The Norman Hinds Collection

April 5th, 2017 | Focus on the Collection

One of the most fascinating of the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology’s collections was made by Norman Hinds in the American Southwest in the 1930s. This comprehensive overview was gathered during a fertile period of Native artistic experimentation.

Norman E. A. Hinds (1893–1961) spent his entire career at UC Berkeley, as a professor of geology, from 1923 to 1959. A very popular lecturer, he specialized in geomorphology, especially of the Grand Canyon area. During his extensive travels in the region, Hinds developed a passionate interest in its Native inhabitants. Despite his well-documented collection, however, these people were not mere objects of study. He advocated on their behalf for water rights and represented them in negotiations with the government.

Norman Hinds was closest to the people of Tesuque Pueblo, just north of Santa Fe, New Mexico. As an initiated member of the tribe, he participated in their kiva ceremonies and adopted a nine-year old boy. His son, Patrick Swazo Hinds (1929–1974), grew up in Berkeley but returned to the Pueblo every summer. In 1958, he became a professional painter and print-maker. His own son—Norman’s grandson—is Mark Swazo Hinds, who is also an artist, focusing on fetish sculptures.

The Hinds collection includes about 270 objects, accessioned between 1938 and 1953. Primarily from Arizona and New Mexico, it includes a wide range of objects—pottery, baskets, blankets, kachina dolls, rattles and drums, toys, and wood carvings—and cultures, from most of the Pueblos (such as Taos, San Ildefonso, Tesuque, Cochiti, Santo Domingo, San Juan, Santa Clara, Acoma, Zuni, and Hopi), other Southwest groups (Pima, Papago, Walapai, Maricopa, Navajo, and Apache), as well as California and Hispanic peoples. There is also a collection of prehistoric pottery shards, a set of watercolor paintings, and his own color slides.

With 92 objects, the largest tribal representation in the Hinds collection comes from Tesuque. As an expression of his scientific interests, Hinds gathered a series of objects demonstrating the materials, tools, and stages in the construction of Hopi pottery. The pottery includes works by leading artists, such as San Ildefonso’s Maria Martinez and Santa Clara’s Margaret Tafoya.

One of the most important components of the collection are the 38 watercolor paintings (from Tesuque, Cochiti, Jemez, San Ildefonso, Santo Domingo, and Hopi). These works on paper were created as commercial fine art. There are also a number of amateur works, most interestingly several examples of children’s art from Tesuque. In fact, most of the paintings in the collection are by young artists.

Though little-known, the collection of paintings at the Museum is one of the largest in an American anthropology museum. The works donated by Norman Hinds—at the heart of those from Native America—still have much to teach us.