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Tobias Schneebaum Papers

Identifier: Tretter-31

Scope and Content

The collection contains the personal papers of Tobias Schneebaum. Much of the collection consists of personal correspondence; other materials include articles, postcards, artwork, photographs, newspaper clippings, book reviews, pamphlets and papers regarding various exhibits of Asmat art.


  • circa 1950-2003
  • bulk (1969-2002)


Language of Materials


Restrictions on Access

Items in this collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only. Materials will be retrieved from and returned to storage areas by staff members.

Restrictions on Use

Please contact staff regarding copyright status of these materials. Researchers may quote from the collection under fair use provisions of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code).

Biographical Note

Tobias Schneebaum was born in 1922 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He graduated from the City College of New York (1943) and during World War II he served in the Army as a radar mechanic, and after the war he studied art under Tamayo, under whose suggestion he went to Mexico for three and a half years-painting, teaching and developing an increasing interest in archaeology and anthropology.

In 1955 he was granted a Fulbright Fellowship to study painting in Peru, and it was during this time that he encountered for the first time the tribes that would become his passion. After a year in the Peruvian jungle, Schneebaum returned to the U.S. with stories that he recounted in his first book Keep the River on Your Right. In 1977 he received a degree in cultural anthropology from Goddard College, Vermont.

During his lifetime he traveled widely throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. Schneebaum is the author of Keep the River on Your Right(1969), Wild Man(1977) and Where the Spirits Dwell(1988), which together form his autobiographical trilogy. He also wrote Embodied Spirits: Ritual Carvings of the Asmat(1990) and Secret Places: My Life in New York and New Guinea(2000).

From 1973 to 1983 he served as Assistant Curator of the Asmat Museum of Culture and Progress in Irian Jaya, Indonesia. Considered an authority on Asmat culture and art he has lectured widely and curated several exhibitions on Asmat art, including teaching at the New School for Social Research. Keep the River on Your Rightwas adapted to a major motion picture which was released in 2001. Tobias Schneebaum died on September 20, 2005.


33 boxes (12.0 cubic feet) plus oversized art)


Collection contains the personal papers of Tobias Schneebaum, artist and noted anthropologist of native tribes.

Acquisition Information

The collection was purchased by University Libraries from Tobias Schneebaum.

Related Materials

Refer to the University of Minnesota catalog(MNCAT) for a list of published works by Tobias Schneebaum.

Other Related Materials

The Metropolitan Museum of Art holds Tobias Schneebaum's collection of Asmat art and artifacts.

Processing Information

The collection was originally processed by Scott Young and Jean-Nickolaus Tretter in 2004. A new accretion was added and collection updated by Karen Spilman in 2013. The collection was re-housed by Andrea Hoff in 2014.

Tobias Schneebaum papers, circa 1950-2003
Karen Spilman
June 2005
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Jean Nickolaus Tretter Collection in GLBT Studies Collecting Area