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This Thanksgiving, celebrate cultural diversity by diving into the eHRAF World Cultures Database. A rich and dynamic resource available to all UK Libraries users, the database contains descriptive information on over 360 cultures and ethnic groups from around the world.

Each of these over 360 groups has its own “culture collection” made up of books, dissertations, journal articles, and essays, mostly written by anthropologists in the field, that provide in-depth accounts of the group’s cultural and social life. All together, the database contains nearly 1 million pages of these source materials.

eHRAF World Culture’s distinctive feature is that each and every paragraph across those nearly 1 million pages has been tagged by experts with a “subject identifier code” that highlights the key topics covered in the paragraph.

With every paragraph indexed according to subject, the database allows for very precise searches. Not only can users retrieve granular, topic-related information from within a particular culture collection, they can also use paragraph-level searches to compare topics across cultures.

These subject tags are derived from the Outline of Cultural Materials, an ethnographic subject-classification system developed in the 1940s by anthropologist George Peter Murdock, and cover every facet of cultural and social life. 

The classification system contains over 90 major categories – spanning Language, Agriculture, Building & Construction, Arts, Family, and Law – divided into over 700 subcategories. The major category of Leather, Textiles, & Fabrics, for example, contains subcategories such as Cordage, Knots & Lashings, Mats & Basketry, Woven Fabrics, Nonwoven Fabrics, and more. 

eHRAF World Culture’s power lies precisely in this intersection of specificity and breadth: users can find every paragraph containing information about knot-making – or 700 other subjects – from cultures across the globe, and effortlessly compare cultural and social practices between groups. Find all of the subjects covered in eHRAF World Cultures.

Cultures and ethnic groups in the database are organized by region, subregion, and subsistence types, and every year 20-30 cultures with approximately 40,000 pages are added to eHRAF World Cultures.

The database is useful to a wide variety of disciplines across the social sciences, humanities, and medicine, and ideal for interdisciplinary and cross-cultural studies.

Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) is a nonprofit organization internationally recognized in the field of cultural anthropology for its expert-indexed databases and research, teaching, and learning tools. Established in 1949 at Yale University, HRAF is made up of universities, libraries, and research institutions and is dedicated to the understanding and celebration of cultural diversity.  

Along with eHRAF World Cultures, HRAF also produces the eHRAF Archaeology database and open access resources including Explaining Human Culture and Teaching eHRAF.

Users can find even more print and electronic resources for cultural studies in UK Libraries’ Social Sciences Databases and Social Sciences Research Guides.

For help developing research topics, honing research questions, selecting databases, conducting literature reviews, and navigating the research process in Anthropology and related fields, contact the Social Sciences Subject Support Team at Users can find more tailored research support across all disciplines on our Librarians by Subject page.