“Collecting Stories: Native American Art” explores the range of perspectives, motivations, and voices involved in building the early holdings of Native American art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The exhibition focuses on objects collected in the formative years after 1876—the year the Museum opened its doors to the public. Many of these works of art were donated by leaders of the MFA and members of New England intellectual circles who traveled to the Great Plains and Southwest, often inspired by period notions of “authentic” Indian life. Highlights include an early Navajo (Diné) wearing blanket (1840–60), a pair of important Eastern Woodlands moccasins (early 19th century), and a Plains roach, or headpiece, made of deer and porcupine hair (about 1880–85). “Collecting Stories” also examines how Euro-Americans encountered and represented Native Americans in the late 19th century, illuminating some of the historical and political contexts within which the MFA’s collection developed.
This is the first in a series of three exhibitions funded by the Henry Luce Foundation that will use understudied works from the MFA’s collection to address critical themes in American art and the formation of a modern American identity.
(Photo: Wearing blanket, Native American, Navajo (Diné), 1840–60, wool weft-faced plain weave, Denman Waldo Ross Collection)