American Museum of Natural History

Report on Research Visit to the American Museum of Natural History, July 1999
(By Patricia 0. Afable, Research Associate, Asian Cultural History Program, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC 20650-0112)

My visit to the Department of Anthropology at AMNH had the goal of visiting the Philippine collection and examining various documents having to do with its history,including catalogs, archival material, and photographs. It took place during the week of July 19, 1999, over 4 days. I was accompanied by Dr. Yoshiko Yamamoto, Curator of the Adan E. Treganza Museum of Anthropology, San Francisco State University, who has studied utilitarian crafts and agricultural tools in the Philippines. During our tour of the collections on July 21, we were joined by Professor Harold C. Conklin of Yale University's Anthropology Department. Professor Conklin is responsible for the major Hanunoo (Mindoro) and Ifugao collections at AMNH, which number over 600 objects collected in the 1950's and 1960's, respectively.

The St. Louis Fair Collection. In particular, I was interested in the AMNH's Philippine material that came from the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904 (also known as the St. Louis Fair). At present, I am engaged in a study of the history of Philippine collections at the Smithsonian Institution, specifically in the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) and the National Museum of American History (NMAH). Since the NMNH has about 1000 Philippine objects from the St. Louis Fair, I wished to find the connection, if any, of this collection to that of the AMNH. A December 4, 1905 .document in the NMNH's Registrar's office shows that at least some Philippine objects were shipped to the Smithsonian from the AMNH. However, none of the documents I was able to examine in AMNH archives gave a clear picture of how the St. Louis Fair collections from the Philippines were originally acquired by the AMNH' s Dr. Bumpus, or of the background to the Smithsonian's acquisition of some of the material.

Unfortunately, my time in New York was not sufficient for a more thorough archival search. The AMNH catalogs (three volumes) for the Philippine collection show that the Louisiana Purchase Exposition accession is 1905-64, and has a total count of 4027(compared to about 1000 objects at NMNH). These objects were purchased through a bequest from Morris K. Jesup in early 1905, at the close of the Fair. There is a smaller Jesup collection of 141 objects that were labeled "St. Louis Fair" in Vol. 2 of the AMNH catalog. (By comparison, the NMNHs main collection arrived in Washington later, one lot in June and the second in December, 1905, from the "Philippine World's Fair Commission," and were shipped from AMNH. A small set of 29 objects was received from the same agency in 1915).

The collection of objects in the Philippines and their exhibition at the St. Louis Fair were the responsibility of the Philippine Exposition Board, which was formed specifically for these purposes. Its Chairman and Director of Exhibits, respectively, were William P. Wilson and Dr. Gustavo Niederlein, both of whom came from the Philadelphia Commercial Museums. Wilson was director of the latter and Niederlein was chief of the scientific department. At the end of the St. Louis Fair, Philippine artifacts were sent to the AMNH, the NMNH, and to the Philadelphia Commercial Museum, but by far, the AMNH's St. Louis Fair Philippine accession is the largest of the three. The Philadelphia Commercial Museum, which is now defunct, received a large proportion of the manufacturing and commercial samples that were exhibited at St. Louis, although apparently some lumber samples and forest products went to AMNH because of Morris Jesup' s personal interest in these. It is not clear what happened to the Philippine artifacts that went to Philadelphia.

Albert E. Jenks, cited in the beginning of the AMNH catalog as the person who catalogued the St. Louis collection, was a member of that Board and was Chief, Department of Ethnology, in the Philippine Exposition at St. Louis. Jenks had lived in Bontoc, in what is today Mountain Province, in the northern Philippines, and produced the first major ethnological publication in the Philippines under U.S. government auspices (The Bontoc lgorot, 1905). It is also not possible to tell where Jenks catalogued the collection, although it appears likely that he did that in Manila, before the collection was shipped to St. Louis. It appears that at least one other person was involved in the cataloguing: A letter (in folder 1905-64 in the Anthropology Archives) from Harlan I. Smith to Charles E. Brown (then secretary of the Wisconsin Archaeological Society), dated Feb. 25, 1905, informs Brown that the St. Louis Fair objects had been acquired by AMNH and states that Brown was involved in cataloguing objects for the Philippine exhibit in St. Louis. (For more information, see Official Catalogue, Philippine Exhibits, Universal Exposition, St. Louis, U.S.A., 1904, published by the Official Catalogue Company (Inc.), St. Louis, 1904 ).

