The Shuffrey Collection of Navajo-style Rugs

Made in England: A Collection of Navajo-Style Rugs

Included in the Academy’s Anthropology collection is a unique group of contemporary Navajo-style rugs. These rugs were woven not by Navajo Indians, but by an English couple, Margaret and Tony Shuffrey, who, upon their first visit to the American Southwest in 1980, immediately became enthralled by Navajo culture and the rugs for which the Navajo are internationally acclaimed. They subsequently taught themselves how to weave in the Navajo style, and over a twenty year span completed nearly 40 Navajo-style rugs. Their weavings were used to illustrate lectures about Navajo weaving and culture that they presented throughout England and Wales. Their collection garnered praise from Navajo weavers and traders alike, many of whom became close personal friends. This exhibit details the history of the collection’s creation and its ongoing importance for education and exhibition.

European measuring vessels from the Rietz Collection of Food Technology

The Rietz Collection of Food Technology

The Rietz Collection of Food Technology is perhaps the only cross-cultural collection of culinary objects assembled to document historic technologies of cooking and eating. Learn more about this collection, and about how food technologies vary over time and geography.


Carl Austin Rietz

A Short Biography of Carl Austin Rietz
Collector of the Rietz Collection of Food Technology

Learn about Carl Austin Rietz, a man whose travels allowed him to amass unique collections in food technology and ancient textiles, both of which are now in the permanent collection of the Department of Anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences.


"Old Time Eskimo Belle" by James Kivetoruk Moses

Native Alaskan Graphic Arts: Founding Artists

Artistic traditions among Alaska's native people span centuries, but flat two-dimensional drawings intended to be hung on a wall are a product of last 100 years. Beginning in the 1930s, several Inupiat artists began recording scenes of traditional arctic life on tanned seal and caribou skins. This exhibit features works by several of these artists, including George Ahgupuk, Robert Mayokok, Kivetoruk Moses, and Florence Nupok Malewotkuk.

Square Coptic tunic ornament CAS 0389-2430

Coptic Textiles from Egypt

Climatic conditions in Egypt are especially favorable for preservation, thus the region boasts one of the most well documented textile histories in the world. During the Coptic era (1st millennium CE), weavers in Egypt produced an amazing variety of woven textiles, preserved today mostly as fragments. This exhibit, illustrated with examples from the Academy's Rietz Collection of Coptic Textiles, explores the world of the Coptic weavers and the products of their looms.

Utensils from the Rietz Collection of Food Technology

The History of Eating Utensils

When sitting down to eat a meal, people seldom give thought to the utensils before them. Yet the history of tableware is fascinating. Changes in eating habits, social trends, and the blending of cultures have all affected both the form and function of cutlery and its social implications. Examples of tableware from the Academy's Rietz Collection of Food Technology illustrate the history of eating utensils.

Tahitian girl wearing shell leis and a haku lei

The Pacific Voyages of Rollo Beck

During the 1920s, the American Museum of Natural History sponsored the Whitney Expedition to collect natural history specimens from the South Pacific. Noted ornithologist, Rollo Beck, was a member of the expedition's team. Beck and his wife, Ida Beck, were also avocational anthropologists. Apart from their official duties as part of the expedition, the Becks studied and photographed the native people wherever the expedition took them and collected examples of native material culture. This exhibit traces the Beck's travels through their diaries and photographs and showcases some of the nearly 500 objects they collected, now part of the Academy's permanent research collection.


13th century Persian luster ware vessel CAS 0389-0342

Ceramics of the Persian Empire

This exhibit traces the development of ceramic wares, or pottery, in the ancient Persian Empire. The region has a long history of political unrest, and the influx of new cultures and ceramic traditions is reflected over time in the pottery. Examples of Persian ceramics dating between the 12th and 18th centuries, selected from the Academy's Rietz Collection of Food Technology, illustrate some of these changes and variation in ceramic techniques.

Kaga lion head: Yumijishi CAS 1993-0001-0366

Mingei: Japanese Folk Toys

Festivals, religious shrines, folk tales, and mythical heroes are all integral parts of Japanese culture. Throughout Japan, local craftsmen produce hundreds of figurines, carvings, paper constructions and other souvenirs to commemorate, celebrate, or simply remind people of these traditions. Collectively, these objects are called folk toys, but few of them are intended as play things. This exhibit explains the cultural importance of these seemingly simple "toys," drawn from the Academy's collection of more than 500 examples.


