posted on Feb, 18 2006 @ 08:37 PM
Why did he hide most of his documents?
Why are his documents still unavailable to the general public?
Why are his documents still not transcribed?
What mystery still lies hidden within the documents?
John Peabody Harrington
For 40 years J. P. Harrington worked for the Smithsonian. During this time Harrington collected data on over 125 North American Indian languages. It
was his habit to locate speakers of dying Indian languages in an attempt to thoroughly document the language, the culture, and the mythology before it
disappeared from this earth. His documentation extended beyond paper. It included photographs and voice recordings.
After his death in 1961 it became clear that he had hidden most of his work from his employers. Boxes of his documents were discovered in garages,
warehouses and multiple anonymous locations. There was so much documentation that it was not measured in pages. It was measured in tons. 6 tons to be
exact! By the late 1960s, the bulk of Harrington’s materials had been located and consolidated. Only then was it clear that Harrington’s
extensive, accurate notes were a treasure of the highest order.
Yet, more than 40 years after the Smithsonian collected his lifes work, and despite the fact that his work is considered a “Rosetta stone” of
all-but-forgotten Indian languages, myths and traditions, translating and cataloging much of his work is still incomplete. It took 10 years just to
transfer the writings to microfilm, and it is estimated that it will take another 20 years to complete translation of the work.
So I ask, why did he hide most of his documents instead of sending them to his employer?
Why are his documents still not available to the general public?
Why are his documents still not completely transcribed after 40 years?
What mysteries still lay hidden within his lifes work?
Foundation for Endangered Languages
Bibliography on J.P. Harrington
J.P. Harrington Resource Page
A Harrington Cronology
J.P Harrington Database Project