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Anthropology collection policy

Liaison librarian

  • robin [dot] canuel [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Email) 514-398-4698

2012 revised

History of the Collection

Historically the emphasis has been on the ethnohistory and archaeology of North American native peoples: the contemporary cultures and society of North American native peoples, and on West African peoples. The latter concentration grew out of an understanding between the McGill, Sir George Williams and Loyola College Libraries to concentrate their activities on different parts of the African continent. This agreement, which operated from the late 1960's to the 1980's, is no longer in effect and materials on all parts of Africa are now collected.

Membership in the Shastri Institute has resulted in a representative collection of South Asian anthropological material. In addition, there has been systematic acquisition of the works of all significant British and American anthropologists and ethnographers, and major anthropological journals and monographic series.

The development of collections pertaining to South American indigenous populations, especially pre-Columbian cultures, has been a major focus since 2000; Asian material is collected at a general level, with the exception of more depth for material on South Asia, as mentioned above, and Japan.

The collection for archaeological methodology and theory is generally quite good, since the classicists share and overlap in their archaeological interests; there is a small concentration on Egyptian archaeology, but we do not own all the basic series.

No McGill library has developed more than a basic collection in the relevant aspects of physical anthropology.

Current Collection Development

Recent developments in anthropological research have broadened the collection's range of interests immensely, with a corresponding high degree of overlap with several other disciplines. The primary focus is on Canadian and North American prehistory, ethnohistory, social change, and current problems associated with government relations with and policy towards native peoples worldwide. Anthropology of development has grown increasingly more important. Specific interests include symbolic, theoretical, and cognitive anthropology, ethnology, gender issues and anthropology of religion and medicine.

Academic Programmes and Liaison

The Anthropology Department has a full range of courses at the undergraduate level in cultural and social anthropology as well as in the study of prehistory, a master's programme with thesis, a master's in medical anthropology by thesis or by course work, and a Ph.D. programme. Two minor concentrations are offered at the undergraduate level, Socio-Cultural Anthropology and Anthropological Archaeology. Collection development is the responsibility of the Anthropology bibliographer, who consults with the designated faculty liaison in the department as well as other faculty when required. Contact ranges from frequent discussions of specialized material to a significant exchange of information from published reviews, publishers' catalogues and advance publicity information.

McGill Resources

The Humanities and Social Sciences Library is the major location for the University's Anthropology collection, In 1999, a substantial gift from the Students' Society enabled the library to make the HRAF Ethnography and Archaeology electronic collections available through the McGill Web. The Anthropology department makes extensive use of films for teaching purposes, and the Library has acquired many in both VHS and DVD format, housed in the Library's Audio-Visual collection, as well as online streaming film collections such as Films on Demand. In addition the following McGill collections hold materials of interest for the study of anthropology:

Government Documents. A significant quantity of Canadian government material relating to native peoples as well as British colonial publications are kept in this Department. ILO studies, particularly of women and labour, can be of great use to students. the library also acquired Micromedia's Native Peoples series on microfiche.

Rare Books and Special Collections has early ethnographic and linguistic material for Canadian native peoples in the Lande collection, and early Canadian cartographic material for Canada as well as a few small photographic collections.

Birks Reading Room collects some material on traditional religions and the introduction and practice of Christianity; it also houses the principal collections on Hinduism and Buddhism. Retrospective holdings on Southwest Asia (Near East) Archaeology are present in the collection.

Blackader-Lauterman Library. There are overlapping interests in two areas: the arts and aesthetics of non-Western societies, and their buildings. Descriptive accounts and pictorial representations are collected primarily in Blackader; collecting of theoretical discussions on the aesthetics of non-Western societies is less well defined. Archaeological material is not infrequently purchased for both collections, particularly basic reference tools, atlases, dictionaries etc. Blackader-Lauterman selects chiefly Greek and Roman archaeological material while the Anthropology bibliographer collects the rest of the world.

Centre for Developing Area Studies Documentation Centre has a good selection of monographic series and serials, primarily produced in Third World countries, on social and economic topics. Many of these titles are not duplicated in McLennan Library.

The Health Sciences Library has substantial monograph holdings in medical anthropology and traditional medicine, paleodontology etc. Relevant historical material is collected in the Osler Library of the History of Medicine.

Islamic Studies Library. Material relating to Islam and society and its relationship with other religions throughout the globe is valuable for the anthropology of religion courses at McGill. It also houses representative resources on social change and political culture in Islamic societies. This library systematically purchases Indonesian material relating to Islam and it also has significant holdings of resources on the antiquities and archaeology of southwest Asia.

Law Library collection covers native peoples' issues concerning the Canadian criminal justice system and the constitution.

Macdonald Campus Library has some historical material of an anthropological nature and sources for the study of traditional agriculture and agricultural issues in third world countries.

