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Fred Henry Werner art history and archaeology slide and photograph collection

Identifier: MS2293

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of approximately five thousand color slides, one hundred thirty-six Cibachrome prints, one hundred thirty black and white photographs, and approximately fifty notebooks. The images were taken during a twenty-five year period primarily of the art history, archaeology and contemporary architecture of India, Thailand, Indonesia and Mesoamerica (Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico). There are also images taken in Scotland, Egypt (including Dynastic Egypt), Japan, Greece, Turkey, Brunei, Iran, Israel, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. Many of these slides were originally selected for reproduction by curator Martin Lerner of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (beginning in 1980) and Vidya Dehejia, Professor of Art History at Columbia University. Dr. Dehijia replicated these images for the classroom and study of the art of ancient India and Southeast Asia. The collection is an attempt to make available detailed color images of sites and temples often represented in standard textbooks with only a few images. Fred Werner printed the Cibachromes at the then Fifth Avenue address of the International Center of Photography (New York, N.Y.) from the slides. The black and white photographs of Nepal (Kathmandu Valley and Pokhara, Western Nepal) were made during a brief visit in August of 1971. The notebooks contain Werner’s work to compare word pattern similarities between Asian, Oceanic languages and indigenous North American languages. Werner believed he found interesting similarities including recurrent morphemic structures in well-studied and seemingly unrelated language families. He recorded his examples in these handwritten note-books more than twenty-five years ago. The slides cover the years 1971-1992.


  • 1971-1992
  • Majority of material found within 1975 - 1987

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Biographical / Historical

Fred Henry Werner was born (May 24, 1936) and grew up in New York City. At an early age, Fred became interested in the non-Western World. His interest in other cultures was further stoked by trips to the American Museum of Natural accompanied by his grandfather. He also read Life magazine. From within Life magazine, Fred was fascinated with the rich deep black and white photographs of world events and people’s lives depicted in various communities of the United States and the world. At age twelve, intrigued by radio accounts, Fred bought a copy of Out of this world:across the Himalayas to forbidden Tibet by the reporter and adventurer Lowell Thomas. About the same time, Fred developed a deep interest in photography and bought a Ciroflx, a single lens reflex camera, a light meter and three or four filters in primary colors- green, red and yellow. He experimented with different combinations of black and white film with his filters and photographed his parents under artificial light. He went to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens’ “Japanese Gardens” at different times and seasons. For short time he had use of a dark-room in the basement of his apartment building that had been created by the building’s manager. Fred attended Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn for high school. During his senior year he edited a prize-winning high school newspaper, The Polygon. Fred graduated in 1954.

Fred attended Trinity College (Conn.) majoring in English. As a college junior, Fred was elected editor-in-chief of the Trinity Tripod, the Trinity student newspaper. In August 1957, he attended the annual convention of the United States National Student Association (USNSA) at the University of Michigan. One meeting gathered together college and university editors from all parts of the country and discussed the concern about collegiate newspaper censorship on American campuses during the time of McCarthyism. After the Michigan USNSA Congress, Fred brought some ideas back to Trinity and worked for reform in the configuration of the college’s student government. As editor of Trinity Tripod, he interviewed Trinity’s President Albert C. Jacobs, a former provost and law professor at Columbia University. Fred published a long article for the college newspaper about Dr. Jacobs. Fred also attended two New England regional meetings of the USNSA and began to consider the possibility of running for office at the summer Congress. Fred graduated from Trinity in June, 1958 with a B.A. degree. USNSA headquarters were in Philadelphia near the University of Pennsylvania. Following his graduation Fred was elected Student Government Vice-President, a salaried one-year position. He moved to Philadelphia for the 1958-1959 academic year. One of his first assignments was to visit colleges and universities in Virginia. It was a tense time in Virginia. Governor Almond of Virginia had closed the public schools and universities rather than accept integration. He visited Mary Washington College, Virginia and a number of institutions just beginning to integrate. In the Deep South he saw bus stations partitioned along racial lines. He talked to student leaders at one hundred twenty colleges and universities in thirteen states and concluded that the Cold War and America’s racial and educational problems were far removed from the average American college student. Returning to Philadelphia in May 1959, Fred decided to edit an anthology on student life, World of the American Student, which included diverse practical and sociological material about student leaders, student governments, and the university scene.

