Connecticut State Museum of Natural History

About This Collection

Albert C. Bates Collection
The Bates Collection is made up of Southwestern native pots originally from New Mexico. The first holder of the collection was Andrew S. Fuller of New Jersey. Fuller obtained the pots from a ranch in New Mexico in 1880. Fuller sold some of these pots to another New Jersey man named Henry Hales in 1889. In 1892 the two of them then sold their collections to James Terry, a Connecticut native who at the time was living in New York City where he was the head of the American Museum of Natural History’s Anthropology Department. After leaving his post in 1894 Terry - a long-time member of the Connecticut Historical Society – returned to Hartford where he worked as an antiques collector and salesman. Following Terry’s death in 1915, the collection was purchased from his estate by fellow Connecticut Historical Society member Albert C. Bates. After obtaining the collection, Bates displayed it in the Wadsworth Athenaeum for some time. By 1942 Bates had agreed to loan the collection to the Connecticut State Library in order to clear room on the condition that it would be returned to the Historical Society if they could acquire a new building. Bates died in 1954 and the collection stayed with the library until 1996, when it was transferred to the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History.
Barnum-Secor Collection
David Pell Secor’s (1824-1909) desire to collect was born in the heart of the industrial age. He spent most of his life in Bridgeport, Connecticut during a period which saw extraordinary changes in technology, industrialization, and urbanization. Out of the blighted landscape people were creating around themselves a romanticized view of nature began to emerge (as expressed through writers such as Emerson and Thoreau). Native Americans were considered a vanishing race, and to the likes of men like Secor the way to retain knowledge of these people was to preserve the material culture they produced. His collection grew to over 18,000 artifacts, which he donated to the Bridgeport Scientific Society in 1889. Facing financial troubles the Scientific Society reopened as a part of the Barnum Institute in 1893, where the collection was slowly dispersed over the next century. What remained was transferred to the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History in 1992.
Dr. Eva Vavrousek Jakuba Collection
The Jakuba collection is made up primarily of Mexico, Central and South American masks, along with a small amount of other ethnographic materials. This collection was donated by West Hartford’s Dr. Eva Vavrousek Jakuba in 2006 for educational purposes. It is considered both an art collection and an ethnographic collection.
Dr. Morris Steggerda Collection
Dr. Morris Steggerda (1900-1950) was an early 20th century physical anthropologist. Most of his career was spent as a Professor of Anthropology at the Hartford Seminary Foundation. He conducted fieldwork in Mesoamerica researching the physical characteristics of contemporary Mayan Indians. Along with metric and morphological data, Steggerda brought back hundreds of cultural and natural specimens from his fieldwork expeditions. Donated to the University of Connecticut upon his death, the collection consists of Mayan and other Central American Indian artifacts from stone tools to beautifully woven hammocks, Mesoamerican animal skeletal remains and skins, as well as botanical specimens. His eclectic collection also includes objects from his travels to South America, the American Southwest and Egypt.
Duncan Collins Hooker Collection
This collection of Peruvian pots gets its name from Farmington’s Duncan Hooker (1885-1953). Duncan was a direct descendant of Hartford founder Rev. Thomas Hooker and also a descendent of famous patriot Nathan Hale. Duncan Hooker was the son of William Augustus Hooker. After fighting in the Civil War, William Hooker graduated from Columbia in 1866 and went on to travel across the Americas and England studying geology and advising mining engineers as a Columbia professor, member of the United States Geological Survey and member of the firm Hooker and Lawrence. It is likely that during his time in Peru William acquired these artifacts. William Hooker and his family retired to a home in Farmington in 1898, where he passed away in 1921. His widow Elizabeth Work Hooker sold their house - known as “The Pilgrim Path” to a young man named James T. Soby in 1935. Soby worked at the Wadsworth Atheneum from 1928-1938 before becoming affiliated with the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1940. It is possible that Duncan Hooker donated the collection to the Connecticut Historical Society housed at the Wadsworth Atheneum through this connection to Soby. As part of the Connecticut Historical Society collections, the Mitchelson, Bates and Hooker collections were transferred to the Connecticut State Library in 1950. These collections were still on display in the early 1970s. The Connecticut State Museum of Natural History acquired these collections from the State Library in 1996.
