Indiana University Bloomington


Location: The North American Pacific Northwest and Siberian Pacific Coast
Date: 1897-1902
Format: Wax cylinder
Accession Numbers: 54-149-F, 54-128-F, 54-127-F, and 54-139-F

The Jesup North Pacific Expedition is an excellent example of philanthropic and anthropological efforts to learn more about native people at the turn of the 20th century. Morris Jesup served as president of the American Museum of Natural History for 27 years, until his death in 1908. Jesup made his fortune in banking and railroads and eventually focused his philanthropic efforts on cultural preservation. He took a chance on young anthropologist Franz Boas who, after being hired at the museum, wasted no time in asking Jesup to fund a grand expedition to the Northwest. This expedition would investigate the origin of humans in North America by way of the Bering Strait. Boas enlisted a diverse ethnographic team to research both the Northwestern Territories of Canada and the Siberian Coast.

The expedition, which lasted from 1897 to 1902, proved to be a great success even though the data that was collected had little to do with the original research pitched to Jesup. From the beginning, Boas and his team were not particularly interested in tracking the movement of humans in North America; rather these ethnographers used their resources to document and collect information about indigenous peoples on both sides of the Pacific. While Boas and his team in North America faced their own ethical and competitive struggles, many of the Russian ethnographers, including Waldemar Bogoras and Waldemar Jochelson who were collecting in Siberia, faced generally poor and even life-threatening conditions in their pursuit of traditional culture. Word on the scope and areas of research covered in this expedition spread to other museums and ethnographers, who sent their own teams to these areas to study. Boas challenged the ethics behind these other institutions that knew Jesup’s venture was already collecting throughout the Pacific Northwest. Boas also ran into trouble with some of the communities he studied, including the Kwakwaka’wakw, who barred one of his researchers from sacred ceremonies after they found that the team had taken bones from at least one of their graves.

The Jesup North Pacific Expedition was one of the most important anthropological expeditions of its time. The ATM holds accounts of this expedition through four collections representing both sides of the Pacific Ocean. The Siberian Coast is contained in a collection of 132 cylinders (54-149-F) recorded by Waldemar Bogoras and Waldemar Jochelson from 1901 to 1902. The diverse contents of this collection include Koryak, Tungus, Yakut, and Chuckhee tales, various folk music, and shaman songs. The North American side is represented by three collections. Two of the collections were recorded in 1898 in Washington by Livingston Farrand and correspond to essays in “Memoirs of the American Museum of Natural History: Volume 4” about the Quinault (54-128-F) and Quileute (54-127-F) tribes. The final collection (54-139-F), recorded by Franz Boas and James Teitin 1897, includes 43 cylinders from British Columbia of the Thompson River Indians.

The Jesup North Pacific Expedition recordings are the property of the American Museum of Natural History, though they are held at the Archives of Traditional Music through an agreement with the museum. AMNH holds a large collection of photographs from the expedition.

Sample: Chief Dan Cranmer. 1938. "Feast Song" New York City. (54-235-F)


Highlight Contributors: Ross Brillhart and Jennie Williams

Two totem poles in front of a wood frame house in the Nimkish village Yilis, on Cormorant Island. Totem pole depicts an eagle representing the owner's paternal crest and a grizzly bear symbolizing the maternal one. Photograph by Edward Curtis November 13, 1914. LC-USZ62-47016

Location: Columbia University, New York City, Kwakwaka'wakw People.
Date: 1938
Format:  Aluminum disc
Accession Numbers54-235-F

Franz Boas (1858-1942), the father of American Anthropology, and his former student, George Herzog (1901-1983), an important early ethnomusicologist, made 22 aluminum disc recordings of Kwakwaka'wakw Chief Dan Cranmer in 1938. Cranmer was an important cultural activist for his people and in 1938 he was staying with Franz Boas in New York while helping Boas complete a Kwakiutl dictionary. Kwakiutl is the name Boas created for a group of Northwest Coast peoples, but, today, the preferred term is Kwakwaka'wakw. Cranmer had been arrested in 1921 for hosting a gift-giving feast known as a potlatch despite an 1884 Canadian law that made it illegal to do so. Many Kwakwaka'wakw leaders hosted these events anyway in defiance of a law that struck at the heart of their culture and identity. The potlatch was a performative ritual that affirmed their cultural history and established new networks of social status. Caught in a government crackdown in 1921, Cranmer and 48 others were convicted of holding a potlatch and 26 of them spent at least two months in jail. A large cache of gifts, ceremonial masks, and regalia from the potlatch was confiscated by officials and sent out of the community. Boas, who had worked with the Kwakwaka'wakw and other Northwest Coast peoples since the early 1890s, wrote letters of support for Cranmer and in critique of the law. The ban on holding the potlatch was not lifted until 1951. Some of the potlatch regalia was finally returned to the community in the 1980s as part of repatriation agreements with the cultural institutions in Ottawa and New York City that had held the artifacts for decades. They are now housed at the Kwagiulth Museum and Cultural Centre at Cape Mudge and the U'mista Cultural Society at Alert Bay.

Working with Boas and Herzog in 1938, Cranmer recorded several dozen songs and speeches such as stick game songs, feast songs, paddling songs, mourning songs, and many others. Today, approximately 5,500 Kwakwaka'wakw people live in British Columbia and fewer than 250 people today fluently speak the Kwak'wala language. While language revitalization efforts are ongoing, they face serious obstacles to success and the language is in real danger of becoming extinct. Recordings such as these are an irreplaceable documentation of Kwak'wala language use and cultural history.

