About Our Collection

The DER catalogue includes over 850 titles, spanning nearly 100 years. Our archive is one of the most historically important resources of ethnographic film in the world today. Each year, we curate a selection of new films to add to our collection. We look for films that prioritize underrepresented voices, explore contemporary cultural struggles and artistic traditions, and offer longitudinal views of changing communities, cultures, and identities. We’re committed to informing future filmmakers of the history of this work, and supporting productions for teaching cultural literacy to a new generation of global citizens.

Classic Collection

DER holds a collection of historically significant ethnographic films, including works such as the Ju/’hoansi and Yanomamo projects, many of which have become mainstays in the teaching of anthropology.  Many of the anthropological films made in the 1960s through 1980s, while rooted in research, were shaped by a concern with so-called “disappearing cultures.” It was believed these film records could be used as primary data for future research on extinct cultures as well as serving as records of the cultural practices for the communities documented. While anthropologists today focus on the ways in which cultures undergo change and communities persist, rather than thinking in terms of extinction, the films nevertheless have enormous value as documents of life prior to the rapid transformations brought on by incorporation into larger political and economic systems. We remain dedicated to ensuring the preservation and access of these historical documents, and recognize that while they are the products of an earlier era and shaped by colonial politics, they remain valuable documents for researchers and for the communities whose lives have been documents. We are dedicated as well to ensuring the access to descendants.


In addition to these “classic” ethnographic films, shot largely on film, we feature an evolving collection of recent works shot on various digital formats, such as Poto Mitan: Pillars of the Global Economy, (un)veiled: Muslim Women Talk About Hijab, Framing the Other, and Stori Tumbuna: Ancestors’ Tales, which have also become mainstays of college teaching. And each year we add approximately twenty new titles to our offerings, reflecting the work of filmmakers and anthropologists who have carried this tradition forward and applied it to contemporary social issues and events.