Originally published in The Anthropology of Expeditions: Travel, Visualities, Afterlives, edited by Joshua A. Bell and Erin L. Hasinoff. New York: Bard Graduate Center, 2015. 119–173.

In the late nineteenth century, as the great urban museums of art and natural history were being founded, there arose a cultural obsession with Nature and with capturing it in its original home or habitation. As curator Clark Wissler exclaimed, “the best place to do the Museum’s kind of work is out-of-doors, face to face with the phenomenon with which the Museum is concerned” (1943: 184). For science, including anthropology, this locus was called “the field.”1 For painting, this method was referred to as working en plein air.2

For both practices, one went from the macrocosm (the field) to the microcosm (the museum) by means of a visual note. This could be a fragmented token or sample—such as a bird skin or rock or woven basket—or a representation—such as a drawing, sketch, or photograph. In a great age of cultural and artistic realism, the processing and transformation of these visual field inscriptions were thought to establish both the reality of nature, as well as the nature of reality. The expeditions that are our concern here were perhaps only the most elaborate form of this traffic between the field and the museum.

When dealing with exotic peoples and places, both anthropology and art were concerned with issues of cultural representation (of people and their artifacts). Yet contrary to the naïve positivism popular at the time, culture was not in fact a simple thing that merely needed to be separated and brought back to the museum. For human culture, we are talking about a differential web of behavior and meaning (including material artifacts) that can only be sampled and then reconstructed or re-created back at the museum. At base, this is a creative or interpretive act, and there is a continuum between the efforts of the anthropologist and the artist. Despite, however, adopting a common goal of naturalism, the disciplines of art and science (here, anthropology) did not always see eye to eye.3

As the genre centered in expeditions and the field, it is the study of collecting that has generated most of the recent literature in museum anthropology (for example, O’Hanlon and Welsch 2000; Gosden and Larson 2007; Harrison, Byrne, and Clarke 2013). Relatively little of this study, however, has focused on the movement back from the field, the fate of these collections once in the urban museum, or how their projected uses might have affected their collection in the first place (see, however, Griffiths 2002; Rader and Cain 2014).

To explore these general issues, I will take as a case study the anthropology exhibits of the American Museum of Natural History (the American Museum or AMNH), principally after 1905, following the more familiar period of Franz Boas and the Jesup Expedition to the Northwest Coast. Specifically, I will focus on the museum’s “Huntington Southwest Survey” (1909–21), as represented in an exhibition that has been almost totally lost from memory.

AMNH Anthropology: An Institutional Overview

The American Museum’s exhibit practice itself was part of a larger socio-cultural context, subject to beliefs and pragmatic constraints of personnel, politics, and funding. Its taking place within a museum setting means that we must identify and account for its structures of institutional authority.

The American Museum of Natural History, founded in 1869, included anthropological collections from its beginning, with a formal department established in 1873 (Freed 2012). One fundamental structural feature of the institution was its broad charter for the public good. Although the collections and curators were funded by a private board of trustees, the land and its buildings were owned and supported by the City of New York. Consequently, there was always a need to appeal to city politicians and to demonstrate that the museum served the general public, especially its schoolchildren.

The period under consideration in both this essay and this volume covers a critical transition in the museum’s history: from Morris K. Jesup (1830–1908), president from 1881 to 1908, to his successor, Henry Fairfield Osborn (1857–1935), president from 1908 to 1933. Both were members of New York’s social and economic elite and shared a basic belief that scientific research must be balanced with popular display, but they were otherwise quite different. Jesup, a retired railroad executive, was responsible for basing the museum’s collections and exhibits on systematic scientific research. Osborn, however, was a credentialed scientist. Each served as a liaison between the trustees and the scientific staff, but Osborn actually sat in both camps.

Today Jesup is best known for his support of the anthropology department of Frederic Putnam and Franz Boas and for underwriting the grand expedition to the Northwest Coast and Siberia that bore his name. The department, however, suffered under his successor. Writing to a friend—in a quote that has since become infamous, at least in some circles—Osborn noted: “Between ourselves, much anthropology is merely opinion, or gossip of the natives. It is many years away from being a science. Jesup and the Museum spent far too much money on anthropology.”4

These shifts were reflected in larger changes in the role of research and popularization (the increase and diffusion of knowledge, in the words of the Smithsonian’s charter). At the American Museum, these were executed by their two respective directors: Hermon C. Bumpus (1862–1943), who served from 1902 to 1911, and Frederic A. Lucas (1852–1929), from 1911 to 1923.5

Moving down a level, we come to another shift in the respective chairs of the anthropology department: from Frederic W. Putnam (1839–1915), who as chair from 1894 to 1903 revitalized the department and put it on a professional footing for the first time; to Franz Boas (1858–1942), who worked at the museum from 1895 to 1905 and served as chair during 1904 and 1905; and finally to his student Clark Wissler (1870–1947), who was employed by the museum from 1902 to 1942 and was chair from 1905 through 1942.

During the Boas and Wissler periods, the anthropological collections expanded enormously, becoming the great world treasure that they are today. During Jesup’s presidency, the museum went from purchasing independently made collections to acquiring artifacts on museum-organized but privately funded expeditions. The geographical focus of the primarily ethnological expedition associated with Boas and funded by Jesup (1897–1902) was on Native America, first the Northwest Coast and Siberia, as well as the Eskimo (Inuit). This regional emphasis was soon followed by an expedition to the Plains, largely as a result of Wissler’s scholarly interests, funded by Mrs. Maria Jesup (1899–1916).

The next regional survey—and my special interest here—covered the Southwest and was supervised by Wissler and funded from 1909 through 1921 by trustee Archer M. Huntington. Huntington, whose family fortune came from railroads, was particularly interested in anthropology (Burke 2012; Bennett 2013). In addition to founding the Hispanic Society, he was also a founding trustee of George Heye’s Museum of the American Indian. The Huntington Southwest Expedition innovatively combined archaeology and ethnology. In fact, part of its point was to work out the relationship between the two in constructing a basic chronology for the region (Snead 2001: 97–123; Freed 2012: 652–799).

With the exception of the Chinese collections of Berthold Laufer (the East Asiatic Expedition, funded largely by Jacob H. Schiff, 1901–4) and the later Pacific collections of Margaret Mead (1928–39), other Old World collections were not obtained by trained museum anthropologists. In fact, until about 1960, there were no curators for African, Asian, or Latin American ethnology. As Wissler announced in 1912, “America is our field.”6 There were several reasons for this areal focus. Partly it was a result of the natural accident of the museum’s location, but there were larger forces at work. Nationally, American anthropology at the time had started with a focus on Native North America, and the directing anthropological personnel—Putnam, Boas, and Wissler—were all Americanists (Jacknis 2015).

Regarding anthropological subdisciplines, archaeological expeditions at the American Museum were important by the early 1890s, principally in New Mexico, Mexico, and Peru, and they came to be increasingly dominant throughout the first half of the twentieth century. Over this period, there was a gradual disappearance of ethnologists in the department, and by 1930 Margaret Mead was the only one other than Wissler, who was busy with administration.

As would be expected, the history of anthropological (especially ethnological) exhibits largely reflected the progress of these accumulated collections. During the pre-Wissler years, essentially everything went on display as soon as it arrived. Accordingly, there was a constant state of flux and upheaval: the exhibits expanded in size and number as expeditions returned and as new wings were built to house the collections. For anthropology, the great accomplishment was the construction of a series of linked buildings in the southwest quadrant of the site. Basically reserved for the department, its galleries were stacked above each other from the first to the fourth floors, with offices and storage on the fifth. During this Wissler period—by about 1930—almost all of the anthropology halls had taken the “final” form that they would keep for the remainder of the first half of the twentieth century, until they began to undergo systematic renovation in the 1960s, in advance of the museum’s centennial in 1969.

The Native American ethnology halls were the first anthropology halls to take their definitive shape and were installed by curators who had direct field experience. All were in a privileged position, just off the entrance (Freed 2012: 396). And they were all contiguous. First was the Northwest Coast, which had opened in 1896 on the ground floor of the original museum building (erected in 1877). At the north end of this hall, there was a small Eskimo Gallery, which was later moved to an adjacent corridor outside the auditorium. In 1911 two general ethnology halls were revised for the Woodlands and the Plains. Completing the last of the linked anthropology buildings of the West Wing in 1908 allowed the creation of a dedicated space for the Southwest Hall, which opened in late 1910. Thus this east-to-west sequence in Manhattan mirrored the span across the continent.

Clark Wissler, of course, is famous for his role in the development of culture-area theory in American anthropology (Wissler 1914; Woods 1934). Like Boas, he regarded culture as distinctly localized in regions within a continent, as well as among cultures within a region (for instance, the Pueblos and Athapaskans in the Southwest). “A Museum hall,” he wrote, “should present the natural history of man for a definite geographical area. For example, we have in North America at least eight great areas in which the Indians have or had characteristic cultures.” Outlining the ideal plan for each hall, he called for:

one section devoted to a culture type exhibit in which life-like groups and other accessories give a concrete picture of the many features of life native to that area; the remainder of the hall, and perhaps the greater part, presenting classified exhibits of collections from the various tribes (or sub-cultures), their physical types and such archaeological material as is clearly associated with their past history. Thus such a hall would be a definite unit presenting the culture data or the facts for one of these geographical areas.7

The American halls were paralleled by a suite of Old World ethnology halls, but these were more unsettled. Generally, they were installed later and by curators, most notably Robert Lowie, who worked in other regions, that is, without personal field experience. Africa opened on the second floor in 1910 and was moved to the third floor in 1931, where it joined the Asian Hall, which had opened in 1911. Half the hall was devoted to China, collected by Berthold Laufer, and the other half to the Siberian collections from the Jesup Expedition (gathered by Vladimir Jochelson, Vladimir Bogoras, and Laufer). On the fourth floor, there were two galleries for the Pacific and Island Southeast Asia (the Philippines and “Malaysia,” actually Java and Borneo), which opened in 1909. In addition, in the tower off the Pacific Hall there was a small gallery devoted to the Drummond collection of jades and similar Asian objets d’art (Jacknis 2015).

The other anthropology halls featured archaeology: a general archaeology hall (mostly North America, but also Europe), Mexico and Central America, and South America (primarily Peru). Because of President Osborn’s personal interest, there were several halls devoted to human biology and evolution on the second and third floors.8 Some halls, such as the Southwest Hall, as well as the Mexican and South American galleries, included ethnology along with archaeology, although in differing proportions.

Art in AMNH Anthropology Displays

Given the museum’s public mandate, it is not surprising that attractive exhibits and popular education would be emphasized. Shortly after the turn of the twentieth century, the American Museum became an innovator in its exhibit modes and styles. It was one of the first museums to replace the endless cases of crowded specimens taxonomically arranged to show variation among similar types. In their place were realistic dioramas and murals. In 1902 museum ornithologist Frank M. Chapman created one of the first habitat groups, which depicted a scene of birds resting amid vegetation against a painted scenic backdrop. This approach was popularized by taxidermist and sculptor Carl Akeley, first in Milwaukee and Chicago, and from 1909 on in New York. At the museum, these displays were largely constructed by a central museum department of exhibit preparation.

