The Peter A. Munch/Tristan da Cunha Collection provides a nearly complete picture of the history and culture of the South Atlantic island of Tristan da Cunha from its discovery in the sixteenth century to about 1984, when the creator of the collection, Peter A. Munch, died. The bulk of the material dates from 1937 to 1970, the years of Munch's professional relationship with the Tristan people. The items in the collection therefore also highlight Munch's own research interests in the areas of culture and personality, inter-group relations, and acculturation.
A large part of the collection consists of Munch's research materials on Tristan that include field notes, copies of documents and published materials relating to island history and culture, clippings on recent Tristan developments, and correspondence from Tristan islanders and English expatriates working there. This material encompasses the following series: Tristan Government and Legal Documents; Tristan History; Clippings; Correspondence (Islanders subseries); Notes (with the Topics, Notebooks, Field Work, and File Cards subseries containing the direct results of Munch's on-site work with the islanders); Tristan Administration; Tristan Education and Language; Tristan Geography; Tristan Maritima; Tristan Music; Tristan Population and Genealogy; Tristan Social Sets; Newsletters; Pamphlets and Brochures; Philately; Publications; and Reports.
The Correspondence Series also includes many letters from Munch's professional colleagues, representatives of publishing houses considering his manuscripts, and the reading public. The Manuscripts Series contains manuscript copies of papers and articles by Munch, while the Papers Series consists of copies of published work by Munch as well as published and manuscript copies of papers, essays, and book excerpts by other authors dealing either with Tristan or general sociological topics.
The Institutional Files Series contains correspondence, reports, papers, etc. from or about institutions such as the American Anthropological Association, the Kendall Whaling Museum, and the Medical Research Council in the United Kingdom. The Foundation Files Series documents Munch's efforts to secure funds to aid his research, and the Projects Series contains research proposals, correspondence, and financial records related to his trips to visit the islanders at Calshot in 1962 and on Tristan in 1964. The Scrapbooks Series contains material on the Norwegian Expedition to Tristan of 1937-1938 in which Munch took part as well as on Munch's later life and work. (The Clippings Series also includes articles on Munch and his research endeavors.)
In arranging this collection an effort was made to keep as far as possible the original order imposed upon the material by Munch himself. This was fairly easy to do in the case of the items found in his five-drawer file cabinet, but the material in the B series (the letter appended to a series number) was more problematical. The B series contain material that, while it is an integral part of the collection, cannot be identified as to its original location within Munch's papers. It was not found in his file cabinet but apparently was packed into cardboard boxes. The B series contain types of material analogous to that in the series identified solely by number, which are composed of items from the file cabinet, as well as kinds of material not discovered at all in the cabinet. Thus, Series 2, Tristan History, consists of items from the file cabinet in the general order in which Munch had arranged them; Series 2B, also Tristan History, represents the same kind of material found in disarray elsewhere. Series numbered 21B and above consist of types of material not found at all in the file cabinet. Thus, Series 23B, Publications, consists of whole issues of journals that contain single articles of interest; all of these items were packed in boxes, with no similar material to be found in the file cabinet.
A word on the items in Scandinavian languages is in order. According to encyclopedias, Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish are mutually intelligible with varying degrees of difficulty. Unless it was possible to establish with fair certainty through contextual evidence which language was being used, I resorted to slash marks to include all the possibilities. Therefore, if an item is obviously in a Scandinavian language but I could not determine which one, I identified it as being in "Norwegian/Swedish," "Norwegian/Swedish/Danish," etc.