Collections

Collection Overview

The Fowler’s collections comprise more than 120,000 art and ethnographic and 600,000 archaeological objects representing ancient, traditional, and contemporary cultures of Africa, Native and Latin America, and Asia and the Pacific. From Yoruba beaded arts of Southern Nigeria, to pre-Columbian ceramic vessels of Peru, to elaborate batik textiles of Indonesia and the vibrant papier-mâché sculptures of Mexico, the Fowler’s collections offer a comprehensive resource for exhibitions and scholarship central to the Museum’s mandate.

The majority of the Museum’s holdings has been acquired via the generosity of individuals—researchers, scholars, and dedicated collectors—who have enabled the Fowler to build its world-class collections. The Sir Henry Wellcome Collection of 30,000 objects, assembled early in the last century by Wellcome and given to the Museum in 1965, forms the core of our African and Pacific holdings and represents the single largest gift. More than 20,000 textiles trace the history of cloth over two millennia and across five continents. Objects from the Fowler Family Silver Collection include 400 works representing 16th- through 19th-century Europe and the United States. Among these are vessels from the renowned workshops of Paul de Lamerie, Karl Fabergé, and Paul Revere.

The majority of holdings has been collected in the field and systematically documented, providing essential contextual information. Maintaining geographical scope and artistic variety and building on existing strengths continue to be guiding principles in acquisitions decisions. For example, as the Museum augments its programming to meet the interests of the city’s growing Latin American population, collection activities in this area have increased. An exceptional collection of more than 900 Mexican works was donated in 1997 by the Daniel Family and includes magnificent ceramic Trees of Life, Day of the Dead figurines, and masks from Metepec, Oaxaca, Michoacan, Jalisco, Puebla, and Guanajuato.

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Learn more about the areas of our collection

ARTS OF AFRICA AND THE AFRICAN DIASPORA

 

One of the largest and finest in the United States, and one of the top twenty African collections worldwide, this collection offers a superb representation of the arts of many African nations, including objects from Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), Kenya, Zambia, and South Africa. The Yoruba collection alone is one of the three finest in the world. It contains a spectacular array of beaded objects, including a majestic throne, elaborate chiefly gowns, and sophisticated divination regalia.

A collection of post-apartheid election materials and contemporary South African art is being developed, as are a number of collections of popular urban arts from countries including Tanzania and Muslim Senegal. Recently, more than 400 textiles made by the Kuba peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo were gifted by the Christensen Foundation.

The collection represents some of the finest examples of men’s embroidered raffia pile cloths and women’s appliqué cloths. This collection complements already significant holdings of West African textiles from countries such as Mali and Ghana, including kente and adinkra cloth and Asafo flags. The museum also has significant holdings of arts from the African Americas, notably arts of Haitian Vodou, Brazil and Suriname.


ARTS OF THE AMERICAS

 

These holdings include a comprehensive collection of pre-Columbian ceramics with the best representations from West Mexico, the Valley of Mexico, and pre-Columbian Peru (with special strengths in the art of the Moche). The Fowler also possesses a cohesive collection of Guatemalan costumes; an extensive collection of Mexican clothing; textiles of Peru; and a comprehensive representation of field-collected market materials from Michoacan, Mexico. Complementing the pre-Columbian collections are field collections of the Warao and Yecuana Indians of the Orinoco Delta of Venezuela and contemporary Latin American popular arts including Mexican trees of life, Day of the Dead figures, and masks from Metepec, Oaxaca, Michoacan, Jalisco, Peubla, and Guanajuato.

Native American materials from the U.S. and Canada are a small but significant part of the collection. Materials from the United States and Canada include well-known Northwest Coast material, as well as a notable cross section of late nineteenth-century Inuit art and material culture.


ARTS OF ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

 

The collections from Insular Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and aboriginal Taiwan, are among the strongest in the United States. The Indonesian and Philippine textiles reinforce the Fowler Museum’s standing as a major repository for the textile arts. Also included are significant collections of sculptural material from Sumatra, Borneo, Sulawesi, and Luzon, puppetry from Java and Bali, basketry from Indonesia and Philippines, and metalwork from the Philippines. The primary strength of the Pacific collections lies in materials from Papua New Guinea, especially the Papuan Gulf, Trobriand Islands, Sepik River, and Maprik region. Australia and Polynesia are also represented by sizeable collections, including 45 rare Maori cloaks.

The collections from mainland Asia are smaller but growing rapidly, due to current collecting priorities. A collection of betel-chewing paraphernalia, representing several countries in South and Southeast Asia, is considered one of the finest in the world. Other holdings include textiles from Bhutan, Pakistan, India and Japan, baskets and decorative arts from Japan, puppetry from China, Thailand, India, and Turkey, and art and artifacts from Nepal.


ARCHAEOLOGICAL COLLECTIONS

 

The Museum also serves as a repository for archaeological collections acquired during research conducted by UCLA faculty, staff, students, and other professional archaeologists. Documentation of the collections includes artifact catalogs, excavation notes, maps, and photographs. These collections serve primarily as an archive for teaching and research. The Museum is compliant with guidelines mandates by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and has been signaled out by the State of California for its exemplary efforts.

Archaeological collection areas include:

California

Collections from approximately 1100 sites, mostly in Southern California.

Southwest

Significant collections from the Rainbow Bridge-Monument Valley Expedition of 1933-1938 and several Parowan Fremont sites in Utah excavated in the 1950’s, and other Anasazi and Hohokam sites.

Mexico

Includes objects from 218 sites, mostly in western and central Mexico.

Sudan

The Nubian/Egyptian fortress site at Askut is the source of approximately 60,000 artifacts excavated by UCLA archaeologist Alexander Badawy in conjunction with the Aswan High Dam Salvage Campaign, 1962-1964.

Old World stone tool collection

Includes tools from Europe and the Middle East.

 

 

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