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Glorious Treasures: 100 Years of Collecting by the Southwest Museum

 

Glorious Treasures: 100 Years of Collecting by the Southwest Museum, highlighting portions of the Southwest Museum collection, will premiere in the Showcase Gallery on October 11, 2003.The display will feature objects collected since the Southwest Society made its initial acquisitions in 1904. A variety of fine California baskets, Pueblo pots, and Navajo textiles will be shown. A rare Nez Perce quill-wrapped horsehair shirt will be on display, as will a headdress that once belonged to White Swan (Crow), who was a scout for the U.S. Army at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Seldom-seen ceramics and clothing from the museum's Central and South American holdings will also be included. The Western Americana section of the exhibit will feature the Frémont flag, raised by John C. Frémont on the crest of the Rocky Mountains on August 16, 1842.The fine art area will display a rendition of Alfred Jacob Miller's The Lost Greenhorn, works by artists such as Maynard Dixon and Joseph Henry Sharp, and 1850s California Gold Rush sketches by John Woodhouse Audubon. (right: Headdress that once belonged to White Swan (Crow), who was a scout for the U.S. Army at the Battle of the Little Big Horn)

In the February 1895 issue of The Land of Sunshine: An Illustrated Monthly of Southern California, editor Charles F. Lummis wrote that his publication would "very much like to see founded a Southern California museum." The writer reasoned that "such an institution would, naturally, be located in Los Angeles" and that a regional collection of ethnographic, archaeological, historical, and natural history specimens would be "so endlessly valuable and ceaselessly fascinating that it would be famous the world over."

Eight years later, Lummis founded the Southwest Society with the eventual goal of creating the desired museum. He garnered support from among Los Angeles's financial elite, and on December 31, 1907, the Southwest Museum was chartered. Acquisitions made by the Southwest Society during its initial four years formed the foundation for the new museum's collection. These included items secured during archaeological fieldwork in Arizona and New Mexico, the Palmer-Campbell collection of California archaeology, and the Caballeria collection of pre-1834 paintings from the California missions.

After taking up temporary quarters in several locations, the Southwest Museum moved to its current site, a Mission Revival building on the Arroyo Seco, in 1914.When opened to the public, the new museum presented halls of conchology and Asian and European art alongside displays of Southwestern and California archaeological materials. In the 1920s, the Southwest Museum narrowed its focus to anthropology and its subject matter to the cultural history and prehistory of the peoples of the Americas. It now houses one of the finest collections of Native American material in the country with storage areas that are home to 13,500 American Indian baskets, 4,200 Pueblo pots, and 2,200 Southwestern and Latin American textiles.The museum's holdings also include numerous items from California's rancho period, as well as Spanish Colonial and New Mexican religious folk art. The Braun Research Library collection includes over 50,000 bound volumes and serials, 150,000 historic photographs, 800 manuscript collections, and several thousand historic maps.

 

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