HRAF Timeline

For over 60 years, HRAF has served the educational community and contributed to an understanding of world cultures by assembling, indexing, and providing access to primary research materials relevant to the social sciences, as well as by stimulating and facilitating training and research in these fields. The following timeline shows some of the major highlights throughout the history of the Human Relations Area Files.

Teaching eHRAF revamped

August 20, 2017

Teaching eHRAF revamped

Teaching eHRAF, the collection of companion teaching exercises for eHRAF World Cultures, eHRAF Archaeology and Explaining Human Culture, got a new look and feel in August 2017.

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HRAF expands collaboration with D-PLACE

July 1, 2016

HRAF expands collaboration with D-PLACE

D-PLACE is an expandable and open-access database that brings together a dispersed corpus of information on the geography, language, culture, and environment of over 1400 human societies. In July 2016, it became easier than ever to follow links from the coded data in D-PLACE directly into the eHRAF World Cultures.

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Explaining Human Culture

June 24, 2016

Explaining Human Culture

In the summer of 2016, HRAF launched Explaining Human Culture, an open access database containing information on over 800 cross-cultural studies spanning more than 100 years. EHC provides a searchable way for researchers to find out what we have learned from previous cross-cultural research about cultural universals and differences.

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Introducing Cross-Cultural Research

June 23, 2016

Introducing Cross-Cultural Research

In 2016, HRAF diversified its product offerings with new open-access resources for learning and teaching. Introducing Cross-Cultural Research is a visual online course on the fundamentals of cross-cultural research produced by Carol Ember, HRAF President.

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Citations and Permalinks added to eHRAF

May 14, 2015

Citations and Permalinks added to eHRAF

In 2015, quick and easy citations and document permalinks were added to the eHRAF databases, making saving and sharing documents and search results a snap.

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New HRAF homepage launches

March 11, 2014

New HRAF homepage launches

The Human Relations Area Files homepage was re-launched with a fresh new look and design. The new URL, hraf.yale.edu, is now home to the eHRAF Highlights anthropology blog, user guides, teaching exercises and pages of information about cross-cultural research. It has quickly become an indispensable companion to the eHRAF databases.

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New eHRAF World Cultures application online

February 1, 2008

New eHRAF World Cultures application online

On February 1, 2008, HRAF began hosting its own application, re-titled eHRAF World Cultures.

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eHRAF Archaeology goes online

January 1, 1999

eHRAF Archaeology goes online

eHRAF Archaeology became HRAF’s second electronic database. It has been building solely in electronic format since 1999. Expanding annually, this database covers major archaeological traditions and many more sub-traditions and sites around the world. Learn more.

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First online eHRAF Collection of Ethnography opens

January 1, 1997

First online eHRAF Collection of Ethnography opens

The first online version of the eHRAF Collection of Ethnography was available in 1997 and was hosted by the Digital Library Production Service at the University of Michigan.

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Cross-cultural CDs available

September 1, 1993

Cross-cultural CDs available

In 1993, the first installment of the full-text HRAF Collection of Ethnography on CD-ROM (eHRAF) was issued to members. The Cross-Cultural CDs provided researchers with ten collections on such topics as old age, marriage, religion, and human sexuality, excerpted from HRAF’s Sixty Culture Probability Sample Files (PSF). The CDs were discontinued in 2001.

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Microfiche no longer produced

January 1, 1993

Microfiche no longer produced

The HRAF Collection of Ethnography was originally distributed as paper files. From the early 1960s until 1994, most members received their annual installments on microfiche.

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HRAF goes electronic

September 9, 1980

In the 1980s, HRAF began developing an electronic publishing program with the intention of distributing the Collection of Ethnography exclusively through electronic means.

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HRAF Files distributed in microfiche

January 1, 1958

HRAF Files distributed in microfiche

Wider distribution of the HRAF Collection of Ethnography was facilitated in 1958 with the development of the HRAF Microfiche Files.

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HRAF Collection of Ethnography paper files released

June 1, 1949

HRAF Collection of Ethnography paper files released

From 1949 to 1958, the HRAF Collection of Ethnography was produced and distributed as paper files: source materials were manually reproduced on 5″ x 8″ paper slips called File pages, and then indexed by subject (OCM) category and filed by culture.

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HRAF founded

May 7, 1949

HRAF founded

Human Relations Area Files, Inc. has been a financially autonomous research agency based at Yale University since 1949. On February 26, 1949, delegates from Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Oklahoma, the University of Washington, and Yale University met in New Haven, Connecticut to pledge their membership in a new nonprofit research consortium to be based at Yale. On May 7, 1949, the HRAF consortium was formally established.

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Researchers begin work on Cross-Cultural Survey

January 1, 1935

Researchers begin work on Cross-Cultural Survey

In 1935, a small group of researchers at the interdisciplinary Institute of Human Relations, Yale University, under the direction of the Institute’s Director, Mark A. May, and Professor George Peter Murdock, began to design a system that would allow the rapid retrieval of information on a broad range of societies. The resulting Cross-Cultural Survey would become the foundation for the HRAF Collection of Ethnography.

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