Marvin Duchow Music Library has a small but representative collection of primarily Canadian folk song material and ethnomusicology. It is not a major area of concentration for that collection.

Regional Resources

McCord Museum. The collection of Canadian Native Peoples artifacts is particularly significant. The Paintings, Prints and Drawings Collection and the Archives and Documentation Centre also hold material relevant to the study of Aboriginal history. The Archives and Documentation Centre contains publications, primary sources and documents, exhibition catalogs, maps, drawings, prints and photographs, all relating to the material culture of Canada, Native and non-Native.

Université de Montréal's Bibliothèque des lettres et sciences humaines has a rich collection of anthropology journals and monographs. There is considerably greater depth in museology than at McGill. Université de Montréal has a strong collection on the prehistory of the Biblical Lands.

The Music Library at the Université de Montréal has a good collection on ethnomusicology and folk music.

Université du Québec à Montréal Bibliothèque des Arts is building a strong collection in museology.

Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, Ottawa, owns the most complete collection of documents pertaining to the contemporary social, political and legal issues of Canadian native peoples. The library also has significant sections of the Records of the U.S. Land Claims Commission. (McLennan Reference holds the microfiche catalogue of the Indian and Northern Affairs Library produced in 1990.)

The Kahnawake Cultural Centre (Kanien'kehaka Onkwawen:na Raotitiohkwa) collects materials relating to the Iroquois and is open to researchers. A good list of special collections on native peoples can be found in Corley's survey: Resources for Native Peoples Study cited in the bibliography at the end.

Consortia and Document Delivery

The Center for Research Libraries (CRL) consortium to which McGill belongs, has an excellent international collection of dissertations and retrospective journals, including some remarkable material, e.g. the professional correspondence of Franz Boas on microfilm, selections of the colonial reports of France and Great Britain which often contain valuable ethnohistorical material, a manuscript collection of various cultural anthropological field reports, and some microfilmed sets of U.S. National Archives dealing with North American native peoples, including the Records of the U.S. Land Claims Commission the holdings of which may be viewed on their Web site.

OCLC membership provides access to a vast bibliographic database and an efficient document delivery system based on the holdings of North America's most eminent research collections.

General Collection Guidelines

Languages: English is the primary language of the collection; works published in French or German are purchased selectively, Quebec material more extensively than other European French material. Some Spanish material relating to Latin America is purchased.

Chronological Coverage: From prehistory to the present.

Geographical Coverage: Priorities are outlined in the section giving levels of collecting.

Date of Publication: Emphasis is on current publications. Whenever possible, retrospective acquisitions are made to upgrade specific areas of the collection and to replace important books which have deteriorated or disappeared. The collection is routinely surveyed and evaluated as reprinted monograph and journal titles become available.

Subjects and Levels of Collecting

Definitions of collection levels are from the American Library Association's Guide for Written Collection Policy Statements, 2nd. ed. 1996. In the Library of Congress classification ethnographies and studies of prehistory are usually classified with social and historical studies of the area or group; in contrast, economic or political studies are classed with these disciplines.

  General studies, theoretical works 3b
  History of Archaeology 3b
  Methodology etc. 3b
  Palaeolithic (Old World) 3b
  Hunter/gatherer societies 3b
  Neolithic 3a
Geographic Priorities
  North American
   In general 3b 4
   Arctic, Subarctic 4+
   All of Canada and contiguous areas 4
   Mesoamerica 3b
   South America 3a
Africa (including Egypt) 3b
South Asia 3a
Southwest Asia 3a
East Asia (Shared with East Asian Studies bibliographer) 3b
Southeast and Central Asia 2
Australasia, Oceania 3a
Europe (excluding all classical archaeology.) 2
For geographic priorities see Ethnographic Studies
 General: Theoretical studies; methodology 3b
 History of anthropology, biography 3b
Ethnohistory: general 2
  Canada and contiguous areas 4
Economic Anthropology
  Traditional modes of production 3a
  Agriculture and land tenure 3b
  Pastoral societies 3b
  Exchange and trading 3a
  Labour relations 3a
Religion: general 3a
  Primitive religion, cosmology, shamanism 3b
Social Structure & Relations
  Family & kinship 3b
  Social change 3b
  Gender Studies 3b
  Ethnicity 3b 4
Political Anthropology
  Contemporary 4th world issues 4
  State formation 3a
see also Ethnicity and gender studies above
Symbolic Anthropology 3b
Cognitive Anthropology 3b
These levels give guidance for the categories above.
 Europe: general 2
   Northern Europe - Nordic communities 3b
   Mediterranean area 3b
   Africa, especially Anglophone West Africa 3b
   East Africa, particularly pastoralists. 3b
   North Africa (see also Islamic Studies Policy) 3a
   Southern and Central Africa 3a
   Southwest Asia 3a
South Asia: interest in religion, pastoral societies, and social change. 3b
Indian published material bought with Shastri funds.
East Asia: emphasis on contemporary social change 3b
South East Asia - Mainland 2
   Insular 3b
Oceania - Emphasis on social change
  Philippines 3b
  Micronesia and Melanesia 3b
  Social/cultural change within aboriginal communities 3a
  Contemporary Fourth World issues 3b
North America
  General 3b
  Canada and contiguous areas, Greenland and Alaska 4
Central and South America and the Caribbean
   (Social and culture change are the primary focus. Existing emphasis on the English speaking Caribbean, Maya cultural area and Brazil)
   (see Linguistics Policy for descriptive linguistics etc.)
  (See note under Music Library in Resources Available)
(Collected primararily by Health Sciences Library)

