photo by Jeffrey Collins

Last summer, I received a generous fellowship from the Getty Research Institute to be a 2016-17 Getty Scholar contributing to this year’s theme of “Art and Anthropology.” During my three-month residency in Los Angeles, from April 10 through June 28, I was honored to be included among a group of international scholars working at the boundaries of art history and anthropology and to benefit from many fascinating conversations and presentations. The Getty offers an enormously supportive environment for research, providing housing, office space, library access and reference support, and personal research assistance—not to mention access to one of the world’s great art history libraries, archives, and collections.

My fellowship supplemented NEH funding and helped facilitate a semester’s research leave in order to pursue work on my long-term collaborative project to produce a critical, annotated edition of Franz Boas’s first major ethnological monograph on the Kwakwaka’wakw people of British Columbia, The Social Organization and the Secret Societies of the Kwakiutl Indians. In addition to co-coordinating the project with my colleague Judith Berman from the University of Victoria, British Columbia, which is currently distributed among twelve institutions on two continents, I am responsible for tracking down, researching, and annotating the ceremonial art and material culture pictured or discussed in the 1897 book. During my time at the Getty, I worked on an introductory essay for our critical edition that situates the role of material culture in the larger ethnography, and the place of the volume in the development of Boas’s influential approach to the anthropology of art.

Along with many of my fellow Getty Scholars, I participated in a two-day symposium, May 2-3, at which I presented on one aspect of my research into Boas’s early work with Kwakwaka’wakw material culture—his use of research drawings to elicit identifications and commentary on previous museum collections made by himself and others. The results of these fieldwork activities were then integrated into Boas’s earliest publications, including his 1897 volume, as well as some of the museum catalogue records in question, and thus left important traces in key venues and vehicles for circulating ethnographic knowledge in the early years of professional anthropology.

~ Aaron Glass, Associate Professor