Carnegie Institution of Washington Photographs of Mayan Excavations (Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University)

Mayan, Zoomorph B, south end, Guatemala. Images and original data provided by the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard College, and based on investigations sponsored by the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

The  Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University has contributed approximately 44,000 digital images from the photographic archives of the Carnegie Institution of Washington (CIW) to the Artstor Digital Library.  The collection documents archaeological excavations throughout Central America.

 

The Carnegie Institution of Washington was founded in 1902 by Andrew Carnegie as an organization for scientific discovery. The Mayanist Sylvanus Morley was appointed first director of the Maya Research Program at the Institution with the goal of sponsoring archaeological excavations of sites in Mexico and Central America from 1913 to 1957. Carnegie researchers embarked on annual expeditions to the Yucatan peninsula, from the lowlands of Peten to the highlands of Guatemala at sites such as Uaxactun, Copán, Pedras Negras, Yaxchilan, Coba, Quiriguá, Tayasal, Kaminaljuyu, and Chichen Itza. In 1929, under a new director, Alfred Kidder (1885–1963), the project began to take on a more interdisciplinary approach to the study of Mayan culture.  At Kidder's suggestion, the Carnegie Institution even funded aerial reconnaissance missions piloted by Charles Lindbergh (1902–1974), in order to photograph known Mayan sites, identify new ruins, and record topographical data. Over the decades, this research program produced hundreds of seminal publications on the subject. The program ended in 1958, when the Carnegie Institution closed its Division of Historical Research to devote more funds to scientific and nuclear research, in the wake of the Soviet Union's successful Sputnik launch in 1957.

 

The Maya Research Program's extensive archive was acquired by the Peabody Museum at Harvard. Several notable Carnegie–affiliated scholars also transferred to the Peabody Museum to serve as curators. The Museum digitized a large number of the Carnegie Institution negatives through grants from the Harvard University Library Digital Initiative. Artstor supported the digitization of the remaining negatives. Significant portions of the collection comprise images from the excavated sites at Chichen Itza and Copán. Many of the buildings, monuments, and artifacts recorded in these photographs no longer exist, or are so damaged or inaccessible as to be unavailable to most researchers. According to William L. Fash, Jr., former director of the Peabody Museum and the Bowditch Professor of Central American and Mexican Archaeology and History at Harvard University: "The research done by the Carnegie Institution of Washington in its investigations of ancient Maya civilization is regarded as a 'golden age' in Maya archaeology, so it is a great step forward that Artstor will make the Carnegie photographic archives available online. Major long–term large–scale research projects of a bygone era can now be visited by scholars, students, and laymen, including images never before published or even known about prior to this venture. This will be an invaluable resource for generations to come.”

 

Artstor has also partnered with Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University to present approximately 154,000 images of Pre–Columbian, African, Native North American, and Oceanic objects from its permanent collections in the Artstor Digital Library. View that collection here.