Carl Whiting Bishop Collection

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At A Glance

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  • Overview

    An associate curator and associate in archaeology at the Freer Gallery of Art from 1922 to 1942, the collection of Carl Whiting Bishop (1881-1942) document his Gallery-sponsored travels to China from 1923 to 1934 and include an unpublished manuscript describing his archaeological research in China; line drawings; rubbings; maps; note cards; and nearly 4,000 glass and film negatives with corresponding original silver prints. These document his expeditions in northern and central China, illustrating archaeological sites in Henan, Shanxi, and Hebei provinces. Specific digs include the large neolithic site at Wanquan, Shanxi, and sixth century C.E. tombs near Fenyin. Additional images show Chinese cityscapes, daily life and customs, topography, temples, pagodas, caves, and sculpture.
  • Creator

    Bishop, Carl Whiting, 1881-1942
  • Dates

  • Physical Description

    20 Linear feet
  • Collection ID


  • Scope and Contents

    The professional papers and official records of Carl Whiting Bishop include his unpublished two-volume manuscript, [not before 1940]; and photographs, nearly 4,000 images, 1915-1934; and undated. These materials document over a twenty-five year period in the course of Bishop's research and archaeological activities. They were retained at the Freer Gallery of Art after Bishop's death in 1942, and were supplemented with an addition received in 1956 from his widow Daisy Furscott Bishop.

    The manuscript was prepared in a typescript format, over 421 pages of text, with photographic illustrations, and completed by Bishop sometime after 1939. Properly titled Archaeological Research in China 1923-1934, this unpublished manuscript constituted a field report that chronicled Bishop's Gallery-sponsored expeditions in northern and central China during the period 1923 to 1934. The reader is provided with a record of the day-to-day operations completed, of obstacles and opposition encountered, and the results obtained from their work. Key diplomatic and scientific representatives from the West and China are recorded who aided and contributed to the investigations. Moreover, there are descriptions of the academic, social and political climate in China during a period of civil war and economic strife. Against this background, Bishop also discussed their efforts in view of the history of China, with commentary on the country's geography, topography, climate, flora and fauna, mineral products, and ancient customs and legends.

    The earliest still photographic prints in the Bishop Papers date from his employ at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, where he conducted archaeological reconnaissance from 1915 to 1918 in China, Korea, and Japan. All subsequent images were created or collected by Bishop and his assistant Kuang-zung Tung during the Freer Gallery-sponsored expeditions of 1923-1934. Further descriptions of these materials may be found under Series 2 and Series 3 in this finding aid.

    In the transliteration into English of the names of Chinese characters, Bishop followed the Wade-Giles system, with a few exceptions to those rules for certain well known and commonly used place-names, especially those of cities, towns, territorial divisions, and bodies of water. We have retained Bishop's romanization except in certain areas where clarification was needed. The Chinese personal and place-names have been kept as they appeared in his captions.
  • Biographical / Historical

    Carl Whiting Bishop (1881-1942) was an archaeologist, anthropologist, and specialist in the field of East Asian studies. Born in Tokyo, Japan, on July 12, 1881, he was the son of a Methodist missionary, the Reverend Charles Bishop. Except for a twelve-month residence in the United States during 1889-90, Bishop spent the first sixteen years of his life in Japan, before returning to this country in 1898 for college preparatory work at Northwestern Academy, Evanston, Illinois. He studied at Hampden-Sydney College and in 1912 received an A.B. degree from DePauw University. In 1913 he was awarded the degree of Master of Arts by the Department of Anthropology, Columbia University, where he studied with the noted German anthropologist, Franz Boas (1858-1942). That same year he received his first scientific appointment as a member of the Peabody Museum Expedition to Central America.

    From 1914-18 Bishop served as Assistant Curator in Oriental Art at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, where on an expedition for that museum he made his first trip to China. Under the auspices of the university, he conducted archaeological reconnaissance during 1915 and 1916 in China, Korea, and Japan, and again conducted archaeological surveys in 1917 and 1918, although no systematic excavations were carried out at that time. When the United States entered World War I on the side of the Allied Powers, Bishop enlisted in the United States Navy and was made assistant naval attaché, serving in China in the years 1918-20, with the rank of lieutenant, junior grade. He returned to Columbia University in 1921 to assume the position of Assistant in Anthropology, a post he held until the end of the academic season in 1922.

    Effective 10 April 1922, Bishop was appointed as Associate Curator of the Freer Gallery of Art by then director John Ellerton Lodge (1878-1942). Asked to undertake important archaeological work, Bishop headed the gallery's first expedition to China, sponsored jointly by the FGA and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, lasting from 20 February 1923 to 6 August 1927. From 16 November 1929 to 11 April 1934, he headed another expedition, sent out this time by the Freer Gallery alone. When conditions in China made further efforts impractical, Bishop returned to Washington in 1934, where he remained at the gallery as Associate in Archaeology until the time of his death on 16 June 1942.

