Fonds F0116 - Dr. Richard Forbis fonds

Identity area

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Dr. Richard Forbis fonds


  • 1919-1999, predominantly 1950-1988 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

5.62 m of textual records
1397 photographs
308 slides
9 negatives
9 contact sheets
6 laserprints

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Dr. Richard (Dick) George Forbis was born July 30, 1924 in Missoula, Montana to Clarence Jenks and Josephine Hunt Forbis. He completed his secondary schooling in Missoula. During the Second World War, Dr. Forbis was seriously injured in the Battle of the Bulge, however by the fall of 1945 he had recovered and resumed his studies at the University of Montana. He earned a BA in 1949 and an MA in 1950, both in Sociology, from that institution. Dr. Forbis obtained his PhD in Anthropology at Columbia University in 1955. His dissertation fieldwork was initiated at the MacHaffie site in Montana. While at Columbia, Dr. Forbis also spent a year as a research associate, participating in the Signal Butte site excavations in Nebraska.

Richard Forbis joined the Glenbow Museum in 1957 as an archaeological anthroplogist after being selected by Eric Harvie, the founder of the Glenbow Foundation in Calgary, to develop an archaeological research program for the institution. In 1960, he married a Glenbow employee, Marjorie Chown, with whom he raised 3 children, Michael, David and Amanda. The same year as his marriage, Dr. Forbis accepted a part time position at the University of Calgary as a sessional instructor, before joining the faculty as a full time associate professor in 1965. Subsequently, he and his colleague Richard S. "Scotty" MacNeish created a new department, detaching archaeology (the study of historic or prehistoric people) from anthropology (the sudy of mankind). This was Canada's first university department devoted solely to instruction in archaeology. During his years at the university, Dr. Forbis taught hundreds of students in such classes as Archaeology of the Great Plains, General Anthropology, and Physical Anthropology. He also served on theses and dissertation committees for 25 graduate students and acted as intermittent head of the Department of Archaeology many times; he was head of the Department in 1968-1969. Throughout his teaching career Dr. Forbis continued to act as a consultant for the Glenbow Foundation.

A pioneering archaeologist and prehistorian, whose principal research interests included early man, archaeology of North America, the northern Great Plains, communal hunting, human adaptations to grasslands and protohistory, Dr. Forbis was responsible for the first systematic programme of archaeological investigation in Alberta. He was directly responsible for many projects in the province including: Old Woman's Buffalo Jump, the Fletcher site, the Upper and Lower Kills, the Cluny Earthlodge Village site, the British Block Cairn, the Taber Hominid site and the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. In addition, his interest in communal hunting and human adaptations to grasslands led him, in collaboration with Robert W. Neuman, to field research in Argentina, Mexico, Peru and China.

Dr. Forbis' career spanned nearly 40 years of undergraduate and graduate student education, research, publication and service to both archaeological and anthropological societies and associations, as well as the public. In 1970 he was the visiting senior scientist at the National Museum of Man in Ottawa, and as Chairman of the Public Hearings into the Conservation of Historical and Archaeological Resources in Alberta (1972) he played a critical role in the development of the Alberta Historical Resources Act. Dr. Forbis was also a scholar on the Environment Conservation Authority of Alberta and a member of the Province of Alberta Historic Sites Board. In addition, he was the Killam Memorial Scholar in 1977, and the recipient of many awards, including the Alberta Achievement Award, the Canadian Archaeological Association's Smith-Wintenberg Award, the Society for American Archaeology's 50th Anniversary Achievement Award, and the 1999 Plains Anthropological Society Distinguished Service Award. In 1999 the Richard G. Forbis Paleoindian Research Fund was established by the Museum of the Rockies, Montana State University-Bozeman, to further investigations Dr. Forbis had initiated at the MacHaffie Paleoindian site in 1949.

Called the "Father of Alberta Archaeology" for his pioneering contributions to Northern Plains archaeological science, Dr. Forbis died on October 2, 1999 at the age of 75.

Archival history

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Content and structure area

Scope and content

Fonds consists of personal and professional records created and collected by Dr. Richard Forbis. The records relate to many aspects of Forbis' career as an archaeologist, educator and academic.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

The fonds is divided into the following series:

  • Correspondence
  • Archaeological work and professional activities
  • Teaching materials
  • Scholarly materials
  • Personal records
  • Photographs and slides.

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      Some records are in French and Spanish

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          Accession area