The Documentary Educational Resources Collection

Youth and the Man of Property (Pittsburgh Police)In 2008, Documentary Educational Resources (DER) donated their collection of 16mm distribution prints (nearly 700 titles strong spanning the dates 1954-2005) to the HFA. The DER Collection is one of the most historically important resources of ethnographic film in the world today. DER was founded in 1968 by John Marshall and Timothy Asch for the purpose of producing and distributing cross-cultural documentary film for educational use. DER was an early innovator in developing 16mm film and media-based curriculum for classroom use.

During the early 1970s, DER concentrated on two major projects. These were a longitudinal series of films by John Marshall on the !Kung San (Bushmen) peoples of the Kalahari Desert in Namibia, and a series of films by anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon and filmmaker Timothy Asch on the Yanomamo Indians of the Orinoco Region in southern Venezuela. These two series gave DER initial recognition as a quality producer and distributor of 16mm films with wide appeal to university audiences, and provided the foundation for acceptance of the organization as an international center for anthropological and sociological film. In 1975, DER co-founders John Marshall and Timothy Asch were key figures in establishing the Human Studies Film Archives at the Smithsonian Institution and their bodies of work are among the most significant ethnographic collections within the HSFA.   

Films in the DER collection at the HFA include John Marshall's films documenting the !Kung San and his gritty documentation of the Pittsburgh Police (1969-70), as well as the Asch and Chagnon Yanomamo films. Endlessly fascinating, the DER Collection also includes documentaries made around the world, investigating a wide variety of cultures, including the indigenous culture of the Alaskan Eskimo, the colorful folklife of Andalusia, political and cultural diversity in Kenya and the Sahel region of Africa, trance and healing in Bali, music and dance in New England, and a range of films on American life and heritage.
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