Both directors Bumpus and Lucas were firm advocates for such science popularization. Lucas was an early developer of habitat groups, first at Ward’s scientific supply company in Rochester and then at the Smithsonian (Wonders 1989: 140). In 1913 an unsigned article (probably written by Lucas) in the museum’s house magazine explained the place of art in a science museum. On the one hand, the museum hoped that the art of dioramas would “fascinate” and “attract” museum visitors. But they were also justified by demonstrating the natural contexts of the specimens: “the ‘group,’ which shows animals in relation to each other and to their native haunt, stands for manifolded power to knowledge” (Anonymous 1913b: 99). For biology, this holistic approach could be considered as ecology, whereas for Boasian anthropologists, it was simply culture.

For anthropology, the correlate of the taxidermied animal was a human mannequin, at first just an individual costumed figure. The so-called life group, a dramatic scene of multiple figures with some kind of re-created habitat, was a European innovation introduced to American anthropology by the Smithsonian at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and developed most extensively by the Smithsonian in the early twentieth century (Jacknis MS.).9 The American Museum’s first life group depicted the cedar crafts of the Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka’wakw). Based on Boas’s fieldwork, it opened in the Northwest Coast Hall in 1895, and portions of it are still on view today (Jacknis 1985: 97–103). This group was soon followed by several individual Huichol Indian figures in the Mexican Hall.

About 1906, following the departure of Boas, Director Bumpus launched a new program in the anthropology department to revise and popularize the exhibits. In addition to greatly reducing the number of specimens on display and adding decorative features in the gallery, the department began to use more elaborate life groups of mannequins, often with painted backgrounds and murals. There was, however, a diversity of display approaches within the department: not every hall had every kind of feature.

The first expression of this new style came the following year, with two Eskimo figures that flanked a corridor, depicting a woman fishing and another cooking (Anonymous 1907). Several of the later life groups resembled the Kwakiutl scene: fairly complex combinations of figures, structures, and artifacts, most of them without painted backgrounds. These were installed in the halls for Africa, the Philippines, and Oceania (Tahiti, Samoa, and Maori). The grandest of these was a set of seventeen figures standing in the Haida canoe in the Northwest Coast Hall, begun in 1908 and first installed in 1910 (Dickerson 1910; Neandross 1910; Coffee 1991).10

The most elaborate groups ever mounted by the anthropology department were the three Southwest dioramas (Hopi, Apache, and Navajo). But there was at least one other elaborate diorama with figures and interior painted backgrounds: the Pygmy group—five figures, plus a dog and a house—in the Primate Hall (installed in 1919).11

Despite their obvious appeal, large life groups brought their own problems. Unlike a natural history group, wrote Clark Wissler, “an Indian’s tipi, to say nothing of a five-story Pueblo village, requires in itself considerable room. To give such a dwelling its proper setting in the landscape, undistorted by the ceiling and walls of an exhibition hall, is a difficult problem.”12 The museum staff also felt that human life groups tended to “lose in artistic value,” owing to a host of practical limitations:

The Museum has not the space to isolate sufficiently groups of the size that these must be, the visitor must approach too near, and besides the difficulties inherent in the construction of the groups can scarcely be overcome. Human habitat groups call for the world’s first talent to handle composition, color and light and still more to model the human figures and represent them not for form alone as in a masterpiece of bronze or marble but with the confusion of the motley color of realism added. (Anonymous 1913b: 99)

There were several responses to these problems. One was miniature models of Native scenes, invariably featuring reproductions of the large villages, houses, and canoes, which could not be easily collected or displayed. These had been popularized by the Smithsonian at the nineteenth-century expositions in Philadelphia and Chicago, and later by the Harvard Peabody Museum (Jacknis MS.). During the twentieth century, most anthropology museums adopted such miniatures.

One of the first models in New York was the detailed Kwakiutl village, first installed under Boas’s direction in 1900. At the American Museum miniature models were widely used in the 1920s and 1930s, when almost every anthropology hall included some (Burns 1928).13 In rare instances, full-size Native structures were erected: a Blackfoot tipi in the Plains Hall and a Micmac wigwam in the Woodlands Hall (both of which contained costumed mannequins). A full-size Navajo hogan in the Southwest Hall was replaced by a partial reconstruction in the final diorama.

Another solution to the practical problems of large groups was the use of murals (Dickerson 1911). For anthropology, the museum felt that murals had “the full value of a group. Unlike the bird groups, where it was necessary to have the specimen closer to the viewer, [i]n the case of the American Indian … the anatomical differences from the white man are so small and have so little cultural significance that they are quite secondary. What are essential and cannot be told except on canvas are the natural environment in which the Indian lives, his village spread over a wide area and his stately ceremonies and weird dances” (Anonymous 1913b: 101).

Moreover, only through art could the imaginative world of the Indian be revealed: “It is only through the aid of the artist that the mythology of the Indian can be interpreted, and the artist’s success is directly dependent on his knowledge and the degree in which he enters into the spirit of Indian life. Decorations in the Indian halls must possess archaeological and ethnological accuracy as the first consideration; after that the artist is free to give a poetical and more or less mystical interpretation (Anonymous 1913b: 101).

The prime mover in this effort, as in so much else at the museum, was President Osborn, who had his own painterly passions. Osborn had a lifelong interest in the visual arts: his grandfather had been a founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and he was a close family friend and neighbor of Frederic E. Church, the Hudson River School painter. At Princeton, Osborn had organized a sketch club and drew most of his own illustrations for his early papers (Rainger 1991: 160; Regal 2002: 28–29). Even before ascending to the museum’s leadership, Osborn had collaborated with famed mural painter Charles R. Knight (1874–1953). Beginning in 1896, Knight created an extensive series of paintings depicting dinosaurs and other forms of extinct life (Milner 2012).

During the Osborn years, murals covered the walls of the museum. In addition to Knight’s numerous canvases, there were murals in many of the anthropology halls, as well as in the halls of Gems and Ocean Life.14 The museum’s last major program of murals was three colossal paintings on the life of Theodore Roosevelt, completed by William Andrew Mackay in 1936 (Palmer-Smith 2013: 87–93). This was in addition to the background paintings of the many habitat groups.

In following this path, the American Museum was a participant in the first great age of American muralism (Van Hook 2003, 2012). Popularized by the 1893 Chicago fair, murals became a dominant component of Beaux-Arts architectural decoration: prominently placed in such great public buildings as the Library of Congress and the Federal Capitol, as well as in innumerable state capitols, courthouses, libraries, churches, hotels, theaters, schools, and even private residences. Prominent muralists included John LaFarge, Edwin Austin Abbey, and John Singer Sargent. Locally, Stewart Culin, ethnology curator at the Brooklyn Museum, included a series of murals on the upper walls in his North American halls (Jacknis 1991: 34),15 and museum trustee and patron Archer M. Huntington commissioned a set of fourteen murals for his Hispanic Society, executed by the Spanish painter Joaquin Sorolla and installed in 1922 (Palmer-Smith 2013: 33–41).

The importance of art at the museum was demonstrated by the establishment of a trustees’ committee on murals and art (1917–29). It had a varying membership, but at its core were such illustrious artists as Edwin Howland Blashfield (the Library of Congress) for murals, Daniel Chester French (the Lincoln Memorial) for sculpture, and Breck Trowbridge (one of the museum’s architects) for architecture.16

By about 1911, the anthropology department seems to have adopted a consistent policy to install large wall paintings instead of the more space-consuming and expensive groups. Nor were these the only graphic elements. The African and Philippines halls—both opened in 1909 and initially curated by Robert Lowie—had a similar decorative scheme. Both contained many specimens in the open, not behind glass. Both contained natural elements, mounted animal heads in the case of Africa and live plants in the case of the Philippines. Both used decorative elements, such as carved wood or textile designs found in their respective regions. The African Hall also had a series of small, narrow murals running along the upper wall. These, painted by Albert J. L. R. Operti (1852–1927), were landscapes with some houses but no figures.

Both halls also contained enlarged photographic transparencies set into the windows, a display mode pioneered by the Smithsonian at nineteenth-century expositions. Photographs, like murals, were essentially two-dimensional representations, which contrasted with the bulk of the museum’s three-dimensional specimens and settings that one could walk around. Both were valued for their ability to create the larger context for the objects on view. According to one exhibit brochure,

By means of Museum collections alone, it is impossible to represent many elements in the life of a people. That life is of particular interest when it is seen in its proper setting and environment. To supplement the collections small photographs have been introduced in the cases and larger ones hung about the hall. These illustrate the use of costumes and various occupations and ceremonies.17

Most of the North American ethnology galleries were to get murals: the Eskimo, Northwest Coast, Plains, and Southwest. The first of the murals, as with the first of the new style of groups, was installed in the Eskimo Gallery in 1908 (Anonymous 1909). At the north end of the Northwest Coast Hall, Frank W. Stokes (1858–1955) painted a grand set of illustrations of Eskimo subsistence and mythology. Stokes was able to draw upon his years of travel in the Arctic with Admiral Peary. Each of the Eskimo life groups also had some minimal backgrounds, representing the house or outdoor ice fields.

The Northwest Coast Hall had the most ambitious series of murals, eighteen canvases by Will S. Taylor (1882–1968), executed between 1910 and 1926. Eight filled each of the side walls, illustrating scenes from daily and ceremonial life, with two grand end panels illustrating a Tlingit potlatch and a Salish wedding on the north and south sides. Like many of the museum’s anthropology displays, these were arranged geographically, from south to north (Taylor 1910; Fassett 1911; cf. Jonaitis 1988: 221–26; Roy 2014).

Around the same time, in the spring of 1912, Edwin W. Deming (1860–1942) was commissioned to create a series of murals for the Plains Hall (Deming 1913). A New York–based artist, Deming had decades of experience painting Indians (Lamb 1978: 87, 116, 144). Although as many as eight canvases—two on each wall—were planned,18 Deming’s work proved to be unsatisfactory to the museum administration, and in the end it seems that only two were completed.19

For the Southwest Hall, the museum began with a scheme similar to that for the Northwest Coast. In 1911 noted Indian painter Louis B. Akin (1868–1913) was commissioned and sent to the Southwest, where he worked first among the Hopi and Zuni (Warner 1913; Babbitt 1973: 56–70). When Akin died unexpectedly in early 1913, the elaborate mural scheme was dropped in favor of interior paintings for three dioramas, executed by Howard McCormick (1875–1943), with the assistance of sculptor Mahonri M. Young (1877–1957).20 Both artists, who were personal friends, had trained in Paris before specializing in depictions of the American West (Toone 1997: 106–22).21

In explaining the goals of their life groups in relation to the rest of the anthropology halls, Clark Wissler argued for their metonymic and associational value:

We get a veritable snapshot of Hopi life, precisely what one might see in a glance through a village. It is not designed to force into the composition many phases of life not usually seen in juxtaposition, but to present one of the commonest scenes of prosaic life. It was not our aim to instruct the visitor in details, such as how cloth is made, how houses are built, the whole life history of a clay pot from the grinding of the clay to the firing, and the like—all subjects far better treated in the exhibition cases of the hall—but to give a concrete idea of Hopi life in its native setting. (1915: 344)22

The two anthropology halls that made the most substantial use of art (murals and mannequins) were those for the Northwest Coast and Southwest. Since I have previously considered the former (2002, 2004), here I will concentrate on the Southwest Hall.23

Arizona in New York: The Southwest Hall as Cultural Representation

After appearing in combined galleries as early as the 1890s, the Southwest was given its first dedicated hall in late 1910. The hall was a long rectangle with a central corridor. Most of the specimens were contained in cases forming small alcoves. In addition to a small special exhibit on basketry, the ethnology was arranged tribally. On the left were the pueblos, both ancient and modern (Hopi, Zuni, Acoma, and Rio Grande). Here the prehistoric material was displayed, by ruin or by geographical source. On the right were the nomadic, mostly Athapaskan, tribes: Apache, Navajo, Pima, and Papago. Since there was no other place for it, a “temporary” display for California was placed in one corner.

