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Friday Featured Database – Ethnographic Video Online

15 June 2012 by Julie Biando Edwards

Ethnographic Video Online provides the largest, most comprehensive resource for the study of human culture and behavior – more than 750 hours and 1,000 films at completion. The collection covers every region of the world and features the work of many of the most influential documentary filmmakers of the 20th century, including interviews, previously unreleased raw footage, field notes, study guides, and more.

The collection’s wealth of video and multiplicity of perspectives allow students and scholars to see, experience, and study the films in ways never before possible. A Critical Video Edition, Ethnographic Video Online’s suite of tools—searches and browses powered by Semantic Indexing and searchable transcripts synchronized to video—give the ability to drill down in seconds to find the footage of interest from hundreds of hours of video. This collection includes an exclusive collaboration with Documentary Educational Resources and features their most important documentaries and series. Historical coverage ranges from the early work of Robert Flaherty in 1922 to the most current anthropological films from every region of the world. Documentaries from key filmmakers such as John Marshall, Timothy Asch, Robert Gardner, David MacDougall, John Bishop, David Plath, and others provide long-term perspectives on the study of regions and cultures, as well as the historical development of documentary film itself. The films often are accompanied by contemporaneous footage and photographs, interviews with filmmakers as well as retrospective considerations of their work, plus films that addresses practical and philosophical questions about the discipline. Global in scope, Ethnographic Video Online includes footage from every continent and hundreds of unique cultures, and is particularly rich in its coverage of the developing world. The collection will also include a wide range of indigenous media, from early experiments, to works from modern-day indigenous film production companies. Among the content published online for the first time will be “hidden archive” collections and privately held footage from working anthropologists and ethnographers in the field. By bringing these materials together and making them cross-searchable, the collection opens up new possibilities for research and study in the discipline. Thematic areas include: language and culture, kinesthetics, body language, food and foraging, cooking, economic systems, social stratification and status, caste systems and slavery, male and female roles, kinship and families, political organization, conflict and conflict resolution, religion and magic, music and the arts, culture and personality, and sex, gender, and family roles. A core collection for use across the curriculum—from introductory anthropology and sociology courses to advanced interdisciplinary courses in women’s studies, economics, and international studies— Ethnographic Video Online is Semantically Indexed to enable cross-cultural comparisons. Researchers can quickly identify and compare footage by theme, cultural group, geographic location, date of filming, filmmaker, type of behavior, and much more. The collection also makes it easy to analyze how the practice of and discourse surrounding visual anthropology have changed over time. To read more about this database, click here.

You can find this database on the Databases A-Z page of the Library website. For more information about using this database in your research and teaching, contact Julie Biando Edwards, Ethnic Studies Librarian, at

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