Hostname: page-component-797576ffbb-5676f Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-12-05T00:39:17.844Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

Nazi Science, wartime collections, and an American museum: An object itinerary of the Anthropologie Symbol

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 August 2021

Dru McGill*
North Carolina State University, Raleigh, United States
Jennifer St. Germain
Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology, Indiana University, Bloomington, United States
*Corresponding author. Email:


A number of recent works have explored the value of scholarly efforts to “unpack” museum collections and examine the constitutive networks and histories of objects. The interrogations of collections through methods such as object biographies and itineraries imparts important knowledge about the institutions, disciplines, and individuals who made museum collections, contribute to deeper understandings of the roles of objects in creating meaning in and of the world, and suggest implications for future practice and policies. This article examines the object itinerary of a cultural property item of negative heritage: a three-dimensional painted plaster work of craft-art originally designed to symbolize the scientific practice of anthropology in early twentieth-century Germany and later associated with wartime collecting during World War II, the history of American archaeology, and the modern repatriation movement in museums.

© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the International Cultural Property Society

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


American Association of Physical Anthropologists. 1996. “AAPA Statement on Biological Aspects of Race.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology 101: 569–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Arjun, Appadurai. 1986. “Introduction: Commodities and the Politics of Value.” In The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, edited by Appadurai, A., 563. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Bettina, Arnold. 1990. “The Past as Propaganda: Totalitarian Archaeology in Nazi Germany.” Antiquity 64, no. 244: 464–78.Google Scholar
Bettina, Arnold. 1992. “The Past as Propaganda.” Archaeology 45, no. 4: 3037.Google Scholar
Bettina, Arnold. 2006. “‘Afierdammerung’: Race and Archaeology in Nazi Germany.” World Archaeology 38, no. 1: 831.Google Scholar
Elazar, Barkan. 1988. “Mobilizing Scientists against Nazi Racism, 19331939.” In Bones, Bodies, Behavior: Essays on Biological Anthropology, edited by Stocking, G., 180205. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
Bauer, Alexander. 2019. “Itinerant Objects.” Annual Review of Anthropology 48: 335–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Judith, Baumel. 2001. “Mischlinge.” In The Holocaust Encyclopedia, edited by Laqueur, W., 420–25. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Bennett, Jane. 2010. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
Sarah, Byrne. 2012. “Trials and Traces: A. C. Haddon’s Agency as Museum Curator.” In Unpacking the Collection: Networks of Material and Social Agency in the Museum, edited by Byrne, S., Clarke, A., Harrison, R., and Torrence, R., 307–25. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
Sarah, Byrne, Clarke, Anne, Harrison, Rodney, and Torrence, Robin. 2012. “Networks, Agents and Objects: Frameworks for Unpacking Museum Collections.” In Unpacking the Collection: Networks of Material and Social Agency in the Museum, edited by Byrne, S., Clarke, A., Harrison, R., and Torrence, R., 326. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
Rachel, Caspari. 2003. “From Types to Populations: A Century of Race, Physical Anthropology, and the American Anthropological Association.” American Anthropologist 105, no. 1: 6576.Google Scholar
Tarnya, Cooper. 1997a. “Exhibition Review: A Post-mortem on Refashioning Death!” Mortality 2, no. 3: 267–72.Google Scholar
Tarnya, Cooper. 1997b. Refashioning Death: Vanitas and Memento Mori Prints from Northern Europe 1514 – c. 1640. London: College Arts Collections, University College London.Google Scholar
Bry, De, Theodor, . 1592. Emblemata nobilitati et vulgo scitu digna: singulis historijs symbola adscripta & elegantes versus historiam explicantes: accessit galearum expositio, & disceptatio de origine nobilitatis. Impressum Franco. Digitized by the Getty Research Institute. (accessed 10 July 2018).Google Scholar
