By Kathleen Maclay, Media Relations
show: "A Century of Collecting"
Berkeley - The funeral stela made for ancient Egyptian
Prince Wepemnofret has traveled to museums around the world. Now, at
its home at the University of California, Berkeley, it's making a rare
public appearance as the campus observes the first 100 years of its
Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology.
Also greeting visitors, at the entrance, is a diorite vision of Sekhmet,
a goddess of war, epidemics and doctors, and a bust of museum benefactress
Phoebe Hearst. "Wepe" is further back, by a papyrus-stuffed crocodile
created in homage to the principal deity of Tebtunis during the Ptolemaic
period. Around a corner is a clay tableau made by a Mexican artist of
a grieving ceremony complete with survivors, a man in a coffin, a candle
and two angels.
Nearby rests the 101-page Aryakaranavyuha sutra, an elegantly-bound
text about compassion and mercy and the first Buddhist text translated
into Tibetan. An adjacent case contains an elk antler spoon made in
1994 by a contemporary carver from the Hupa and Yurok tribes, and around
the corner, an Eskimo shaman's mask reflects the skeletal form necessary
for supernatural voyages.
The centennial exhibit's contrasts and connections are sometimes subtle,
"We're trying to teach people a little bit of anthropology and a little
bit of history with multiple voices, combining objects, research and
culture," said Patrick V. Kirch, director of the largest and oldest
anthropological museum in the West.
"The history of the Hearst's collections is, in a microcosm, a history
of the intellectual engagement between anthropology and material culture,"
Preparing the exhibit, featuring some 700 objects, was a daunting
task, as the museum's space dramatically fails to match the size and
value of its prized collection. The Hearst's limited gallery space can
accommodate less than one percent of its estimated 4 million artifacts,
and a former museum director once estimated that rotating all Hearst
objects into gallery displays would take 300 years.
"So much of what we have is hidden, unseen," agreed Ira Jacknis, an
associate research anthropologist and curator of the two exhibits that
opened Thursday. "You could go on and on with these great treasures,"
he said. "We have storerooms and storerooms of wonderful things never
The museum is located in Kroeber
Hall at the corner of Bancroft Way and College Avenue on the campus
of the University of California in Berkeley. The phone number is (510)
643-7648. Admission is $2 for adults, $1 for seniors, and $.50 for children
16 and under; admission is free for museum members, UC students, staff
and faculty and to the public on Thursdays. The museum is open Wednesday
through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday 12 noon to 4:30
p.m. It is closed Monday and Tuesday.
Objects on display in the "Century of Collecting" exhibit have been
carefully chosen from a collection that dates back to 4000 B.C. This
collage of artifacts, along with documentary field notes, photos and
maps, will remain open for at least a year at its Kroeber Hall gallery.
Paper and fiber objects are included, thanks to a just-installed gallery
climate control system to guard against deterioration.
Opening at the same time is "Native Californian Cultures," a permanent
exhibit of about 500 artifacts from the museum's California collections,
the largest and most comprehensive collections in the world devoted
to California Indian cultures.
This exhibit is located in a corner room once considered the worst
in the gallery. Improved lighting, new cases and other upgrades have
transformed the space into the best. It contains a large section dedicated
to Ishi, the famous Indian, who lived and worked at the museum's former
home in San Francisco and was studied for several years before his death.
Arrowheads and bows made by Ishi, a flag pin and Panama Pacific medal
worn by Ishi, Yana tribal baskets and a 17-foot Yurok canoe carved from
a single redwood around the turn-of-the-century are among the artifacts
in the exhibit.
"In the wake of 9/11, the Hearst's collections reassure us of the
unity and resilience of the human spirit through time," said Beth Burnside,
UC Berkeley vice chancellor for research, during an opening reception
Thursday. "The quality of the collections inspires the sort of wonder
and curiosity that provides a foundation for the best research. Few
universities worldwide are able to offer their faculty and students
this kind of research opportunity."
Recent campus research projects involving museum collections include
two master's theses in Near Eastern Studies on ancient Egyptian boats
and on ceramics, a PhD dissertation on ancient Neolithic ancestor skulls,
and re-analysis of San Francisco Bay shell mound sites, Burnside noted.
