From the Maker’s Hand: Selections from the Permanent Collection

Maker's Hand image

Past exhibition

For millennia, humans have fashioned objects with their hands. Each has a purpose—they may help produce and prepare food, clothe bodies, offer entertainment, communicate with the gods, and beautify the world. The record of human artistry reveals a diverse range of creativity across cultures, with fundamental similarities as well as differences.

Anthropology museums preserve this rich human record. Such museums strive to present objects in the contexts of their original makers and users. Only then can we properly come to understand and appreciate these objects.

In two museum galleries, the Hearst presents some of its major collections. The first gallery features objects from living and historical cultures, while the second presents archaeological collections from ancient civilizations. With the adjacent Native California Cultures gallery, this display offers our visitors an overview of the range of human creativity. These displays are complemented by the presentations in our changing galleries, devoted to thematic exhibits.

Drawing from collections of almost 4 million objects, from most of the globe and from ancient times to the present, this display can only be suggestive. In the future, other cultures and collections will be featured online.


The museum's substantial African collections are due primarily to William R. Bascom. When he arrived in Berkeley in 1957 as professor of anthropology and director of the Museum, there were about 1,500 catalog entries from Africa; by the time of his retirement in 1979 the total had grown to 14,000 (and now numbers about 16,000). This included hundreds of objects that he and his wife had donated, as well as those acquired by his graduate students. Bascom's own focus was the Yoruba of Nigeria, whom he first visited in 1937. His Yoruba collection, one of the largest and most comprehensive in the country, is rich in both domestic objects and fine ritual sculpture. The Museum's regional strength is from West Africa, but there are also important collections from the Central and Eastern portions of the continent.

Visit Online Exhibition