For the anthropology department, the Southwest Hall was anomalous on several grounds. First, it included both ethnology and archaeology, in about even proportions. More important, its three life-group dioramas were the largest and most elaborate ever executed by the department. In terms of display techniques, there were no wall paintings, but in an innovative move, the mannequins were completely made of painted plaster, not dressed in Native clothing, and they were placed against large background paintings.24

At its core, the hall was the vision of curator Clark Wissler. In late 1909 and early 1910, he had traveled to the Southwest, ostensibly for his health, but also for some collecting (mainly among the Pima and Papago). As we shall see, Wissler’s personal travels in the region stimulated his feelings about the need for the “realistic impressionism” employed in the hall’s dioramas. Under Wissler’s overall direction, the planning and execution of the Southwest Hall were delegated to curator Pliny E. Goddard (1869–1928), who wrote four editions of its guide (1913, 1921, 1927, and 1931).25 Goddard was also the prime ethnologist for the Apache and Navajo collections and thus for the production of their dioramas; the collection and ethnography for the Hopi were more collaborative and diffuse.

All artistic work at the museum was very highly regulated, with approval necessary all the way down the line: from the president (Osborn) to the director (Bumpus/Lucas) to the department head (Wissler) to the curator (Goddard) to the artists (McCormick and Young). All artists were required to present sketches for the paintings and models for the sculptures, and these had to be approved by both the curators and the administration. As part of its contracts, the museum supplied all its artists with studio space, whenever possible in the museum; otherwise they were off-site. These contract artists were given materials and assisted by a host of museum preparators, both in the Department of Anthropology and in the museum’s central exhibition preparation department.

After spending time with Pliny Goddard and Herbert Spinden in the fall of 1909, Wissler began to formulate his plans for the Southwest Hall.26 From the start, he planned to combine all the region’s tribes, but with more space for the Rio Grande Pueblos. (He revised this focus later when the museum was not able to acquire the collections that it had hoped for.)27 At this point, there were to be two halls, one for the Pueblos and another for the nomadic groups, plus a third for archaeology. For unspecified—most likely practical—reasons, Wissler wanted to emphasize Native architecture and crafts rather than religion.

Although the museum’s southwestern expeditions came before the creation of the exhibits in New York, for purposes of argument it makes more sense to first examine here what the visitor would have seen in the gallery. After all, that experience would have been the only one available to most of them. Today, with historical hindsight, we can probe its underside and re-create some of the field experiences that led to the finished display.

Beginning in Manhattan, then, the gallery seems to have been fairly conservative in its case work. The few extant photographs reveal a fairly packed series of shallow, upright cases. Although most of the cases in the other anthropology halls were soon replaced with larger and roomier vitrines, in this hall the innovation was in the dioramas.

Another possible innovation would have been the use of Native decorative motifs. In his original plans, Wissler had recommended the use of such designs:28

I have planned boldly for figures and structures while the walls and fittings of the hall should be devised to fall into harmony with native art. Some artist may be found who can take these large units and give them a setting of design and color that will make the hall one unit. The success of it will depend somewhat upon the fidelity of the color scheme and the rigid simplicity of the whole. I am sure that if the hall can be carried out as I see it in imagination, we shall have something beside which all our other halls will be common place.29
An expression of the then-current Arts and Crafts movement, such a decorative scheme had been employed in several of the museum’s anthropology galleries (for Africa, the Philippines, and the Northwest Coast), as well as for its Mexican-style restaurant (Anonymous 1910). But when the Southwest Hall was completed, it contained no Native stylings.

At first Wissler was quite excited about the prospect of murals in the hall: “The color and landscape here will give good basis for mural treatment and the characteristic features of native art enable the walls to be broken up into panels and appropriate sections.”30 The precise motivations for the museum’s replacement of murals with interior background paintings remain obscure, but clearly this was the general direction in which the museum’s administration was moving and one made possible by the combination of generous funding from the patron and personal relations among the artists and anthropologists.

Expanding the single figures in the Eskimo Gallery, the anthropology department installed large life groups that were set off at the side, to be viewed from a fixed point and not from all sides. Projecting off to the right was a small annex containing the three dioramas, which opened over a ten-year period: the Hopi in 1915, the Apache in 1917, and the largest one, in the middle, the Navajo in 1924. Still, as in all the museum’s halls, there were continual revisions. The Navajo group, for instance, had actually opened by 1913 with a hogan, which was later removed and replaced with the two-scene approach (Goddard 1913: 3). All of the dioramas were really quite spacious—in fact, these were the largest in the museum: the Hopi and Apache dioramas were about 26 feet long, 11 feet high, and almost 21 feet deep; the Navajo was formed of two alcoves, each about 24 feet long (Wissler 1915: 342; Toone 1997: 110–16). Because the background painting was curved, it measured about 42 feet long (at least for the Hopi display).

In his initial plans for the gallery, Wissler proposed an incredibly ambitious sequence of ten full-size life groups, arranged around the hall’s perimeter: “There is no reason why we cannot have a two-story section of pueblo adobe houses as our walls are high enough to get in all but the top of the second tier.” This would be complemented by a ceremonial kiva, from an unspecified tribe. Then came scenes for Rio Grande Pueblo pottery-making and “corn industries,” Hopi weavers (male) and the Snake Dance, Navajo weavers (female) and a family at home in a hogan, an Apache family in a brush house, and a Pima family in a thatched house. In the center were to be ceremonial displays: two Pueblo altars and a Navajo sandpainting.31 (In his elaborate proposal, Wissler may have been thinking of the Smithsonian and Field Museums, both of which used life groups more extensively than the American Museum.) The three dioramas that were finally constructed were each part of this original scheme.32

Dioramas are complex art forms, created by combining modeled figurines, foreground elements, and painted backgrounds (Quinn 2006: 10). Each of the Southwest dioramas had rather large sets of human mannequins: seven for the Hopi, six for the Apache, and thirteen for the large, elaborate Navajo scene (three in the hogan on the left and ten outdoors, on the right).33

In terms of subject, each diorama included what had become the minimal, or at least the ideal, content of a life group: some representation of a typical habitation, along with a family. All three included domestic scenes, but where the Hopi and Apache groups had only family life and craft production, the Navajo group featured two grand ceremonial scenes. The Hopi had a mother with cradle and a man weaving at the right, with a group of women potting, basket-weaving, and playing on the left, as well as partial figures of an old man spinning and a boy coming up a ladder at the rear (Wissler 1915). The Apache also had a mother and cradle at the right, along with a man making arrows; on the left was a woman making a basket, in addition to a mother and child building a wickiup and a man on a horse at the rear. Both parts of the Navajo scene revolved around the Night Chant (Yeibichai) ceremony (Goddard 1925). The left half depicted the interior of a hogan, used as a “medicine lodge,” and had two men preparing a sandpainting, with another off to the side. The right vitrine was meant to show the outside of this lodge: at the rear are the patient with an attendant and a ritual novice with two attendants; a woman hurries off at the right. In the front was a domestic scene, with a husband, wife, and their two children around a cooking pot.

All these cultural representations were quite common to American life groups of the period, and all expressed cultural concerns of the dominant society (Jacknis MS.). Largely owing to their greater size, however, the American Museum groups pushed the envelope of accepted practice. Architecture was widely seen as the most representative Native art form but was more commonly represented in miniature. Here there was much more of the local buildings, including actual structures. Although most dioramas combined genders and ages, these went far beyond the usual Victorian nuclear family of husband, wife, and children. The social action on display focused on the common theme of domestic labor, especially artifact construction (Dilworth 1996: 125–72; Cain 2012). The Hopi and Apache represented multiple crafts, while the Navajo featured ritual painting as well as cooking. (In fact, the combination of domestic activity in a ritual scene was something of a violation of normal Navajo custom.) Despite Wissler’s initial avoidance of religion, the expansive Navajo ceremonial scene was probably the most elaborate in any American museum of anthropology. Although it was much harder to collect and document, the sacred or ceremonial theme was resonant of the period. In an age of increasing industrialization and secularization, the hand-crafted arts and spiritual wisdom of the so-called vanishing Indian proved to be popular and enduring tropes.

Unlike the Smithsonian’s practice of having sculptors freely model clay sculptures, which were then cast in plaster, the American Museum whenever possible tried to use impressions taken from its collection of facial life casts. These were combined with generically sculptured bodies and then painted (Anonymous 1912; Wissler 1923: 250). For the Southwest Hall, however, Young employed the Smithsonian mode and based his mannequins on his own notes and inspiration (Wissler 1915: 246–47). In adopting this approach, the museum was employing a more aesthetic approach to ethnic sculpture, one uncommon but not unknown in natural history museums.34

Contrary, however, to common practice at both the Smithsonian and the American Museum, Young’s mannequins were formed entirely of painted plaster, without Native costumes and wigs: “The human figures and all the objects in the deep foreground are modeled, nothing is real except the Navaho hogan and some of the scant foliage. The same standard of realism for background, etc., was used here as in the best mammal groups” (Wissler 1943: 221). In fact, Franz Boas had argued against the use of wigs in favor of such an all-plaster approach (Jacknis 1985: 98–102), but the American Museum displayed real objects in almost all of its groups (for example, Northwest Coast, Plains, Africa, the Philippines, and Oceania).35 Contrary to Wissler’s blanket statement, however, there were some actual specimens in the Southwest dioramas, but all of the clothing was part of the sculpture.36 The American Museum used such replicas only twice—for these Southwest dioramas and the Haida canoe. Why did the museum represent hair, clothing, and artifacts with painted plaster? For the Haida canoe, displayed in the open, it is clear that these would be exposed to dust and visitors’ fingers (Neandross 1910; Coffee 1991),37 but this argument would not have applied to the sealed dioramas.

Again, though no clear explanation for this approach has been found, one clue is Wissler’s repeated comment that artistic impression was being valued over scientific description:

The purpose of the group is not so much to teach the details of ethnology, the way in which baskets are made, the exact character of the masonry, etc., since these facts are better brought out by the specimens in the exhibition cases and by photographs; but rather to present a unified, complete picture of Hopi life, a true habitat group. The sculptor, for the first time in the history of the Museum, has given the public not only the proper head forms and skin color of the Indians but the characteristic poses they habitually take. The painter has given us the feeling of great spaces, the peculiar topography, and the unrivaled colors of the Southwest. Thus the whole may stand as a typical unit of Pueblo daily life.38
In other words, only by manipulating all these elements for effect, much as in an Impressionist painting or on a movie set, could one re-create the feeling of a distant land.

