My Visit To The American Museum Of Natural History

3200 words - 13 pages

The three Halls that I visited at the American Museum of Natural History were: Halls of the Pacific Peoples, Northwest Coast Indians and Asian peoples. All of these Halls were distinctly different from each other, although I enjoyed viewing all three, my favorite Hall was that of Asian Peoples. Of special interest was the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians, since I was able to witness and play in my head, a reel of the transformations it has gone through since the time of Franz Boas, as described in an article “A Magic Place”. Reading the article beforehand helped make me aware of the changes that were made to the exhibit since the time of Franz Boas, while I was exploring the Northwest Coast Hall.
The article, “A Magic Place” provides a very descriptive analysis of the changes made to the Hall by Boas and why he made certain alterations. The Hall before Boas was distinctly different, in part due to its arrangement as a department store. Similar items were grouped together on shelves of glass, and many of the artifacts were grouped by collector. This arrangement went through drastic changes during Boas reign from 1845-1905. Boas had a preference for life groups and dioramas which depicted the people of the culture performing daily activities. Boas was first commissioned to collect materials for the display of a life group, later he commissioned a set of objects made of cedar bark for a display depicting women using these cedar barks and other crafts so that the scene could be photographed. One of boas’ greatest achievements was directing the Jesup North Pacific Expedition. Boas made considerable changes to the arrangement of the Hall. He shifted the arrangements so that it was in a tribal order, with a general synopsis in the beginning. The synopsis had a general collection of specimens gathered from the entire area for the purpose of illustrating what the culture was as a whole. Boas was interested in showing cross- cultural analysis of discrete traits of tribes. The Hall then proceeded with independent collections that depicted the uniqueness of single tribes. The tribal series began with the northern tribes, such as Tlingit, and progressed to the Southern tribes, such as Kwakwaka’wakw. The infamous Haida canoe was suspended from the ceiling, alongside suspended nets and smaller canoes. In 1905 Boas resigned, following a dispute regarding his belief that the priority of research and publication over exhibition with the museum administrators.
The Hall went through major changes after Boas’ departure. The museum administrators, and the new curator, Clark Wissler, focused on making the Hall more public friendly and appealing. They separated the study series from the specimens and “simplified” the Hall by removing Boas’ synopsis series. The arrangement of the material was done geographically, from north to south. The low center cases were removed and replaced with the Haida canoe. The Haida canoe was removed from the...

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