Archive Record

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Catalog Number 01.03
Title Douglas S. Byers and Frederick Johnson records
Date 1912-1978 (bulk 1932-1968)
Collection size 14.5 linear feet (7 record cartons, 1 flat box, 6 card files)
Creator Byers, Douglas S., 1903-1978
Other Creators Johnson, Frederick, 1904-1994
Administrative/Biographical History Douglas Swain Byers (1903-1978) had initially aspired to be a banker, but assisting anthropologist Oliver La Farge on a trip to Guatemala in 1927 to study Maya people as a Harvard University undergraduate changed the course of his life. He completed his AB in 1925 and received his AM, also from Harvard, in 1928. He married Dorothy Hayes in 1929, and they had three children: William, Corinne Dethrow and Marjorie Billings. Byers joined the Robert S. Peabody Foundation for Archaeology as Assistant Director in 1933, and became Director of the Foundation in 1938, serving in that role for 30 years until his retirement in 1968.

Byers was heavily engaged with archaeology as a profession, outside of his administration of the foundation. He was involved in the founding of the Society for American Archaeology and the Massachusetts Archaeological Society, organized conferences, served on committees, was the editor of American Antiquity, and carried out and published on archaeological projects such as the Debert site in Nova Scotia.

Frederick Johnson (1904-1994) was born to parents Harry W. and Mertina Hancock Johnson in Everett, MA. At the age of 13, noted anthropologist Frank Speck included him on an ethnological field trip to Northern Quebec, and Johnson went on to study with Speck at the University of Pennsylvania. Ultimately Johnson returned to Massachusetts to receive a BA in sociology from Tufts College in 1929, and did some graduate work at Harvard University before joining the Robert S. Peabody Foundation for Archaeology as Curator in 1936. He held this position until 1968, then served one year as Director before retiring in 1969. He married Dorothy Murfitt in 1933; they had no children.

Johnson is recognized for contributing to the development of an interdisciplinary approach to archaeology, in which scientists from a variety of fields were brought together to study archaeological problems. He successfully organized the collaboration of fifteen scientists on the Boylston Street Fish Weir project in 1939 in Boston, MA, and later, organized a similarly successful small group expedition, the Andover-Harvard Yukon Expedition in Alaska in 1944 and 1948. At Phillips Academy, Johnson initiated an archaeological excavation program for students. On the national level, he organized the Committee for the Recovery of Archaeological Remains, 1945-1968, and chaired the American Anthropological Association's Committee on Radioactive Carbon 14, 1948-1968. He also took ethnographic photographs of American Indians during his archaeological expeditions, and his photographic records of First Nations groups in Canada in the 1930s continue to generate interest to this day.
Scope & Content This collection contains records from the largely-overlapping administration of the Robert S. Peabody Foundation for Archaeology by Douglas S. Byers (Assistant Director, 1933-1938; Director, 1938-1968) and Frederick Johnson (Curator, 1936-1968; Director, 1968-1969). The records contain correspondence with professional peers and the public, administrative files and field notes for projects sponsored by the Peabody, general administrative files concerning the foundation's library and finances, and card files of field records, notes and bibliographic references. The following sites are represented: Debert (Nova Scotia, Canada), Naskeag Point (Maine), Nevin Shell Heap (Maine), Pond Island (Maine), Richards Shell Heap (Maine), Etowah (Georgia), Waterfall Ruin/Floating House (Arizona, Utah), Damariscotta Shell Heap (Maine), Fishweir sites (Massachusetts) and Yukon Highway (Alaska).

The records have been arranged into the following series: Series I. Douglas S. Byers correspondence, administrative files and writings; Series II. Frederick Johnson correspondence, administrative files and field notes; Series III. General administrative files; Series IV. Card files.
Conditions Governing Access This collection is open for research.
Language of Material English
Finding Aid Finding Aid