In the great age of museum institutionalization between 1875 and 1925, museums competed to form collections in newly defined object categories. Yet museums were uncertain about what to collect, as the boundaries between art and anthropology and between art and craft were fluid and contested. As a case study, this article traces the tortured fate of a large collection of folk pottery assembled by New York art patron Emily de Forest (1851–1942). After assembling her private collection, Mrs. de Forest encountered difficulties in donating it to the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. After becoming part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, it finally found a home at the Pennsylvania State Museum of Anthropology. Emily de Forest represents an initial movement in the estheticization of ethnic and folk crafts, an appropriation that has since led to the establishment of specifically defined museums of folk art and craft.
IRA JACKNIS (PhD, Anthropology, University of Chicago, 1989) has been Research Anthropologist at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, UC Berkeley, since 1991. His research specialties include museums, film and photography, the history of anthropology, and the arts and cultures of the Native peoples of western North America. Among his books are The Storage Box of Tradition: Kwakiutl Art, Anthropologists and Museums, 1881–1981 (Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002) and the edited anthology Food in California Indian Culture (Hearst Museum, UC Berkeley, 2004); and a forthcoming book on miniature dioramas in American anthropology museums (Peabody Museum Press, Harvard University). Email: email@example.com