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Putnam, Patrick Tracy Lowell (1904-1953). Collection of Negatives, 1928-1930: A Finding Aid

Peabody Museum Archives
Harvard University


©2007 The President and Fellows of Harvard College

Last update 2016 August 29

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Peabody Museum Archives, Harvard University
Call No.: 2004.24 (C)
Location: Peabody Museum Archives
Title: Putnam, Patrick Tracy Lowell (1904-1953). Collection of Negatives 1928-1930
Creator: Patrick Tracy Lowell Putnam
Quantity: 205 negatives
Abstract: This collection contains negatives taken by Patrick Tracy Lowell Putnam during a Peabody Museum sponsored expedition to the Congo from 1929-1930. The majority of the negatives are from Patrick's ethnographic studies and include indigenous people engaging in everyday life activities.

Processed by:

Staff of 2007-2008 NEH grant; finding aid created by Melissa Gonzales Simmons College intern; edited by India Spartz, Senior Archivist 1/2008.

Acquisition Information:

These negatives are part of the core negative collection at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University and reflect research and field work undertaken by the Peabody Museum sponsored expedition, Ethnological studies in the Congo, 1928-1930.

Access Restrictions:

Most views are unrestricted except for culturally sensitive images. Permission to view culturally sensitive images may be obtained from the Peabody Museum's curatorial department.

Use Restrictions:

As the negatives have been digitized and are on the Peabody Museum Collections Online website, researchers are encouraged to view the images online at http://www.peabody.harvard.edu/col/default.cfm

Biographical Sketch

Patrick Tracy Lowell Putnam (1904-1953) was born into a wealthy and well-connected New England family. Initially an only child, his parents eventually adopted six additional children. During his undergraduate career (Harvard, 1925), Putnam studied anthropology after joining an expedition to Dutch New Guinea under the tutelage of Professor Earnest A. Hooton. Upon graduating, Putnam developed an interest in the Congo Pygmies: from 1928-1930, Putnam carried out ethnological studies in the Congo for the Peabody Museum.
In Zaire , Putnam established Camp Putnam, an important outpost located deep in the Ituri Forest . The camp enabled Putnam to devote himself to the study of the Mbuti while operating a small guesthouse for traveling Westerners and providing basic medical services to the local people. Putnam's physician father also contributed his medical skills during long visits. Patrick Putnam spent the rest of his life in Africa, gaining a reputation for knowing more about the Mbuti than any other Westerner at that time.
Although Putnam shared his knowledge of the Mbuti liberally among locals, visitors and colleagues, he never published his life work, save one short academic article. However, Camp Putnam (abandoned in the 1950's) still appears in tribute on maps of Zaire where the Transafrican Highway crosses the Epulu River.
Putnam's stormy personal life included multiple marriages and relationships. A notable early relationship included an Mboli woman named Abanzima who nursed him to health after a lengthy illness. While Putnam contemplated bringing Abanzima to the U.S., he relented upon the advice of friends, and, in 1933, married Mary Linder who accepted his life in Africa along with his mistresses. Upon the death of Mary four years later, Putnam's second marriage to Emilie Baca ended in divorce due to strains of Congo living and infidelity. Afterward, Putnam had a postwar relationship with journalist Emily Hahn, eventually marrying Anne Eisner, an accomplished New York abstract and landscape watercolorist who also became a reputable collector of African art. Anne worked alongside Patrick at Camp Putnam until his passing in 1953.


Scope and Content Note

This collection of Patrick Tracy Lowell Putnam's negatives are mostly from his ethnographic studies in the Congo from 1928-1930, and is comprised of nitrate negatives ranging in size from 2.5" x 3.5" to 4" x 5". There is no formal arrangement, however, the negatives are ordered by Peabody negative number. This collection is part of the Peabody Museum's core negative collection, which is being digitized under a National Endowment for the Humanities grant 2007-2008. Images can be viewed at the Peabody Museum's Collections Online website at http://www.peabody.harvard.edu/col/default.cfm

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