This recording as well as several others made by Franz Boas over the course of his career-long research with the Kwakwaka'wakw are held at the Archives of Traditional Music. Boas made wax cylinder recordings of Kwakwaka'wakw musicians at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago and on later trips to Fort Rupert and other parts of Vancouver Island.

This collection was added to the 2013 National Recording Registry by the Librarian of Congress.

Sample: Chief Dan Cranmer. "Feast Song." New York City, 1938 (54-235-F).


To learn more about the Library of Congress National Recording Preservation Board and to see the full registry visit:


Location: Cairo, Egypt.
Date: 1932-1977
Format:  Open reel tape
Accession Numbers: 93-161-B/C/F and 93-198-F/C/B

Martha Roy (1913-2011) was born in Egypt to American Missionaries and spent most of her life dedicated to teaching western classical and local folk music to youth in Egypt. During a sabbatical, while she was working on her Master’s degree at Columbia University, Roy’s transcriptions of three Egyptian folk songs sparked the interest of her professor. This encouragement led to an extensive collection of field recordings and Coptic liturgical translations and transcriptions. Along with her work as an educator and as an ethnomusicologist, Roy also helped provide an English translation of the Coptic liturgy in The Coptic Orthodox Liturgy of St. Basil with Complete Musical Transcription.

Martha Roy’s two ATM collections include 218 open reel tapes,sixcassettes, and severalpages of fieldwork documentation. The first (93-161-B/C/F) includes recordings made between 1932 and 1977 primarily of Egyptian Coptic liturgical music including hymns, psalms, mass excerpts, the liturgy for feast of nativity and the martyrdom of St. Barbara. The second collection (93-198-F/C/B) also includes Egyptian liturgical music as well asArabic classical music, folk music, religious music, Koranic recitation, lectures on Middle Eastern music, and Ramadan festivitiesfrom a number of performers such as Muḥammad ʻAbd al-Wahhāb, Sayyid Darwīsh, Umm Kulthūm, and Abu Bakr Kherat among many others

Sample: Chief Dan Cranmer. 1938. "Feast Song" New York City. (54-235-F)


 Highlight Contributor: Ross Brillhart


Location: American West
Date: 1907-1913
Format: Wax cylinder
Accession Numbers57-014-F

Edward Sheriff Curtis was born in a rural community outside of Whitewater, Wisconsin on February 16, 1868. His career in photography began when he dropped out of the sixth grade and built his own camera. By 1885, he was an apprentice photographer in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Curtis family moved to Seattle, Washington, soon thereafter where Edward Curtis’s career in photography took off after meeting and photographing Princess Angeline, which became his first Native American portrait. Over the next 15 years, Curtis’s relationship with an expert of Native American Studies, George Bird Grinnell, enabled him to be the Official Photographer for the Harriman Alaska Expedition. He accompanied Grinnell on an expedition through Montana to photograph the Blackfoot Confederacy. The photography from these expeditions caught the eye of JP Morgan, who offered Curtis $75,000 to create a 20 volume work, including 1,500 pictures, on Native Americans. His work on The North American Indian and a feature length, ethnographic, silent film called In the Land of the Head Hunters, which featured members of the Rawakiutl Tribe of the Pacific Northwest, was not enough to financially support himself or his family. This economic hardship resulted in Curtis selling the rights to The North American Indian to JP Morgan’s son in 1928, before publishing the final volume in 1930.

The ATM holds 279 cylinders (57-014-F) made by the ethnologist and photographer Edward S. Curtis from 1907-1913 as he traveled through British Columbia, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, and South Dakota, working on his 20-volume magnum opus, The North American Indian. While it is commonly stated that Curtis made 10,000 cylinder recordings between 1900 and 1930, this number is not substantiated. In any case, these are the only Curtis cylinders known to survive or be institutionally available. While Curtis is now mostly known for his stunning photographs, he thought of his work as documentary and ethnographic.

Sample: Chief Dan Cranmer. 1938. "Feast Song" New York City. (54-235-F)

 Highlight Contributor: Jennie Williams

Herbert Halpert dictates a song from James L. Conklin in New York, 1946.  Photo by Violetta M. Halpert

Location: New Jersey Pine Barrens, New York
: July-September 1939
Format: Aluminum and lacquer discs
Accession Number: 54-220-F

In 1938 and 1939, folklorist Herbert Halpert (1911-2000) traveled through the mid-Atlantic states recording individuals singing traditional songs. Funded in part by the WPA (Works Progress Administration) and Columbia University, he documented the cultural legacies of rural and working class areas in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, Northeastern Pennsylvania, and New York state. He made 40 disc recordings of Anglo-American ballads, work songs, sea shanties, historical songs, bawdy songs, and game songs. Halpert traveled with a large disc-cutting machine and set up make-shift studios in hotels and other community gathering spaces. These recordings became part of his Ph.D. dissertation in English under the folklorist Stith Thomson at Indiana University, "Folktales and Legends of the New Jersey Pines: A Collection and Study." Halpert later established the Ph.D. program in folklore at Memorial University of Newfoundland and served as president of the American Folklore Society. Other collections by Herbert Halpert at ATM include 54-215-F, 54-216-F, 54-217-F, 54-218-F, 54-219-F, 54-221-F, 54-222-F, and 83-890-F

Sample 1: Charles Henry Grant (b. 1868). July 29, 1939. Ring Play, "Two Jolly Sailor Boys." Collier's Mill, New Jersey. (12-4865 B)

Sample 2: Frelen C. Bozarth (b. 1860). July 30, 1939. Biography and discussion about music.  Hainesport, New Jersey. (12-4869 A)