Anthropology, with its holistic approach to humanity, is a broad, catholic field. Houghton’s emphasis on being the guardian of some of humanity’s most prized treasures by collecting a wide range of material from around the globe, therefore, makes it the perfect research space for the anthropology student, who can even find examples of material culture in the archives. The library, as a result, caters to both the Archaeology and the Social Anthropology tracks of the concentration, and anthropological research at Houghton can broaden undergraduates’ academic horizons in unforeseen ways.
Beginning with the traditional, Houghton holds a variety of materials connected to Franz Boas, one of the twentieth century’s most important anthropologists. Some of his letters can be found among the George Sarton (MS Am 1803 , 000601830) and the Oswald Garrison Villard (MS Am 1323, 000602227) papers. Boas also wrote a preface for an artist portfolio by Lionel Samson Reiss containing 96 drawings of Jewish men and women (MS Judaica 48, 007483067, above). The preface, written in 1938, a year before Hitler’s invasion of Poland, is a poignant warning against prejudice and racial rivalry. Houghton also contains other visual material that can be used by anthropologists, such as Edward S. Curtis’ The North American Indian (US 10243.25*, 004520314), early twentieth-century photograph books with accompanying descriptions of the Native Americans portrayed.
Other well-known materials at Houghton include Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Naturalist journal (MS Am 1280H , 008290191), which, much to Boas’ chagrin, contains a scientific discussion of race; Oviedo’s Dela Natural Hystoria delas Indias (US 2525.2.5, 006335886); and Bartolomé de las Casas’ treatises on the mistreatment of the Native Americans in the Spanish New World (*SC5 C2642 B552ra), both of which, as accounts of the interactions between Europeans and Native Americans, can be studied under an anthropological lens. On the topic of accounts, Houghton is lucky to be in possession of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions’ archives, a priceless resource for students studying intercultural encounters and clashes. The ABCFM archives (ABC 1-91, 000602481) contain documents relating missions all over the globe—from Africa (ABC 15, 009763477) to the Pacific Islands (ABC 19, 009763593) and Native American communities (ABC 18.3-18.8, 009763568), providing a global outlook on interactions between Westerners and non-Westerners. The library also owns more obscure intercultural accounts, such as Itinerario da Terra Santa, e suas particularidades (Asia 1417.32, 004039016), a Portuguese account of the Near East that can be used in conjunction with concentrations such as Romance Languages and Literatures, Sociology, and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations; and a fascinating ninth-century account of India and China by Arab travelers that presents readers with information about the three civilizations (Ch 181.6*, 003855270).
As promised, Houghton also contains examples of material culture that anthropologists can study. One of them is a 1685 Massachuset Bible printed in Cambridge and used to catechize the Indians in the colony (AC6.El452.663mb, 004443936). Another fascinating physical object in the collection is an alarm clock whose display portrays Mao Zedong and eager followers waving copies of his Little Red Book (MS Chinese 15, 014347915), an enlightening glimpse on life under a totalitarian régime. The alarm clock is part of Houghton’s realia archive, the Z-Closet Collection, which anthropology concentrators are highly recommended to explore should they come to the library.