There was also a more deeply theoretical reason for Wissler’s enthusiasm for context over artifact. His enthusiasm for life groups with elaborate impressionistic backgrounds was derived from his approach to the artifactual embodiment of culture: “The Curator always felt that the important thing in the exhibit was to emphasize the people themselves, so that the objects should appear in their true secondary relation.” This could be best done with life-sized groups and miniature village dioramas. Such group cases, he believed, “seem to give the observer the feeling that we have here an exhibit of the life of the people, rather than an exhibit of curious objects made by some one.”39

Wissler’s theory of what we might call “realistic contextualism” was built on the idealism of Boas’s exhibition practice, which his mentor had announced as early as his 1887 debate with Otis Mason and which was extended in his 1907 article in Science (cf. Jacknis 1985, 1996). Going beyond his Boasian training, Wissler had his own reasons for proposing such an approach: he had actually earned his doctorate in psychology and before coming to the museum had taught in elementary and secondary schools. So Wissler was quite attuned to the ideational rather than material aspects of culture, and thus to managing the perceptions of the museum visitor.

Visually, each of the three dioramas was divided roughly in half, with a group of figures on either side of an open space, drawing the visitor’s eye toward the spreading landscape beyond. The Navajo was a special instance of this, being split into two separate vitrines.

A critical feature in creating a realistic illusion was in skillfully joining the three-dimensional foreground with the painted background. Building on decades of gallery experimentation in perspective, museum artists devised many visual tricks to obscure this transition (Wonders 1990, 1993; Quinn 2006: 153). Like the natural history dioramas, the painted backdrops of the three Southwest dioramas were curved, so that the perspective could be manipulated; and there was either a drop-off or a rocky ledge at the rear. Representations of the sky were finessed by covering the tops with house ceilings in the Hopi, Apache, and Navajo hogan scenes. All these groups also employed a diminishing scale as one moved toward the back, so that the plaster figures at the rear were smaller than those at the front.40 Another trick was to match some of the plaster figures to similar figures in the wall painting. And like some of the natural history displays (Quinn 2006: 67, 78), some of the figures were incomplete; the Apache woman, for example, is flat and unpainted on the side where she would have faced the wall.

For maximum illusion, the lighting had to be controlled. This was something of a challenge in the early halls, which were originally lit by side windows.41 Over time these were replaced with artificial lamps to reduce damage to specimens while simultaneously allowing dramatic visual effects (Lucas 1922). From the beginning, the Southwest dioramas contained interior lights—supervised by Howard McCormick. Like many of the habitat groups, they were presented in a darkened hall. Many museum designers brought their experience in the theater to illuminate the galleries (Rader and Cain 2014: 41, 59). The net effect was like peering through a window, as if one were viewing a cinema screen.42

Returning now to the region itself, how and why did the museum capture the Southwest? For each of the main North American culture areas, Wissler insisted on a life group or “type exhibit” that called for field collecting: “The use of figures, models and panoramic backgrounds for each of the culture types will be made possible by material and studies from the field.”43 However, unlike the Plains and Northwest Coast halls, which, except for the large Emmons Tlingit collection, came almost entirely from museum expeditions, the objects on display in the Southwest Hall had more diverse sources.44 Specific collecting for the hall began with Archer Huntington’s first donation in 1909, and, in fact, a substantial number of its specimens were acquired during the expedition’s first year45 As an example, Pliny Goddard’s main collecting expeditions among the Apache were actually his first two trips, in 1909 and 1910. Most of the archaeology was gathered by the museum’s Hyde and Huntington expeditions.

Some of the collecting was done expressly for display purposes, particularly the houses and costumes for the life groups.46 In his first instructions to Goddard, Wissler outlined his plans for the Navajo and Apache life groups:

As the work among the Navaho is a matter of collecting, I may add that we have planned for a section of the hall to contain a hogan with a life sized group in which can be shown weaving, carding and spinning and also silverwork. You should provide the data, photographs, costumes, etc. necessary for such a group. As to the hogan, I suggest that a small one be purchased, the logs marked, and shipped to the Museum. Some interior photos showing detail of structure will be useful. In addition, the collection should be large enough to bring out the main features of Navajo culture… . In the Apache section we have also planned for a brush lodge and a family group. Please provide for that as thoroughly as possible.47
On his 1910 trip, Goddard succeeded in his charge, buying both an Apache brush house and a Navajo sweat house, along with many photos of their construction. The list of specimens for the Apache group indicates that he had gathered most of the relatively few real objects on this trip, supplemented by a few purchased from a local resident.48

In addition to museum expeditions, a large proportion of the specimens on display came from dealers and private collectors. When he was traveling in the Southwest, Wissler purchased freely from shops in Los Angeles, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe. Most notable were the Hopi objects gathered by the Reverend H. R. Voth that Wissler bought from the Fred Harvey store at the Grand Canyon.49 This active commercial market, and Wissler’s willingness to resort to it, differs substantially from the practice of the Jesup Expedition (despite the presence of a vigorous, though smaller, market in the Northwest). Most of the Navajo material, especially the textiles, came from wealthy museum patrons (Anonymous 1913a; Goddard 1921: 4, 1931: 4).50

The museum did not collect a great deal in the Southwest relative to other regions, but it was enough for its exhibit purposes. Whereas the Jesup Expedition returned with at least 11,000 items, the Huntington Expedition acquired approximately 4,000 catalogued objects from the living tribes (plus another 9,000 from archaeological excavations).51 Certainly there were not many objects in the dioramas. Moreover, there was a certain loss of scientific identity for this hall: a good deal if not most of the ethnology was collected by non-anthropologists. In addition to the purchased and privately donated items, much of the relevant fieldwork was carried out by the contract artists. Again, the contrast with the Jesup Expedition is notable.

In fact, in his treatment of collecting, Wissler and his colleagues were pushing against the museum’s administration. President Jesup had insisted that museum expeditions return with exhibitable collections (Freed 2012: 657), and Osborn continued the emphasis. It is true that Wissler, especially in the initial years of the expedition, did emphasize to his agents the importance of artifact collecting. At the same time, he followed his mentor Boas in substantially expanding the goal of the museum’s expeditions beyond that of collection. In planning the Huntington Expedition’s ethnology, for example, he emphasized comparative work on the non-material domains of kinship and social organization.52 Most of the major museum ethnologists in the Huntington Expedition did not focus on material culture or make extensive collections. Pliny Goddard concentrated on linguistics; Herbert Spinden seems to have been a general disappointment, especially in his collecting (Freed 2012: 762); and Robert Lowie made only two short trips to the Hopi, arriving in July 1915, three months after the Hopi diorama had opened. One of the most successful collections, Kroeber’s Zuni material, was an afterthought made by a museum contractor.53

Still, if actual collecting was not emphasized, fieldwork certainly was. Both Goddard and Wissler insisted on the importance of curatorial field experience. Goddard, who had been trained as a linguist, grew to appreciate the importance of observation. To Robert Lowie on the Hopi mesas he wrote: “I envy your chance of having lived in an Indian pueblo for some weeks and having had an opportunity of witnessing ceremonies and every day life. I more and more believe that an ethnologist’s best equipment is observation of primitive life in many aspects. Nothing else gives so good a point of view.”54 Like most of the museum’s curators, Clark Wissler continued to believe in the importance of fieldwork: “A curator in this Museum [is] a field-man; his thinking is in terms of the outside from which he draws his data and his collections; the dead objects he brings home and conserves are his precious archive of symbols of the living or once living realities” (1943: 413).

And fieldwork was important not just for the anthropologists. At the American Museum, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman had introduced the practice of field trips for its artists (Quinn 2006: 16).55 Adopting this model, the anthropology department first sent an artist to the field in 1909, when muralist Will S. Taylor traveled to the Northwest Coast with curator Harlan Smith. For the Southwest Hall, painter Howard McCormick and sculptor Mahonri Young made several trips to Arizona between 1912 and 1917 (McCormick 1913, 1917).56 The two artists traveled together for the first season, but without an anthropologist. In 1914 McCormick accompanied Goddard to the San Carlos Apache reservation in Arizona, where the anthropologist was doing his own fieldwork.57 Because they were together on that trip, there is little documentation for the nature of their collaboration, but one can assume that the scientist carefully directed the artist’s work. The following year, however, Young was sent to the Apache to gather his own notes for plaster figures to be completed after McCormick’s background mural had been painted (Toone 1997: 111). As Rader and Cain point out (2014: 83), sometimes museums relied more on the field experience of its artists than of the curators. Although much of the content of the Southwest Hall came from McCormick and Young, the direction was firmly in the hands of Goddard and Wissler.

Having traveled himself in the Southwest, Wissler insisted that museum artists do the same: “Unless the sketches are made on the ground and the figures for groups taken from life the work will be abortive.”58 Ironically, he inverted the usual rationale for on-the-spot observation: “So many of our visitors pass through this section and see so many Indians that color and type are so well fixed in their minds that false presentations will be readily detected.” Usually fieldwork was justified because, in an age before mass travel and communications, the average urban museum visitor would never have an opportunity to sample these exotic locales (Kennedy 1968: 166–70); here because of the popularity of tourism—even then—realism was required for the opposite reason.59

Compounding the irony, these Southwest scenes perhaps were not as “authentic” as they may have appeared. Just as Franz Boas had based his Smithsonian Hamatsa life group on Kwakwaka’wakw demonstrations he had first seen at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 (Jacknis 2002: 87), so was Wissler stimulated by his visits to out-of-context tourist sites. He praised the Fred Harvey shop in Albuquerque—the source of some of his specimens—where “attention has been given to harmony of color and form in arrangement as one would decorate a den. Here is a Navaho silver-worker with his outfit producing wares for sale; two women weaving rugs and two women spinning wool. They are very effective in such a setting. I feel that if this whole group could be reproduced in our museum, flanked by a typical series of Navaho specimens, that part of our public duty would be discharged.”60

Clark Wissler was quite explicit about what they were trying to achieve in the dioramas and how these differed from the standard display of artifacts. Again and again, he stressed the evocative and impressionistic aim of the groups over their analytic value: “The specimens in the Hopi case adjoining the group and the illustrations in books give a wealth of detail as to the multiplicity of pueblo life, but they cannot in any way take the place of a visit to the Walpi where one may see things in their perspective and native color. The very highest praise that could be bestowed upon this group was a remark by a visitor, ‘It is almost as good as a trip to Hopiland.’ This was the ideal of its construction” (1915: 344).

Following a policy that had been adopted for the animal habitats, specific sites were chosen for the three Southwest dioramas, all in Arizona. For the Hopi, it was the village of Walpi on First Mesa; for the Chiricahua Apache, the San Carlos Reservation around Rice; and for the Navajo, Canyon de Chelly, near the scenic White House Ruin. Even specific people were represented: one of the Hopi women was famed potter Nampeyo (Wissler 1915: 342).61

What visual sources did the museum artists draw upon in producing their final representations? One major source, used on almost every occasion, was museum specimens. The artists would borrow specimens and props, which they often combined with local models in their studios. Even artists such as Will Taylor, who had visited the region and taken his own photographs, based his paintings on such specimens.62 Coupled with this was the advice of staff anthropologists and study of publications.63 For instance, supplementing Goddard’s own Navajo experience, McCormick took ceremonial details in the Navajo group from Washington Matthews’s The Night Chant (Goddard 1925: 52).

