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Lehmann-Nitsche, Robert (1872-1938)

Robert Lehmann-Nitsche was born in Radomitz, Poznań, on November 9, 1872. He studied in Freiburg, Munich and Berlin, taking doctoral degrees in the natural sciences (1894), anthropology (1894) and medicine (1897). He immigrated to Argentina at twenty-five and in 1907 began working at the research institute of the Museo de La Plata in the city of La Plata, where he was appointed director of the Anthropology Department. The Museo de La Plata is the largest natural sciences, archaeology and ethnology museum in Argentina. Lehmann-Nitsche taught at the museum itself and at the Universidad Nacional de Buenos Aires, Argentina's most important university. In 1909 he began teaching anatomy courses at the Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires. A member of numerous scientific societies in Argentina, France and Germany, Lehmann-Nitsche soon became integrated into the Argentine academic community and continued widening his circle of contacts and forging ties with colleagues abroad. The extensive correspondence among his papers (ca. 5,500 letters, postcards and telegrams) attests to the broad academic network he established.
In Argentina Lehmann-Nitsche extended his research to include material culture, folklore, linguistics, ethnology and mythology. Between 1900 and 1926, he undertook numerous research trips in Argentina, visiting such places as the Gran Chaco and Tierra del Fuego, where he carried out linguistic studies, conducted interviews, recorded narratives and legends, assembled collections for museums, and made sound recordings on phonograph cylinders. In the following years these expeditions laid the foundation for a vast body of academic work encompassing more than 350 publications. His most important writings deal with Argentine folklore, ethnology and ethnolinguistics. His papers contain numerous works that have not yet been cataloged or published.
Upon retiring, Lehmann-Nitsche returned to Germany (1930), dying in Berlin on April 8, 1938. In 1939 and the early 1950s the Ibero-American Institute purchased some of his papers from his widow. The Biblioteca Criolla, his collection of popular literature, has been integrated into the IAI's library.
The Lehmann-Nitsche Papers consist of approximately thirty-three manuscripts, four notebooks, fifty-five boxes of correspondence (approx. 5,500 letters), twenty-seven boxes of photographs and postcards (approx. 2,200 photos), a collection of visiting cards, one album of Christmas cards, five boxes of official documents, three photo albums and one album of postcards. There are also three albums, one large-size folder and five boxes of newspapers clippings (the last containing approx. 350 clippings). The bequest was fully cataloged in 2009 in a project funded by the Deutsche Forschnungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation). All holdings can be researched in the online catalog.

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