MS 25 Ralph Michelsen Seri Papers, 1939-2006

MS 25 Ralph Michelsen Seri Papers, 1939-2006

Collection consists of manuscripts, publications, correspondence, and photographs relating to Seri Indian culture, particularly basket making.

Materials from MS 25 Ralph Michelsen Seri papers. To access the full collection guide on Arizona Archives Online, click here.

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Biographical Note

Ralph Copeland Michelsen (b.1913-d.1996) was an ethnologist whose work centered in Southern California and Baja. He began spending time with the local indigenous people of Baja California in the 1950s while he resided there for a mining job. This began a life-long connection with the area and its people.

Dr. Michelsen was a general contractor until the age of 55 when he enrolled in the University of California at Irvine. Because of his extensive avocational fieldwork in the Southwest and Mexico, he began teaching classes at Irvine while working towards his PhD, which he received in 1991.

He was widely traveled throughout the Southwest and Mexico and was fluent in Spanish. His wife and daughter characterize his field style as “very casual and non-confrontational”. He didn’t ask a series of questions; rather, he engaged in conversation and obliquely solicited information. His principle areas of fieldwork were in Desemboque among the Seri, in Santa Catarina among the Paipai, and among the Luiseno of San Diego County, California.

Much of Michelsen’s published work is on the Paipai and Kiliwa cultures. Michelsen’s fieldwork among the Seri is just as extensive as that of the other populations he studied, but the work was never published.

Items in Collection: 
Comcáac (Seri)
Community Life and Family Life, Pottery and Basketry
Materials related to the Comcáac (Seri) from MS25 Michelsen papers.