Anthropology, Art, and Folklore

Competing Visions of Museum Collecting in Early Twentieth-Century America

in Museum Worlds
Author: Ira Jacknis1
View More View Less
  • 1 Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, UC Berkeley jacknis@berkeley.edu
Restricted access

Abstract

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.

Contributor Notes

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: jacknis@berkeley.edu

Museum Worlds

Advances in Research

  • Barber, Edwin AtLee. 1908. The Maiolica of Mexico. Art Handbook of the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art [then the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art].

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Barber, Edwin AtLee. 1911. Catalogue of Mexican Maiolica Belonging to Mrs. Robert W. De Forest, Exhibited by the Hispanic Society of America, February 18 to March 19, 1911. New York: Hispanic Society of America.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Barber, Edwin AtLee. 1915. Hispano-Moresque Pottery in the Collection of the Hispanic Society of America. Publications of the Hispanic Society of American, no. 94. New York: Hispanic Society of America.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Barber, Edwin AtLee. 1918. The Emily Johnston de Forest Collection of Mexican Maiolica. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

  • Barter, Judith A., and Monica Obniski. 2012. For Kith and Kin: The Folk Art Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago. Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago; New Haven: Yale University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Berman, Avis. 2014. “Uncommon Women and the Art of the Common Man: The Role of Women in the Discovery, Promotion, and Collecting of American Folk Art.” In A Shared Legacy: Folk Art in America, ed. Richard Miller and Avis Berman, 3557. Alexandria, VA: Art Services International; New York: Skira Rizzoli.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Brandt, Kim. 2007. Kingdom of Beauty: Mingei and the Politics of Folk Art in Imperial Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

  • Bronner. Simon J., ed. 1987. Folklife Studies from the Gilded Age: Object, Rite, and Custom in Victorian America. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bronner. Simon J. 2002. Folk Nation: Folklore in the Creation of American Tradition. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources.

  • Burrison, John A. 2017. Global Clay: Themes in World Ceramic Traditions. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

  • Conn, Steven. 1998. Museums and American Intellectual Life, 1876–1926. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • Corn, Wanda M. 1997. “Art Matronage in Post-Victorian America.” In Cultural Leadership in America: Art Matronage and Patronage, ed. Wanda M. Corn, 924. Fenway Court, no. 27. Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Curran, Kathleen. 2016. The Invention of the American Art Museum: From Craft to Kulturgeschichte, 1870–1930. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • de Forest, Emily Johnston. 1921. “A Reminiscence of a Possibility.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 16 (9): 192193. www.jstor.org/stable/i363628

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dewhurst, C. Kurt, Patricia Hall, and Charlie Seemann, eds. 2017. Folklife and Museums: Twenty-First-Century Perspectives. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Downs, Joseph. 1934a. The de Forest Collection of Work by Pennsylvania German Craftsmen. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 29 (10): 161, 163169. www.metmuseum.org/pubs/bulletins/1/pdf/3256731.pdf.bannered.pdf.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Downs, Joseph. 1934b. A Handbook of the Pennsylvania German Galleries in the American Wing. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

  • Elligott, Michelle. 2018. René d'Harnoncourt and the Art of Installation. New York: The Museum of Modern Art.

  • Frelinghuysen, Alice Cooney. 2000. “Emily Johnston de Forest.” The Magazine Antiques 157 (1): 192197.

  • Glassie, Henry. 1993. Turkish Traditional Art Today. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

  • Glassie, Henry. 1997. Art and Life in Bangladesh. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

  • Glassie, Henry. 1999. The Potter's Art. Philadelphia: Material Culture / Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

  • Heckscher, Morrison H. 2012. “The American Wing Rooms in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.” Winterthur Portfolio 46 (2–3): 161178. doi:10.1086/667985.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hijiya, James A. 1980. “Four Ways of Looking at a Philanthropist: A Study of Robert Weeks de Forest.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 124 (6): 404418. www.jstor.org/stable/986242

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hofer, Margaret K., and Roberta J. M. Olson. 2015. Making It Modern: The Folk Art Collection of Elie and Viola Nadelman. New York: New-York Historical Society, in association with D. Giles Limited, London.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hutchinson, Elizabeth. 2006. “Native American Collections at Laurelton Hall.” In Louis Comfort Tiffany and Laurelton Hall: An Artist's Country Estate, ed. Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, 177189. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art / New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hutchinson, Elizabeth. 2009. The Indian Craze: Primitivism, Modernism, and Transculturation in American Art, 1890–1915. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jacknis, Ira. 2015. “‘America Is Our Field’: Anthropological Regionalism at the American Museum of Natural History, 1895–1945.” Museums and Society 13 (1): 5271. doi:10.29311/mas.v13i1.317.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jeffers, Wendy. 1995. “Holger Cahill and American Folk Art.” The Magazine Antiques 148 (3): 326335.

  • Kasl, Ronda. 2018. “An American Museum: Representing the Arts of Mexico at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.” In The Americas Revealed: Collecting Colonial and Modern Latin American Art in the United States, ed. Edward J. Sullivan, 7891. The Frick Collection Studies in the History of Art Collecting in America, no. 4. New York: The Frick Collection; University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kendall, Laurel. 2014. “‘China to the Anthropologist’: Franz Boas, Berthold Laufer, and a Road Not Taken in Early American Anthropology.” In Anthropologists and Their Traditions across National Borders, ed. Regna Darnell and Frederic W. Gleach, 139. Histories of Anthropology Annual, vol. 8. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara. 1991. “Objects of Ethnography.” In Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display, ed. Ivan Karp and Steven Lavine, 1778. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara. 1998. Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage. Berkeley: University of California Press.

  • LaGamma, Alisa, Joanne Pillsbury, Eric Kjellgren, and Yaëlle Biro. 2014. The Nelson A. Rockefeller Vision: Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 72(1). New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Macleod, Dianne Sachko. 2008. Enchanted Lives, Enchanted Objects: American Women Collectors and the Making of Culture, 1800–1940. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mansfield, Elizabeth, ed. 2002. Art History and Its Institutions: Foundations of a Discipline. London and New York: Routledge.

  • Matson, Frederick R., ed. 1965. Ceramics and Man. Viking Fund Publications in Anthropology, no. 41. Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company.

  • McCarthy, Kathleen D. 1991. Women's Culture: American Philanthropy and Art, 1830–1930. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • McQuade, Margaret Connors. 1999. “Talavera Poblana: The Renaissance of a Mexican Ceramic Tradition.” The Magazine Antiques 156 (6): 824831.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1927. A Guide to the Collections. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

  • Michie, Thomas S., and Jayne E. Stokes. 1997. “A Century of Collecting Ceramics at Rhode Island School of Design, 1891–1991.” In Rhode Island Collects Ceramics: An Exhibition in Celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Pottery and Porcelain Club, Providence, Thomas S. Michie and Jayne E. Stokes, 111. Providence: Rhode Island School of Design.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Milner, Claire McHale. 2005. “The Next Generation: Museum Techniques at Penn State's Matson Museum of Anthropology.” In Engaged Anthropology: Research Essays on North American Archaeology, Ethnobotany, and Museology, ed. Michelle Hegmon and B. Sunday Eiselt. Papers in Honor of Richard I. Ford. Anthropological Papers, no. 94, 238254. Ann Arbor: Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Monkhouse, Christopher P. 1985. “Folk Art through the Eyes of Rhode Island Collectors.” In Americana from the Daphne Farago Collection, Carol C. Sanderson and Christopher P. Monkhouse, 810. Providence: Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Peck, Amelia. 2000. “Robert de Forest and the Founding of the American Wing.” The Magazine Antiques 157 (1): 176181.

  • Reed, Cleota. 1987. Henry Chapman Mercer and the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

  • Seth, Laurel, and Ree Mobley, eds. 2003. Folk Art Journey: Florence D. Bartlett and the Museum of International Folk Art: Featuring the Florence Dibell Bartlett Collection. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Shaykin, Rebecca. 2019. Edith Halpert, the Downtown Gallery, and the Rise of American Art. New York: The Jewish Museum; New Haven: Yale University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stillinger, Elizabeth. 2011. A Kind of Archaeology: Collecting American Folk Art, 1876–1976. Amherst and Boston: University of Massachusetts Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stocking, George W., ed. 1985. Objects and Others: Essays on Museums and Material Culture. History of Anthropology, vol. 3. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Tarver, Paul J., and Cristin J. Nunez. 2010. Ancestors and Descendants: Ancient Southwestern America at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century: Selections from the George Hubbard Pepper Native American Archive at Tulane University's Middle American Research Institute and Latin American Library. New Orleans: New Orleans Museum of Art.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Thring, Marion. 1932. “A Collection of Folk Pottery.” Bulletin of the Pennsylvania Museum 27 (146): 107109. doi:10.2307/3794490.

  • Toombs, Hannah. 2015. “Emily de Forest Pottery Collection Analysis.” Unpublished research paper, 161 pp. University Park, PA: Matson Museum of Anthropology, Pennsylvania State University.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Trask, Jeffrey. 2012. Things American: Art Museums and Civic Culture in the Progressive Era. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

  • Vlach, John Michael, and Simon J. Bronner, eds. 1986. Folk Art and Art Worlds: Essays Drawn from the Washington Meeting on Folk Art. Organized by the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Williams, Priscilla de Forest. 1998. The Story of Wawapek, 1898–1998. Privately printed. Copy in American Wing. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Zumwalt, Rosemary Lévy. 1988. American Folklore Scholarship: A Dialogue of Dissent. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 341 305 27
Full Text Views 93 35 3
PDF Downloads 101 56 3