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  • Southwest Studies, Indian Children's Art, and Tourism Promotion:The American and Dutch Career and Collection of Lucy Schouten, 1950–1970
  • Pieter Hovens (bio)


During the 1990s, the curator at the National Museum of Ethnology (Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde [RMV]) in Leiden, the Netherlands, made the acquaintance of Lucy Schouten, an older lady with an explicit interest in North American Indians. Although she indicated to have lived and studied for some time in the American West, and had collected several items of Navajo dress and silver and turquoise jewelry, part of which was purchased by the museum in 1963 (series RMV 3978 and 3982), she remained evasive when specific questions were asked. After a number of years she considered the disposal of her small collection of silver Indian jewelry to fund a trip to the Himalayas, and invited the curator to her home in Oegstgeest, a town a few miles north of Leiden. Her small apartment was crammed with furniture and books, and an eclectic mix of memorabilia from her travels through Europe and around the world. It was immediately obvious that North America and the Himalayas and their Native peoples were her most favored regions and cultures. She showed the curator a number of drawings done by Indian children in Arizona and New Mexico in the early 1950s, and hinted at more in storage. She again declined to elaborate on the subject. As no agreement was reached on the purchase of the jewelry the small collection was eventually acquired by the Gerardus Van der Leeuw Anthropology Museum in Groningen, now incorporated by the Groningen University Museum.1

On January 23, 2002, Lucy Schouten passed away at the age of 82. [End Page 492] Having been single all her life, an attorney disposed of her estate in consultation with distant family. A cousin contacted the Media Department of the Leiden museum and offered to donate materials regarding his relative's foreign travels and researches that were of little or no monetary value. The keeper of media collections, Wim Rosema, conducted two interviews with the cousin on his aunt's life and work to understand the background of the materials. After internal consultation the museum gratefully accepted the offer. The North American material clearly constituted the bulk of the donation. It included about 100 drawings made by Southwestern Indian children in the early 1950s and a large collection of black-and-white photographs and color slides of Native Americans, mostly taken by Lucy Schouten in the same period. The papers consisted of ten diaries pertaining to the years 1951–1955, which she spent in the Southwest, a sheaf of letters with private correspondence, a number of manuscripts of unpublished and published articles on Native Americans, autobiographical notes, and books on cultural anthropology and Southwestern Indians. This provided the curator an opportunity to delve into the rich material, and at last the enigma surrounding the reclusive Lucy Schouten and her collections began to be lifted.2

The Early Years: Childhood and Pharmacological Studies

Anneke Lucie Schouten was born in the small town of Bussum, twelve miles southeast of Amsterdam, on February 14, 1920. The circumstances surrounding the birth were tragic. Father Frans Schouten was an architect who had studied at Utrecht Technical College; her mother, Hillechien Rentema, daughter of a veterinarian, was a pharmacy assistant, and they married on April 28, 1918. The birth of a baby is meant to be a joyful occasion but the father died on February 14, 1920, and two days later the mother suffered the same fate. Both fell victim to the virulent influenza pandemic that spread across the globe in 1918–1920, popularly referred to as "the Spanish flu." Although the earliest Dutch cases dated from the early summer of 1918, a third wave hit Holland hard in 1920. Soldiers living confined in barracks and pregnant women proved to be especially susceptible (Quanjer 1921:8–19, 21–23; De Melker 2005; Verwijk 2016:6). The worldwide epidemic cost the lives of an estimated 20 million to 40 million people.

Little Anneke Lucy Schouten was raised by her paternal uncle Bernard [End Page 493] and his wife, Martina, (born: Oele...


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