The Art and Art History Collection (AAHC) consists of ancient artifacts, historic objects, and ethnographic materials primarily from the Indigenous Americas. The bulk of the collection was formed in 2004, consisting of cultural collections transferred to the College of Fine Arts (COFA) from the Texas Memorial Museum (TMM), currently part of the Texas Natural Science Center (TNSC). The initial transfers from the TMM included largely pre-Columbian and ethnographic collections pertaining to Central and South America, and were subsequently expanded to include objects from the North American Southwest. The transfers continued through 2008, bringing the current holdings to nearly four thousand artifacts. The AAHC is part of the Department of Art and Art History and is managed by The Mesoamerica Center.
The Art and Art History department collections were supplemented in 2005 by a generous donation of sixty-five objects from Duncan and Elizabeth Boeckman of Dallas, Texas. The Boeckman collection represents cultures from Central and South America, predominantly ceramic figurines from Nayarit, Jalisco, and Colima cultures of West Mexico. The artifacts complement well the pre-Columbian collections transferred from the TMM and further enrich the strong Americas focus of the department collection.
The most substantial holdings of the AAHC are the ancient ceramic, stone, and textile artifacts created by various pre-Columbian societies. From South America, the collection includes numerous ritual ceramics and exceptionally fine textiles, pertaining primarily to the Nasca, Moche, Chimú, Lambayeque (Sicán), and Chancay cultures. From Central America, the AAHC boasts a rich variety of ceramic vessels, modeled figurines, bone and stone sculptures created by the Olmec, Maya, Aztec, Colima, Nayarit, Zapotec, and Veracruz cultural traditions. The holdings further include tripod vessels and bowls from Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, and Bolivia.
In addition to the pre-Columbian objects, the AAHC has a distinguished group of over 700 historic and ethnographic textiles from Mexico, Guatemala, and the U.S. Southwest. These include numerous colorful huipiles (womens’ shirts) from Guatemala and mantas (shawls) from Zinacantan, Oaxaca, and the Huichol regions, collected largely from the 1960s through 1970s. The collection also hosts over sixty Navajo and Hopi textiles that date from the 19th to early 20th centuries.
Representing over two thousand years of ritual and artistic practices, the collection supports a broad range of academic interests for individual research and course instruction. Highly select and representative examples of the collection are on display in the Ancient Americas gallery at the Blanton Museum of Art, and in the Fine Arts Library. Portions of the collection have further been featured in exhibits at the Mexic-Arte Museum, the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art, the UT Visual Arts Center galleries, the College of Fine Arts Deans office, and the Dallas Museum of Art. Finally, the collection is being digitally catalogued for greater accessibility. Through exhibition, teaching and research, the AAHC thus serves as a substantial resource for university students and the greater scholarly community.