Collections: Central and South America

Mexico was another personal collecting interest of both Phoebe Hearst and her friend, the anthropologist Zelia Nuttall. Beginning with their efforts, the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology has amassed the largest museum collection of the finely-woven Saltillo serape blankets in the world. Nuttall also donated some important lacquered items, carved gourds, and textiles. These were studied by Katherine D. Jenkins, a student in the Decorative Art department. Jenkins went on to amass her own extensive collection of Mexican folk art, especially lacquer, during the 1960s and 1970s.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, anthropology professor George M. Foster collected pottery from his prime fieldwork site of Tzintzuntzan, Michoacan. He made a comprehensive representation of Mexican folk art, along with pottery and other crafts from Jalisco contributed by his graduate students. The Museum’s strength in Mexican folk art has recently been expanded upon by the acquisition of two large collections, both primarily ceramics.

Without doubt, one of the great treasures of the Latin American collections are the Guatemalan textiles, representing over a century of acquisitions. After the comprehensive and well-documented collection (the largest from the 19th century) gathered by Gustavus A. Eisen in 1902, came textile scholar Lila O’Neale’s study collection of 1936. A highlight of the South American collections are those assembled by Michael Harner from the Shuar (Jivaro) and related peoples of rain-forest Bolivia and Peru.

 

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