Coordination and Cooperation

Birks Reading Room: Southwest Asia (Near East) Archaeology has been collected at various times by McLennan, Religious Studies and Islamic Studies Libraries. All current acquisition in the Southwest Asian Archaeology (with the exception of the Dead Sea Scrolls) is concentrated in Humanities & Social Science to assure the availability of a basic study level (3 a) in the field.

Classics: Archaeological method and theory of classical Greece and the Roman Empire is collected by Classics. Prehistory in the eastern Mediterranean, Southwest Asia and North Africa, (particularly Egypt) is the responsibility of anthropology funding, as are topics relating to the Anthropology of Religion in the classical world after the fall of the Roman Empire.

Communications and Comparative Literature: cultural studies, studies of popular culture of a sociological as well as theoretical nature, are referred to the appropriate bibliographer depending on the disciplinary orientation of the author.

Economics: Demography in general is collected by economics, while anthropology collects studies of survival of indigenous peoples; market systems and trading prior to or outside the world economic system are collected on anthropology funds.

Geography: Common interests are human ecology and development and food systems. Specialized cartographic material, such as linguistic or ethnic atlases, are purchased primarily on anthropology funds.

Health Sciences Library collects material on modem medical anthropology and traditional medicine, as well as relevant material on paleodontology and related subjects.

History: Archaeology of the material culture of historic societies (e.g. medieval societies. Vikings) is the responsibility of the History bibliographer. European/native people relations is considered history, except where the primary focus is on the impact of this contact on the indigenous peoples.

Law Library: The legal research resources are in the Law Library, with some duplication of secondary literature in McLennan; documentation produced by native organizations is primarily collected in McLennan.

Linguistics bibliographer purchases descriptive linguistics materials.

Literature: Folk literatures and creative literature by native authors are considered as part of the national literature not anthropology. English and Comparative Literature bibliographers cover folklore studies at the basic information (2) level.

Political Science: Other than for North American fourth world issues, modern nationalism, ethnic conflict or political rivalry and policy relating to ethnic minorities are considered primarily political science. Community survival and ethnic integration, see Sociology below.

Psychology: Some overlapping interest in cross-cultural studies.

Reference: Recommendations for the purchase of reference works are forwarded to the Humanities & Social Sciences Reference Department bibliographer.

Sociology: Social studies of ethnicity and ethnic communities are of interest to both disciplines; native peoples are of more central interest to anthropology.

Descriptions of the Collections

Mason, Mary, Rebecca Aiken and Jerome Rousseau. Survey of the Anthropological Holdings ofMcLennan Library. McGill University Anthropology Department, 1984.

Mason, Mary. First Nations Resources Project. Summary Report. 1991.

Mason, Mary and Melanie Rock. Researching Contemporary First Nations Issues at McGill. Montreal, Reference Department, Humanities and Social Sciences Library, McGill University, 1991.

Mason, Mary and Nellie Reiss. Regarding the Indian: Images and Impressions, 1492-1900. [Exhibition Brochure] Montreal, Humanities and Social Sciences Library, McGill University, 1990.

Coriey, Nora Teresa. Resources for Native Peoples Studies. Ottawa, National Library of Canada, 1984. (This also includes a union serials list, which inaccurately represents McGill's holdings at that time.)

Giffin, Meredith. Native Peoples: a Guide to Reference Sources. Montreal, Reference Department McLennan Library, McGill University, 1986.

Mason, Mary. Anthropology: A Guide to Reference Sources. Montreal, Reference Department McLennan Library, McGill University, 1985.

Morrison, Doreen. Prehistoric Archaeology: a Guide to Reference Sources. Montreal, Reference Department McLennan Library, McGill University, 1989.

Robitaille, Eric. Enquête sur les collections nordiques au Québec. Ottawa, Dept. of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, 1988.

Serials and Standing orders lists available from the bibliographer.

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