Anthropology and the Lowie Museum

Burton Benedict
he Lowie Museum of Anthropology houses the largest collection of anthropological materials of any museum west of Chicago. Its resources attract researchers from around the world. Yet the public, and even students at the Berkeley campus, scarcely know it exists. In no small measure, this problem is due to a history of obscurity and the Museum's present exceedingly modest accommodations. The Lowie Museum is reputed to have the smallest exhibition space (c. 4000 square feet) in relation to the size of its collections (c. 4 million items) of any museum in the United States. How did this unenviable distinction arise? The Museum was founded in 1901 by Phoebe Apperson Hearst (1842-1919) who supported both the Museum and the Department of Anthropology for seven years, until the University took them over.


Mrs. Hearst's travels to Europe had aroused her interest in classical and Egyptian archaeology, and she had begun a collection, but she did not simply collect in the rather indiscriminate way of her son, William Randolph Hearst. She financed scientific expeditions whose well-documented collections continue to yield important research data. Her interest resulted in what is today the Lowie Museum of Anthropology and five of its finest collections. In 1899, Mrs. Hearst financed an Egyptian expedition under the direction of the Egyptologist George A. Reisner. Reisner carefully documented his excavations with both written notes and photographs, a pioneering procedure in his day. The resulting 17,500 catalogued items cover a period from predynastic times to the end of the New Kingdom and constitute one of the most significant collections in the United States. Much research has been published on this col-

lection, and it continues to be a rich resource for Egyptologists. In that same year, Mrs. Hearst financed a second expedition, this tune to Peru, under the direction of the archaeologist, Max Uhle. His fieldwork resulted in a carefully documented collection of more than 9500 objects, especially pottery and textiles, dating from about 1000 B.C. to Spanish colonial times. This collection is a continuing source for research. A more unusual research project for its time was the investigation of California archaeology and ethnography carried out by Philip M. Jones beginning in 1900 and again financed by Mrs. Hearst His collections were expanded and documented by Alfred L. Kroeber and his students, most notably by Robert F. Heizer. Today they consist of more than 250,000 catalogued entries, the largest and most important collection of these materials in the world. In 1901, Mrs. Hearst sent Alfred Emerson, a professor of classics, to Europe to make a collection of classical antiquities including casts of Greek and Roman sculpture. The 4200 items of this collection were augmented from Mrs. Hearst's own collection, so that today the Museum has over 7800 pieces from the ancient Mediterranean world. In 1902, Phoebe Hearst financed Gustavus Eisen to go to Guatemala to collect textiles. These, and supplemental collections in the Lowie, provide a study collection spanning a century and have inspired two recent publications (Schevill 1985, in press). Other Hearst donations included European portrait miniatures, Joseph Henry Sharp paintings of American Indians, oriental carpets, Kashmir shawls, European laces and objects from the Arctic, Latin America and Oceania. During her lifetime and by her will Mrs.

Exterior of the Lowie Museum, University of California, Berkeley. Museum Anthropology, Vol. 15, no. 4

bers rarely exceeded in recent years. It was in this building that Ishi, the last Yahi Indian, resided from 1911 until his death in 1916. The collections were moved back to Berkeley in 1931 and placed in storage. Except for occasional small exhibitions, the Museum virtually disappeared from public view for almost 30 years. In 1960 the Museum was moved into a new building. The building was named for Alfred Kroeber, who was still I ive, and the Museum for Portrait jar. Ruins ofMoche, Proto-Chimu period. Robert H. Lowie, Collected by M. Uhle and donated by P. A. Hearst. who had died in 1957. Although Hearst gave the Museum more than Lowie was a notable anthropologist, he 60,000 items. had not been particularly associated with the Museum during his lifetime. The MuThe Museum Building seum occupies only a small fraction of Mrs. Hearst's collections were at first Kroeber Hall, which is chiefly devoted to deposited in a small cotta e on the Berthe departments of Anthropology and Art keley campus, but they soon overflowed Practice. Large parts of the collections this accommodation. In 1902 they were are housed in other buildings, one of transferred to a frame building with a which is some three miles from the camcorrugated iron roof which Mrs. Hearst pus. had paid for. Basically, it was a storage This accommodation falls far short of facility with a little exhibition space. It the conception of Mrs. Hearst and the soon became inadequate. In 1903, the Regents, who "contemplated a splendid whole collection, except for the casts of structure on the University grounds at classical sculpture, was moved to San Berkeley, opposite to and balancing the Francisco into an unoccupied law school University Library" (UCPAAE 1923: building on what was then the Affiliated xii). In her will of 1911, Mrs. Hearst Colleges of the University of California. bequeathed $500,000 toward this end, In 1911 a Museum was formally opened in this building, and regular lectures for but she canceled the bequest six years adults and children were inaugurated after writing it due, it would appear, to The Museum was open six days a week the large debts run up by her son. In and attracted from 10,000 to 30,000 visi1918, she canceled his debts to her, and tors annually (UCPAAE 1923: xi), numin return asked that he "agree to pay me

