Margaret Mead: Human Nature and the Power of Culture

Margaret Mead (1901–1978) noted American anthropologist and writer, studied life among peoples in Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Bali, and Native North America. In publications and lectures, she conveyed her findings to the American public as well as to her professional colleagues. Mead brought the ideas of anthropology to a general audience and helped popularize the notion that there are many different ways of organizing human experience. In applying the principles and techniques of anthropology to global human problems, she acted as an engaged citizen-scientist on the world stage. Mead's work was pioneering in many respects but not without its critics.

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Margaret Mead's birth, the Library of Congress presents a selection of materials from its extensive Mead collection, which came to the Library after her death. The corpus of notes and other field materials that Mead preserved are available to scholars interested in evaluating and building on her research. Totaling more than 500,000 items, the Margaret Mead Papers and South Pacific Ethnographic Archives is one of the largest collections for a single individual in the Library. The collection includes manuscripts, diaries, letters, field notes, drawings, prints, photographs, sound recordings, and film. For this exhibition, items have been selected from the collection to document major themes in Mead's life and work.