Spice box CAS 0389-1139

In the Victorian Kitchen

This exhibit will take you back to the Victorian Period to learn about tableware and kitchen tools. Discover how the 19th Century Industrial Revolution changed the ways people prepared, served, and ate food. These changes were only possible with the invention of many new labor-saving kitchen utensils.

Iron tetsubin CAS 0389-1113

Tetsubin: Iron Treasures of Japan

In traditional Japanese society, the tea ceremony is a solemn event, marked by ritual and symbolism. The tetsubin is a small, teapot-shaped, cast iron water kettle used to heat water for tea. This exhibit traces the history of the tetsubin in Japan and discusses the aesthetics of various styles, as seen in examples from the Academy's collection.


  • Accessing the collection

    The Anthropology collections are available for study by qualified researchers by advance appointment only. To determine if our collection contains any objects which might prove useful to your research, please visit our online collection database which is searchable by culture, geography, object type, and other selected criteria.

    If you would like to arrange a visit to view specific objects and/or related documentation, please contact Senior Collection Manager Russell Hartman at rhartman at calacademy dot org or (415) 379-5385.

  • Borrowing collection objects

    Objects from the Anthropology collections are available for loan to accredited institutions for public exhibitions and limited educational use. Please visit our online collection database to search for objects by culture, geography, object type, and other selected criteria.

    If you would like to arrange to borrow objects from the collections, contact Senior Collection Manager Russell Hartman at rhartman at calacademy dot org or (415) 379-5385. Final approval of any loan is at the discretion of the Collection Manager and/or Curator of the Department of Anthropology.

  • Donating objects

    The Department of Anthropology actively collects materials from the indigenous cultures of western North America (exclusive of Mexico) and the Pacific Rim, including all Pacific islands and East Asia. Select items from outside these areas may also be accessioned when they complement and enhance current holdings. The Department relies almost exclusively on donations to expand its collection. Although our collection is primarily composed of ethnographic materials, items from any time period may be considered. Objects retaining good provenance data are highly preferred. Acceptance of donations is at the discretion of the Collection Manager and Curator of the Department of Anthropology.

    If you are interesting in donating to the department, please contact Senior Collection Manager Russell Hartman at rhartman at calacademy dot org or (415) 379-5385.

  • Identifying objects

    Staff of the Department of Anthropology may be able to assist in identifying cultural affiliation, date of manufacture, material, and/or other aspects of anthropological items of types or from cultures with which we have expertise.

    If you have an object with which you believe we might be of assistance, please contact Senior Collection Manager Russell Hartman at rhartman at calacademy dot org or (415) 379-5385. For non-anthropological items, please contact the Academy’s Naturalist Center or the relevant Research department.

  • Appraising objects

    Professional standards prohibit Academy staff members from appraising items or recommending an appraiser. Please locate a professional appraiser qualified in the area relevant to your item(s).

  • Internships

    The Department of Anthropology is currently accepting intern applications in collections management, to assist with our ethnographic collection digitization project. Internships are unpaid and usually count towards course credit. All positions have been filled through fall 2014. Applications for spring 2015 are due by January 15. For a full description of the position and instructions on how to apply, click here. For more information, contact the department at (415) 379-5385 or email rhartman at calacademy dot org.

  • Volunteer opportunities

    There are currently no volunteer positions available in the Department of Anthropology.


    The Department of Anthropology periodically has volunteer opportunities in collections management. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact the Academy's Volunteer Department at (415) 379-5111 or via email at volunteer at calacademy dot org to request an application.

  • Online database

    The entire Anthropology collection database is available and searchable online, including digital images for the entire collection.

  • Publishing permission

    Requests for permission to publish are required in writing. Downloadable PDF forms are available for Permission to Publish Photographic Materials and for Permission to Publish Written Materials. Fees may apply. Please print out the appropriate page, fill in all requested data, and send it to the address listed at the bottom of the form. For further assistance, please contact Senior Collection Manager Russell Hartman at rhartman at calacademy dot org or (415) 379-5385.