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COLLECTION Identifier: 41-72

David I. Bushnell, Jr. collection records

Scope and Contents

The papers primarily consist of Bushnell and the Bushnell estate's correspondence with dealers, artists, museum professionals and other collectors; Bushnell's fieldnotes from his work with the Choctaw and archaeological expeditions; and, manuscript drafts and notes for his many publications.


  • Creation: 1845-1942



2.25 linear feet

Biographical Sketch

Born in 1875 in St. Louis, Missouri, David Ives Bushnell, Jr. was introduced to archaeological and ethnographic material at an early age. His father, David Bushnell, Sr., served on the Advisory Committee at the Missouri Historical Society for many years, was appointed the vice-president at one time, and was a trustee from 1898-1913.

Never formally trained as an anthropologist, David I. Bushnell Jr. enjoyed a wide range of interests in the field of anthropology, archaeology and ethnography. Bushnell extensively photographed his numerous expeditions, many of which resulted in the publications he produced throughout his life.

Schooled in St. Louis and later in Europe, Bushnell was never a student at Harvard University, but was associated with the University from 1901-1904 as an archaeological assistant at the Peabody Museum. He was later appointed as an editor at the Smithsonian Institution's Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE) where he remained from 1912-1921. His widespread interests and his reputation as a scholar and collector began in 1899 when Bushnell embarked on his first anthropological expedition to Northern Minnesota where he observed and recorded life among the Chippewa and Ojibwa as well as participated in an archaeological excavation at Mille Lac. In 1902, he studied saltmaking at Kimmswick in southern Missouri.

In 1904, Bushnell excavated at the Cahokia Mounds. That same year, he also took a trip with his mother to Europe and documented North American ethnographic material housed in European collections and museums. While in Switzerland, he excavated and collected specimens from peat bogs. He returned to Charlottesville, Virginia in 1907 and was hired as a contributor to the Handbook of American Indians. He continued his anthropological investigations in 1908-1909 to study the Choctaw in Louisiana, and later returned to the area in 1917-1918. In the decades to follow, Bushnell devoted much of his time to excavations in Virginia, specifically in the James and Rappahannock Valleys, as well as to documenting soapstone quarries in the region.

Source: PM Photographic Archives Bushnell Collection Finding Aid


The papers are arranged in the following series, according to the Bushnell's organization and subsequent research needs: I. Correspondence - Artist Related 1917 - 1939, II. Correspondence / Multiple Artist Related 1926 - 1942, III.Correspondence/ Dealers 1922 - 1937, IV. Correspondence/ General 1918 - 1938, n.d., V. Field Notes 1899 - 1910, VI. Manuscripts and Notes 1926 - 1939, n.d., VII. Ephemera 1915 - 1951, VIII. Catalogues.

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

David I. Bushnell bequeathed part of his ethnographic and archaeological collection to the Peabody Museum when he died in 1941. His mother, Mrs. Belle Johnston Bushnell, eventually donated his remaining collection to the Peabody Museum in 1946. The Bushnell Collection Records accompanied the large painting and artifact collection. A portion of the collection was catalogued at its accession date, and the collection was dispersed throughout the museum. In 1995 the remainder of the collection was catalogued, and photographs were transferred to Photo Archives. The records were transferred to the Archives in 1997.

Related Materials

Related Museum Collections: Bushnell Collection 41-72; Holmes Painting 979-37; Bushnell Photograph Collection 41-72. Please see Photographic Archives Bushnell finding aid for related photos.

General note

Collections records may contain language, reflecting past collecting practices and methods of analysis, that is no longer acceptable. The Peabody Museum is committed to addressing the problem of offensive and discriminatory language present in its database. Our museum staff are continually updating these records, adding to and improving content. We welcome your feedback and any questions or concerns you may want to share.

Processing Information

Processed by: Sarah R. Demb, April 1998

Until recently, the manuscript and photographic material were stored together and were largely uncatalogued and underutilized. The artifact material was inventoried by Collections Department Assistant Dr. Penny Drooker in 1995. In the fall of 1996, Ellie Swain, Research Assistant in the PM, began working on the Bushnell Collection under the guidance of Maranne McDade, Curatorial Associate in the Photographic Archives.

The project involved the separation of the photographic material from the manuscript material for cataloguing and preservation purposes. As the collection covered all aspects of Bushnell's professional and personal interests, extensive research of Bushnell's published material and archaeological field notes, as well as comprehensive review of the photographic holdings was required. In addition, careful attention was paid to maintaining the relationship between the photographs and the written material. Much of the manuscript material was described at the item level to enable curators to identify all the artifacts during cataloguing.

Once the photographic materials were catalogued, the manuscript and publication materials were transferred to the Archives.

Bushnell, David Ives, Jr. (1875-1941) Collection Records, 1845-1942: A Finding Aid
Peabody Museum Archives
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Peabody Museum Archives Repository

Papers in the Peabody Museum Archives consist of primary source materials that document the Museum’s archaeological and ethnographic research and fieldwork since its founding in 1866. More than 2,800 feet of archival paper collections contain documents, papers, manuscripts, correspondence, data, field notes, maps, plans, and other historical records that represent diverse peoples from around the world, and which were created or collected by the Museum, its individual affiliates, or related entities. The collections also document the history or provenience, as well as the creation of, many of the Museum’s archaeological and ethnographic collections.

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