To a large measure, the highly informal observations by Fred throughout the United States in 1958-1959 led him to an interest in studying cultural anthropology. In July 1959, Dr. Laura Thompson, a veteran field-worker of Oceanic and North American Indian cultures with special interest in the relationship of culture to personality interviewed Fred. At that time Dr. Thompson held an appointment at the University of North Carolina’s Department of Anthropology. Fred chose to attend North Carolina after the summer convention of the USNSA. Dr. Thompson introduced Fred to Weston La Barre, Professor of Anthropology, Duke University. With the recommendations of Weston La Barre and Laura Thompson, Fred was accepted to Stanford University’s graduate program in cultural anthropology. Fred did not graduate from Stanford and for the years 1962-1964 he was a graduate student at Columbia University in the Department of Anthropology. He left the University without receiving a degree.

On his own, Fred began using the library at the American Museum of Natural History where he was given access to the formidable collection of anthropological books. Before long he began to read again accounts of Oceania and the American Indians.

In July 1970, Fred took a trip to Oceania: American Samoa (two days), Western Samoa (ten days) and Fiji (four days). He spent a few days on the North Island of New Zealand at the beginning of winter in late July. He then flew to Australia where he spent most of his time in cities, though he especially enjoyed the coastal town of Cairns near the Great Barrier Reef. His primary goal of the trip was to see New Guinea, then a trust territory of Australia. This was five years before Papua New Guinea was given its independence. Developing his cine film in New York City, Fred found clear images of his New Guinea and Samoan experience. He had film from the town of Port Moresby, Madang, the art of Arapesh and iatmul villagers of the middle Sepik River, coastal villages near Port Moresby and the mysterious feathered dancers as well as Western Samoa’s town of Apia on Upolu and the more remote and more culturally conservative island of Savai’i.

In July 1971, Fred traveled to Japan for a week. He bought a single lens reflex Pentax and supplementary lenses in Tokyo. He flew to Bali, Indonesia and learned that the village of Ubud, a primary artistic center, was having its semi-annual festival. He photographed those activities with his super-eight cine camera and his new Pentax. He visited cultural and religious centers of the island. In four days he made a seventy minute Bali movie for an intended audience of family and friends. After his Bali visit, Fred curtailed his use of the movie camera. Though extremely effective, making movies was conspicuous, especially to minor bureaucratic officials. Single lens reflex cameras were ubiquitous among tourists. He made slides as he traveled to Java, Burma, Thailand, Iran, India and Israel.

Fred continued his reading at the library of the American Museum of Natural History searching a variety of dictionaries in Oriental, Polynesian and American Indian languages. Basically he was interested in the problem of whether American Indian languages retained word patterns similar to Asian and Oceanic languages. He believed he was finding interesting similarities; recurrent morphemic structures in well-studied and seemingly unrelated language families. He recorded his examples in some fifty or more handwritten note-books. He devised what he thought was a suitable though fairly simple methodology for comparison. He concluded that his method worked with some language families but not all language families. [The best popular article on wide-ranging historical linguistic family comparisons may be: Robert Wright,” Quest for the Mother Tongue,” Atlantic Monthly, April 1991; pages 39-68]

Fred showed his work to Columbia University graduate student Marilyn Goldstein. Each notebook page had a semantic or morphemic element. The Mayan dictionary entry and page number were listed. The Mayan languages apparently could be broken into a series of definable roots or suffixes. After several years using the Museum’s library Fred continued his lexical/semantic search and reading in the Oriental Division of the New York Public Library‘s forty-second and Fifth Avenue main building.

In 1975, Fred traveled to the Mayan heartland-Guatemala, Honduras and the Yucatan of Mexico visiting archaeological sites. He spent several days in the market town of Chichicastenago, the subject of Columbia University’s anthropologist Ruth Bunzel’s book. Fred photographed a vital Mayan religious tradition that co-mingled openly with Roman Catholicism. He visited a Quiche archaeological site as well as a marketplace at Lake Atitlan. He spent several days at Tikal, Guatemala. Fred also flew to Copan in Honduras for one day. Upon returning to New York in 1980, Fred showed approximately eight hundred slides to Martin Lerner, curator of Indian and Southeast Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Lerner decided to copy nearly half of the color slides. This motivated Fred to return to India to travel and to photograph in South and Southeast Asia during the summer months. From 1980 to 1987, Lerner copied approximately one thousand five hundred slides of India, Thailand, Indonesia and Burma for the Metropolitan Museum’s archives.

In the winter of 1990, Fred attended a lecture at the Asia Society on South Indian Art by Dr. Vidya Dehejia, Associate Professor of Art History at Columbia University. Fred listened and was deeply impressed by the ability of Dr. Dehejia to convey with clarity and precision descriptions of the historical context of the temple art of the Chola. Following the lecture Fred spoke with Professor Dehejia about his work. Dr. Dehejia invited Fred to Columbia University and to the Art History Department as a research assistant and/or visiting scholar. Fred sat in on several classes and seminars over several years. Also at this time he traveled to India and Southeast Asia. He continued to photograph ancient temple art returning to a few sites multiple times. More than fifteen hundred slides were amassed for Columbia University.