Another common source was photography. Again, compared to the Jesup Expedition’s extensive use of the medium, there seems to have been much less of it on both the Plains and the Huntington expeditions, with the exception of the innovative use of film.64 Although the two artists in the Southwest were both painters, McCormick seems to have been devoted to the still and film cameras. In addition to his own photographs (1913, 1917), he freely used the work of others.65 Young, on the other hand, chose only to draw, making hundreds of sketches.66 He thought a drawing was superior, explaining, “If you look at this little sketch you will see that I have noted most of the important characteristics and actions. If I should want to use this drawing in a picture or an etching I could, while if I had only a snap shot I would have a hard time keeping the effect” (Toone 1997: 109–10). This must have worked for him, since his finished mannequins were quite close to his field sketches.

The background of the Hopi diorama was a clear image of Walpi, closely matching available photographs.67 The verisimilitude of the Apache backdrop was even closer to the photographs of McCormick and Goddard (for example, 1931: 149). This fidelity is what the American Museum later became known for in its dioramas. Yet in other features, there are some clearly selective choices. Most notably and consistently, the museum avoided signs of acculturation in order to create an “ethnographic present.” As had been done for the murals and groups in the Northwest Coast Hall, the women’s cotton clothing was replaced by hide, and trade goods such as metal pails were removed.68 On the other hand, perhaps because of their relatively long history of acculturation, the costumes in the Navajo group “illustrate present-day dress” (Goddard 1925: 53).

While we might criticize this shift today, at the time the museum was quite explicit about its choices. The explanation of its murals spoke of the “American Indian of the past”: “The American Museum hopes to show in mural paintings the relationship of this primeval man to the vast isolation on the continent before the coming of the white man, and thus to provide a permanent historical record which shall be as truthful as science to-day can make it and as sympathetic as our American artists can reveal it” (Anonymous 1913b: 101).69 In many ways, this was just the visual expression of the salvage paradigm, adopted by the Boasians and, in fact, most anthropologists of the time.70

Another visual source that was probably used as a model for the dioramas was film (Goddard 1915; cf. Griffiths 2002: 287–301). Howard McCormick, who had suggested that the museum obtain a movie camera, and Pliny Goddard actually spent a great deal of time and effort filming in the Southwest, but they were continually challenged by the difficulties in obtaining a well-composed and –exposed image.71 And, unfortunately, most of their footage has not survived the ravages of time.72 However, from Goddard’s description of his 1914 Apache filming and the six extant stills, we know that the woman applying pitch to a basket was likely based on both his still photos and the film footage (1915: 186).73 This was especially likely to be the case when we remember that although Goddard and McCormick were together in 1914, Young—who actually modeled the figurines—went a year later and had to find his own visual models.

The film footage was intended to be used for scientific documentation and for popular education in the form of auditorium lectures, but there is little evidence that it was ever used for research. Instead, all of it seems to have been turned over to the education department (unlike the sound recordings and most of the still photographs made by the Department of Anthropology). However, some of the Southwest films were used in an innovative experiment in multimedia. Between 1928 and 1930, the museum introduced to several galleries the Dramagraph, a small kiosk that played film loops when a visitor pressed a button. The machine in the Southwest Hall showed a four-and-one-half-minute film on Rio Grande pottery-making (Griffiths 2008: 243–46, 2013: 90). Clearly this experiment, which was decades ahead of its time, amplified the dramatic approach of the already cinematic dioramas.

The Poetics and Politics of Authenticity

What were the responses to these elaborate exhibits? Were they appealing aesthetically, and did they effectively create an illusion? From a larger perspective, did they accomplish their scientific and educational goals, and were the costs in space, time, and money justifiable? In answering these questions, we examine both the poetics and the politics of museum display (Lidchi 1997). Poetically, what was the relative balance between scientific presentation and artistic re-presentation? Political themes played out within the museum (among administrators, curators, and preparators), as well as without, among the museum’s various audiences (visitors, patrons, and city officials). The two come together when the competing roles of scientific research (the producers of knowledge) and popular education (the consumers of this knowledge) are under consideration. And both, it turns out, invoke the nature of the field experience, of the possibility of an Arizona in New York.

The introduction of these new display styles—first life groups and then murals—generated a spirited debate. Visiting the new Eskimo exhibits (Anonymous 1907), Field Museum curator George A. Dorsey complained of inaccuracies of cultural representation and rightly perceived the museum’s shift of emphasis from research to public entertainment and education (1907). In addition to a brief comment from Henry L. Ward, a historian who was director of the Milwaukee Public Museum (1907), the most elaborate response came from Franz Boas, who used the occasion to address broader issues of museum anthropology—and also somewhat to settle the score with his former employers (1907). Although directors Bumpus and Lucas defended the museum in popular and professional publications, curator Clark Wissler was strangely silent in this debate, responding belatedly and briefly (1911; cf. 1923, 1925). A key point attacked by Dorsey and defended by Bumpus was the general museum policy of moving the bulk of the collections from exhibit halls to storage. Yet the main issue in the exchange concerned the fundamental purposes of museums and the balance between research, education, and entertainment. In the end, the participants largely talked past each other, making their own points, and yet the issues they raised were important and did not go away.

The initial reactions—positive as well as negative—to the museum’s use of art were addressed largely to poetic issues. Initially Clark Wissler seems to have supported Bumpus’s emphasis on the new habitat dioramas: “The policy was to make exhibits accurate but pleasing and beautiful. Elegance was to find a home in the science museum as well as in the art museum. Ugliness was sufficient to condemn any exhibit, no matter how scientific” (1943: 122).

The museum’s exhibits, especially the Southwest murals, received generally favorable reviews. In 1916 the two artists chosen to review the museum’s murals had this praise: “Of the Cliff-dweller group by Mr. McCormick the strong impression which … its view made upon us is perhaps sufficient eulogium for its very veracious and above all very beautiful effect.”74 The popular press concurred. Speaking of the “greatly and deservedly popular” Hopi group, the New York Times found McCormick’s compositions to be “beautiful and dignified” (Anonymous 1918).75 Another reviewer appreciated the realism intended by Wissler: “Here without effort you are transported to Arizona; here you live the life of the Indians as they live today, as they have always lived—the nomadic and the sedentary—and you have the satisfaction of knowing that these are no wild-west, show-booth re-creations, but the actual facts by artists trained to observe and to translate” (Hind 1918: lix). Franz Boas, in his obituary for Pliny Goddard, praised his friend’s dioramas: “The highly instructive and artistic groups illustrating primitive life … tell the casual visitor more than large collections” (1928: 149).76

Edwin Deming’s murals, however, were deemed unsatisfactory. As in Thomas Kuhn’s notion of scientific anomalies, this breach exposed the underlying assumptions of the paradigm. As President Osborn explained to the artist,

I have gone over the Indian sketches very carefully with Director Lucas, Curator Wissler and Mr. George Bird Grinnell [a noted amateur ethnologist of the Cheyenne] and I regret to say that we do not find that they conform to the historic treatment which you and I talked over as absolutely essential, on the general ground that truth comes first and beauty and picturesqueness second. I find the pictures in many ways very attractive, but they are too crowded and too spectacular, and, in several pictures, they do not conform closely enough to Indian tribal life.77
Deming had placed artistry over scientific information. Members of the external review committee further criticized his lack of skill in anatomy, lack of detail, and generally diffuse and uniform visual effect.78 So we see that whereas the museum was willing to go quite far in its support for art, scientific detail had to come before personal expression.

At the end of his life, Clark Wissler was still quite pleased with the three Southwest dioramas, which he called “experimental habitat groups”: “We know of no human groups exceeding these in size and artistic execution. So here, after all, the Museum set another standard. What may be expected from such groups was demonstrated and they have stood up well under technical and art criticism. They are generally considered masterpieces and would still be so considered if properly lighted” (1943: 221).

By the 1920s, however, Director Lucas already seemed rather unhappy with the way the human life groups had turned out. Unlike those at the Smithsonian, which were noted for their dramatic story-telling, he felt that the American Museum’s groups were rather straightforward: “Our Hopi and Arapaho [slip for Apache?] Groups portray the incidents of every-day life and are consequently lacking in the dramatic interest to be found in most of the Albany groups.”79 He went on to remark that “[t]he ‘Average Visitor’ likes to see the real thing—real hair, real garments, real accessories— and the lack of these is not compensated for by skilled modeling and the deceptions of artificial perspective. I think were a vote possible it would be found that a majority of the artist vote would be cast for our groups and that the popular verdict would be in favor of those at Albany.”80

In his comprehensive survey of the museum in 1943, Wissler reviewed some of the problems with both human dioramas and the murals that were intended to solve some of these problems:

Visitors frequently ask how it is that more large life-sized human habitat groups were not constructed. The answer has been that museum artists were rarely enthusiastic over them. The public on the other hand seemed to like them. The difficulty in the minds of museum artists is with the human figure. If the natives could be skinned and mounted a technical problem might be solved to the satisfaction of taxidermists, but the result would be revolting. There are other technical difficulties in harmonizing sculptured skin surfaces and real objects in the foreground, all of which led to the expectation that wall paintings instead of three dimensional diorama groups might be the solution. (1943: 219)
Although he did not go into detail, perhaps it is significant that Wissler remarked on “technical difficulties in harmonizing sculptured skin surfaces and real objects in the foreground.” Here he is referring to the use of murals as a solution, but perhaps these difficulties of harmonization also led to the use of completely painted plaster mannequins instead of the combination of plaster or wax and real Native artifacts.

As noted above, at the time of their introduction murals were intended to be the solution to these problems. Yet they seem to have encountered their own problems:

A few other experiments were made but the continued hostility of art critics frightened away financial support. Many believed that the realistic demands of a museum exhibit made art impossible and that unless a canvas was art, it should not be tolerated. They had no use for an informing picture.

In short the experiment with murals was not happy and as a substitute for the life-sized habitat group was considered a failure. It seems that murals in a museum did not offer something new and novel in museum exhibition technique, as did the habitat group. Then as we have said the full scale human habitat group was opposed by many museum artists on structural grounds. Hence, it seemed unjustifiable to make financial sacrifices to obtain them. (Wissler 1943: 220)

In a discussion of museum dioramas, historian Lynn Nyhart has noted that most habitat groups contain some fragment of real nature (2004: 308). It is this authenticity, she argues, that gives them their compelling power. Yet, as Albert E. Parr, a later American Museum director, observed (1959: 114), although increasing emphasis on the vista of the painted background increased the beauty and realism of the diorama, it took attention away from the actual specimens. Context—a re-presentation of the field now dominated the text, in this case, the authentic Native artifact.

