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Royal Anthropological Institute Archive, digitized and online

The Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland is the world’s longest-established scholarly association dedicated to anthropological research. The RAI Archive has been digitized and is now available to Penn readers through thRoyal_Anthropological_Institute_logoe Wiley Digital Archives platform.

With 163,720 digitized manuscript documents, photographs, and maps dating from the 1780s (a 1785 letter from Benjamin Franklin) to the 2010s (a 2014 RAI/British Museum exhibit monograph on anthropology and photography), the RAI Archive presents the Royal Anthropological Institute’s administrative records and correspondence, fieldwork notes and other data, gray literature such as reports, pamphlets and offprints, and proceedings, and much more from all regions of the world.

Among many significant collections included in the RAI Archive, standout collections include the RAI Ethnographic Photography Library, William Buller Fagg collection on West African art and archaeology, photograph collections from Max Gluckman, and correspondence, fieldnotes, and photographs from many British anthropologists including C.G Seligman, I.M Lewis, R.S. Rattray, Milada Kalab, and Rosemary Harris. Royal Anthropological Institute working groups are represented by the Ethnomusicology Committee records (1953-1972), the records of the Ancient Mining and Metallurgy Committee (1947-1971) and the Blood Group Committee (1951-1972). The Census of British Anthropologists provides a snapshot of 1940s wartime mobilization, with RAI members responding to questions about anthropological subject and region interests, theoretical training, and methodological expertise: Bronislaw Malinowski answered this last question with, “Field-work. Functional approach to primitive (really savage, such as contemp. Germany of Hitler) cultures”

The University of Pennsylvania has an interesting presence in the RAI Archive. In addition to correspondence with Froelich Rainey, David Cronover, Margaret Plass and others at the Penn Museum on exhibit loans and exhibition planning, letters from Penn anthropologists seeking RAI membership renewals, and a lone Penn business card, the database includes the correspondence, field notes and personal papers of GSE visiting professor Brian Street and a c.1960 memo by Norman Palmer to Penn faculty colleagues seeking to re-start Penn’s African studies program.

Documents and images in the RAI Archive may be bookmarked and downloaded as PDF files. The Wiley Digital Archives interface offers “light-box” tools for  image searching and n-gram graphing for term frequency in addition to basic and advanced searching tools.

The RAI Archive complements other online anthropological primary source collections owned by the Penn Libraries. These include: Anthropological Fieldwork Online, which reproduces the papers of Malinowski and Gluckman in addition to Raymond Firth, Victor Turner, Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, and A.M. Hocart; Ethnographic Video Online, including 265 video and film ethnographies from the RAI Archive; Ethnographic Sound Archive; and Anthropology Online, which includes selected RAI ethnographic photos among its large ebook collections.

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