The Legacy of Urgent Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution
50th Anniversary of the Smithsonian ‘Urgent Anthropology’ Conference, April 1966
Who: Adrianna Link, Johns Hopkins University
When: Thursday April 28, 2016 12:00pm
Where: Rose Room (Room 337), NMNH
A presentation hosted by Anthropology, Ethnology & Recovering Voices
In April 1966, University of Chicago anthropologist Sol Tax organized a three-day workshop at the Smithsonian Institution to define the logistics and scope of a large-scale research program in “urgent anthropology.” Conceived as an international salvage endeavor committed to the documentation of the world’s disappearing cultures, under the creative leadership of Tax and Smithsonian Secretary S. Dillon Ripley, urgent anthropology expanded into a series of projects and affiliated programs targeting a wide-range of social and scientific concerns—including environmental degradation, cultural preservation, and global industrialization. While the program was discontinued in the late-1970s, the legacy of urgent anthropology still exists as part of the Institution’s archives and museums and is echoed through the mission of present-day initiatives like Recovering Voices. By retracing the program’s development throughout the 1960s and ’70s, this talk considers the benefits and limitations of the Institution’s museum-structure in mobilizing collaborative research bridging the natural and human sciences and its unique potential for supporting similar work in the future.