National Anthropological Archives

Guide to the Saul H. Riesenberg, 1932-1976

Collection ID:
Riesenberg, Saul H.
Physical Description:
10 Linear feet

Scope and Contents note
Scope and Contents note
The collection is made up almost entirely of material gathered by Saul H. Riesenberg, anthropologist and ethnologist, during a year's research (1955-1956) in American Samoa.
Throughout his professional career, Riesenberg was principally interested in Ponape, in the Caroline Islands. In the 1950's, however, stimulated by the work of graduate students at the University of Hawaii where he was teaching, Riesenberg applied for and was awarded a grant to study acculturation in American Samoa. One of the graduate students, B.F. Pierce, was studying Samoans who had migrated to the Mormon community at Laie, on Oahu. Riesenberg's study of Samoans in American Samoa was to provide a "baseline" (his word) for the study of migrations in the South Pacific, and, in addition, to identify agents of change at work in Samoa itself.
A significant part of this collection is comprised of the research notes and data accumulated by Riesenberg during that year. In his grant proposal, he stated that his aim was to present "a sound description of modern Samoa, politically, socially, economically, etc." This broad perspective is reflected in the range of his interests. His research notes cover every facet of Samoan culture, from cricket to banking to diet to government. However, his primary interest was the matai (chief) structure of Samoan society, and the system of land ownership operating within that structure. Much of the data he gathered, both in the form of notes and in the form of processed materials, is concerned with these two subjects. None of this material has been published.
During that same year, Riesenberg also worked part-time as Staff Anthropologist to the Governor of American Samoa. Thus he was able to collect a good deal of processed material originating in the government. This material includes pamphlets, resolutions, memoranda, correspondence, legislative codes, etc. He also collected official U.S. publications in the form of Committee prints, annual reports from the Governor of American Samoa to the Secretary of the Interior, and U.S. reports to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. When examined chronologically, these papers, some of which go back to the earliest days of American involvement in Samoa, provide an extremely interesting picture of the U.S. government's relation to the indigenous population of Samoa and into the transformation of the Samoan way of life under the pressure of Western influences.
Another significant category of processed materials in the collection is that of studies and research papers concerned with Samoa. The papers were written by functionaries and academicians. They will be of interest to students of the history of anthropology as well as of Samoa.
Students of education will be especially interested in the series entitled "Samoan Education," the "F.E. Midkiff Papers," and in some "Samoan Government Records" papers. Those studying the Samoan language will find the songs and publications of value.
The only papers in the collection not concerned with Samoa are the records of the Smithsonian Office for Anthropological Research (SOAR). These materials reflect Riesenberg's interest in administrative rather than strictly research matters. They document his involvement in the reorganization of Anthropology, the search for a new leader, and the creation of the Senate of Scientists, which allowed staff scientists at the Smithsonian to participate in administrative decisions.
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.

Biographical note
Biographical note
Born August 28, Newark, New Jersey
BA, University of California at Los Angeles
Teaching Fellow, University of California
Fieldwork on Ponape, Caroline Islands (June to Feb.)
Research Assistant, University of California
PhD, University of California at Berkeley
Instructor to Professor, University of Hawaii
Staff Anthropologist, Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands
Field work in American Samoa (July to July)
Anthropological Adviser, Gov't of American Samoa
Curator, Division of Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution
Field work on Ponape, Caroline Islands (Jan. to March)
Director of Area Studies for Micronesian (Summer)
Peace Corps Volunteers Training Program, Key West
Chairman, Dept. of Anthropology, Smithsonian Institution
Field work on Puluwat, Caroline Islands (Feb. to July)
Curator, Old World Anthropology, to Senior Ethnologist, Smithsonian Institution
Visiting Research Fellow at the Australian National University, Canberra (July to June)

Eva Sartori
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Dr. Saul H. Riesenberg donated some of his papers to the National Anthropological Archives on his retirement from the Smithsonian Institution in the summer of 1979.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
The Saul H. Riesenberg papers are open for research.
Access to the Saul H. Riesenberg papers requires an appointment.
Preferred Citation
Saul H. Riesenberg papers, 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
Oceania Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Samoans Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
American Samoa Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Museum of Natural History (U.S.). Department of Anthropology Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

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