Peter Matthiessen (left) and Eliot Elisofon in the midst of Dani dancers, 1961. Photo by Michael Rockefeller. PM 2006.12.1.32.12.
The Peabody Museum regrets the passing of friend and donor Peter Matthiessen. Best known as a brilliant author and naturalist, Matthiessen was also a gifted photographer. In 1961, Matthiessen accompanied the Harvard Peabody Expedition to the Grand Valley Dani in Netherlands New Guinea, now Papua, Indonesia. Organized by filmmaker Robert Gardner, the Harvard Peabody expedition team at various times included anthropologists Karl G. Heider and Jan Broekhuisje, photographer Eliot Elisofon, recent Harvard College graduates Sam Putnam and Michael Rockefeller as well as Peter Matthiessen. The interdisciplinary expedition documented the isolated Dani and their warfare, producing two doctoral dissertations, Gardner's feature-length motion picture, Dead Birds, a book of photographs, Gardens of War, and Matthiessen’s ecological essay Under the Mountain Wall. In 2005, Matthiessen donated over 1,200 photographic negatives that he took during Peabody Museum expedition.You can view these wonderful images by accessing Collections On-Line and searching under Matthiessen’s name.