The field of Native American art history, and our idea of whatcomprises Indian art itself, were molded largely by the policies of themuseums and institutions that established their ethnologicalcollections in the second half of the nineteenth century.
Objects housed in the great natural history museums -- collected andseen first as natural history specimens and later as 'primitiveart' -- have long been considered to be normative Native Americanart, rather than as representative of a long and changing history.Collectors' biases against Euro-American influenced work, touristitems, and contemporary art have further distorted our understanding ofthe field. Such attitudes and practices have led to accusations that animperialistic Native American art history not only developed, but alsomaintains, the fictions of a colonizer/colonized relationship.
This collection of essays deals with the development of NativeAmerican art history as a discipline rather than with particular artworks or artists. It focuses on the early anthropologists, museumcurators, dealers, and collectors, and on the multiple levels ofunderstanding and misunderstanding, appropriation and reappropriationwhich characterized their transactions. The essays examine majorfigures, art forms, institutions, and events of the early years whenNative American artworks were first collected, studied, anddisplayed.
Janet Catherine Berlo is a professor in the Departmentof Art History at the University of Missouri, St. Louis.
Preface 1. Introduction: The Formative Years of Native American ArtHistory 2. Franz Boas, John Swanton, and the New Haida Sculpture at theAmerican Museum of Natural History 3. New Questions for 'Old Things': The Brooklyn Museum'sZuni Collection 4. Louisa Keyser and the Cohns: Mythmaking and Basket Making in theAmerican West 5. 'The Artist Himself': The Salish Basketry Monograph andthe Beginnings of a Boasian Paradigm 6. Lila Morris O'Neale: Ethnoaesthetics and the Yurok-KarokBasket Weavers of Northwestern California 7. Marketing the Affinity of the Primitive and the Modern: Rened'Harnoncourt and 'Indian Art of the United States'Contributors Index