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Brew, J. O. (John Otis), 1906- . J.O. Brew collection of lantern slides, 1930-1939, bulk: A Finding Aid

Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology Archives, Harvard University


Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: Peabody Museum Archives
Call No.: 2002.1.707
Repository: Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology Archives, Harvard University
Creator: J. O. Brew
Title: J.O. Brew Collection of Lantern Slides
Date(s): 1930-1939 (bulk)
Quantity: 1 collection (12 Boxes, 616 Lantern Slides)
Abstract: The J. O. Brew Collection of lantern slides is comprised of slides representing Brew's research interests in Southeast Utah and Northeast Arizona, as well as slides from his teaching collection. Additionally, there are slides from locations such as the Nile and Easter Island.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

This collection was placed in the Peabody Museum Archives sometime during the 1990's.

Processed by:

Bianca Buccitelli, Simmons College intern.
June 2002

Conditions Governing Access:


Conditions Governing Use:



J.O. Brew was born in Malden, MA on March 28, 1906. As an undergraduate, he attended Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, receiving an A.B. in Fine Arts in 1928. Although for the rest of his life J.O. Brew remained tied to New England, his work soon took him to more exotic places. In addition to his interest in Fine Arts, Brew harbored an interest in classical archaeology and it was this interest that brought him into the Harvard community as a graduate student in 1928. During this time, he studied under Roland B. Dixon, Earnest A. Hooton, and Alfred M. Tozzer. By 1931, Brew was actively involved in the field expeditions of the Peabody Museum including in 1931, the Clafflin-Emmerson expedition, from 1931-1933, the Southeastern Utah expedition at Alkali Ridge, in 1934, an expedition to Ireland, and from 1935-1940 Brew served as the Director of the Awatovi expedition in Northeast Arizona. On this last expedition Brew met his future wife Ruth Nimmo, and on June 11, 1939 they were married.
In 1941, Brew received his Ph.D. from Harvard, and this event marked the beginning of his long administrative career at Harvard. Before becoming the Director of the Peabody Museum in 1948, Brew served as the Assistant Curator of Southwestern American Archaeology from 1941-1945 and as the Curator of North American Archaeology from 1945-1948. His tenure as the Director of the Peabody Museum began in 1948 and lasted until 1967, making his the longest directorship in the history of the museum with the exception of Frederick Ward Putnam.
Brew's contributions as a researcher, a director, and a professor are numerous. For example, he carried out a large number of expeditions in three focus areas including Southeast Utah, Northeast Arizona, and West Central New Mexico in an attempt to, as Dr., Edward B. Danson of the Museum of Northern Arizona explains, fill in the spots of knowledge missing within Southwestern prehistoric research. An example of this is Brew's continued research at Awatovi in which he "…gave to Southwestern archaeologists for the first time sound archaeological knowledge about early colonial culture…" (Whitehill 5).
Brew was also dedicated to the preservation of antiquities and worked on both a national and international level to save the world's archaeological treasures. Through his efforts in collaboration with some of his colleagues, Brew was responsible for the formation of the Committee for the Recovery of Archaeological Remains. This committee worked to promote congressional action through the creation of legislation and the allocation of funds for the preservation of endangered archaeological remains. Similarly, on the international level, Brew chaired the UNESCO Committee for Monuments, which was responsible for such important projects as the preservation of numerous archaeological sites threatened by the Aswan Dam in the Nile River.
Finally, despite his great achievements, Brew never lost site of his responsibility to train the next generation of archaeologists at Harvard, and throughout his career he mentored a number of important future Southwestern archaeological scholars. He also made efforts to provide archaeological information to the general public. For example, he renovated the North American Indian Hall at the Peabody Museum to appeal to museum-goers. In addition, in 1958 he entered into a joint venture with Boston's Museum of Fine Arts to bring anthropological objects to the attention of a fine arts audience.

Scope and Content Note

The J. O. Brew Collection was acquired during the long career of J. O. Brew as a researcher, professor, and museum director at Harvard University. Accordingly, these lantern slides represent some of his research interests, including his work in Southeast Utah and Northeast Arizona at sites that were purposefully chosen as a way to fill in the gaps in Southwestern prehistoric knowledge. A number of slides from his teaching collection are also present, demonstrating his continued interest in passing his knowledge on to the future generation of archaeologists. Finally, certain locations such as the Nile and Easter Island that are present in this slide collection are probably a testament to his dedication to the preservation of archaeological sites worldwide and his involvement in such organizations as, on a national level, the Committee for the Recovery of Archaeological Artifacts, and on an international level, UNESCO's Committee for Monuments. This collection consists of 12 boxes and a total of 616 glass lantern slides.

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