Tesoros Escondidos: Hidden Treasures from the Mexican Collections

Past Exhibition

Tesoros Escondidos presents a selection of the most beautiful, rare, and well-documented objects from Mexico preserved by the Hearst Museum. Although these important pieces have been accumulating since the Museum's founding in 1901, only a few have ever been exhibited before. 

The Collection

From important early collections from museum founder Phoebe A. Hearst and her friend Zelia Nuttall, archaeologist and ethnohistorian, the Mexican collections have now grown to about 3,000 ethnographic objects, in addition to thousands of archaeological artifacts. Much of the Museum's Mexican holdings was gathered by George M. Foster, UC professor of anthropology (1953-79), along with his many students and colleagues. Other prominent collectors were Donald and Dorothy Cordry, who donated a large collection of masks, and Katharine Jenkins, who collected lacquerware and a wide range of folk crafts.

The collections are quite comprehensive, including objects from the Indian peoples, the majority mestizo (mixed Spanish and Indian) population, as well as the Hispanic elites. While some objects were created self-consciously as tourist and folk arts for sale to outsiders, much of the collection was made for use in daily life. A wide range of forms and media is represented, with regional strengths in the central and southern states. While most of the items were collected in the 1950s and 1960s, some pieces date as far back as the seventeenth century.

The Exhibition

Objects were first selected on their individual merits, and then grouped by their primary function within Mexican culture. In this format, objects from all over the country and many periods are placed together. At the same time, an effort was made to include as wide a range as possible of materials, forms, uses, and regions.

With room here for only a sampling, the Hearst Museum looks forward to future opportunities of uncovering its Mexican treasures.

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