that the relative proximity of the place of research made for more fluidity among the staff. Travels to more faraway places, although also sometimes complicated, tend to be better defined.
    It will be very interesting to see how we can document and relate this information. We’re stretching the limits of EAC-CPF but the standard is not set in stone and the problems we identify will help us to further develop our linked data infrastructure.