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COLLECTION Identifier: 2011.22.1

Karl G. Heider papers on New Guinea


Karl Heider was a member of the Harvard-Peabody Expedition to New Guinea, spending an additional twenty-one months observing the Dani people on his own after the other members had departed. The purpose of the expedition and Heider’s work was to holistically capture the lives of the Dani people before the changes of the modern era began to infiltrate their preliterate, “Stone Age” culture. The records include field notebooks, tape transcriptions, sketch books of children's drawings, diaries, genealogical data, Dani linguistic notebooks, conference records, research, correspondence, artifact data, financial receipts, news clippings.


  • Creation: 1914 - 1995
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1961 - 1963


10 boxes
1 folders : oversize

The majority of the Heider papers date from 1961-1963. Field notes, diaries, linguistic notebooks, sketch books and tape transcriptions form the bulk of the collection (6 boxes).

Biographical / Historical

Karl Gustav Heider is an American anthropologist known for his work in visual and psychological anthropology and for his fieldwork with the Dani in the central highlands of Netherlands New Guinea (now Irian Jaya, Indonesia).

Heider was born to psychologists Fritz and Grace (née Moore) Heider on January 21, 1935 in Northampton, Massachusetts. He studied at Williams College, transferring after two years to Harvard University where he earned his bachelor's degree in anthropology in 1956. He spent the next year in Asia as a Sheldon Traveling Fellow and led an archaeological survey at the Kwae Noi River Valley in Thailand. Heider continued to study anthropology at the University of Vienna in Austria from 1957-1958 and returned to Harvard for his master's and Ph.D. degrees in 1959 and 1966, respectively.

Heider was a member of the Harvard-Peabody Expedition to New Guinea and spent an additional twenty-one months observing the Dani people on his own after the other members had departed. Robert Gardner, the director of the Film Study Center for anthropological film research at the Peabody Museum, headed the expedition. Heider was a key contributor to Gardner’s film “Dead Birds” (1963) and subsequent publications. Other members of the expedition included Jan Broekhuijse, who acted as an interpreter, novelist Peter Matthiessen as the expedition’s naturalist and sound recorder and still photographer Michael Rockefeller.

After receiving his Ph.D. at Harvard, Heider continued to do fieldwork in Indonesia and became a Professor at the University of South Carolina. In 2008 he was awarded the Society for Visual Anthropology’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He retired from the University of South Carolina as “Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Anthropology” in 2008.

  1. Documentary Educational Resources Webpage. DER Filmmaker: Karl Heider. 2012. Retrieved from
  2. Gardner, Robert and Heider, Karl G. (1968). “Gardens of War: Life and Death in the New Guinea Stone Age”. New York: Random House
  3. University of South Carolina. Faculty Homepage: Karl Heider. 2006. Retrieved from


The collection is arranged in nine series as follows:

  1. Series I: Field Work
  2. Series II: Maps/Plans/Drawings (See also 2011.22.5.1-.7 in Oversize Archival Collections)
  3. Series III: Individual/Genealogical Data
  4. Series IV: Linguistics
  5. Series V: Research/Publications (by others)
  6. Series VI: Collection data and related correspondence
  7. Series VII: Financial
  8. Series VIII: News Clippings
  9. Series IX: Miscellaneous

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Karl G. Heider, 9/2/2011

Related Materials

Please see the following related collections.

Other Karl Heider Collections:
  1. 2011.22.2 Karl Heider black and white photographs (contact prints)
  2. 2011.22.3 Karl Heider motion picture film
  3. 2011.22.4 Karl Heider audio recordings
  4. 2011.22.5 Karl Heider maps (oversize)
New Guinea Slide and Negative Collections:
  1. 2006.12 Michael Rockefeller
  2. 2006.14 Peter Matthiessen
  3. 2006.15 Jan Broekhuijse
  4. 2006.16 Robert Gardner
  5. 2006.17 Karl Heider
  6. 2006.18 Samuel Putnam
  7. 2006.37 Eliot Elisofon

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.

Processed by:

Patricia Kervick and Nissa Pottenger, Simmons College GSLIS intern

Heider, Karl G. (1935 --), New Guinea Papers, bulk 1961-1963, inclusive 1914-1995: A Finding Aid.
Peabody Museum Archives
October-November 2012
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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