Dresser, Madge. 2007. Slavery Obscured: The Social History of the Slave Trade in Bristol. Bristol, UK: Redcliffe.Google Scholar
Fischer, Eugen. 1913. Die Rehobother Bastards und das Bastardierungs problem beim Menschen. Jena, Germany: Gustav Fischer.Google Scholar
Fischer, Eugen, and Kittel, Gerhard. 1944. Das antike Weltjudentum. Hamburg: Tatsachen, Texte, Bilder.Google Scholar
Fuentes, Agustin. 2012. Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths about Human Nature. Berkeley: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Isaac, Gilead, Haimi, Yoram, and Mazurek, Wojciech. 2010. “Excavating Nazi Extermination Centres.” Present Pasts 1, no. 1: 1039.Google Scholar
Givens, Seth A. 2013. “Liberating the Germans: The US Army and Looting in Germany during the Second World War.” War in History 21, no. 1: 3354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Glickman, Mark. 2016. Stolen Words: The Nazi Plunder of Jewish Books. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gosden, Chris, and Larson, Frances. 2007. Knowing Things: Exploring the Collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum 1884–1945. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Gosden, Chris, and Marshall, Yvonne. 1999. “The Cultural Biography of Objects.” World Archaeology 31, no. 2: 169–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hamilton, Douglas. 2010. “Representing Slavery in British Museums: The Challenges of 2007.” In Imagining Transatlantic Slavery, edited by Kaplan, C. and Oldfield, J., 127–44. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Heim, Susanne, Sachse, Carola, and Walker, Mark, eds. 2009. The Kaiser Wilhelm Society under National Socialism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Herskovits, Melville J., Camerson, Vivian K., and Smith, Harriet. 1931. “The Physical Form of Mississippi Negroes.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology 16, no. 2: 193201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hodder, Ian. 2012. Entangled: An Archaeology of the Relations between Humans and Things. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thomas, Hurst, David, . 2000. Skull Wars: Kennewick Man, Archaeology, and the Battle for Native American Identity. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
Indiana Academy of Science. 1976. “Frank M Setzler.” Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science 85: 4748.Google Scholar
Ingold, Timothy. 2011. Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge, and Description. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jones, Andrew, and Boivin, Nicole. 2010. “The Malice of Inanimate Objects: Material Agency.” In The Oxford Handbook of Material Culture Studies, edited by Hicks, D. and Beaudry, M., 333–51. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Joyce, Rosemary. 2015. “Things in Motion: Itineraries of Ulua Marble Vases.” In Things in Motion: Object Itineraries in Anthropological Practice, edited by Joyce, R., 2138. Santa Fe, NM: SAR Press.Google Scholar
Joyce, Rosemary, and Gillespie, Susan. 2015. “Making Things Out of Objects That Move.” In Things in Motion: Object Itineraries in Anthropological Practice, edited by Joyce, R., 319. Santa Fe, NM: SAR Press.Google Scholar
Kersel, Morag. 2019. “Itinerant Objects: The Legal Lives of Levantine Artifacts.” In The Social Archaeology of the Levant, edited by Yasur-Landau, A., Cline, E., and Rowan, Y., 594612. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Kobialka, Dawid. 2018. “100 Years Later: The Dark Heritage of the Great War at a Prisoner-of-War Camp in Czersk, Poland.” Antiquity 92, no. 363: 772–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kohl, Phillip, and Fawcett, Clare, eds. 1995. Nationalism, Politics, and the Practice of Archaeology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Kopytoff, Igor. 1986. “The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Process.” In The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, edited by Appadurai, A., 6491. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kühl, Stefan. 1994. The Nazi Connection: Eugenics, American Racism and German National Socialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Lennon, John, and Foley, Malcolm. 2000. Dark Tourism: The Attraction of Death and Disaster. Andover, MA: Cengage Learning.Google Scholar
