National Anthropological Archives

Guide to the Carl Etter papers and photographs on Ainu folklore and culture, circa 1930s

Collection ID:
Etter, Carl, 1898-1982
Physical Description:
3.5 Linear feet
Ainu folklore collected by Carl Etter during the early 1930s in the Japanese regions of Hokkaido, the Kuril islands, and Sakhalin. Also included are photographs of the Ainu people, their villages, and rituals.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The collection contains Etter's diaries; descriptions of Ainu sign language; approximately 210 Ainu legends; Etter's published book, Ainu Folklore; 239 photographic prints and postcards; and typed notes created by Etter's daughter-in-law, Patricia A. Etter.
Please note that the contents of the collection and the language and terminology used reflect the context and culture of the time of its creation. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology and considered offensive today. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution or National Anthropological Archives, but is available in its original form to facilitate research.

The collection is arranged into three series. Series 1: Field Research, Series 2: Photographs, and Series 3: Writings.

Biographical Note
Biographical Note
Carl Etter studied religion in college, first as an undergraduate at Abilene Christian College, from which he graduated in 1922, then as a graduate student at the University of Michigan and the University of Southern California. He traveled to Japan in 1928 hoping to serve as a missionary for the Church of Christ. However, the Church would not support him, so he learned Japanese and became a teacher at a government university. While in Japan, from 1931-1932, Etter collected the legends and folklore of the Ainu people, animists who believe that spirits exist in all things including natural phenomena such as thunder, geographic features such as rivers and trees, and in animals. In 1949 he published Ainu Folklore: Traditions and Culture of the Vanishing Aborigines of Japan, a book based upon his research. Etter earned a PhD from the University of Hokkaido in 1953.

Christy Fic
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Received from Patricia A. Etter in 2011.
Processing Information
Carl Etter stored each Ainu legend in a small brown envelope labeled with a description of the legend and the name of the village where he heard the legend. These original titles were retained. Folder titles assigned by the archivist are indicated by square brackets. Manuscript materials have been rehoused in acid-free folders. Photographs were rehoused in mylar sleeves and acid free-folders.
Collection and image descriptions provided in this finding aid were compiled using the best available sources of information. Such sources include the creator's annotations or descriptions, collection accession files, primary and secondary source material (i.e. documents, publications, and websites), and subject matter experts. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, it is understood that errors may reveal themselves following review by other subject experts, and new information is welcome.
The collection was processed by Christy Fic, 2011.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
The Carl Etter papers and photographs on Ainu folklore and culture are open for research.
Access to the Carol Etter papers and photographs on Ainu folklore and culture requires an appointment.
Preferred Citation
Carl Etter papers and photographs on Ainu folklore and culture, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
Conditions Governing Use
Contact the repository for terms of use.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Japan Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ainu Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
National Anthropological Archives
Museum Support Center
4210 Silver Hill Road
Suitland, Maryland 20746