National Anthropological Archives

Guide to the Cherry Lowman papers


Collection ID:
Lowman, Cherry
Vayda, Andrew Peter (1931)
bulk 1962-1980
Physical Description:
7.5 Linear feet
15 boxes
Cherry Lowman was an anthropologist and health science administrator whose ethnographic studies focused on the cultural ecology of the Maring people of highlands Papua New Guinea. Her papers contain fieldnotes and research data, correspondence, photographs, and artworks by Maring men and women.

Scope and Contents

Scope and Contents
The papers of Cherry Lowman primarily concern her ethnographic fieldwork in Papua New Guinea in the 1960s, and subsequent follow up studies based on data collected at that time. Lowman's work for NIAAA is not represented in the papers. It should be noted that there is a great deal of related and overlapping material on the Papua New Guinea research between Lowman's papers and the papers of Andrew P. Vayda, so researchers are encouraged to consult both collections on the topic.
The largest series - Series 1: Field notes and research data - contains field notes from the 1962-1963 and 1966 field work as well as research notes and data files from subsequent analyses and studies. There are some handwritten field notes but the majority are typed. Field notes are arranged chronologically and also by subject, but many related notes are found in separate locations from each other, for instance there may be notes on a particular topic filed by subject, but related notes may be found in the field notes organized chronologically as well. This series also includes a number of paper drafts, as well as Lowman's doctoral dissertation.
Series 2: Correspondence contains only a few files, but includes significant correspondence with Ann and Roy Rappaport and Georgeda Buchbinder.
Series 3: Photographs contains photographs made primarily on the first research trip and include negatives, contact sheets and prints, with associated typed photo logs. Photographs document Maring people, activities, and events. It should be noted that not all of the negatives have corresponding prints.
Series 4: Artwork consists of drawings and paintings made by Maring men and women.


The collection is organized into four series:
  • Series 1: Field notes and research data
  • Series 2: Correspondence
  • Series 3: Photographs
  • Series 4: Artwork

Biographical Note

Biographical Note
Cherry Lowman was an anthropologist and health science administrator whose ethnographic studies focused on the cultural ecology of the Maring people of highlands Papua New Guinea.
Lowman was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on September 19, 1934. She attended Russell Sage College, University of Louisville, and received her bachelor's degree in anthropology from Columbia University in 1959. She then became a graduate student in anthropology at Columbia, and in 1962, she joined the two-year "Columbia University Expedition" to the Maring communities of western highlands Papua New Guinea, a National Science Foundation-funded research project to investigate the cultural ecology of the Maring people in the Simbai Valley of the Bismarck Mountains. Andrew P. "Pete" Vayda (to whom Lowman was married at the time) was principal investigator. The research team included Lowman and Vayda, Ann and Roy "Skip" Rappaport, and Allison and Marek Jablonko. The research pairs lived in different villages but communicated frequently. Lowman and Vayda were situated primarily in Gunts, in the Simbai Valley.
Once there, Lowman gave particular attention to collecting data on the role of women in subsistence, the care and development of children under five, cultural conceptions of and responses to disease, and the use and management of both wild and domesticated resources. With Vayda, she conducted surveys on health and marriage practices and other demographic points which continued during Lowman and Vayda's return trip in 1966. This second research trip brought Lowman and Vayda and their daughter Andi to the the Jimi Valley, where they collected systematic interview data on household histories of illness and its treatment and collaborated with Anglican Mission health providers to conduct health surveys in adjacent Jimi Valley communities. On both research trips Lowman also studied the interrelations of Maring art and war as expressed in shield designs.
The two related field experiences produced a wealth of data that Lowman continued to analyze and work with through her master's degree (Columbia, 1976), and culminating with her doctoral dissertation (Columbia, 1980), "Environment, Society and Health: Ecological Bases of Community Growth and Decline in the Maring Region of Papua New Guinea." In it, Lowman developed a model to explain the influence of interdependent regional-level environmental processes, health patterns, and social practices on the growth and decline of local communities.
In 1979, Lowman moved from New York to the Washington DC area to work as a health science administrator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), a division of the National Institutes of Health. There, she administered grants, coordinated health services research, and published widely on alcoholism issues in adolescents. Lowman worked for NIAAA until her retirement in 2014. Lowman died on November 22, 2019, in Ithaca, New York.


Gina Rappaport
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The collection was donated to the National Anthropological Archives by Andi Vayda, Cherry Lowman's daughter, in 2021.
Processing Information
The collection came to the archives in a fairly disorganized state. While the archivist maintained what apparent original order existed, there were cases where a lack of order prompted the archivist to impose an arrangement. Many of the files were not labeled so it was not always easy to make a positive identification on what an item might be, which led to generalized descriptions in the finding aid such as "research notes and data." Those wishing to consult the papers may be advised to review the entire "Field notes and research data" series as there is overlap of topics and chronology in many of those files.
Photographs are not annotated with identifications. Rather, the negative rolls are numbered and those numbers can be matched to the "Pentax chronological log" sheets that contain the descriptions. Many of the film rolls were at least contact printed, but there are many negatives for which there are no prints.

Using the Collection

Conditions Governing Use
Contact the repository for terms of use.
Conditions Governing Access
The Cherry Lowman papers are open for research. Access to the collection requires an appointment.
Preferred Citation
Cherry Lowman papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution.

Related Materials
The National Anthropological Archives/Human Studies Film Archives holds the films of Alison and Marek Jablonko from the Columbia University Expedition fieldwork.
The National Anthropological Archives holds the papers of Andrew P. Vayda.
The papers of Roy A. Rappaport relating to the Papua New Guinea fieldwork are held at the Tuzin Archive for Melanesian Anthropology at the University of California Santa Barbara.


Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Papua New Guinea Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ethnology -- Papua New Guinea Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Maring (Papua New Guinean people) Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rappaport, Roy A. Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

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