Wiley Digital Archives - RAI

Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland

Centuries of Anthropological Exploration

Founded in 1871, with roots dating back to 1837, the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland is the world’s longest-established scholarly association, dedicated to the furtherance of anthropology in its broadest and most inclusive sense.

With a distinguished tradition of scholarship that stretches over 150 years, the Institute remains committed to promoting the public understanding of anthropology, and to further the contribution of anthropology to public affairs, culture, education and society.

Masque Africain African Mask and African Mask 3717 - Dogon. William Buller Fagg Collection, n.d. Source: The Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.

A Visual Chronicle of People, Arts and Cultures

The Institute’s archive contains nearly one million pieces of unique content, including research data, papers, fieldwork, drawings and photographs, and a wealth of previously uncatalogued material.

The archive includes a 150,000-image library of ethnographic photographs dating back to the 1860s. Those images were captured by anthropologists, ethnologists and ethnographic photographers, and include historic prints, lantern slides, drawings and paintings, illustrating diverse world cultures.

The collections include illustrations, sketches, maps, fieldwork, notes and correspondence from Bronislaw Malinowski, William Buller Fagg, Rosemary Harris, Charles Gabriel Seligman, Edward Horace Man, Alfred Cort Haddon, Lady Vera Delves Broughton, Thomas Henry Huxley, Audrey Richards, Northcote W. Thomas, Robert Sutherland Rattray, and Peter Morton Williams.

Kwele(Gabon) Wooden Horned Face Mask with White, Black and Red Paint. RAI Ethnographic Photography Library: Collected photographs of people, locations, and objects, n.d. Source: The Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.

Subjects and Themes

  • African Art
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • Art History
  • Colonial History
  • Cultural Studies
  • Ethnic Studies
  • Ethnography
  • Evolutionary Anthropology
  • Forensic Anthropology
  • Geography
  • Historical Anthropology and Geography
  • Historical Geography
  • Gender Studies
  • Linguistics, Languages and Culture
  • Photographic Chronicles
  • Race and Culture
  • Religion and Religious Studies
  • Visual Anthropology
  • Visual Cultures

Primary Source Materials

  • 150,000-image library
  • Administrative Records
  • Correspondence
  • Data
  • Drawings
  • Fieldwork
  • Gray Literature
  • Illustrations
  • Manuscripts
  • Maps
  • Monographs
  • Notes
  • Pamphlets
  • Periodicals
  • Personal Papers
  • Photographs
  • Proceedings Reports


  • Photographs from Fagg Collection. Source: The Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.

    The Story of Africa and Its Art, Told Through Decades of Photographs and Images

    Africa and African art have captured the interest of photographers and anthropologists for decades.

    William Buller (W.B.) Fagg, the Keeper of the Department of Anthropology at the British Museum and a recognized expert in African art, took many photographs of Nigerian art in situ during his field work, now part of the RAI archive.

    Peter Morton-Williams produced a series of stunning photographs in the 1950s that, with his recent passing, have been added to the archive, in addition to an earlier collection by Northcote W. Thomas (c. 1909), which captures the material culture and people of Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

    The field notes, papers and photographs of Robert Sutherland Rattray document the daily life, and material culture of Ghana, while a large collection of images taken by Emil Torday and Hilton Simpson in the Congo illustrate the rich culture and people of this region.

  • A temes malau mask of nalawan. Arthur Bernard Deacon, Deacon Collection, 1920s early. Source: The Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland

    Arthur Bernard Deacon and His Brief, but Impactful, Life

    Arthur Bernard Deacon discovered his life calling while studying at Cambridge University. It was there that he met Arthur Cort Haddon, an influential anthropologist and ethnologist, who persuaded him to earn a degree in anthropology, and make an ethnographical study of the island of Malekula and the New Hebrides (now known as Vanuatu).

    In January of 1926, Deacon arrived at South West Bay, Malekula. For a year, he traveled extensively throughout the region, intricating documenting the unique cultures, languages and traditions.

    Sadly, before he could return home, Deacon contracted blackwater fever and died in Malekula in 1927, at just 25 years old. His voluminous notes and drawings were compiled by his colleagues, now available through Wiley Digital Archives.

  • On board Rosaura; Lord Moyne shows chart to Dr and Mrs Vorgaard. Vera Broughton, Moyne & Broughton , 1937. Source: The Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland

    The Adventures of Lord Moyne and Lady Broughton

    Walter Guinness, Lord Moyne (1880-1944), Lady Vera Delves Broughton (1894-1968) and daughter, Rosamond, travelled the world in a converted Cross Channel Ferry, trading with the people they met along the way to amass artefacts for the British Museum.