Over a thousand Filipinos from different parts of the country were taken to St. Louis for exhibition in 1904. The year before, Jenks had been responsible for recruiting various groups of people in Mindanao for exhibition at St. Louis. It appears that a number of people whom he knew well in Bontoc were also part of the "Igorrote" group recruited from that area for exhibition at the Fair. There is no information from the catalogs of the AMNH Philippine collection about whether or not objects that were used or made by Filipinos at the Fair are also part of this collection.

The AMNH collection of Philippine objects is notable for its size, quality, variety, and its wide geographical distribution. The St. Louis Fair collection alone has about 1000 non-ceramic objects from various cultures on the island of Mindanao, including the Sulu archipelago, and over 450 non-ceramic objects from different parts of the northern Luzon highlands ( commonly labeled "Igorot" in the literature of that period). The ceramic collection is relatively small: some 500 pieces from all over the Philippines, with the three largest collections being from Pampanga (central Luzon, 72 pieces), the Bicol region (67 pieces), and La Union province (50 pieces). It is common for U.S. museum collections to have a large proportion of their Philippine objects coming from the far southern and northern parts of the archipelago (the "non- Christian," "tribal" areas that were the focus of early reports by government ethnologists).

While this is also true at the AMNH, its St. Louis collection is distinctive in having, in addition, a large number of objects from the main "Christian lowland" groups of the northern coast and from the central Philippines, including groups labeled "Tagalog" (400 objects), "Visayan" (600), and "Ilokano" (250 objects). The next set of smaller collections consists of "Pangasinan" (64 objects), "Pampanga" (43 objects), and "Bicol" (41 objects).

This result of the Philippine Exposition Board's systematic collecting activity throughout the Philippines to include many of the lowland and coastal regions makes the AMNH Philippine collection unusual among museum collections in the United States. (The Smithsonian's NMNH collection comes close to this, as a result of Frank Hilder's Philippine expedition, during which he colle.cted over a 1000 objects, many from Tagalog and other central Philippine regions, for the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo).

While it was not possible for me to examine most of the St. Louis Fair objects, there is enough evidence in the Official Catalogue and other references that, in addition to having wide geographical distribution, the objects collected for that Fair had a high quality of workmanship. In the collection effort, officials of each municipality were summoned to the provincial capitals to help obtain objects for exhibit and be informed of the aims of the Philippine Exposition Board. School teachers and scientific collectors employed by the Board were sent out to the different provinces. Much effort was exerted by local officials to obtain excellent specimens of locally significant products and other cultural objects; this might be expected since the names of their municipalities and provinces were to appear on the exhibition labels,

Some St. Louis Fair objects in the Smithsonian's collections have tags indicating the Philippine municipal or provincial committee involved in procuring the object for exhibition. No such tags were found on the AMNHs St. Louis Fair objects. One suggestion given was that they were removed from the St. Louis Fair objects when they went on exhibition at AMNH after the Fair. It is possible that these labels have been archived and that a further search will unearth them, hopefully during the relocation of the collections. All is not lost, however, for information about the source province (but not the town or municipality) is given in the AMNH typewritten catalog.

