In 2015, a collection of over 300 artifacts were returned to the University of Northern Colorado’s Anthropology Department from the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. These artifacts were once part of an even larger collection displayed in a museum on the UNC campus. After the museum closed in 1983, the collection dispersed. Over thirty years later, they made their way back.
What followed was an investigation into the history of the short-lived university anthropology museum, the unique collection it once held, and a few lessons in object care and preservation.
After retrieving the artifacts from Colorado Springs, the Anthropology department researched the pieces. They soon discovered that many of these were from the Hewett collection. From 1896 to 1906, anthropologist Edgar Hewett purchased contemporary Native American pottery and conducted excavations. The UNC Anthropology department put together a display at the Michener Library. I was contacted by Professor Sally McBeth, head of the department, during this process. After the Michener Library display was up, a conversation began about showing some of the artifacts at the Greeley History Museum.
Three UNC Anthropology undergraduate students volunteered to work with museum staff to organize an exhibition telling the story of this unique collection. The students were trained in exhibition display techniques, artifact handling and care, and cataloguing practices.
Made for the Tourist Trade opened at the Greeley History Museum on January 18th and will stay up until December 3rd. The exhibition combines the returned UNC artifacts with pieces in the City of Greeley Museums collection. This collaboration allowed the museum to display and tell the story of over 20 Southwest Native American pottery pieces and the tourist trade that developed after railroad lines stretched into the American Southwest.
Written by Museum Curator Nicole Famiglietti