SOAS University of London

The Fürer-Haimendorf Archive

Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf, Naga Hills, 1936-37

The SOAS archive of Professor Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf (1909-1995) includes photographs, cine film and written materials. It reflects his fifty years of scholarship and is widely recognised as the world's most comprehensive study of tribal cultures in South Asia and the Himalayas. It is especially valuable because it documents these cultures before many changed rapidly with the advent of external civil administration after the mid-twentieth century.

The Photographic Collection

The photographic collection consists of approximately 24,000 images, which fall into three groups:

  1. approximately 21,000 b/w 35 mm negatives (1936-37, 1944-45, 1962) from these areas:
    1. Naga Hills: c. 3,500 (mainly Konyak)
    2. Arunachal Pradesh (NEFA): c. 1,800 (mainly Apatani, Nyishi, Hill Miri, Sherdukpen, Wancho)
    3. Nepal: c. 5,000 (mainly Sherpa, Gurung, Rai, Limbu, Thakali, Bhotia)
    4. central and south India: c. 8,000 (mainly Chenchu, Raj Gond, Reddi, Bondo, Gadaba, Kolam, Pardhan, Muria)
    5. miscellaneous: c. 2, 500 (mainly Philippines, Mexico)
  2. approximately 1,200 colour slides (1962-1978), primarily from the Naga Hills, Arunachal Pradesh (NEFA), Nepal, central and south India.
  3. approximately 2, 050 glass lantern Slides (1937-1978), primarily from the Naga Hills, Arunachal Pradesh (NEFA), Nepal, central and south India. These slides are stored in boxes and accompanied by a handwritten card catalogue with an alphabetical ethnic group and subject index. Most of these are duplications of the b/w negatives. Some were taken by J.P. Mills, an anthropologist-administrator in northeast India who worked at SOAS in the early 1950s as an assistant to Professor Fürer-Haimendorf.

The Cine Film Collection

The cine film collection consists of over one hundred hours of ethnographic film, some of which has been used for BBC television documentaries, such as the Land of the Gurkhas (1957) and The Land of Dolpo (1962). This film footage has been digitised by the Digital Himalaya project at Cambridge University.

The Written Collection

The written material in the archive includes unpublished field notes and diaries from which Fürer-Haimendorf drew heavily in the publication of his ethnographic monographs, essays and theoretical works. The collection also contains rough drafts and working copies of his numerous publications, in addition to conference papers and lectures, and a large number of anthropological works by other authors. The early diaries, written in German, have been translated into English.

The written collection (reference PP MS 19) is comprehensively catalogued and can be viewed on the SOAS archive on-line catalogue.