For the American Museum in general the authenticity of place was constantly cited. The specificity of the scene was stressed in the brochures prepared for the openings of the Southwest dioramas.81 This authenticity had been based in trips taken by both the anthropologists and the artists. In this regard, it is interesting that it was not a question of opposition between scientist and artist; in some cases, such as the 1914 trip to the Apache, both were on the same trip. On the other hand, this kind of metonymic authenticity may be contrasted with the metaphoric inauthenticity of the representational media of plaster and paint. For the Southwest dioramas, there was little that was real; there were very few Native-made objects. Obviously for Wissler the illusionistic tricks of scale and color were used because they were thought to render a more realistic vision than the real thing itself.

Yet Wissler seems to have been conflicted about the authenticity of the museum’s exhibits. As we have seen, in recommending the use of life groups, which he called the “unit idea,” Wissler extended a Boasian deemphasis on the power of mere artifacts. Despite his silence in the 1907 debate in Science, his contemporary proposals gave a kind of theoretical support to Director Bumpus’s innovations in public education:

Ethnological specimens hold a secondary relation to the subject matter, the origin and distribution of cultures being the real problems. Culture is the functioning of a group of people. The unit idea seems most promising in the attempt to induce in the visitor the attitude necessary to a realization of the secondary relation of the specimens to the culture. For example, spears are spears; but when properly presented under hunting the deer, [they] become mere appliances in the hands of men whose activities constitute a culture. The people can be made prominent in an exhibit of life-sized models, supplemented by smaller models and paintings.82

By 1937, however, when he addressed the trustees, Wissler was advocating for the real, coming to agree with Lucas’s conclusions: “Museum exhibits must not ignore reality. It may be that our halls should exhibit ideas rather than things, but the visitor comes to the Museum not to see charts and diagrams, but to see real objects. The large habitat group has been questioned because so little of it is real.”83 Although he seemed to like his own Southwest dioramas, Wissler agreed that the public came to see real things, not models.

These murals and dioramas in general and the Southwest ones in particular expressed a firm decision by the museum—especially its administration—to emphasize education and display art over science (Cain 2011).84 As the dioramas reached their epitome with the opening of the Akeley Hall of African Mammals in 1936, many were coming to feel that the museum’s focus was misplaced. At that trustees’ dinner, significantly after the death of Osborn, Clark Wissler remarked:

A review of our present exhibition halls indicated that we have developed the habitat group as a special type of exhibition hall and have developed these groups according to elaborate and artistic models. The best of them are pictures of living forms and their home lands. It seemed to me that we could all agree that such groups were an asset, but the question raised might be as to how much science was conveyed in such a big group. It has been suggested that such a group is 95% art and 5% science. It seems to me justifiable to use 95% art if by that means only we can put over 5% of science; but the question has been raised as to whether the 5% science is any good? If it is not that is a serious matter.85

In 1943 Wissler amplified this critique in a survey of the museum that he prepared at the request of the trustees. In his review, Wissler found much to complain about regarding the internal politics at the American Museum. He felt the need to defend his department from continuing calls to abolish or minimize the presence of anthropology. Along with President Osborn’s expressed disdain for the subject, Wissler noted that one unnamed trustee “actively opposed the keeping of any ethnological collections or exhibits,” with the result being an “emphasis on archaeology as a museum subject” (1943: 209).

As the years went on, the support of the administration for the Department of Anthropology shifted, with the most decisive being the change from President Jesup to President Osborn. Yet, in contrast to Boas’s troubled relation with Director Bumpus, Wissler seems to have gotten on quite well with him (Snead 2001: 101).86 Wissler’s relationship with his successor, Frederic Lucas, was not as close, and this weakened his position in lobbying the already hostile president.

During the Osborn years, the previously lavish general museum funding of departments was replaced with a more privatized model. Now major projects were funded by individual patrons, mostly receptive trustees (Kennedy 1968: 174). The problem for Wissler was that his access to these critical sources was restricted by the administration. At least at the beginning, Archer Huntington generously supported the Southwest initiative, and this included funding for the hall, which was substantial.87 By the early 1920s, however, even though the department had ongoing expeditions, Huntington felt compelled to withdraw his funding.88

In considering the museum’s exhibit program and the place of anthropology within it, Wissler noted that the museum had picked winners (Mammals, Birds, and Vertebrate Paleontology) and losers (which included Anthropology). He argued that although several human dioramas were planned, “because of lack of interest on the part of Osborn and his desire to finance the large mammal groups, no donor was secured” (1943: 221).89 He did admit that perhaps the Southwest model was not the best: “Possibly the department of anthropology was too ambitious in planning other equally deep and space consuming groups; a more modest program might have added a few more smaller groups.”

As Director Parr later noted, with the gradual expansion of elaborate dioramas, the role of the artist increased over that of the curator (1962: 331; cf. Cain 2011). In fact, Wissler was just one of many curators who complained that Osborn had taken the exhibition program away from the “control of the Scientific Departments” (1943: 128). In delegating so much of the fieldwork for the Southwest Hall to artists McCormick and Young, Wissler was following this trend. On other hand, the shift seems to have been acceptable among all concerned. The idea for the hall and its dioramas was clearly Wissler’s vision, and Goddard worked closely with his artist friends, whose plans were thoroughly vetted by museum staff.

As Nyhart points out, these debates over authenticity sprang directly from the challenge of opening up the museum’s audience from professionals to a broader public. During these early years of the century, rapidly expanding urban audiences had little experience with nature, a problem motivating scientists like Osborn, who, in turn, argued for financial support from the City and its school system (Kennedy 1968: 167). There is not enough evidence to properly judge the audience reaction to the Southwest Hall, but the published reviews we have, as well as Wissler’s account of visitor reception, indicate that it was successful and popular. Fellow curators, including Dorsey and Boas, seem to have been a more critical but also more restricted clientele.

The new exhibition philosophies of Osborn, Bumpus, and Lucas coincided with the disciplinary shift to a non-artifact-based anthropology (Stocking 1976: 11). For example, Margaret Mead, hired in 1926, is today remembered for her research in culture and personality and the study of social change, not for her artifact collecting.90 As Cain notes (2011), these Wissler years were a challenging period for natural history museums in general. During the 1920s and 1930s museum scientists were marginalized by their peers who had shifted to a more experimental and laboratory-based science (Kuklick, this volume). Observing the rise of elaborate dioramas, they came to feel that the American Museum was emphasizing education and entertainment over scientific research (Rader and Cain 2014: 91–135). One of the ways that the museum’s anthropologists dealt with this challenge was to shift their own research away from material culture and their professional efforts away from exhibition to research.

After a run of many decades, the Southwest Hall was finally closed in 1960, and not replaced.91 Most of the museum’s anthropology halls, which by then had existed for half a century, were either replaced or removed, in anticipation of the museum’s centennial celebration in 1969.92 The Northwest Coast Hall is the only “ancient” anthropology hall still largely intact (Jacknis 2004).93 Beginning in the early 1940s, the museum did make plans for radically revised and comparative anthropology exhibits, but these never came to fruition. Today, the museum’s anthropological halls are still quite traditional, arranged according to region and culture area (Jacknis 2015). The reasons for this situation are various and complex, but largely internal to the museum; continuing the trend identified by Wissler, successive generations of administrators failed to support and fund the department. As the discipline of anthropology changed from 1905 on, the museum’s anthropology exhibits remained largely intact after 1930 and became increasingly anachronistic (cf. Fitzhugh 1997).

Although this essay has been addressed primarily to the visualities of expeditions, our story also raises the issue of the afterlives of expeditions, in both the short and long term. For the Huntington Expedition, its material outcomes were being consumed and processed while the expedition was still ongoing, with the gallery under revision until about a decade after the expedition’s conclusion in 1921. An initial period of constant change and reevaluation was replaced by one of stasis.

The Huntington Southwest Expedition was part of a linked series of museum surveys to the Northwest Coast and the Plains, but aside from its archaeology (Fowler 2000; Snead 2001), it is the least known of the surveys. Why? One reason is that like other case studies in this volume (Bell; Turin), its occlusion is caused by a dispersal of its materials. Although the collections remain, they are hidden from public view. Paradoxically, while the museum’s Southwest Hall was actually visible for a relatively long time (about fifty years), it has now been completely removed, not renovated.

This erasure is all the more regrettable since in its interpretive approach and representational choices the Southwest Indian Hall was nearly unprecedented, at least at the American Museum. It marked a substantial advance on contemporary display practice and represented a dramatic attempt to use elaborate exhibition art to present anthropological facts. These large-scale environments were clearly the model for later displays in Milwaukee, Victoria, and Ottawa, among others. Unlike the nearby cases of artifacts, the focus of these dioramas was visitor experience and cultural mimesis. In its time, this exhibit, seen and studied by millions, was perhaps the principal medium by which New Yorkers came to know Arizona and its Native inhabitants. The very fact that this hall was both substantial and different but is now gone demands our attention, as it illuminates our understanding of what we think we know about collecting and exhibit practice. A trip to the archives can give us access to this once-substantial world, one that has left behind hardly a trace.

© Bard Graduate Center, Ira Jacknis.


This essay is part of an international research project (“Museum, Field, Metropolis, Colony: Practices of Social Governance”), directed by Professor Tony Bennett, University of Western Sydney, and funded by the Australian Research Council. For helpful discussions and research assistance I would like to thank Susan K. Bell, Tony Bennett, John Hansen, Erin Hasinoff, and Laurel Kendall; and archivists Kristen Mable, Gregory Raml, and Mai Qaraman Reitmeyer.


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1.The role of location and place in the fieldwork tradition of anthropology has been the subject of much important scholarship, for example, Stocking (1983); Gupta and Ferguson (1997). More recently, Livingstone (2003) has reviewed the now burgeoning literature on the geography of science.

2.Strictly speaking, en plein air (French for “in the open air”) refers to making more-or-less-finished paintings outdoors, unlike the traditional artistic custom of making sketches to be used later in the studio as the basis for a finished painting. Here I am using the term somewhat loosely to highlight the feature of painting out of doors.

3.Looking at the intersection of period cultural practices of art and science, I speak in my essay to the field of visual culture generally and to what has been called “the visual historiography of science.” For a review of the key literature, see Clark (2008: 244–45), which also discusses the evolutionary exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History (hereafter AMNH).

4.Henry F. Osborn to William Berryman Scott, May 22, 1908, quoted in Kennedy (1968: 163).

5.Some of my story also continues into the directorship of George H. Sherwood (1876–1937), who served from 1923 to 1935.

6.Clark Wissler to Frederic A. Lucas, May 27, 1912; seconding opinions of both Jesup and Osborn regarding the place of the Asian collections (cf. Haddad 2006: 141); Central Archives, American Museum of Natural History Library Archives (hereafter CA): file 499, folder 1906–12. In addition to Haddad, for more on the Laufer collection, see Kendall (this volume) and Kendall (2014).

7.Clark Wissler to Hermon C. Bumpus, November 24, 1905; with “Plans for the Exhibition Halls, 1905–6: General Plan for the Development of the Department of Anthropology”; Division of Anthropology Archives, AMNH (hereafter DA): Quarterly and Annual Reports (1903–30), folder 5.

8.The two physical anthropology halls were the Biology of Man on the third floor (along with the related Primate Hall) and the Age of Man on the fourth floor, containing paleontology and Paleolithic culture (Rainger 1991: 169–81, 231–32; Regel 2002: 151–54; Clark 2008: 107–31).

