1958 Fuller recordings

Video telling about the Fuller Sonoband Recordings

Regenstein Pacific Collection Intern Katie Good highlights the history and importance of the Fuller Collection and sonobands (© 2008, Department of Anthropology, The Field Museum)

In 1958 Roland Force made a journey to London with his wife Maryanne (a respected anthropologist in her own right) to sit down with Fuller and discuss the artifacts he was giving to the museum.  He brought with him a Walkie Record-All, the cutting edge of portable recording technology at the time. 

Every day from noon until three o’clock in the morning, the two men sat down and went through each object in the collection, listing off the date, the type of object, giving a description, telling who sold it to whom, and occasionally telling an anecdote or bickering about provenance.


Their 160 hours of commentary were recorded on plastic belts called sonobands, a medium that would become obsolete only a few years later. Typed transcripts of their conversations were made from these recordings by Maryanne Force. 

These transcripts were ultimately used to help publish a catalog entitled The Fuller Collection of Pacific Artifacts in 1971. The purpose of this catalog was “to give the collection the prominence it deserves and to pay tribute to the collector” (Force and Force 1971: vii).

The sonobands themselves were then packed away in a small cardboard box, and stored in the Archives of The Field Museum for more than forty years.


However, in 2003 The Field Museum hired The Cutting Corporation, a firm in Bethesda, Maryland specializing in the preservation of archival audio material, to transfer the sonoband recordings to digital format.  

We carefully packed and shipped off the approximately 150 sonobands along with the two Walkie Recordall machines that Roland Force had used back in 1958. 

The Cutting Corporation was able to listen to and capture the old analog Fuller Sonobands recordings in new digital WAV format so they can now be heard again for many generations to come.