    Carl Whiting Bishop was a member of a number of learned societies: the American Oriental Society, the American Archaeological Society, the Anthropological Society, the American Society for the Advancement of Science, the American Geographical Society, and he served on the advisory board of the American Council of Learned Societies until his death.

    1881, July 12 -- Born in Tokyo, Japan

    1898 -- Attends Northwestern Academy in Evanston, Illinois for college preparatory work Attends Hampden-Sydney College

    1912 -- Receives A.B. degree from DePauw University

    1913 -- Receives Master of Arts from Department of Anthropology from Columbia University, where he studied with Franz Boas

    1914 -- Begins serving as Assistant Curator in Oriental Art at the University of Pennsylvania Museum

    1915-1918 -- Makes several archaeological survey trips to China, Korea and Japan

    1918-1920 -- Enlists in the U.S. Navy, serving as assistant naval attaché in China

    1921 -- Serves as Assistant Professor in Anthropology at Columbia University

    1922, April 10 -- Becomes Associate Curator of the Freer Gallery of Art

    1923-1927 -- Heads the Freer Gallery's first expedition to China, co-sponsored by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts

    1929-1934 -- Heads the second Freer-sponsored expedition to China

    1934 -- Returns to US and serves as Associate in Archaeology at the Freer Gallery of Art

    1942, June 16 -- Dies.
  • Creator

    Bishop, Carl Whiting, 1881-1942
  • Names

    Bishop, Carl Whiting, 1881-1942
    Tung, Kuang-zung.
    Warner, Langdon (1881-1955)
    Wenley, A. G. (Archibald Gibson), 1898-1962
  • Place

  • Topic

    Archaeological expeditions
    Archaeology -- China
    Photography -- China
  • Provenance

    Gift of Carl Whiting Bishop.
  • See more items in

    Carl Whiting Bishop Collection
  • Custodial History

    Gift of Carl Whiting Bishop
  • Archival Repository

    Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
  • Type

    Collection descriptions
    Archival materials
    Photographic prints
  • Citation

    The Carl Whiting Bishop Collection. FSA A.02. National Museum of Asian Art Archives. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
  • Arrangement

    Series 1: Manuscript/Writings 1915-1934 and undated

    Series 2: Photography Prints

    Series 3: Negatives

    Series 4: Drawings, Rubbings, and Maps
  • Processing Information

    Processed by archivist Colleen Hennessey and Cynthia Mead.
  • Rights

    Permission to reproduce and publish an item from the Archives is coordinated through the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery's Rights and Reproductions department. Please contact the Archives in order to initiate this process.
  • Genre/Form

    Photographic prints
  • Restrictions

    Collection is open for research.
  • Related Materials

    Additional Bishop material may be found in the following collections also found in the the Archives of the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery:

    Li Chi Reports, 1926-1929, regarding Li's reconnaissance work at Shi-yin Ts'un, Shansi Province, and the excavation at Anyang.

    Archibald Gibson Wenley Papers, 1924-1926, including field diaries, notes, and photographs documenting his participation in the FGA expedition work in China.

    Charles Lang Freer Papers, including 1915 correspondence between Freer and Bishop; newspaper clippings related to Bishop, and documents dated 1912-1913, relating to Freer's support for a proposed American School of Archeology in China.

    A number of objects from the FGA expeditions, including bronzes, ceramics, and stone sculpture, have been accessioned into the permanent art collection of the Freer Gallery of Art. Additionally, remnants of antiquities, potteries, and metalwork accumulated during the field work, have been placed in the Freer Gallery Study Collection. Records for these items are retained with the Galleries' Registrar's Office.

    Additional Bishop material may be found in the Smithsonian Institutional Archives:

    Expedition Records, including correspondence of Carl Whiting Bishop, 1914; 1923-1942, nearly 3,000 letters arranged alphabetically by correspondent name; a manuscript catalogue of expedition acquisitions, Peking, 1923-1925; financial records, 1923-1934, including expedition fund ledgers, account statements, and receipts; and newspaper clippings, 1924-1932, documenting the gallery's field work and general archaeological work being conducted around the world at that time.

    Smithsonian Institutional Archives, Central Files, Bishop folders, 1923-1942, including expedition letters, field reports, and photographs sent to John E. Lodge.

    Personnel and Special Events Photograph Collection, containing portrait photographs of Bishop.

    Additional Bishop matieral may be found in the University of Pennsylvania Museum Archives, Philadelphia:

    Documentation of University of Pennsylvania Museum-sponsored field work in East Asia may be found there that includes records of C.W. Bishop, dated 1914-1927 (measuring about .5 linear foot), much of it created during his tenure as the Museum's Assistant Curator of Oriental Art from 1914-1918. Included are Bishop's journals consisting of daily entries for two trips to China for the University of Pennsylvania Museum; letters to and from G.B. Gordon, C.W. Harrison, and Jane McHugh, written during Bishop's travel in China and subsequent to his return; and detailed financial accounts of expenditures during the China travels. Additionally, the repository houses a group of Bishop's negatives taken in China to visually record the expedition work.

Repository Contact

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
National Museum of Asian Art Archives
Washington, D.C. 20013