HRAF’s 2015 Year in Review and 2016 Preview

Staff Photo - 14 Jan 2016

HRAF 2016 staff photo. Left to right from the back: Ian, Leon, Matt; Doug, Marilyn, Chris, Trish; Fran, Tef, Tahlisa; Maureen, Carol, Sarah. Not pictured: Christina. Photo credit: Paul Moore

Happy 2016! Another year has flown by here at HRAF. Since our last yearly review, we’ve been working hard to fulfill our goals. This year, we’re expanding on a number of new projects and initiatives that we would like to share.

Let’s begin with a brief summary of some of our high points from 2015.

Our homepage, developed entirely in-house, has seen a lot of new content added in 2015, such as new teaching exercises, FAQs, a fun HRAF Timeline that gives you a glance at our organization throughout the years, and the Games & Sports module in Explaining Human Culture. The eHRAF Highlights blog has really come into its own. Our most popular post last year featured an eHRAF-based study on different cultural perspectives on kissing: Romantic or Disgusting?

eHRAF database features and updates

The eHRAF World Cultures and Archaeology databases also received some important updates in 2015. We launched our new citations feature that allows you to quickly copy, save or export bibliographic information for all the documents in eHRAF at the click of a button. In case you missed it, documents now also have Permalinks for easy sharing.

Another notable feature for researchers is the ability to filter search results by Standard Cross-Cultural Sample, the most widely used sample in cross-cultural research, and find document matches to the time and place focus of the sample on the Document and Paragraph Results page(s).

We also added the facility in Add Cultures in Advanced Search to “Select All Cultures” by country to include them in your search all at once. Alongside improved print/email results with better output of section titles for ease of navigating and recording your sources and places within the text, these features make it easier than ever to conduct efficient searches and keep track of your results in eHRAF.

You might be surprised to learn that all of these database and interface improvements have been developed in-house by our very dedicated 2-person IT team: Doug Black and Matt Roth. As a small non-profit organization, we are thankful for the financial support of our member institutions that enables us to respond to member feedback and continue adding new features every year.

We haven’t forgotten about librarians: Also in 2015, HRAF partnered with EBSCO to incorporate eHRAF World Cultures and Archaeology into EBSCO’s Discovery Service. Catalog records for each of the cultures for eHRAF World Cultures and/or traditions for eHRAF Archaeology are also available in OCLC WorldCat. Learn more.

Award-winning services

In October, we were excited to announce that eHRAF World Cultures and eHRAF Archaeology were both rated highly recommended by Choice Reviews in their October 2015 issue. You can read our full announcement about this here. To add to this special recognition, both of our cross-cultural databases have also received Outstanding Academic Title awards from CHOICE Magazine and they were each voted one of the “Top 10 Internet Resources in 2015”.

HRAF staff news

On the staff side, HRAF welcomed two new research assistants, Tahlisa and Christina, who are working on a variety of projects including our expanding Explaining Human Cultures summary modules and cross-cultural research guides. We were also joined on-site by social anthropologist Fran Barone, who has worked with HRAF since 2013 on expanding our social media engagement and is now also contributing to the development of eHRAF.

In November, HRAF attended the AAA  Annual Meeting in Denver, CO. Carol Ember, Ian Skoggard and Teferi Adem presented papers at their panel on Climate Change and Natural Hazards, while Chris Cunnar represented HRAF in the exhibitions hall.

We finished out the year with the HRAF Holiday Party. You can see photos from the party on our Facebook. For this special occasion, we invited our former colleague, John Beierle and his wife Esther. John, who worked as analyst since the early years of HRAF and indexed many of the documents found in the current version of the eHRAF World Cultures database, just recently retired. We took the holiday party as an opportunity to ask John to help us identify locations and people in a HRAF vintage movie from our archives. Stay tuned as the movie and more about HRAF’s history will soon be available on our homepage.


We already have a great deal planned for 2016. Here’s what’s coming soon:

Our annual culture and tradition installment will be out in batches in the Spring. Information will be available here and here when the installment is complete.

Carol Ember, with the help of Tahlisa and Christina, has been reworking our guide to cross-cultural research with a brand new Online Course in Cross Cultural Research Methods. Each chapter of the course will be illustrated with a colorful presentation (PDF format) covering the key aspects of cross-cultural research methods.

Another new Explaining Human Cultures module, Altered States of Consciousness, will be released this spring. Plus, an even bigger addition to Explaining Human Cultures is on the horizon: a database of previous cross-cultural findings for comparative research. Over 900 studies will be included in the database that will allow for searching of previously conducted cross-cultural research along with hypotheses that have been tested or supported. We’ll make a full announcement of this new service later in the year.

Also in the works from our development team, HRAF’s curated Outline of Cultural Materials will be refreshed with an interactive HTML view. This planned development will make it easier than ever to find, navigate, share and utilize the Outline of Cultural Materials thesaurus, the backbone of eHRAF’s unique indexing system, both within and outside of the search interface.

Last year, we began making improvements to our user guides. This year, we will soon be ready to reveal our brand new help documentation that has been reformatted top to bottom to include every aspect of the eHRAF databases. We hope that these new guides will make learning and using eHRAF easier than ever before, whether for personal, classroom or library use.

Other things to look forward to this year are posts about HRAF’s long and fascinating history in anthropology. We’ve uncovered some great photos and videos to share. HRAF staff will also be attending the SAA and ALA conferences as well as giving papers at the SAS meeting for the SfAA and Society for Cross Cultural Research meetings.

Thank you again to our members for your support!