The Special Library collections have a sizable number of pictures from the St. Louis Fair Philippine exhibits on file. Many of the individual and group pictures have appeared in publications on the St. Louis Fair. These images would be extremely useful in studies of the Philippine artifact collection, especially since photographs exist from both the St. Louis Fair and from the AMNH exhibition of these objects following the Fair. A valuable set of large transparencies of individuals and scenes from the Fair, apparently part of the AMNH Philippine exhibit that was opened in 1911, are housed in the Anthropology Archives.

A note on some textiles in the Philippine collection. Ms. Lisa Withal! showed Yamamoto, Conklin, and me the northern Philippine ikat textiles listed in the catalog. Professor Conklin took this opportunity to revise some information he had given regarding these fabrics during a visit to AMNH in the 1980's. The main point that came across in the discussion was that there were 2 main source areas for the AMNH northern Philippine ikats: One includes the Ilocos region, the upper Abra River, and the middle Chico River areas west of the main Cordillera Central ridge, associated today with Ilocano, Tinguian/Itneg, Bago, Kankanaey, Kalinga, and Bontoc ethnolinguistic groups. The thin, gauze-like ikat fabrics (70.1/838 and 70.1/839), primarily used to bury the dead, came from this first region; it is quite likely that they were produced along the Ilocos coast and traded into the Kankanaey-speaking upper Abra River communities.

The second zone is east of this ridge, and includes Ibaloy-, Ifugao-, I'uwak-, Kalanguya-,Kankanaey- and Karao-speaking areas in the Cordillera region and the Isinay-speaking towns of the nearby eastern lowlands. The best known weavers of the more densely woven ikat blanket (70.1-898) and loincoth (70.1/912) were Isinay women in the towns of Dupax, Aritao, and Bambang, on the upper Magat River. Blankets woven there were traded into mountain communities to the west, where they were highly prized as death shrouds. In some areas, such blankets were displayed at large feasts and sometimes used in dancing. Similar textiles are produced ~ in Ifugao as well, where they are called inladdang.

Object counts. According to the catalogs, there are over 10,000 Philippine objects in the AMNH collection, with the St. Louis Fair collection making up slightly less than half. This is one of the three largest, if not the largest, of the Philippine collections outside of the Philippines, and much of it is close to a hundred years old. (The two others belong to the NMNH and to the Field Museum). Its importance to museological studies, to material culture and cultural historical research on the Philippines, and to studies of the colonial history of the United States in Asia (to the idea of"scientific collecting" and the ethnological classifications of peoples, for example) can not be dismissed.

There are other large individual collections of Philippine objects at AMNH: the Frederick Starr (about 900 objects from northern Luzon and Mindanao, primarily), Laura Watson Benedict ( about 2000 objects, mainly from Mindanao), and Harold C. Conklin (about 600 objects from Mindoro and Ifugao) collections. These were the result of well-planned collecting activities and are well-documented. Cultural historical studies and comparative studies of basketry, pottery, and textile traditions, many of which have disappeared, could profitably be made on all these collections, including the St. Louis Fair accession, because of the wide extent of the geographical distribution of their objects.

As the Philippine-American population of the United States approaches the 2 million mark in the next decade, I believe that interest in museum collections of Philippine origin will grow, as discussions of Philippine-American identities receive wider coverage outside of academic circles. I hope that before too long, adequate storage and display facilities will be found for the AMNH' s Philippine collections, and opportunities will be available to examine digital images, a catalog database, and other forms of publication and exhibition of this most impressive and historically important collection of Philippine heritage in the United States.

Acknowledgements: I appreciate the generous help from the following AMNH staff in making the research survey of the Philippine collections possible: Paul Beelitz, Dr. Laurel Kendall, Kristen Mable, Barbara Mathe, Flora Rodriguez, Lisa Whitall, and Paula Willey. I especially thank Ann Wright-Parsons for facilitating this research visit and for her enthusiastic interest in the work on the Philippine collections. Also, I wish to thank Dr. Harold C. Conklin and Dr. Yoshiko Yamamoto for the timely opportunity to consult with them during this visit.

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