Alexander Street Announces Addition of Margaret Mead Papers to Anthropological Fieldwork Online | Alexander Street

Alexander Street Announces Addition of Margaret Mead Papers to Anthropological Fieldwork Online

October 19, 2016

Alexandria, VA – Alexander Street today announced an agreement with the Library of Congress to digitize and distribute selections from the Margaret Mead Papers and the South Pacific Ethnographic Archive, including the original fieldwork of the world-renowned anthropologist, Margaret Mead.  

Mead’s first fieldtrip to Samoa, between 1925 and 1926, resulted in a trove of materials focusing on cultural influences on child-rearing practices and gender, as well as the widely read and critiqued ethnography, Coming of Age in Samoa. Mead returned to the field a few years later, conducting joint research with Reo Fortune in Papua New Guinea between 1928 and 1932. Her later work with Gregory Bateson in Bali combined notetaking, photography, and video recording as a multifaceted approach to documenting and interpreting ritual and culture, changing fieldwork methodologies for generations to come. 

Alexander Street will digitize over 30,000 pages curated from the Margaret Mead Papers, including Mead’s fieldwork from Samoa and Mead and Fortune’s fieldwork from the Admiralty Islands and Manus in Papua New Guinea. The archive will become a key part of Alexander Street’s Anthropological Fieldwork Online collection. 

“The Library of Congress is thrilled that Margaret Mead’s path-breaking fieldwork will be shared more broadly as a result of the third party digitization contract awarded to Alexander Street,” said Janice E. Ruth, assistant chief of the Library’s Manuscript Division. Ruth added, “It has long been a desire of both Mead’s daughter, anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson, and the Manuscript Division to make more accessible one of the Library’s largest and most frequently consulted collections of personal papers. Despite the professional criticism she endured, Mead popularized the field of anthropology and shared with a general audience over many years various research findings and topics that first caught her attention during these early fieldtrips that Alexander Street will be documenting.” 

Alexander Street’s Anthropological Fieldwork Online  digitizes and brings together the previously unpublished fieldwork of key early- to mid-20th century scholars in anthropology. These renowned anthropologists, such as Bronislaw Malinowski, Ruth Benedict, Victor Turner, Max Gluckman, and Raymond Firth, helped shape the methods and theories that are still taught in anthropology courses today. The collection will eventually expand to include over 250,000 pages of documents that illuminate the history of the discipline from a global perspective.  

Content is focused around each scholar’s prominent expedition field experience, with comprehensive inclusion of fieldwork, contextualizing documents and correspondence from the same time period, and subsequent writings that led to major publications, such as draft manuscripts, lectures, and articles. Users will see the full qualitative scholarly process unfold in all of its iterations, from data gathering in the field to later analysis, early writings, and final publication. 

Anthropological Fieldwork Online meets two critical objectives in the academic space. First, for anthropology, it is a collection central to the discipline, bringing a wealth of previously unpublished research and writings from the most important anthropologists into the digital world. Second, for archives, it is a collection that redefines the archival research experience, enabling researchers to mirror their physical experience in the archive on a digital platform,” says Jenna Makowski, Anthropology Editor at Alexander Street. 

Anthropological Fieldwork Online is available for purchase or annual subscription. Librarians and faculty may request a free 30-day trial at


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