Collections: Asia and Near East

The Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology’s holdings from Asia began with Phoebe Hearst’s own interest in the continent, especially of Kashmiri shawls and other textiles, and of objets d’art such as Japanese netsuke belt-toggles. There was also a great deal from Asia in the decorative art department collection, transferred in 1974, particularly from the great interest in this region from local arts patron Albert M. Bender. Many of the Asian collections came as transfers in the late 1960s from the University Library and the Art Gallery.

The Asian collections were stimulated with the rise of an anthropology of peasants in the 1950s and 60s. Objects from India represent the Museum’s best documented and most comprehensive collections from the continent, coming primarily from several graduate students in the late 1960s and early 1970s: Ronald Maduro in Rajasthan, Niloufer Ichaporia collecting among her own Parsi community in Bombay and Gujarat, and Richard Lerner’s collection of domestic crafts from Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. In 2001, the Museum was one of the Berkeley campus units to receive part of the collection (domestic and ritual objects, still photographs) made by pioneering religious scholar Theos Bernard in Tibet in 1937.

The Museum has one of the country’s largest Philippines collections, including accessions from noted scholars such as David Barrows, Roy Barton, and Harold Conklin. Other notable Southeast Asia collections include the Minangkabau of Sumatra (Nancy Tanner), the Chin of western Burma (Herbert Wehrly), and Vietnamese textiles (Eric Crystal).

China and Japan are among the best-represented areas of Asia in the Museum. Most of the extensive Chinese collection comprises decorative art from the late Qing dynasty (1644–1911). From Japan, notable are the collection of folk art made by artist Brian Shekeloff, and the design department collections of lacquer and folk pottery.

From the Near East (Western Asia), the principal collection consists of about a thousand ancient Babylonian clay tablets—most containing cuneiform inscriptions—gathered around 1930 by Professor Henry F. Lutz, the Egyptology curator. Other archaeological collections from the region include bronzes and pottery from Luristan, Iran, and objects excavated by Peter Cornwall in Bahrain and eastern Saudi Arabia in the early 1940s.

 

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