November 18, 2005

Museum of Man Continues 90th Anniversary Celebration With Exhibit Spotlighting Colorful History

The San Diego Museum of Man will continue its 90th birthday celebration with “Reflections,” an exhibition opening Sat., Nov. 19 and continuing through September 24, 2006 which showcases rare and significant objects representing 90 years of the Museum’s collection history.

“This unique exhibit will provide a rare and fascinating overview of the Museum’s collections,” said the Museum’s executive director Dr. Mari Lyn Salvador. “Some of these unusual objects to be exhibited have never been seen by the public.” Examples include a Seri woodcarving of a whale by José Astorga, the first artist to develop this unique art form in Sonora, Mexico; a hundred-year-old pottery jar with human features modeled on one side, credited to Kumeyaay artist Maria Alto from the Laguna Mountains; a wooden model of a 1940s Diamond T truck, carved by a member of the Chamorro tribe from Guam; and a bronze sculpture of a woman holding a cat, fashioned by Alan Houser, the patriarch of American Indian sculptors.

The Museum, which opened in 1915 as part of the Panama-California Exhibition, opened two previous anniversary exhibitions in August: “Passage to Panama” open through April 2, 2006 and “The Art of Being Kuna: Layers of Meaning Among the Kuna of Panama” open through May 14, 2006.

According to Rose Tyson, exhibit curator, “Reflections” reviews the “overall history of the Museum — from its exciting beginning, through two world wars, a depression, a population boom, and the information and electronic revolution.”

Tyson noted that members of the San Diego community, including Museum trustees, staff, docents, volunteers, and distinguished community leaders, assisted in the selection of the 90 objects on display, and many selectors gave a statement about why the piece was chosen.

Upon choosing a brightly colored papier-mâché “ale-brije,” Dr. Michael Hager, director of the San Diego Natural History Museum, said “the natural world is often stronger than the imagination. This piece combines characteristics of mammals, birds, and reptiles — and reminds me of a creature from the bar scene in the original ‘Star Wars’ film.”

The Museum owes its existence to the Panama-California Exposition, which included an ambitious exhibition called “The Story of Man Through the Ages,” featuring casts of fossil humans that provided evidence of human evolution, as well as cultural objects highlighting human accomplishments in art and technology. This core collection of 5,000 items became the nucleus for a museum of anthropology.

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