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R. Gwinn Vivian Collection

Identifier: Coll 0030

Scope and Contents

Scope and Contents:

Field notes, maps, reports, and photographs related to projects and general research on Chaco Canyon completed by Gwinn Vivian. Specific projects include the Chaco Canyon Water Control Project, the Prehistoric Roads Survey, and the Cly Canyon Survey.


  • 1901-1993 (bulk dates: 1952-1992)


Biographical / Historical


R. Gwinnet Vivian, son of R. Gordon and Myrtle Vivian, has been associated with Chaco Canyon his whole life and professional career. His father was a student at the University of New Mexico field school in Chaco in the 1930s-1940s, then went on to a long career in the National Park Service. Gordon Vivian founded the NPS mobile ruins stabilization unit (RSU) in the Southwest. This unit did all the stabilization work at the sites in Chaco until the park developed its own preservation crew in the 1970s. As a result of the RSU, Gwinn Vivian arrived at Chaco at age one, and had his first experience in archaeology in Chaco Canyon at the age of three. He is widely recognized for his contributions in the areas of Southwestern archaeology, museology, historic preservation, and cultural resource management. Of special importance are his contributions to the understanding of the prehistory of Chaco Canyon and the surrounding region. He received his BA (1957) and MA (1960) from the University of New Mexico. He received his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Arizona in 1970. From 1970 to his retirement in 1999 Gwinn worked at the Arizona State Museum as staff archaeologist, as associate director, and as curator of archaeology for public programs. Vivian was one of the early leaders in cultural resource management. He ran the Arizona Highway Salvage Program for the Arizona State Museum and was its leading investigator for several years. He developed procedures and policies for the new CRM programs that were being developed throughout the nation. He was involved in the development and construction of major Arizona State Museum exhibits such as one depicting Tarahumara life in a cave setting and "Paths of Life," a major exhibit that highlights the diversity of Southwest Indian life in historical and modern times. In the area of historic preservation, Gwinn worked with leaders of Arizona's Indian communities and members of the Arizona legislature to develop new rules and regulations for the revised Arizona Antiquity Act. Of particular note is his work in Chaco Canyon, where his fieldwork centered on making sense of the elaborate road and water control systems. In addition to writing numerous chapters in edited books, he is the author of The Chacoan Prehistory of the San Juan Basin. Since his retirement, Vivian has been heavily involved in public outreach, both as a lecturer and popular tour guide of the Chaco Canyon region.


4.7 Linear Feet

Language of Materials




Organized into five series: Series I: Chaco Canyon Water Control Project/Roads Survey

Series II: Cly Canyon Reservoir Project Series III: Chaco Canyon Research Files Series IV: Chacra Mesa/Navajo Refugee Site Study Series V: Microfilm.


Provenance: R. Gwinn Vivian, Arizona State Museum
Finding Aid for R. Gwinn Vivian Collection
Coll 0030
Chaco Culture National Historical Park, National Park Service
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the NPS Chaco Culture National Historical Park Repository

Chaco Culture NHP & Aztec Ruins NM Museum & Archives Program
Hibben Center Rm 307 - MSC01 1050
450 University Blvd NE
Albuquerque NM 87106 USA