In the past two years, she said, more than 220 researchers have visited
the Hearst to study its holdings.
Visitors to the "Century of Collecting " exhibit can follow the Hearst
Museum's institutional course to see how the work of the anthropology
museum has evolved through the work of prominent anthropologists including
Max Uhle, George Reisner, Alfred Emerson, Alfred Kroeber, Edward Gifford,
Robert Heizer, William Bascom and George Foster.
It includes artifacts seldom seen up close except by curators, conservators
and researchers, graduate students or the small but growing number of
participants in public outreach programs.
Each exhibit case is a dense trove of artifacts collected by UC Berkeley
anthropologists, archeologists and scholars. Some objects were donated,
such as the 2,400 artifacts given to the university in 1897 by the Alaska
Commercial Company. Through "story cards," the exhibit explains why
individuals made and used the objects on display, and why and how the
collections were assembled.
Jacknis noted that Kroeber found California Indians using metal-tipped
tools and dressed in denim jeans 100 years ago, but focused his collecting
only on the aspects of their lives reflecting no contact with the outside
world. And, Jacknis said, many early anthropologists would be horrified
to see tourist art included in the exhibit, although tourist art now
is a well-recognized scholarly pursuit.
The centennial exhibit is laid out chronologically, and by discipline
and region, with story cards designed to link diverse cultures and time
periods and offer context for the individual artifacts.
Stepping into the first exhibit section, visitors can marvel over
the museum's major founding collections: Native American; ancient Peru
(1500 B.C. to 1500 A.D.; Egypt (from the Predynastic through the Coptic
periods); and antiquities from Greece and Italy (dating from 1500 B.C.
to 300 A.D.). Other displays were curated from systematic collections
from African countries, Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Brazil, India, China,
Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and numerous Pacific
The museum began with the Hearst era of 1901 to 1919. In that period,
the museum collection grew as Phoebe Hearst personally collected, funded
collection expeditions and bought artifacts with the intent of donating
them to the museum. Collections focused on Egypt, Peru, Greece and Italy,
California, Guatemala, Alaska and the prehistoric Southwest.
Next was the transition period of 1920 to 1945, when the Depression
and World War II contributed to a decline in collecting. At the same
time, the number of the university's anthropology students increased.
Collections in this era came primarily from California and elsewhere
in North America.
From 1945 to 1960, was a time of expansion as overall university enrollment
climbed and a peacetime economy prevailed. Museum collections increased
substantially in California and Nevada archaeology in the 1950s, as
it branched out in new areas such as Latin America, Asia, Africa and
The museum's second "great period" of collecting occurred from 1960
to 1980. Africanist William Bascom took over the museum reins for over
two decades (1957-1979) and dramatically boosted the Hearst Museum holdings
from Africa. Graduate students returned with important collections from
India, Indonesia, Japan and Oceania. Formerly shunned types of objects,
such as tourist goods, began being avidly collected. In this period,
the museum moved from a series of temporary quarters into its permanent
home in Kroeber Hall.
Today, efforts are underway to digitize the Hearst collections to
increase access and allow researchers worldwide to search the holdings.
Major projects are underway to update collections management facilities,
and a full-time director will be hired, who will not be responsible
for academic duties as previous directors, including Kirch, have been.
"We will be moving toward developing a more public face for the museum,
sharing its priceless collections with the people of California and
the world," Burnside said at the centennial exhibit opening.
Other anthropology centennial programs on campus include:
* An exhibit recognizing the early history of UC Berkeley anthropology,
on display at The Bancroft Library through April 29. The exhibit uses
records, documents and images held by The Bancroft Library, with additional
artifacts supplied by the Hearst Museum and American Museum of Natural
* An international conference: "Internal Boundaries and Internationalization-Four
Decades of Berkeley Anthropological Research on Japan," on March 15-16.
It will be held at Kroeber Hall and is open to the public.
* A spring centennial conference, "Alfred Kroeber and his Legacy:
A Centennial Conference." The April 12-13 event will celebrate UC Berkeley's
past, but will focus as much on the present and future of anthropology.