    Throughout their adventure, Lady Broughton documented what they saw and experienced, making her one of the earliest female ethnographic photographers. After Lady Broughton’s death, many of these original photographs were almost lost forever, tossed, with other household items, into a large trash container. Luckily, the importance of the suitcases containing these priceless glass plates and prints was recognized, they were retrieved, and ultimately, donated to the RAI. There are photographs from all over the world, from Papua to Greenland in this collection.

  • Joao and Francisca from the RAI Ethnographic Photography Library. Source: The Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland

    Joao and Francisca

    One very old, rare portrait in the RAI archive is a lithograph of a drawing by Carl von Saar of two Botocudan Indians named Joao and Francisca. The piece was given to the Anthropological Society of London by Dr. Kenneth Robert Henderson Mackenzie, who had been a Fellow since 1864.

    Joao and Francisca were brought to Vienna in 1821, and became objects of curiosity, particularly because of the wooden plugs worn in their ears and lips. They lived under the protection of the Emperor and were introduced to various aspects of Viennese culture. After two years, the two Botocudans asked to return home, but Francisca succumbed to a lung disease before that wish could be granted.

  • Andamanese in canoe at Interview Island. Edward Horace Man, Man Collection, 1869-1880. Source: The Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland

    Edward Horace Man—British Colonial Officer Turned Anthropologist

    Edward Horace Man started his career as a British colonial officer who first traveled to the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal, in 1869, to work with his father at the penal settlement there. He became fascinated with the Andamanese tribes, particularly the Aka-Bea-Da of South Andaman Island; their culture, and their language.

    His meticulous notes, photographs and illustrations are now considered one of the first important studies of this population, as his observations took place during a time when the tribe’s cultural lives were still largely intact. Man was also among the first to document the vocabulary of the various dialects spoken by tribes in the region—an invaluable resource to those who followed.

    This Wiley Digital Archives collection includes Man’s notes, personal papers and press clippings, as well as two volumes of photographs, drawings and glass-plate negatives.

What people are saying

  • “I used the typeset transcripts feature, as some of the handwriting was difficult to read. Thanks to the on-screen citations tab, I could keep an ongoing bibliography for my notes.”

    Ann-Marie Richardson

    PhD Candidate AHRC North West Consortium Funded Researcher with The Royal Society

    Lancaster University

  • "The Wiley Digital Archives interface is seamless and has a crisp, clean look. Clutter is a distracting feature of many databases, so it was enjoyable to smoothly browse these archives without running into interruptions, rather focusing on the substance. The content is incredible and can add enormous value to my research work in the history and evolution of healthcare."

    Tommy Flynn

    RN, CPNP-AC | Ph.D. Candidate, Nursing

    Emory University

  • “With the search terms I use, the collocations tool gives me a better sense of what is available in the archives. I’m able to click on a word and quickly be led to other information, to access a larger, macro view, and there can be real value in that.”

    Dr. Catherine Nichols

    Department of Anthropology and Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities

    Loyola University Chicago

  • “The WDA platform is a wonderful resource, bringing together numerous collections and enabling cross-referencing across multiple archives.”

    Mobeen Hussain

    co-Editor in Chief--Doing History in Public

    PhD Candidate, World History--University of Cambridge

  • “The search functions in Wiley Digital Archives are particularly good for the type of research I do. I can cross-reference my current inventories of Livingstone’s mentions of the word “women” very quickly, and the horizontality of the search process enables me to happen upon other works of interest that I might not have found otherwise. The malleability of this search function, in combination with the quality of the Wiley’s OCR, has facilitated fast, comprehensive data access—and underscores the value that these records can bring to the understanding of the socio-cultural makeup of exploration.“

    Dr. Kathryn Simpson


    University of Glasgow

  • “Wiley Digital Archives are always available, so there are no time limitations. Just as important, it opens the access to Society Archives to independent scholars or researchers at schools that don’t have the funding for extensive travel.”

    Sarah M. Pickman

    Ph.D. Candidate—History of Science and Medicine Program

    Yale University

  • “The RAI’s archive is the unique repository of Arthur Bernard Deacon’s original reproductions, which have been included by UNESCO in the Memory of the World Register in 2013.”

    Jacopo Baron

    PhD Candidate Doctoral School of Social Anthropology and Ethnology

    EHESS of Paris

  • “Wiley Digital Archives presents extremely robust features and tools for users. The dense archival collections are highly navigable with rich metadata and advanced filtering functionality. The range of exploration and analysis tools present users with innovative ways to explore within—and across—archives and collections.”

    Maria Smith

    Center for Research Libraries

Request a Free Trial

Schedule a demo with our team and receive a FREE 30-Day trial of our proprietary platform that breaks the traditional paradigms of “search, browse and retrieve.”

Try it Now