$300,000, which I want for a definite purpose to construct a building to house my collections at Berkeley." (Wheeler papers, 1921, Bancroft Library quoted in Robinson 1991: 381). The building was never constructed. The Collections Magnificent as the Hearst collections are, they are not the only glories of the Lowie Museum. One of the earliest acquisitions was the collection of 2400 Eskimo and Aleut artifacts given to the Museum by the Alaska Commercial Company in 1898. The company, which outfitted prospectors for the fur trade, had trading posts in Alaska and encouraged its employees to acquire indigenous artifacts. The collection is particularly rich in Eskimo masks, ivory carvings and arctic clothing. Many pieces from it have been published and a catalogue raisonne' of the whole collection is being prepared under the direction of Professor Nelson H. H. Graburn. Other important collections are: the Edward W. Gifford collections of Oceanic archaeology, the R. F. Barton collection of Philippine Islands ethnography, the Kroeber collection of Mohave pottery, the Louis A. Allen collection of Australian Aboriginal art, the Malinowski collection of Trobriand Islands artifacts, the Brian Shekeloff collection of rural Japanese domestic and agricultural implements, the William Bascom collection of African art, and the collections of ancient Near Eastern seals and clay tablets, East Asian, South Asian and Southeast Asian artifacts, Northwest Coast Indian artifacts, Wfestern and Northern Mexican material, British ceramics, New Guinea sculptures from the Guam river area, native American textiles from the Southwest, Southwestern pottery and the osteological collections. The photographic archives of the Lowie contain over 58,000 negatives, including what is probably the most extensive historical photograph collection of extant California Indians. In addition, there are more than 53,000 color transparencies. The photographic laboratory produces approximately 10,000 negatives, prints and slides per annum. The Museum Anthropology, Vol. 15, no. 4


sively in teaching at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. In die period 1987 through 1989, Lowie materials were used in teaching 103 university courses in the fields of anthropology, classics, Egyptology, forestry, geography, history, history of art, library and information studies, linguistics, music, Native American studies and Near Eastern studies. However, since about the middle of this century, social and cultural anthropologists have shown little interest in material culture. They have left the museums to the archaeologists, the art historians and the public. Recently there has been a renewed interest in the cultural contexts of objects, not just as found in their cultures of origin, but as seen in museum displays (Price 1989). This involves the whole question of how other cultures are presented. The repatriation issue and questions of national and ethnic identity also have focused renewed attention on museums (Freed 1991; Clifford 1988; Schildkrout 1991). Emerging specializations such as die study of tourism and the objects made for tourists, the interaction between traditional arts and crafts and the emergence of "native" artists have given a new thrust, indeed, a new meaning to die study of "primitive art" (Ames 1990). The political symbolism of "traditional" objects and their use in the invention of traditions (Nora 1984; Hobsbawm & Ranger 1983) is attracting scholarly interest. The use of objects as status markers has long been studied, but the subject is far from exhausted. The distinction beteween "high" and popular culture can be given cultural and historical perspective through the study of objects. Ephemeral, "transitional" objects are particularly important for anthropology museums to collect, and the Lowie is making such collections, like a set of baskets made from multicolored telephone wire collected by a graduate student recently returned from fieldwork in South Africa. Exhibitions Academic Uses of the Lowie The archaeological, osteological and ethnographic collections are used extenExhibitions are as much the result of research as monographs, books or articles. All show what the research has ac-

Prince Vkpemnofret's funerary stela. Excavated at Giza by G.A. Reisner and donated by PA. Hearst. Museum has some 16,500 paintings, drawings and prints. The more than 300,000 running feet of ethnographic film which the Museum possesses include the unique records of four major Navajo ceremonies filmed by S. A. Barrett in 1963. In the course of their fieldwork, Kroeber and his students recorded texts and songs on wax cylinders. Some are in languages which have all but disappeared. They have been copied onto tape. The Museum has 327S ethnic sound recordings. The California Indian Project The California Indian Library Collections Project, under the direction of Dr. Lee Davis, is sponsored by the Museum. It aims to create in each of California's 58 county libraries a fully catalogued collection of archival photographs, photographs of museum artifacts, field notes, sound recordings, old journal articles and books of materials pertaining to the indigenous peoples of that county. So far collections have been delivered to Fresno, Lake, Madera and Del Norte counties, as well as a comprehensive collection to the State Library in Sacramento. Organization of the Museum The Museum is an organized research unit of the University and a separate entity from the Department of Anthroplogy. The Director reports to the Provost for Research. There is an advisory committee, but no board of trustees. The director of the Museum has always been a professor of anthroplogy. In recent years his (they have all been male) appointment has varied from 75% to 90% in the Museum. The nine curators are all volunteers, which means they are able to devote only a limited amount of time to the Museum. They come from the departments of Anthropology, Classics and Near Eastern studies. The staff of 14 includes two research anthropologists, a conservator, a photographer, an education officer, a development director, a grants writer, an artist and curatorial and administrative staff. The Museum receives substantial help from work-study students and volunteers. They represent an essential element of the Museum work force.

