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In Pursuit of the Ceremonial: The Laboratory of Anthropology’s “Master Collection” of Zuni Pottery Karen Lucic and Bruce Bernstein This is the story of a curious episode in the early history of Santa Fe’s Laboratory of Anthropology (Lab) and its efforts to acquire a comprehensive collection of Zuni ceremonial pottery.1 The incident well illustrates the pitfalls that can result from ethnological traffic in sacred objects, as well as the multiple meanings that objects receive from their cultures of origin, which may be quite different from those assigned by scholars and museums. Institutional collecting ventures often disrupt and violate the Native communities where the material originated.2 At the same time, the purchasers of such specimens—sometimes blinded by an overwhelming desire to acquire rare items invested with Native American spirituality—are vulnerable to manipulation and deceit. Signs of ceremonialism can be manufactured, and what passes for tradition is often invented (fig. 1). We compare this heretofore unexamined incident—the acquisition of a “master collection” of Zuni pottery—to earlier examples of institutional collecting at Zuni pueblo and contextualize it in terms of relevant issues: the social consequences of the “salvage ethnology paradigm”; contested definitions of what constitutes a ceremonial object in Native American society; and the reasons why Euro-American institutions and individuals have been so irresistibly drawn to this kind of material. Drawing on extensive documentary evidence, we present a detailed narration of the episode—with all its idiosyncrasies, complications, and unsolved mysteries intact. We end by discussing what the pots themselves, and Karen Lucic is Professor of Art History at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York. Bruce Bernstein is the Executive Director of the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, a non-profit that organizes the Santa Fe Indian Market; previously he was the assistant director for research and collections at the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution. Journal of the Southwest 50, 1 (Spring 2008) : 1–102 2  ✜  Journal of the Southwest various Pueblo consultants, tell us about the collection’s history and significance. The buyers of the material include three men intimately involved with the fledgling Laboratory of Anthropology: Jesse Nusbaum, the institution ’s first director (R. Nusbaum 1980);3 Kenneth Chapman, the Lab’s first curator of anthropology and simultaneously curator of the Indian Arts Fund (fig. 2; Dauber 1993; Ellis 1968);4 and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (fig. 3), one of the world’s wealthiest philanthropists and principal financial backer of the Lab (Fosdick 1956; Stocking 1981, 1982). Rockefeller chiefly funded the Lab’s acquisition of what Nusbaum termed a “master collection” of Zuni sacred pottery. Others played important roles in assembling these objects. C. G. Wallace , a trader at Zuni (Slaney 1992, 1998; Tharp 1974), supplied the Lab with the bulk of this collection (fig. 4). Although he left school after the fifth grade, Wallace was a skillful entrepreneur who more than held his own against his highly educated and socially privileged clients. Zuni traders Charles Kelsey and W. S. Barnes sold additional items to the Lab. Finally, John Collier, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Commissioner of Indian Affairs (Collier 1963; Philp 1977; Kelly 1983), intervened in response to protests from Zuni, to try to prevent sacred objects from leaving the Figure 1. Zuni Olla Maidens at Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial, ca. 1943. The Olla Maidens evoke a time when water was carried in earthen jars from source to home. In this view, three of the pots the women are balancing on their heads were probably made by the same person (as evidenced by the similarity of design). Two others use Acoma pots. (Courtesy of the Palace of the Governors [MNM/DCA], #90735) Figure 2. Kenneth Chapman on the banks of the Rio Grande, waiting for the train near San Ildefonso Pueblo, September 1929. (Courtesy of the Palace of the Governors [MNM/DCA], #28131) Figure 3. John D. Rockefeller Jr. in Santa Fe, 1927. Rockefeller visited Santa Fe several times to check on the progress of the Indian Arts Fund project and its new home, the Laboratory of Anthropology. He is in Sena Plaza where the temporary offices were located. (Courtesy of Archives of the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1371
Print ISSN
0894-8410
Pages
pp. 1-102
Launched on MUSE
2014-04-02
Open Access
No
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