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African Studies Research Guide

Liberian Collections History


During the early 1990s, Ruth Stone, then director of the Indiana University Archives of Traditional Music (ATM), began amassing a collection of documents and other related materials on Liberia from fellow scholars in the field. The idea of the ATM being a center for Liberian Studies was not yet born, but Dr. Stone, a Liberia specialist, made good use of the generosity of her colleagues in developing this collection. Early deposits of Liberian materials came from William Siegmann, Jane Martin, Jeanette Carter, and John and Judy Gay, creating an informal, but quickly growing collection. Initially, these donations arrived alongside the audio and video recordings that are the primary format of the ATM’s collections. As these non-AV documents acquired a critical mass, the possibility of creating an independent repository of the materials on Liberia arose.

The IU Liberian Collections was formally established as an IU organization in 2002 when Dr. Verlon Stone became the Coordinator of the IULC. The IULC became part of the IU Libraries African Studies Collection in mid 2013. The complete collections consist of historical and ethnographic documents, newspapers, government publications, books, journals, dissertations, maps, slides, negatives, photographs, microfilms, audio and video tapes, artifacts and memorabilia. Currently, the collections are being processed and made ready for public access and study through the internet and at the IU Libraries' African Studies Collection.

Liberian Collections Overview

IU’s Liberian Collections include historical and ethnographic documents, newspapers, government publications, books, journals, dissertations, maps, slides, negatives, photographs, microfilms, audio & video tapes, artifacts, and memorabilia. The Liberian Collections at IU Bloomington is now split between two campus repositories. The Archives of Traditional Music holds the audiovisual portions of collections, with some paper documentation for those audiovisual collections. Other materials can be found within the IU Libraries Liberian Collections outlined below.


Four core collections of the Liberian Collections  are the Svend E. Holsoe Collection, the William V. S. Tubman Collection, the Warren L. D'Azevedo Collection and the 20,000 Liberian Newspaper Collection. More information about these and other collections related to Liberia, including descriptions and access information can be found at Archives Online


Indiana University Liberian Photograph Collections

The Liberian Collections Photograph Collections hold over 30,000 images from the 1940s to the present. Photographers include Liberian and American government officials and employees, private citizens, missionaries, development workers, concessions employees and ethnographic researchers.

A Liberian Journey: Loring Whitman Collection

A Liberian Journey is a collaborative project undertaken by the Center for National Documents and Records Agency in Liberia, the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, Indiana University Liberian Collections, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison through a generous grant from the National Science Foundation. In 1926, the Liberian government granted Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. a ninety-nine year lease on up to one million acres of land for the establishment of a large rubber plantation. To help the company understand the conditions and challenges it faced, Firestone sponsored a Harvard team of scientists and physicians to conduct a four-month-long biological and medical survey of Liberia’s interior.  Loring Whitman, a Harvard medical student, served as the expedition's official photographer. Whitman "took most of the expedition’s still photos with a Graflex 4”x 5” sheet-film camera. This collection contains nearly 600 images of Liberian people, places and activities. Because the expedition’s purpose was scientific, there are many documentary images of birds, mammals, snakes and insects as well as the medical conditions encountered."


The Archives of Traditional Music (ATM) holds the audiovisual portions of the Liberian Collections, including some paper documentation for these collections. A list of the cataloged ATM material relating to Liberia can be found HERE.

Liberian Collections FAQs

Are the Liberian Collections part of the Indiana University Archives?

No. While the Liberian Collections (along with other African Studies Collection archival material) are consulted in the reading room belonging to the Indiana University Archives, they are part of the IU Libraries African Studies Collection.

Are the Liberian Collections administered by the Archives of Traditional Music?

No. In 2013, the Liberian Collections became part of the IU Libraries African Studies Collection. While the Archives of Traditional Music remains the campus repository for the audiovisual portions of the Liberian collections, with some paper documentation for these audiovisual collections, the Liberian Collections are administered by the IU Libraries. Please see the history of the collection above, for more information.

Are the Liberian Collections part of the IU Libraries African Studies Collection?

Yes. Like the H. K. Banda Archive, the Somali Digital Archive, and the Nuer Field Notes Project, the Liberian Collections are part of the rich archival sources of the Indiana University Libraries' African Studies collections.

Are the Liberian Collections open to researchers?

Yes! While the Liberian Collections have not been processed in their entirety, most of the collection is available for use by researchers. Finding aids for the paper Liberian collections can be found HERE. While each finding aid should mention the access restrictions, appointments still need to be made to access the material, as it is currently stored in our off-site archival storage facility.

In order to use the collections, you are asked to complete the form linked HERE.

Do I need an appointment to visit the collections?

Yes. As noted above, the collections are held in an off-site facility, and the African Studies Collection does not have a reading room of its own. Appointments to use collection materials are therefore required. Appointments to use the collections can be made HERE.