Skip to main content Skip to main navigation

Records of the Research Institute for the Study of Man's (RISM) Medical and Social Anthropological Research in Bolivia

Call Number



1935-2006, inclusive
; 1964-1967, bulk


Research Institute for the Study of Man


222.6 Linear Feet
in 62 manuscript boxes, 7 half manuscript boxes, 7 card boxes, 83 box binders, 4 custom boxes, 39 record cartons, 156 shoe boxes, 1 flat box, and 1 flat file folder

Language of Materials

Materials are in English and Spanish.


The Research Institute for the Study of Man Bolivia Project was conducted between 1964 and 1967 at the request of the Peace Corps. The project was organized and led by Vera D. Rubin, founder and director of the Research Institute for the Study of Man (RISM), and Lambros Comitas, assistant director of RISM. Under their direction, multiple anthropological and epidemiological teams studied six ecologically distinct communities in Bolivia in order to identify major health problems and to assess the implications of rural social organization to facilitate the work of development agencies. The collection dates from 1935 to 2006, with the bulk of the material dating between 1964 and 1967. The collection documents the work of the project teams in Bolivia, and includes correspondence, accounting records, indexed field notes, laboratory processing records, surveys and questionnaires, maps, photographs, and films. The collection also includes materials from a 1997 exhibition, Retrospect and Prospect: Preservation and Use of Archival Materials in the Digital Age, about the Bolivia Project and the collection.

Historical Note

In 1964, an intensive three-year medical-anthropological research program in Bolivia was undertaken by the Research Institute for the Study of Man (RISM) at the request of the United States Peace Corps and in cooperation with the Bolivian Ministry of Public Health. The program was conducted under contract with the United States Peace Corps and received significant supplementary support from RISM. The goal of the research was to provide basic information for the development of public health and sanitation programs. Project administration was carried out by RISM director Vera D. Rubin and associate director Lambros Comitas, along with William J. McEwen, who served as the project research director, and Abdel Omran, who was director of the epidemiological research. The project had two interrelated research objectives: The epidemiological team attempted to define the major problems of health and disease in rural Bolivian communities, taking into account the drastically different ecological regions of the country. The communities surveyed included Villa Abecia, Coroico, Reyes, Sorata, Compi, and San Miguel. Clinical studies were conducted on a sample of 3,000 subjects to determine the incidence of tuberculosis and parasitic infections, the major endemic diseases affecting the region, and of nutritional and health status. Simultaneously, the ethnographic team conducted community studies in the same areas to provide background data on social and cultural features with special regard to attitudes toward health and disease and the structure of local institutions in the rural communities. Over eighty medical and social scientists, field workers, nurses, data analysts, and staff in the United States and Bolivia contributed to the project. Quarterly reports describing the work and the course of research were filed with the Peace Corps. Results and analysis were published in two companion volumes: the epidemiological report, Epidemiological Studies in Bolivia, was published by RISM in 1967, and the ethnographic report, Changing Rural Bolivia, was published by RISM in 1969 and as Changing Rural Society in 1971 by Oxford University Press. In addition, a number of articles, reports, theses and doctoral dissertations resulted from the project research.


This collection is arranged into 13 series, some of which have been further arranged into subseries. The series are as follows:

Series I. Correspondence

Series II. Accounting Records

Series III. Indexes

Series IV. Epidemiological Research Records

Series V. Ethnographic Research Records

Series VI. Surveys and Questionnaires

Series VII. Unpublished Manuscripts

Series VIII. Community and Regional Maps

Series IX. Photographs

Series X. Audiovisual Materials

Series XI. Exhibition Material

Series XII. Reports from RISM to the Peace Corps, Partial Reports Related to the RISM Bolivia Project

Series XIII. Miscellaneous Papers

Scope and Contents

The Records of the Research Institute for the Study of Man's Medical and Social Anthropological Research in Bolivia documents the work of anthropological and epidemiological teams in Bolivia and dates between 1935 and 2006, with the bulk of the material dating between 1964 and 1967. Material in the collection includes correspondence, accounting records, indexed field notes, laboratory processing records, surveys and questionnaires, maps, photographs, and films. The bulk of the collection consists of field notes taken by investigators in the course of their work, indexed cards created from these notes, and surveys and questionnaires conducted by the investigators. The field notes contain detailed observations of the day to day activities of the investigators, including their first impressions of the communities in which they lived, their interactions with residents of the communities, and maps and drawings of the communities. The indexed cards consist of photocopies of these notes that were organized by coded topics and cut and pasted onto cards according to these codes. The questionnaires include information about the health of the members of the communities, their living arrangements, and their opinions of social and political structures within the community. The surveys include information about sanitation, water supply, and livestock in the communities. Other material in the collection includes laboratory results of blood typing tests and blood and stool sampling for infectious diseases, maps of the six communities studied, census data for the six communities, photographs taken by the investigators, reports and papers written using the data generated through the project, and material created for a 1997 exhibit about the project and its records.

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions, with the exception of materials in Subseries IV. F. Blood Samples: Blood Typing Cards. Repository permission is required for access to material in Subseries IV. F. Please contact New York University Archives,, 212-998-2596.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use materials in the collection in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, date(s); Records of the Research Institute for the Study of Man's (RISM) Medical and Social Anthropological Research in Bolivia; RISM RG 8; box number; folder number; Research Institute for the Study of Man/New York University Archives; New York University.

Location of Materials

Materials are stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please contact at least two business days prior to your research visit to coordinate access.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The materials associated with the Bolivia Project were created by teams of epidemiological and ethnographic researchers between 1964 and 1967 and transferred to the New York University Archives in 2006. In 2017 an accretion of correspondence was transferred to the archives by the Reed Foundation; the accession number associated with this gift is 2017.020.

Custodial History

As of summer 2019, materials in Subseries IV. G. and H. and Subseries E. and F. are missing.


In 2020 several boxes containing duplications of other materials contained in the collection were deaccessioned. These materials include parts of Series VII and VIII which were microform copies of materials from Series III as well as Appendix: Photocopies which included copies of materials from Series IV and V.

Collection processed by

Ulla S. Holmequist and Ani Rivera. Processed with new finding aid by Emilyn L. Brown and Hillina Seife, June 2006.

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2024-02-06 14:27:47 -0500.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: Finding aid written in English

Processing Information

Decisions regarding the arrangement, description, or physical interventions taken on this collection prior to 2017 are unknown. In 2017 an accretion of correspondence was incorporated into Series I. Correspondence based on the collection's existing arrangement structure; at this point the descriptive front matter of the collection was also revised. In 2019, materials were rehoused by ACM and Preservation staff and sent to offsite storage. In 2020, materials were rehoused and sent to offsite storage.

Revisions to this Guide

June 2017: Record edited by Rachel Searcy to reflect incorporation of 2017 accretion and revisions to descriptive front matter written by Sara P. O'Neill.
July 2019: Updated by Jennifer E. Neal to incorporate materials being sent to offsite storage in 2019 and for compliance with DACS and ACM Required Elements for Archival Description
July 2019: Updated by Megan O'Shea to prepare materials for offsite storage
July 2022: Updated by Lyric Evans-Hunter to reflect the digitization of audiovisual materials.

Edition of this Guide

This version was derived from Guide to Bolivia Project.doc


New York University Archives
Research Institute for the Study of Man
New York University Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012