Social and political conditions had been changing in India from 1971 to 1992. For Fred, travel in India for more than two decades had become increasing expensive and less productive. As India became more prosperous, it created a government apparatus more like the West and this impacted Fred’s ability to have easy access to the places he wanted to photograph. Fred moved to Washington DC in the late 1990s. Since arriving in Washington, Fred has spent considerable time reading and researching using the Library of Congress and taking classes at The George Washington University in the applied arts.

This note was written in 2012.

[a more complete biography is available in the collection: Box 25 Folder 3]


11.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



This collection consists of slides and photographs that cover the subjects of the art history, archaeology and contemporary architecture of various countries including India, Thailand, Indonesia, Guatemala, Honduros, Mexico, Iran, Brunei (Sultanate), Turkey, Scotland, Egypt, and Singapore. These slides may be used to study ancient India and its influence throughout Southeast Asia and the culture of the other countries. This collection is an attempt to make available detailed multiple photographs of sites and temples often represented in standard scholarly books with only one or two photographs. The slides cover the years 1971-1992. There is also a series with research notes for the work Fred Werner conducted related to linguistics.


Organized into 20 series: South India slides, North India slides, Indonesia slides, Thailand slides, Mesoamerica: Guatemala slides, Mesoamerica: Honduras slides, Mesoamerica: Mexico slides, Egypt slides, Iran slides, Turkey slides, Brunei (Sultanate) slides, Singapore slides, United Kingdom: Scotland slides, Japan (Tokyo region) slides, Germany slides, Greece slides, Cibachrome prints, Black and White prints, Linguistic research notebooks, and Slides from various countries.

Physical Location

Materials may be stored off-site, and may require additional retrieval time. Please contact the Special Collections Research Center for more information.

Materials at other institutions

Fred Werner’s work is also represented in four other institutions including:

Forty-five slides and seven Cibachrome prints are housed at the Heye Foundation’s Museum of the American Indian in New York City. In the mid-1990s, The Heye collection was transferred to what is now the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

In 1987, The Siam Society of Bangkok, Thailand accepted eight Cibachrome prints and fifty slides for a highly specialized collection.

In 1970, Fred Werner traveled to New Guinea, then a Trust Territory of Australia. During ten days he photographed with an inexpensive super–eight movie camera scenes in the East Sepik River Province, the Central Highlands near Mount Hagen and briefly in and near the town of Port Moresby. The Smithsonian Institution’s Human Studies Film Archives accepted the fifty minutes of the New Guinea footage, seventy minutes of Bali, Indonesia film and his thirty minutes of shorter travel segments for the anthropological film collection. His film (two hours and twenty-six minutes in length) was transferred to video tape in order to preserve the footage. In 1990, a spontaneous interview with Fred Werner was conducted by archivist and anthropologist Dr. John Homiak (Smithsonian Institution) about the film’s content. A few years ago, the interview-recording was attached to the video film version to clarify better the film’s content. The film is now available as a DVD from the Human Film Archives. [Human Studies Film Archives, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution; Call No. HSFA 93.4.1.]

One hundred eighteen slides of India were duplicated for the Art History Department of Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut in 1988.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Fred Henry Werner, June 2011 (2011.030)


Resources used by the donor when identifiying the slides.

Aesen, Clarence T., Architecture of Siam: a cultural interpretation (New York:Oxford University Press, 1988).

Archer, Mildred, Early Views of India: picturesque jopurneys of Thomas and William Daniell, 1786-1794: complete acquatints (New York:Thames and Hudson, 1980).

Bard, K.A., Introduction to the archaeology of ancient Egypt (Malden, Mass.:Blackwell, 2008).

Baudez, Claude, Francois, Maya Sculptures of Copan: The Iconography (Norman:University of Oklahoma Press, 1994).

Behl, Benoy K., Ajanta Caves: ancient paintings of Buddhist India (London:Thames and Hudson, 2005).

Bernet-Kempers, August K., Ancient Indonesia (Amsterdam:C.P.J. van Peet, 1959).

Bernet-Kempers, August K., Monumental Bali: introduction to Balinese archaeology (Berkeley:Periplus editions, 1991).

Bowie, Theodore (ed.), Arts of Thailand (Bloomington, Indiana:Indiana University Press, 1960).

Bowie, Theodore, Arts of Thailand (Westport:Geenwood Press, 1960).

