Gift to UC San Diego Library Enhances Its Distinguished Melanesian and Anthropology Studies Collection

The UC San Diego Library recently received a generous gift to create the Schwartz Library Collection Endowment for Melanesian/Anthropology Studies, in honor of UC San Diego Professor Emeritus Theodore (Ted) Schwartz, a prominent figure in psychological anthropology. The fund will support in perpetuity the Library’s distinguished Melanesian and Anthropology Studies Collection. In addition to the endowed fund, Schwartz’s personal papers have been donated to the Library’s Special Collections & Archives, where they will be available for use by scholars, researchers, and educators.

“We are delighted to make this gift to honor the work of my uncle, Theodore Schwartz, in Melanesian Studies and support the excellence of the Library’s collections in this area of distinction for UC San Diego,” said Steve and Paula Mae Schwartz. “This endowed fund will ensure that Ted’s research and the Library’s collections in Melanesian and Anthropology Studies are preserved and accessible to scholars at UC San Diego and around the world.”

Photo album.

More than 80 boxes of Schwartz’s personal papers were donated to the Library, which include correspondence with notable anthropologists, expedition notebooks, lecture notes, and photographs from expeditions. Significant amounts of film and audio clips have also been donated, including footage of his early work with the well-known cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead. The collection provides insights to Schwartz’s work, which consisted of extensive documentation capturing indigenous languages, interviews, genealogies, and reflects his methodical approach and comprehensive data analysis.

“We are so pleased about the extraordinary impact this endowment will have for scholars, researchers, and educators. This wonderful gift ensures the Library’s commitment to sharing the riches of the collection with a wider audience,” said Interim University Librarian Tammy Nickelson Dearie. “It’s fascinating when you think of these journals, photographs, and audio recordings providing a window into the cultural evolution and history of Melanesia. We are truly grateful for this wonderful gift in support of Ted’s work and our collections.”

Schwartz first embarked on this research as an assistant to Margaret Mead while a Ph.D. student at the University of Pennsylvania. He continued to work with the people of Manus Province in Papua New Guinea in the course of over ten field trips to Admiralty Islands spanning from 1953 into the 1990s. His research began during a period of rapid change precipitated in part by the effects of World War II in the Admiralties. He went on to observe generational changes as the people of Manus became more deeply involved in the global economy and electoral politics, moved to urban centers, and adapted traditional practices and beliefs to maintain cultural continuity in the midst of radical change.

While Schwartz became an expert on the people of Manus and social and economic change in Papua New Guinea, his research interests also included the history of psychological anthropology, the acquisition of culture through socialization, ethnic identity, cultural evolution, the relation of social scale to culture, national cultures, and what are known as distributional models of culture. The numerous articles he published in professional journals and the volumes of scholarly papers he edited reflected these interests. He is well-known for his first-hand studies of what are often known as cargo cults.

Following WWII, efforts to obtain Western manufactured goods and money through magical rituals erupted among indigenous people in many parts of Papua New Guinea and adjacent areas. Christian missionary teachings with millenarian themes helped trigger such efforts, but people looked to the spirits of their ancestors as well as the Christian deity for both new kinds of material wealth and radical social transformation. Schwartz’ publications on cargo cults emphasized both the importance of indigenous Papua New Guinean cultural features and parallels with early Christianity and other Western social and religious movements. He is one of very few anthropologists to have observed such movements in the Pacific Islands at close quarters over many years and to have become intimately acquainted with their leaders. He is currently writing a book on one such movement, the Paliau Movement. It is a unique portrait of a new, Papua New Guinean version of Christianity, from its beginning in the 1940s into the current millennium.

Ted’s journals.

Since the collection’s arrival, Special Collections & Archives staff, including Kate Saeed and two student assistants, Allura Hays and Christine Zielinski, have carefully analyzed and sorted through the contents of the boxes, determining the best way to organize and describe the collection for preservation and use. Both students are graduating seniors who worked in the Library over the summer. The finding aid, or guide for the collection, will be made available in the coming year.

Schwartz, who resides in Del Mar, is currently collaborating on a book with his former student and field assistant, cultural anthropologist Michael French Smith.