Smithsonian Voices

From the Smithsonian Museums

Ceramic olla purchased from Soledad Lala (Soboba Luiseño), Riverside, California, for the collections of the Museum of the American Indian, with a sketch by the collector, E. H. Davis. Olla: NMAI 7/1952. Drawing: Expedition Sketch Book, No. 2, November 1917. Edward H. Davis Papers, Huntington Free Library Collection 9166, Cornell University Library (National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian; sketch courtesy of the Cornell University Library)

Spotlight on Collections: Reuniting Objects and Expedition Field Notes

The collections of the National Museum of the American Indian include thousands of objects and images acquired during expeditions conducted or sponsored by our predecessor institution, the Museum of the American Indian–Heye Foundation. While some expeditions are well documented in collectors’ field notes and early publications, much of the information about specific objects or the individuals associated with them was never recorded on the museum’s catalog cards. A long-term, multi-institutional project to reconstruct objects’ acquisitions histories is reuniting this information with the collections. Here are a few things we’ve learned so far.