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Ancient Southwestern America at the Dawn of the 20th Century on Display
Sumner W. Matteson, Antelope Priests Shaking Rattles, 1901, hand-colored glass lantern slide, US.01.099.0026. Courtesy of Tulane University’s Middle American Research Institute.
NEW ORLEANS, LA.- A little known American Indian archive was unveiled at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) from July 24 until October 24, 2010. Ancestors and Descendants: Ancient Southwestern America at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century is the first comprehensive exhibition of nineteenth century photography, southwestern artifacts and archival research from the George Hubbard Pepper Native American Archive at Tulane University.

In collaboration with Tulane’s Middle American Research Institute (MARI) and Latin American Library (LAL), the exhibition offers a special glimpse of the Tulane archive featuring over 150 objects from Pepper’s personal Native American art collection as well as over 140 photographic images Pepper, a museum ethnologist and scholar, used as visual complements to his lectures. Many of the images and the objects in Ancestors and Descendents, including textiles, pottery, baskets, and other Pueblo and Navajo paraphernalia, have never been published or seen by the general public since 1924.

“There has never been an opportunity to bring together this many items from the Pepper archive,” said Paul Tarver, curator of Ancestors and Descendants. “Even in his lifetime, Pepper could only display a handful of objects with a few dozen images he projected through a magic lantern. This is the first time the breadth of the archive has been researched and displayed.”

The objects and images selected for the NOMA exhibition document the relationship between American Indians and the scientists, photographers and tourists who traveled to New Mexico and Arizona at the turn of the twentieth century. MARI and LAL archives include Pepper’s original excavation journals, personal diaries, sketch books, lectures and photographs that illustrate everyday interactions between Pepper and his subjects. The exhibition will utilize excerpts from these materials and bring the time period to life through Pepper’s words.

The exhibition at NOMA displays the wide variety of art forms Pepper collected from the Southwest as well as drawings and original handwritten journals from his Bonito excavation. Ancestors and Descendents presents a rare opportunity to see a collection that was put together over one hundred years ago by a museum ethnologist and early collector and scholar of Native American art.

Ancestors and Descendents: Ancient Southwestern America at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century is curated by Paul J. Tarver NOMA’s Curator of Pre-Columbian and Native American Art and co-curated by Cristin J. Nunez.

New Orleans Museum of Art | "Ancestors and Descendants" | Paul Tarver |

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