George Mitchelson Collection
George Mitchelson (1854-1932) was born, raised and farmed tobacco in Bloomfield, Connecticut. His interest in collecting Native American artifacts was sparked by surface finds he often made while walking the tobacco fields near his home. He was less drawn to the science of collecting and more toward the aesthetic quality of items. This passion spurred more than 20 trips to the west coast, where he stopped at Indian reservations throughout the country, collecting and purchasing a diverse array of Native American artifacts. Upon his death, his collection had grown to over 1,000 ethnographic and archaeological specimens, and was donated to the Connecticut State Library. The Mitchelson Collection was transferred to the State Museum of Natural History at UConn in 1996. Lacking strong provenience, it will most likely never serve as a true scientific collection, but many cultural institutions — most notably the National Museums of the American Indian, in New York City and Washington D.C. — have expanded the interpretation of their collections to explore Native American aesthetic traditions. In the spirit of Mitchelson’s original attraction to these artifacts, they continue to be of interest to Native and Academic scholars of the traditional arts of the New World and beyond.
Hugh M. Hamill, Sr. Collection
Hugh M. Hamill, Sr.’s (1901-1989) diverse careers took him from journalism to Indian affairs and aviation. He lived for many years in Germantown, Pennsylvania. Born in Philadelphia, Mr. Hamill was educated at Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and graduated in 1924 from Yale University. Afterward, he spent 11 years as a reporter, writing from 1924 to 1935 for papers including the Philadelphia Public Ledger, the Evening Bulletin and the New York Sun, as well as the Associated Press and what is now United Press International. In 1935, Mr. Hamill joined the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and did socio-economic surveys at Indian reservations in Arizona and Wyoming. After he taught at the Chilaco Indian School in Oklahoma, Mr. Hamill became the organizer and first curator of the Sioux Indian Museum in Rapid City, S.D. World War II took him to a position as an intelligence officer for the Army Air Corps, and was later president of the former Echelon Air Field near Haddonfield. After his retirement in 1964, Mr. Hamill donated his time to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, running a film program for patients, among other things. His collection of Native American crafts was donated to the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History by his son, Hugh Hamill, Jr., a UConn History Professor, in 1998.
Marie and Virginia Soules Collection
The Soules collection consists primarily of Native American and other baskets. It was part of a bequest of the estate of Marie and Virginie Soules, that originally provided them to the Bridgeport Public Library in 1936. The baskets were purchased by Miss Marie Soules during her travels and from art agents throughout the United States. The collection consists of approximately 95 objects, including some textiles and other Native American ethnographic items. The collection reflects eleven tribal associations and geographic regions. Many of the objects are believed to have been purchased from Frohman Trading Co., Portland, Oregon. The collection was donated to the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History in 2006.
Mrs. Charles Halsey Allen Collection
Mrs. Charles Halsey Allen contacted Connecticut’s first State Archaeologist Mr. Douglas Jordan in 1966 to ask whether he might be interested in the donation of some “Pre Columbian shards, heads, torsos, damaged bowls, etc., for study?” That letter began several years of correspondence between Dr. Jordan and Mrs. Allen, who spent much of her time in Cuernavaca, Mexico. On her return to the U.S. Jordan accepted the collection which also included a number of Egyptian pieces collected during Mrs. Allen’s travels. Mrs. Allen continued to acquire small finds from Oaxaca, Mexico and donated them through about 1970. In further correspondence from 1974 we learn that Mrs. Allen had begun volunteering at an archaeology lab in Oaxaca under Marc Winter. Mrs. Allen, who outlived her husband by over two decades, is an inspirational figure who pursued her passion for the past well into her senior years. Her collection represents materials useful to students interested in the Classic Period ceramic traditions of Oaxaca, Mexico in particular.
Richard C. Noren Collection
The Richard C. Noren (1941-1989) Collection is a group of small Zuni fetishes. The fetishes were made by members of the Quan family (specifically Eldred, Andrew and Fay), a prolific group of artists from New Mexico. The fetishes are small sculptures that are believed to hold spirits that grant boons upon those who worship them. These objects of contemporary Southwestern Native art were made sometime in the 1970s. They were acquired by Woodstock’s Superior Court Judge Richard C. Noren, a prominent member of the local historical society. Sadly, Judge Noren committed suicide on February 5, 1989 following a local scandal. His collection was donated that year to the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History.