The history of how scientific disciplines begin and grow is written in the lives of the scientists whose ideas shape their contents. It is rare that these scientists write autobiographies or have biographies written about them, and even in such sources the evaluation of the disciplinary development is shaded to highlight the contributions of the individual whose story is being detailed.
Disciplines often come into focus when the “founding” scientists decide to organize and develop an association dedicated to fostering the disciplinary content. As that association matures, it accumulates documents and materials that chronicle not only an account of the association, but also an integrated history of the discipline that it serves. Archives of these associational materials are a primary source of information that can fill in the gaps of the intellectual evolution of a discipline.
For the first 35 years of the Human Biology Council/Association, the archives of the association were kept by the Secretary-Treasurers in boxes that were transferred from one to the next. These documents and materials were not organized and were mostly unavailable to anyone except the current Secretary-Treasurer. The volume of paper was prodigious and it became clear that it needed to be structured and stored in a manner that would allow access by anyone interested in the history of the organization or the discipline of human biology. There was also concern that the manner in which the records were kept was not optimal for their preservation. At the 34th Annual Meeting of the Human Biology Association held in Chicago in April, 2009, the executive committee of the association voted to have the accumulated archives organized and submitted to a central repository where they could be accessed. We undertook the task of organizing the records on their request.
The accumulated documents of the Human Biology Association (HBA) are now stored at the Smithsonian Institution's National Anthropological Archives (NAA). The NAA, which was formerly the Bureau of American Ethnology, has served as a repository for a numerous individual, institutional, and historical anthropological collections. As noted, the HBA Archives were compiled from collections held by the Secretary-Treasurers of the HBA plus contributions from past officers of the Association. They are stored in more than 250 acid-free folders and include 9.9 linear feet of documents.
These documents date back to 1973 when a committee was established to organize the Human Biology Council, where the Council's purpose was to oversee and support the journal, Human Biology. This was deemed necessary, following the termination of the affiliation of the journal with the Society for the Study of Human Biology. The members of the Organizing Committee first met on April 13, 1973 at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in Dallas, Texas. The Organizing Committee members were: Paul T. Baker, Chairman; Michael A. Little, Acting Treasurer; Francis E. Johnston, Elizabeth Watts, and Gabriel W. Lasker, Editor-in-Chief of Human Biology. The Human Biology Council was incorporated in Washington, DC on November 19, 1974. The Certificate of Amendment signifying the name change of the society to the Human Biology Association was formally approved 20 years later by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs in the District of Columbia on December 20, 1994. The history of the Human Biology Council/Association (HBC/A) has been tied closely with the three major journals in the field of human biology (Human Biology, Annals of Human Biology, and American Journal of Human Biology) and at least one other major society in this science (Society for the Study of Human Biology). The history of the Human Biology Association is reported in Little and James (2005) and is touched on in Tanner (1999) and Crawford (2004) in the context of the journals Annals of Human Biology and Human Biology, respectively.
The contents of the HBA Archive include original documents of correspondence, minutes of Annual Executive Committee and Business Meetings, lists of members and their addresses, financial reports, lists of nominees for offices, members' vitae, meeting registrations, journal business for both Human Biology (through 1988) and the American Journal of Human Biology (from 1988 to the present), and many other kind of documents. There are some photographs taken at the annual meetings. HBA members who have photographs or other documents that might be added to the archive are encouraged to contact the HBA President or Secretary-Treasurer.
The archive is a valuable resource for the history of the science of human biology. For example, it might be possible to develop a trajectory of how the content and interests in the disciple of human biology has changed over time by comparing the symposium topics of the annual meetings from year to year. Membership lists and members' vitae may be useful for individual biographical studies, and the extensive correspondence has historical value in documenting the growth and development of a professional society. At a practical level: before the documents were shipped to the NAA, the HBA Secretary-Treasurer was concerned about the corporate and tax status of the HBA. A brief search through the early documents indicated that Ted Steegmann, as Secretary-Treasurer at that time, had carried out the appropriate procedures and that the Association's status was legal and appropriate. As an institutional record, these archives are of significant value to both the members of the HBA, the anthropological community, and the scientific community at large. For access to or information about the archives, contact Candice Greene (firstname.lastname@example.org), Director, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution or the Senior Archivist, Lorain Wang (WangL@si.edu).
The contents of each of the boxes are cataloged below: