Hearst Museum Archives: Behind The Scenes Tour

Hearst Museum Archives Tour

A Behind-the-Scenes Tour (Not a Gallery Tour)

 Guided by Hearst Museum staff (including longtime-member research anthropologist Ira Jacknis), on June 7 we will explore the hidden backroom areas unearthing spectacular Eskimo Masks,  Alaska ceremonial (dance) finger fans, intricate pre-historic ivory, quality North West Coast pieces and powerful Yoruba sculptural pieces.

When Phoebe Apperson Hearst founded the University of California Museum of Anthropology in 1901 she brought together anthropological collections that had been accumulating since the University’s establishment in 1868. Mrs. Hearst envisioned the museum as the cultural cornerstone of one of the world’s leading research institutions —“a great educator” of the people of California. As a teacher herself, she embraced the idea that resources and facilities should be made available to the public in order to enhance education in multiple ways.

Mrs. Hearst funded several large-scale expeditions: George Reisner in Egypt, Max Uhle in Peru, Alfred Emerson in Greece and Italy, and Alfred Kroeber in California. The Hearst is distinguished from other Anthropology museums by the breadth and depth of the research and documentation that supports the collections. These systematic collections were gathered according to coherent plans and richly documented by field notes, photographs, maps, or sound recordings. Important collections also came from other regions: Guatemala (Gustavus Eisen), Alaska (Alaska Commercial Company), the Philippines, and the prehistoric Southwest. Phoebe Hearst supplemented these objects with treasures from her personal collections—great examples of works of art acquired from dealers and on her world-wide travels.

Today the Hearst Museum cares for the largest anthropological collection west of the Mississippi with 3.8 million objects whose origins span two million years. Collections of a comparable stature include several museums also founded at the turn of the century: the Harvard Peabody Museum of Anthropology (founded in 1866), the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology (founded in 1889), and the Field Museum (founded in 1893). The Hearst Museum is the largest collection of its kind at a public university. The public gallery space of the Hearst Museum is much smaller than that of any of its peer institutions, and is inadequate to display even a small fraction of the treasures collected by the Museum’s founders and their successors.