Robert Gardner (anthropologist)

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Robert Gardner
BornRobert Grosvenor Gardner
(1925-11-05)November 5, 1925
Brookline, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedJune 21, 2014(2014-06-21) (aged 88)
Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
OccupationAcademic, Anthropologist, Documentarian
EducationHarvard University (AB, AM)
Notable worksDead Birds
Forest of Bliss
SpouseAdele Pressman (?–his death)

Robert Grosvenor Gardner (November 5, 1925 – June 21, 2014) was an American academic, anthropologist, and documentary filmmaker who was the Director of the Film Study Center at Harvard University from 1956 to 1997. He is known for his work in the field of visual anthropology and films like the National Film Registry inductee Dead Birds[1] and Forest of Bliss. In 2011, a retrospective of his work was held at Film Forum, New York.[2]


Gardner was the sixth child and third son, born in the home of his grandmother Isabella Stewart Gardner.[3] He was a cousin of poet Robert Lowell.[4]

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University in 1947, Gardner became an assistant to Thomas Whittemore at Harvard's Fogg Museum. This led to travels to Anatolia, Faiyum, and London working with Coptic textiles and restoring Byzantine art. Next, he started teaching medieval art and history at the College of Puget Sound in Washington state. Here, he took to writings of anthropologist Ruth Benedict and he ended up post doing MA in anthropology from Harvard. It was during his graduation period that he took part in an expedition on Kalahari Desert Bushmen, for which he took photographs, films, and carried out elementary research work. Thereafter, he founded The Film Study Center, a production and research unit at the Peabody Museum at Harvard in 1957 where it made documentary films till he left the center in 1997.[5]

He lived in Cambridge, MA with his wife, Adele Pressman, a psychiatrist, and two children, Caleb and Noah Gardner. He has three other children from his first marriage to Ainslie Anderson: Stewart, Eve, and Luke.[5]

The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, as of 2010, gives the Harvard University's 'Robert Gardner Fellowship in Photography', worth $50,000.[6]

Screening Room[edit]

Gardner also hosted a Boston television series from 1972 to 1981 on an ABC affiliate, showcasing works by independent filmmakers, ranging from animation (Jan Lenica, Caroline Leaf, John and Faith Hubley), experimental (Hollis Frampton, Standish Lawder), and documentary film (Les Blank, Hilary Harris).[7]


Related filmmakers[edit]


  • Gardner, Robert. 2006. The Impulse to Preserve: Reflections of a Filmmaker. Other Press.
  • The Cinema of Robert Gardner, by Ilisa Barbash, Lucien Taylor. Berg, 2007. ISBN 1845207742.
  • Harry Tomicek. 1991 Gardner Oesterreichisches Filmuseum. (In German)


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]