Bunzel, Ruth Leah, Chichicastenago: a Guatemalan Village (New York:J.J. Augustin, 1952).

Daniell, Thomas ( 1748-1851) and William Daniell (1769-1837 ),Oriental Scenery (London:Robert Bowyer, 1808).

Dehejia, Vidya,Yogini cult and temples (New Delhi:National Museum, 1986).

Dehejia, Vidya, Early Buddhist rock temples: a chronological study (Ithaca, New York:Cornell University Press, 1972).

Dhavalikar, Madhukar K.,Ellora (New York:Oxford University Press, 2003.

Donaldson, Thomas E., Hindu Temples of Orissa (Leiden, New York:E.J.Brill, 1985-1987; three vols.).

Donaldson, Thomas E.,Konark; [Konarak] (New Delhi:Oxford University Press, 2003).

Dumercay, Jacques,Temples of Java (New York:Oxford University Press, 1986).

Garnier, Derick, Ayutthaya: Venice of the East (Bangkok:River Books,).2004).

Grabar, Oleg, Great mosque of Isfahan (New York:New York University Press, 1990).

Graham, John A., Monumental Sculpture and Hieroglyphic Inscriptions (Cambridge:Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Memoirs # 17. 1990).

Hunter, C. Bruce, A guide to ancient Maya ruins (second edition )(Norman:University of Oklahoma Press, 1986).

Huntington, Susan, Art of Ancient India (New York:Weatherhill, 1978).

Irving, Robert G., Indian Summer (New Haven:Yale Uiversity Press, 1981).

Khunying Kanita Lekhakulaj (ed.), Ayutthaya: a world heritage (Bangkok:Tourist Authority of Thailand, 2000).

Kowalski, J.K., House of the Governor (Norman:University of Oklahoma Press, 1986).

Marg, Pathway ( Journal)(Bombay (Mumbai ):Marg Publications,vol. 1, 1946).

Matics, Katherine I., History of Wat phra Chetuphon and its Buddha Images (Bangkok:Siam Society, 1979).

Meister, Michael W. (ed.), Encyclopedia of Indian Temple Architecture:South India, Lower Dravidadesa (Philadelphia:University of Pennsylvan-ia Press, 1983; two vols.).

Meister, Michael W. (ed.), Encyclopedia of Indian Temple architecture. [ Vol.2, part 1 ]: North India-Foundations of Indian Style. Two vols. (Philadelphia:University of Pennsylvan-ia Press, 1983).

Michell, George,Hampi (Bombay (Mumbai ):Marg Publications, 2009).

Michell, George, Vijayanagara: architectural inventory of the sacred center (New Delhi:American Institute of Indian Studies,2001; two vols.).

Michell, George and Nande, Vivek, (eds.), Chidambaram, home of Nataraja (Bombay (Mumbai ):Marg publications, 1994).

Nagaswamy, R., Kailasanatha Temple, a guide (Madras State, Department of Archaeology:Government of Tamil Nadu, 1969).

Nagel ( 1983 ); Wagner, P. (ed.), India, Nepal (Geneva:Nagel Publishers, 1983).

Porter, Yves, Glory of the Sultans: Islamic Architecture in India (Paris:Flammarion, 2009).

Settars, S., Hoysala Temples (Bangalore:Kala Yatra Publishers, 1991-1992; two vols.).

Stratton, Carol , Buddhist Sculpture of Northern Thailand (Chicago:Buppha Press, 2004).

Stratton, Carol, Art of Sukhothai: Thailand's Golden Age from mid-thirteenth to the mid-fifteenth centuries (Kuala Lumpur:Oxford University Press, 1981).

Studies in the History of Art, vol. 27., Cultural differentiation and cultural identity in the visual arts (Washington, D.C.:National Gallery of Art, 1989).

Tartakov, Gary, The Durga Temple at Aihole (New Delhi:Oxford University Press, 1997).

Turner, Jane ( ed.), Dictionary of Art (New York:Grove,1996; twenty-six vols.

Van Beek, Steve, Arts of Thailand ( revised and updated edition) (New York:Thames and Hudson, 1991).

Weil, Shalva,India's Jewish Heritage:ritual and life cycle (Mumbai:Marg Publications, 2002).

Wilber, Donald L., Persepolis, the archaeology of Parsa seat of the Persian Kings (New York:Crowell, 1969).

Zimmer, Heinrich R., Indian Art of Asia (New York:Pantheon, 1955; vol two).


Guide to the Fred Henry Werner art history and archeology slide and photograph collection, 1971-1992
Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

2130 H Street NW
Washington 20052 United States of America