9.Life groups were seen in America as early as 1876, when Artur Hazelius presented dramatic dioramas of Swedish peasants at Philadelphia’s Centennial Exposition, but these depicted folk rather than aboriginal cultures (Jacknis MS.).

10.As I have noted (2004: 247 n. 5), there is some uncertainty about the number of mannequins in the Haida canoe. About forty were originally planned (Dickerson 1910: 227–29), but only about half seem to have been completed. About a dozen are visible in contemporary photographs (for example, Jonaitis 1988: 216), and seventeen were present in 1989, when the group was restored (Coffee 1991: 31).

11.As the museum’s General Guide noted (1919: 66), the pygmy group represented “a ‘low’ or primitive race of man,” which was juxtaposed to the orangutans, “a ‘high’ type of Ape.”

12.Anonymous [Clark Wissler], “The Hopi Group,” April 8, 1915; DA: “Museum Exhibits—Files in Process,” folder “Publicity in Early AMNH Exhibits.”

13.For example, during the 1920s, miniature models of modern and ancient Pueblo villages were added to the Southwest Hall (Goddard 1931: 4).

14.Will S. Taylor, who executed the large series of murals in the Northwest Coast Hall, was commissioned in the 1920s to do three more for the Morgan Hall of Gems, illustrating periods in the human use of minerals: The Age of Stone, The Age of Bronze, and The Age of Iron. In the upper lunettes of the large Hall of Ocean Life (opened in 1933) there was a series illustrating American sperm whaling, executed by marine painter John Prentice Benson.

15.Stewart Culin, who had a flair for exhibit design, accompanied museum artists Herbert B. Judy and Albert L. Groll to the field (Jacknis 1991). In fact, Culin’s murals, which were installed between 1905 and 1912, directly inspired the American Museum, as director Frederic Lucas was familiar with them from his stint at Brooklyn (1904–11); cf. Pliny Goddard to Nessa Cohen, August 3, 1911; DA: file 521, box 48, folder 4.

16.After several years of working with contract artists, curator Pliny E. Goddard suggested the idea for the committee. Pliny E. Goddard to Henry F. Osborn, December 7, 1915; CA: file 1065, folder 1916–22.

17.“Special Display of Collections, Paintings, and Photographs Illustrative of the Arts and Industries of the Indians of the Southwest, February 26 to March 16, 1913”; DA: Museum Exhibits—Files in Process; folder “Publicity in Early AMNH Exhibits.”

18.“Plan for Mural Decorations in the Plains Indian Hall,” ca. 1913, called for the following subjects: Cree Sun Dance, sweat house scene, Dakota camp, Blackfoot camp, horse stealing scene, Comanche camp, Pawnee camp, and a buffalo hunt. In 1913 and 1917, these subjects were revised; DA: file 437.

19.There are no good extant photographs that show Deming’s murals installed in the Plains Hall. According to Lamb (1978: 116, 144), the artist finished two murals, which were destroyed when the hall was closed in the early 1960s: Plains Indian War Party and Moving Camp. The surviving evidence is quite partial and contradictory. There are plans indicating where in the hall the murals were intended to go; DA: file 437. One tantalizing installation photograph reveals the bottom corner of one mural (neg. no. 291994, dated 1939). The museum seems to have one Deming painting (The Scouts Looking for Smoke Signals, 1916; oil on canvas mounted on board). The museum also has several photographs of Deming murals: Cavalcade Panorama of the Plains (neg. no. 315718) and Dakota Sioux Visit to Blackfoot Camp (neg. no. 34080, 34081), but it is not clear whether they were finished or just studies. Similarly, it is unclear when the murals were set up, but at least one of them was being installed in 1923; cf. Henry F. Osborn to Frederic A. Lucas, March 17, 1923; CA: file 1265.

20.Actually, plans for the Akin murals and the McCormick dioramas were simultaneous, indicating that the hall was originally to have both. Akin was commissioned first, in early 1911, and McCormick and Young in early 1912; in fact, McCormick ran into Akin on the Hopi mesas. Howard McCormick to Pliny E. Goddard, August 26, 1912; September 6, 1912; DA: file 566, box 49, folder 15. Around the same time, in mid-1911, the museum commissioned sculptor Nessa Cohen (1885–1976) to make a series of miniature figurines, which could serve as models for a full-size display (Anonymous 1913a), but she seems to have lost out to Young. See Shelley Staples (2001), “I Prefer the Navajo Rug: Locating an American Primitive,” American Studies Program, University of Virginia, Charlottesville; http://xroads.virginia.edu/~museum/armory/primitivism.html (accessed March 27, 2015).

21.Contracts between Howard McCormick and Clark Wissler, June 1912–April 1915; DA: file 566.

22.Among the best sources on the three Southwest dioramas are the brochures prepared and printed by the museum for their respective openings. Although they were published without attribution, we know that Goddard was the author of two of them and Wissler probably wrote the first. [Clark Wissler], “The Hopi Group,” April 8, 1915; [Pliny Goddard], “The Apache Group,” May 18, 1917; [Pliny Goddard], “The Navajo Group,” November 19, 1924. The Hopi and Navajo brochures are in DA: “Museum Exhibits— Files in Process,” folder “Publicity in Early AMNH Exhibits.” The Apache one has been preserved in CA: file 130, box 53, folder 1916–18. For the Hopi, see also Wissler (1915); for the Navajo, see Goddard (1925).

23.The available sources are not as rich as we would like: photographs of the finished exhibits, published guides and handbooks, and correspondence in the anthropology departmental archives and the central archives in the library, supplemented by other secondary literature.

24.For some reason, dioramas with painted backgrounds were not as popular in the anthropological life groups at Washington, Chicago, or New York as they were at smaller museums such as Milwaukee and Albany (Barrett 1918; Parker 1918).

25.For the Huntington Expedition the main ethnologists were Pliny E. Goddard (Apache and Navajo) and Herbert J. Spinden (Rio Grande Pueblos), supplemented by Robert H. Lowie (Hopi), Leslie Spier (Havasupai, in addition to Zuni archaeology), and Mary Lois Kissell (Pima-Papago), plus contracts with Alfred L. Kroeber (Zuni) and Elsie Clews Parsons (Zuni, Laguna). The principal archaeologists were Nels C. Nelson and Leslie Spier, and by contract, Earl Morris. All were hired in 1909 or soon after. The museum’s first anthropologist to work in the Southwest, doing both archaeology and ethnology, was George H. Pepper, who was to supervise the Southwest Hall before his departure in 1909.

26.Clark Wissler to Hermon C. Bumpus, November 20, 1909; CA: file 845.

27.Clark Wissler to Hermon C. Bumpus, May 7, 1910; CA: file 845.

28.Clark Wissler to Hermon C. Bumpus, [no date, after November 9, 1909]; CA: file 845.

29.Clark Wissler to Hermon C. Bumpus, November 20, 1909; CA: file 845.



32.Wissler’s earliest plans for a Southwest life group called for “[a] Pueblo village, showing part of the interior of a house with women at work, and, by a painted background, a view through the door or window of the whole village in the open part of which the Snake Dance ceremony is being performed. Estimated extra cost, $4,500.00.” With the elimination of the ceremonial scene, a decade later this became the Hopi diorama. Clark Wissler to Hermon C. Bumpus, November 24, 1905, with “Plans for the Exhibition Halls, 1905–6: Specific Plan for the Execution of the Above Scheme for North America”; DA: Quarterly and Annual Reports (1903–30), folder 5.

33.These figures have been determined from the extant photographs, but it appears that the composition and details did shift over time.

34.Among the prominent creators of ethnic sculptures in plaster or bronze whose work often decorated anthropology galleries were Malvina Hoffman (Kinkel 2011), Henry Ward (Arnoldi 1997), Fiona Pardington (Baker and Rankin 2011), and Marguerite Milward (Elliott, this volume).

35.Unlike the Southwest groups, in the Plains and Woodlands halls “real tipis are set up, fitted up with real furniture and inhabited by costumed figures. Everything is real except the plaster figures and the fire” (Wissler 1943: 221).

36.There were fourteen specimens in the Apache group (Model M/95): root chopper (50/8844), gourd dipper (50/8826), baskets (50/8946, 50/8789), quiver and arrows (50/9163), bow (50/8860a), saddle (50/8475), lasso (50/8452), waterbottle (50.1/2098), burden basket (50/9041), saddle bag (50.1/1312), baskets (50/8671, 50/9093), and arrow (50.1/8076b). Eleven specimens were in the Navajo group (Model M/125): clay pot (50/9210), bridle (50.1/948), basket (50/1994), saddle blanket (1/5456), blankets (50.1/5, 50/9987, 50/9993, 50/9997), basket (50.1/4116), saddle (50/6780), and blanket (50.1/4243). Photos of these items, found in the AMNH anthropology department online database (http://anthro.amnh.org/north), can be matched to the installation shots included here.

37.As Freed notes (2012: 404), generations of visitors repeatedly touching the exposed Plains tipi gradually destroyed its hide cover through the removal of small pieces.

38.Anonymous [Clark Wissler], “The Hopi Group,” April 8, 1915; DA: “Museum Exhibits—Files in Process,” folder “Publicity in Early AMNH Exhibits.”

39.Report of the Department of Anthropology for the Quarter ending June the 30th, 1908; DA: Quarterly and Annual Reports (1903–30), folder 14.

40.According to Clark Wissler (Wissler 1915: 344), “In composition the artists have projected the group as a whole. To this end the objects in the foreground are adjusted to the same perspective lines as the canvas. Had the primary aim been to show a Hopi house, it would have been constructed on its own lines, but since the purpose of this group was to show a cross-section of Hopiland, the unity of the whole was sought in one perspective. This unity of perspective between the foreground and the canvas is designed to carry the eye over from the real objects in the foreground to the canvas in the distance, to the end that one may feel the great open landscape of the Hopi Indian’s habitat. In this particular the artists have been successful.”

41.In fact, in first thinking about the location of the Southwest Hall, Wissler asked for the sunny west side of the museum building, since he noted that it was so sunny in the Southwest! In any case, this did become the final location. Clark Wissler to Hermon C. Bumpus, November 24, 1905, with “Plans for the Exhibition Halls, 1905–6”; DA: Quarterly and Annual Reports (1903–30), folder 5; Clark Wissler to Hermon C. Bumpus, November 20, 1909; CA: file 845.

42.In his summary museum survey, Wissler complained of the “faulty lighting” that then marred the effect for the Southwest dioramas (1943: 221).

43.Clark Wissler to Hermon C. Bumpus, November 24, 1905, with “Plans for the Exhibition Halls, 1905–6: Specific Plan for the Execution of the Above Scheme for North America”; DA: Quarterly and Annual Reports (1903–30), folder 5.

44.For a review of the Southwest collections at the American Museum, see Fowler (2000: 233–40, 243–44, 275–84, 288–93); Snead (2001: 97–123); Freed (2012: 407–13); as well as the terminal report, “The Archer M. Huntington Survey of Southwestern United States Conducted by the Department of Anthropology, 1909–1921,” filed with Henry F. Osborn to Archer M. Huntington, March 8, 1924; CA: file 845, folder 1923–24.