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complished, what evidence has been advanced for various hypotheses. While there can be research without exhibition, there cannot be exhibition without research. Increasingly, exhibitions are accompanied by a scholarly catalogue helping them win their legitimate place as academic pursuits. The fact that exhibitions are now being reviewed in the American Anthropologist is a sign of this trend.

permanent record in time and space of human diversity through its collections, and 3) to present and interpret the facts, principles and controversies in the fields of anthropology and related disciplines to the university community and the public at large. As already indicated, research and exhibition are intimately linked. To further these aims, the Museum created a five year plan for 1990-95. The Lowie intends to increase its exhibition, storage and research space by adding a wing to A forthcoming Lcrwie exhibition, The Integrative Art of Modern Thailand will its present premises. Additional exhibition space has been made available at the examine the ways contemporary Thai artBehring-Hofmann Educational Institute at ists are integrating modern creative art Blackhawk in Danville, some 25 miles with classical, folk, tourist and commerfrom Berkeley, where a new museum to cial-decorative art. Professor Herbert P. exhibit University collections has been Phillips, who conceived and researched built. An inaugural exhibition showing the project, will bring works from Thaiabout 300 objects from the Lowie opened land for this traveling exhibit which will with the building in June, 1991. A high be accompanied by a scholarly catalogue. priority for the Lowie is to computerize A second exhibition by Professor Wilits collections. A scheme is now in train liam S. Simmons will examine the effects which will eventually include imaging faof Columbus' voyage on California. It cilities. A publication program for occawill show through the use of early docusional papers has begun with the volume ments, artifacts, maps, and graphic art of the Eisen collection of Guatemalan how, in the wake of Columbus, the Spantextiles. The Museum has also been aciards coming from the south, the Rustive in acquiring grants and attracting fisians from the north and the Anglos from nancial support from interested the east each encountered different individuals and organizations. To this end groups of California Indians. Each had a development director was appointed in different purposes and different modes of January, 1989. The centenary of the operation, and this disparity profoundly Lowie is only a decade away. By that affected Indian-White interaction. A time we hope the Museum will have asscholarly catalogue will accompany the sumed its rightful place as the most imexhibition. portant anthropological museum in the West. • In addition to shows in the main exhibition hall, the Museum mounts exhibits References in the lobby and hallway of Kroeber Hall, in the anthropology library and in the main library. Ames, Michael M. 1990 Cultural Empowerment and Museums: Opening Up Anthropology The Future Through Collaboration. In Susan Pearce, The mission of the Lowie Museum is: ed. Objects of Knowledge: New Research 1) to conduct research in anthropology in Museum Studies. London: Athlone Press. and related disciplines, 2) to provide a

Clifford, James 1988 The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Freed, Stanley A. 1991 Everyone Is Breathing on Our Vitrines: Problems and Prospects of Museum Anthropology. Curator 34(1). Hobsbawn, Eric and Terrence Ranger (eds.) 1983 The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Nora, Pierre (ed.) 1984 Les Lieux de Memoire: I La Republique. Paris: Gallimard. Price, Sally 1989 Primitive Art in Civilized Places. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. Robinson, Judith 1991 The Hearsts: An American Dynasty. Newark: University of Delaware Press. Schevill, Margot 1985 Evolution in Textile Design from the Highlands of Guatemala. The Occasional Papers, Number 1. Berkeley: Lowie Museum of Anthropology. In press Maya Textiles of Guatemala: The Gustavus A. Eisen Collection: 1902. Austin: University of Texas Press. Schildkrout, Enid 1991 Ambiguous Messages and Ironic Twists: Into the Heart of Africa and The Other Museum. Museum Anthropology 15(2). University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 1923 Phoebe Apperson Hearst Memorial Volume, 20. Berkeley: University of California Press.


Museum Anthropology, Vol. 15, no. 4

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