Linenthal, Edward, and Engelhardt, Tom, eds. 1996. History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past. New York: Metropolitan Books.Google Scholar
MacDonald, Sharon. 2009. Difficult Heritage: Negotiating the Nazi Past in Nuremberg and Beyond. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Mackensen, Michael. 1975. “State of Research on the ‘Norican’ Silver Coinage.” World Archaeology 6, no. 3: 249–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Martin, Rudolf. 1956. Lehrbuch der Anthropologie. Edited by Saller, Karl, rev. 3rd ed., vol. 3. Stuttgart: Gustav Fischer Verlag.Google Scholar
May, Sally. 2010. Collecting Cultures: Myth, Politics, and Collaboration in the 1948 Arnhem Land Expedition. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press.Google Scholar
Meskell, Lynn. 2002. “Negative Heritage and Past Mastering in Archaeology.” Anthropological Quarterly 75, no. 3: 557–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moody, Jessica. 2015. “Heritage and History.” In The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Heritage Research, edited by Waterton, E. and Watson, S., 113–25. New York: Palgrave.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moore-Jansen, Peer, Ousley, Stephen, and Jantz, Richard. 1994. Data Collection Procedures for Forensic Skeletal Material . Report of Investigations no. 48. Department of Anthropology. 3rd ed. Knoxville: University of Tennessee.Google Scholar
Mühlmann, Wilhelm Emil. 1930. “Die Schadel aus einer neolithischen Siedlung bei Altenburg in Baden.” Zeitschrift für Morphologie und Anthropologie 28: 244–55.Google Scholar
O’Donnell, Nicholas. 2017. A Tragic Fate: Law and Ethics in the Battle over Nazi Looted Art. Chicago: American Bar Association.Google Scholar
Proctor, Robert. 1988. “From Anthropologie to Rassenkunde in the German Anthropological Tradition.” In Bones, Bodies and Behavior: Essays in Behavioral Anthropology, edited by Stocking, G., 138–79. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
Rau, Petra. 2013. Our Nazis: Representation of Fascism in Contemporary Literature and Film. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Redman, Samuel. 2016. Bone Rooms: From Scientific Racism to Human Prehistory in Museums. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ruegamer, Lana. 1980. A History of the Indiana Historical Society, 1830–1980. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society.Google Scholar
Joannes, Sambucus. 1564. Emblemata: cum aliquot nummis antiqui operis. Antverpiae: ex officina Christophori Plantini. Digitized by Duke University Libraries. (accessed 20 February 2018).Google Scholar
Juan, San, Marie, Rose. 2012. “The Turn of the Skull: Andreas Vesalius and the Early Modern Memento Mori.” Art History 35, no. 5: 958–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sauer, Norman, Wankmiller, Jane, and Hefner, Jospeh. 2009. “The Assessment of Ancestry and the Concept of Race.” In Handbook of Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology, edited by Blau, S. and Ubelaker, D., 187200. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.Google Scholar
Schmuhl, Hans-Walter. 2008. The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics, 1927–1945. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Steffenson, Jon. 1953. “The Physical Anthropology of Vikings.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 83, no. 1: 8697.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Colls, Sturdy, Caroline, . 2015. Holocaust Archaeologies: Approaches and Future Directions. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
Thomas, Martin, and Neale, Margo. 2011. Exploring the Legacy of the 1948 Arnhem Land Expedition. Canberra: Australia National University Press.Google Scholar
Thomas, Suzie, Seitsonen, Oula, and Herva, Vesa-Pekka. 2016. “Nazi Memorabilia, Dark Heritage and Treasure Hunting as ‘Alternative’ Tourism: Understanding the Fascination with the Material Remains of World War II in Northern Finland.” Journal of Field Archaeology 41, no. 3: 331–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Williams, Vernon J. 1996. Rethinking Race: Franz Boas and His Contemporaries. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.Google Scholar
Zolberg, Vera. 1996. “Museums as Contested Sites of Remembrance: The Enola Gay Affair.” In Theorizing Museums, edited by Macdonald, S. and Fyfe, G., 6982. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar