Suitland, MD: Contract Project Archivist, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution

Job Opening Title: Contract Project Archivist

Institution/Organization Name: National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution

Job Location (City, State, Province, Country): Suitland, MD

Application Deadline: June 25, 2017

Link to job posting:

Years of experience required:

Job Description (if URL to posting not available). Please include instructions for how to apply.: National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
Invitation to Submit Proposal for Project Archivist Contract

The Smithsonian Institution’s National Anthropological Archives (NAA), part of the National Museum of Natural History’s Department of Anthropology, is offering a one year contract for a project archivist. This is a fixed price award of $57,000.00 for archival services over 12 months (40 hours per week), to assist with a comprehensive collections assessment and implementation of a collections management database system. The basis of award shall be determined by best value, as demonstrated by training, relevant experience, and professional references.

Background on the National Anthropological Archives:
The NAA is the largest archives in the United States that exclusively collects and preserves historical and contemporary anthropological materials that document the world’s cultures and the history of anthropology. The NAA’s collections represent the four fields of anthropology – ethnology/sociocultural anthropology, linguistics, archaeology, and physical/biological anthropology – and include field notes, manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, maps, sound recordings, and film and video created and collected by Smithsonian anthropologists and other preeminent scholars.

The collections include the Smithsonian’s earliest attempts to document North American Indian cultures (begun in 1846 under Secretary Joseph Henry) and the research reports and records of the Bureau of American Ethnology (1879-1964), the U.S. National Museum’s Divisions of Ethnology and Physical Anthropology, and the River Basin Surveys. The NAA also maintains the records of the Smithsonian’s Department of Anthropology and over 30 professional organizations, including the American Anthropological Association, the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, the American Ethnological Society, and the Society for American Archaeology. In addition to the papers of Smithsonian anthropologists, the NAA collects the professional papers of non-Smithsonian anthropologists as well; included among them are the papers of Marvin Harris, Glynn Isaac, Wilton Krogman, Robert Rankin, Ruth Bunzel, Frederica de Laguna, Melford Spiro, Ted Rathbun, Conrad Arensberg, and Ralph and Rose Solecki.

Project Background:
The NAA traces its origins to the founding of the Bureau of American Ethnology in 1879  and with it, its archives; this makes the NAA the oldest archives in the entire Smithsonian complex. In relation to its size it is also one of the busiest archives in the Smithsonian with respect to onsite and remote researchers, and its collections grow at a rate of 100-500 cubic feet per year.

Despite its limited resources and small staff, the NAA has online records for most of its
collections, and has a significant amount of digitized content online. However, the NAA has a large processing backlog and uses legacy analog and digital systems for the physical and intellectual management of its collections that are no longer effective in keeping with Smithsonian and professional archival standards for the management and dissemination of archival collections data. This year, the NAA was awarded a grant to carry out the first year of a three-year comprehensive assessment of its collections, and to implement ArchivesSpace as its collections management database system. Using methodologies described in “Taking Stock and Making Hay: Archival Collections Assessment” and the PACSCL “Surveying and Minimal Processing Manual” the project’s first year will focus on the papers of individual anthropologists.

Scope of Work:
The Contractor will be based in the NAA offices and will serve as the lead project archivist on a collections assessment project to assess the personal papers and organizational records in the National Anthropological Archives.

Specific Tasks:
The project will involve the following tasks for each collection included in the assessment:
– Examine existing descriptive records and files
– Gather, clarify, and/or correct basic information and enter into database
– Examine and evaluate collection according to assessment criteria established by NAA staff
– Document findings on worksheet and in database
– Make recommendations for processing
The project will also include the following tasks:
– Assist NAA staff in writing funding proposals for continuation of project
– Help to disseminate progress and findings of assessment toward end of first year

The contractor will be required to navigate a variety of legacy descriptive tools and systems and conduct research into complicated provenance and custodial histories. The contractor will also be required to communicate frequently with NAA staff and other members of the anthropology department.

Qualifications and Criteria for Selection:
The Contractor should have a graduate degree in archival studies from an accredited history or library master’s program. Additionally, the Contractor must have:
– Excellent organizational skills
– Excellent oral and written communication skills
– Demonstrated understanding of basic archival preservation techniques and best practices
– Demonstrated understanding of the archival principles of provenance and original order
– Demonstrated understanding and experience with the archival practices of arrangement
and description, and have a working knowledge of DACS standards
– A working knowledge of MARC cataloging as it pertains to archival collections
– Attention to detail

Preference may be given to prospective contractors having prior experience with with:

– Collection assessments
– Archivists’ Toolkit and/or ArchivesSpace
– Processing anthropological materials or a degree in anthropology, archaeology, or other relevant area studies.

To Apply:
The Smithsonian Institution will accept written bids for this contract. Bids should include the following information:
– Resume and cover letter describing your interest and qualifications
– Three references

Applicants are encouraged to submit supplementary materials that provide evidence of accomplishments, such as finding aids.
Please combine materials into a single pdf or Word document and include your name in the file name, and submit via email to Gina Rappaport ( The deadline to submit bids is Sunday, June 25, 2017. Review of bids will begin on June 26.

The National Anthropological Archives is located in Suitland, MD at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum Support Center (MSC); a research and collections facility primarily for the National Museum of Natural History.


About Meredith Lowe

Outreach Specialist in Continuing Education Services at UW-Madison SLIS. Erstwhile archivist.
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