Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: AWM Spec Coll 97

The Marie-Thérèse, Baroness Ullens de Schooten Collections at Harvard University of original ethnographic sound recordings, radio transmissions, and film soundtracks, ca. 1951-1972.


The sound recordings in this collection were made by Marie-Thérèse, Baroness Ullens de Schooten in Iran between 1951 and 1972. These are primarily field recordings of music, ceremonies, and scenes from daily life of some of the major nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes, including the Qashqā'ī and the Bakhtiari peoples of the west and the south, as well as the Baluchi, Kurds and Turkmen, and Sufi dervishes. The collection also contains recordings of radio transmissions from Radio Iran in Tehran, Shīrāz, and Isfahān; music recorded at the Ethnography Museum in Tehran; and interviews with musicians, officials, and friends, including André Godard, and his wife Yedda Godard.


  • Creation: 1951-1972.


1 collection (Sound recordings (111 reels, 19 sound cassettes))

The focal point of this Collection consists of 111 original reels, many of which document annual travels in Iran in the years between 1951 and 1972. The recordings document Iran's nomadic peoples: the Kurds and Turkmen, the Qashqā'ī and Bakhtiari peoples, and the music and chant of Sufi dervishes. Included are live recordings in tribal camps and at cultural events, as well as radio recordings of the time from broadcasts in Tehran, Isfahān and Shīrāz. Much of the content is of an incidental and environmental nature, as Ullens recorded music, storytelling, and background sounds primarily to provide soundtracks to her many films.

Some of the spoken word content in the audio collection presents interviews with the Godards; the stories of Nizām Sultan Khajenuri; and interviews with Iranian officials of the time. The interviews are predominantly in French, or in Farsi and a related dialect, often in a combination of these languages.

Note to Users: Descriptive notes are provided for the reels where Ullens has provided them, in a more distilled form in this finding aid to lend to coherence. Her notations were written in French and in various French transliterations of local languages. For instance, in her notes, Ullens used "Kashkai" , "Gashgai", and "Qashqai" interchangeably. For the purpose of this finding aid, the French has been translated into English, and the transliterations for words and proper names have been standardized according to the OCLC authority file, when found. The year in which an item is recorded is given if it was indicated in the original documentation.

Historical Note

Marie-Thérèse Ullens de Schooten was born in 1905 of Belgian and Austrian parents. In 1926 she married a Belgian diplomat, which resulted in her subsequent travels to Egypt; San Francisco, California in the United States of America; Norway; and the cities and rural areas of Iran.

Ullens first trip to Iran was in 1948, and so began her documentation of the nomadic peoples of Iran, in particular of the Qashqā'ī tribes. While in Iran, Ullens befriended André Godard, the director of the Royal Archaeological Services of Iran (1928 – 1953, and 1956 – 1960) and his wife, Yedda Godard. After the sudden death of her husband by heart attack in 1950, Ullens was an annual guest of the Godard's, up until about 1970.

The audio tapes in this collection were recorded in both field and institutional settings. Most of the recordings stand alone as unique documents, but as Ullens also developed an interest in making documentary films, she recorded much of the material as a basis for the soundtracks to her films. The titles of some of these films are: Esquisses Caspiennes;Aux Confins de Kurdistan;Nouveaux Horizons;Persepolis;Et Depuis Néarque; La Sédentarisation des Turcomans;Voyage au Pays des Dervish Sufi: L'Ultime Pèlerinage;Qashqā'ī. The films are held at the Harvard University Fine Arts Library as part of the Marie-Thérèse Ullens de Schooten Collections at Harvard University.

Ullens also authored several books. One of the most well-known of these is Lords of the Mountains: Southern Persia and the Kashkai Tribe (London: Chatto & Windus, Ltd., 1956). It is a fascinating account of a journey with her husband through the south of Iran (Persia) in the 1940s. Ullens was the first person to be invited to film the Qashqā'ī tribe as well as interview the Qashqā'ī chief Nasser Khan. Her account provides ethnographic detail about the Qashqā'ī customs and society at the time of their spring encampment. An appendix describes the tribes of Persia, another lists the Qashqā'ī clans and locations.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The entire collection was given to the Harvard Semitic Museum at the bequest of Count Charles Ullens de Schooten in 1991. The visual content resides in the Fine Arts Library. The audio content was transferred to the Archive of World Music in 2002.

Processing Information

Processed by: Donna Morales Guerra

The Marie-Thérèse, Baroness Ullens de Schooten Collections at Harvard University: original ethnographic sound recordings, radio transmissions, and film soundtracks, ca. 1951-1972
Archive of World Music, Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library Repository

The Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library is the primary repository of musical materials at Harvard. The Music Library’s collecting mission is to serve music teaching and research programs in the Music Department and throughout the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. In addition, it supports the musical needs of the broader Harvard community as well as an international scholarly constituency. We collect books, musical scores, serial titles, sound recordings and video formats, microforms, and rare and archival materials that support research in a wide variety of musical disciplines including historical musicology, music theory, ethnomusicology, composition, and historically informed performance practice, as well as interdisciplinary areas related to music. The special collections include archival collections from the 19th, 20th and 21st century.

Music Building, 3 Oxford Street
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2794