45.In addition to the collections from Spinden, Kroeber, and Parsons (Goddard 1921: 4), the museum also used other, earlier collections, such as the Pueblo pottery from George H. Pepper’s 1903 expedition.

46.Pliny E. Goddard; DA: accession 1910-22. This continued the practice begun for the Northwest Coast Hall with Franz Boas’s cedar bark group in 1894 or the mannequins for Harlan Smith’s Shuswap hide preparation in 1898.

47.Clark Wissler to Pliny E. Goddard, January 24, 1910; DA: no. 1910-22.

48.Goddard’s main Apache accessions were no. 1909-57 and no. 1910-22.

49.Clark Wissler to Hermon C. Bumpus, April 17, 1910; cf. Clark Wissler to Hermon C. Bumpus, May 12, 1910; CA: file 845.

50.In 1913, when the museum presented a special exhibition of its Southwest collections, it was able to draw upon objects from Collis and Archer Huntington, Hispanic serapes from Anson W. Hard, Navajo blankets from J. P. Morgan (collected by Emil W. Lenders) and Margaret Olivia Sage, and Apache baskets from James Douglas. There was also Lumholtz and Hyde archaeology, in addition to what had already come in from the Huntington Expedition. “Special Display of Collections, Paintings, and Photographs Illustrative of the Arts and Industries of the Indians of the Southwest; February 26 to March 16, 1913”; DA: Museum Exhibits—Files in Process; folder “Publicity in Early AMNH Exhibits.” The museum’s collection of Navajo textiles is the subject of my ongoing research; see Ira Jacknis, “Art or Anthropology: Collecting Navajo Textiles in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, 1900–45,” Textile Society of America biennial meeting, Los Angeles, 2014.

51.Terminal Huntington report, p. 2 (see n. 44).

52.Acknowledging the research thrust of the Huntington Expedition, Wissler noted that it was “a plan for a series of research projects in archaeology, ethnology and physical anthropology, all intensive research units, which might be expected to furnish data for synthetic studies in the pre-historic and historical evolution of cultures in that area, and not an attempt to secure complete collections for the area” (1943: 193).

53.Kroeber’s Zuni collections, both at the American Museum and the Hearst Museum, are subjects of my ongoing research; cf. Ira Jacknis, “Reticulated Relationships: Alfred L. Kroeber’s Collections from Zuni,” American Anthropological Association, annual meeting, Chicago, 2013.

54.Pliny E. Goddard to Robert H. Lowie, July 29, 1915; DA: 563.

55.In resorting to this model, the museum was just continuing what by then was a centuries-long tradition of artists on scientific expeditions. In an age before photography, artists’ graphic skills were especially prized. Ironically, Howard McCormick, who made the oldest kind of visual record (sketches), was also a pioneer in the newest (film). It was not a simple issue of one mode replacing the other.

56.Not surprisingly, the fieldwork for the dioramas followed in the sequence of their construction: Hopi (1912) to Apache (1914–15) to Navajo (1916–17, supplemented in 1923–24). Upon first commissioning McCormick and Young in 1912, funding for the construction of the groups was not yet in place, even for the Hopi, let alone for the Apache and Navajo. Contract, Clark Wissler with Howard McCormick, June 15, 1912; DA: file 566.

57.Goddard and McCormick were actually friends, as both lived in Leonia, New Jersey, where Young settled a few years later (Toone 1997: 106).

58.Clark Wissler to Hermon C. Bumpus, November 20, 1909; CA: file 845.

59.The American Southwest has long been a site of fascination for the non-Native society. The American Museum’s hall devoted to this region needs to be seen against this larger background. Among the better summaries of the vast scholarly literature, see Dilworth (1996), Fowler (2000), and Auerbach (2006).

60.Clark Wissler to Hermon C. Bumpus, October 27, 1909; CA: file 845.

61.Widely known to tourists and anthropologists alike, Nampeyo (ca. 1860–1942) had also been filmed by Howard McCormick on his first Southwest trip. Howard McCormick to Pliny E. Goddard, August 26, 1912; DA: file 566.

62.Lists of specimens loaned to Mr. Taylor, 1909–11; DA: file 343.

63.For the Northwest Coast murals, Taylor had advice from anthropologists George T. Emmons and Harlan Smith. As Jonaitis notes, Taylor’s murals were “competent reconstructions, based partially on scenes the artist actually observed, on old archival photographs, on information from library texts, and on artifacts from the American Museum” (1988: 222).

64.In fact, this relative lack of mechanical documentation was repeated for both the Plains and Southwest expeditions. In 1904 Clark Wissler made about 150 cylinders among the Blackfoot of Montana and Alberta; and in 1909, Pliny Goddard recorded 115 cylinders among the Jicarilla, Mescalero, and San Carlos Apache. But there was not much else.

65.Trader Juan Lorenzo Hubbell lent McCormick a set of Navajo ceremonial photos taken by Franciscan Brother Simeon Schwemberger (Blue 2000: 215).

66.In a dramatic example of plein-air practice, McCormick describes the great difficulties he encountered in painting Canyon de Chelly during a rainstorm (1917: 480).

67.The Hopi diorama depicted Walpi as seen from the south, with Sichumovi (further north on First Mesa) in the distance. Second Mesa was seen to the left, with lowland corn fields to the right. Possible sources, yet to be confirmed, were the photographs of Adam C. Vroman and Frederick I. Monsen. Sculptor Nessa Cohen mentioned both of them, along with Burton Holmes, as models for her work; Nessa Cohen to Pliny Goddard, June 6, 1911; June 17, 1911; DA: file 521, box 48, folder 4.

68.In the Northwest Coast Hall, the Shuswap Salish woman scraping a hide in the life group has a hide dress instead of the cloth dress she wore when photographed by the collector, Harlan Smith (Kendall, Mathe, and Miller 1997: nos. 58–59). Will Taylor similarly transformed the Chilkat weaver in his mural (Jonaitis 1988: 223–24). And in executing her Southwest miniatures, Nessa Cohen noted “[a] woman making baskets, as in the photographs [that she was given], would look like a white woman … in the clothes she is wearing.” Nessa Cohen to Pliny Goddard, June 17, 1911; DA: file 521, box 48, folder 4.

69.In fact, to a great extent, President Osborn was responsible for this anachronistic approach. For example, he instructed his staff to replace the acculturated clothing on the Woodlands figures with aboriginal hide garb. Henry F. Osborn to Frederic A. Lucas, March 17, 1923; CA: file 10, folder 10ab, March–December 1923.

70.While most museum anthropologists of the time depicted pre-contact cultures, some, such as Milwaukee’s Samuel A. Barrett (1918: 76–77) and Albany’s Arthur C. Parker (Zeller 1989: 109), found some room to display acculturation.

71.Pliny E. Goddard to Howard McCormick, July 22, 1912; DA: file 566.

72.The only surviving Goddard-McCormick footage is preserved in Special Collections, AMNH Library, as film no. 192: “Hopi Indians of the Southwest,” 1912–25; black-and-white, 35mm (original), silent, 16 minutes. Sculptor Nessa Cohen asked to use McCormick’s Hopi footage as a source for her work; Nessa Cohen to Pliny Goddard, August 20, 1911; DA: file 521, box 48, folder 4.

73.Another scene common to both film and the Apache diorama was a man making a bow and arrows. Goddard also shot food gathering and preparation, basket making, shooting an arrow, gambling, and sweat baths.

74.Report, Will H. Low and Edwin H. Blashfield to Henry F. Osborn, February 14, 1916; CA: file 1065.

75.“Art at Natural History Museum: Art at Home and Abroad,” New York Times, July 4, 1915.

76.In his obituary for Goddard, Alfred Kroeber noted his colleague’s focus on realism, facts, and fieldwork (1929: 4–5).

77.Henry F. Osborn to Edwin W. Deming, July 1, 1913 (copy), and similar correspondence in this file; DA: file 437. The Deming “problem” was the subject of much internal correspondence at the time; cf. Frederic A. Lucas to Henry F. Osborn, December 18, 1915; CA: file 1065, folder 1916–22.

78.Low and Blashfield report (see n. 74).

79.Lucas was referring to a series of six dramatic dioramas devoted to Iroquois village life, opened in 1916, prepared under the direction of Iroquois anthropologist Arthur C. Parker, a Putnam protégé (Zeller 1989: 106–11).

80.Frederic A. Lucas to Henry F. Osborn, March 26, 1923; CA: file 10, folder 10ab, March–December 1923.

81.For the three Southwest exhibit pamphlets, see n. 22.

82.Report of the Department of Anthropology for the Quarter ending June 30, 1908; DA: Quarterly and Annual Reports, folder 14.

83.Clark Wissler, January 30, 1937, President’s Dinner; DA: Museum Exhibits—Files in Process, folder “Clark Wissler, Museum Education.”

84.By the mid-1930s, one curator estimated that two-thirds of the museum’s budget went for the creation and maintenance of exhibits. Citing a meeting in the mayor’s office, in response to a comment that the staff of the natural history museum was so much larger than that for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the director of the American Museum responded that “[t]hey buy their art; we must make ours” (Murphy 1937: 76).

85.Clark Wissler, “Abstract of Remarks at the Trustees’ Dinner,” January 11, 1937; Trustees’ Dinner, January 30, 1937; Meeting Agenda and Discussion of Exhibition Halls; DA: Museum Exhibits—Files in Process, folder “Clark Wissler, Museum Education.”

86.For instance, Bumpus visited Wissler in the Southwest in March of 1910.

87.Each of the Southwest dioramas cost about $5,000—roughly $100,000 in today’s funds. Frederic A. Lucas to Clark Wissler, March 1, 1912; CA: file 845.

88.Henry F. Osborn to Archer M. Huntington, June 13, 1923; Huntington to Osborn, November 22, 1923; CA: file 845, folder 1923–24.

89.Specifically, Wissler blamed the lack of further anthropological dioramas on the Osborn administration’s refusal to fund preparators in the department (1943: 110–11).

90.On the other hand, Mead herself did considerable collecting—3,284 items—(half of the Pacific ethnological collections), and she was a pioneer in developing a visual anthropology through the media of still photography and film (Thomas 1980; Freed 2012: 913).

91.Despite a mystery concerning the whereabouts of the mannequins (Toone 1997: 122, n. 51), at least four of them have survived: the old man spinning and the girl reclining (Hopi, 1915), the woman building a wickiup (Apache, 1917), and a dog (Navajo, 1924). These have been preserved by Susan K. Bell, research associate of the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology, AMNH. From them we can see that the figures were clearly smaller than life-size, so that they would match the vanishing perspective of the large dioramas, and were brightly and loosely painted, probably to achieve their effect in relative darkness at a distance. Because of their diminutive size, they could not have worn or used real artifacts.

92.Deming’s Plains murals seem to have been destroyed; all but one of Stokes’s Eskimo murals were sold to the Glenbow Museum in 1961 (Freed 2012: 416–17).

93.As Freed notes (2012: 385), there has been a reduction in the relative regional emphases of AMNH anthropology in its public displays. Following the suite of renovations that began in 1960, the square footage for Asia more than doubled, while that for Native North America had been reduced from 40,000 to 17,000 by 2007 (primarily through the closure of the Southwest, Eskimo, and archaeology galleries and the reduction of the Plains and Woodlands halls).