Research at the Fowler Museum
The Fowler Museum serves as a center for scholarly research on global arts and cultures.
In addition to our online collections and the ongoing work of the Center for the Study for Regional Dress, scholars may request access to research our physical collection of more than 150,000 objects by contacting our curatorial assistant via email.
Center for the Study of Regional Dress
The Center for the Study of Regional Dress—an endowed research facility composed of offices and a laboratory located within the Fowler Museum—opened on June 6, 1993.
The aim of the Center's program is to advance the study of cloth and clothing traditions, past and present, through teaching and research. Students, working with the Fowler Museum's outstanding textile collections, investigate all facets of worldwide indigenous dress: the varying aesthetics of regional clothing, the range of technological solutions to cloth production and decoration, and the role of dress in defining social, religious and political identities.
The Center's ongoing activities include:
In the Center's "Textiles of the World" undergraduate course (WAC 133), many of the world's great textile-producing cultures are investigated in quarterly rotation: Amazonia, The Americas, Central Europe, Indonesia, Japan, The Near East and West Africa. These are hands-on classes where students not only have an opportunity to learn the rudiments of weaving but are able to work with examples from the Fowler's outstanding collection of more than 15,000 ethnographic textiles.
Dr. Patricia Rieff Anawalt, founding director of the Center, is an authority on Middle American clothing as well as worldwide regional dress. She is the author of The Worldwide History of Dress, available in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish. A 9th foreign edition, Arabic, will appear soon.
Founding Director, Dr. Patricia Rieff Anawalt
Associate Director, Barbara Belle Sloan
Center for the Study of Regional Dress
Fowler Museum at UCLA
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1549
Phone: (310) 206-7005
Fax: (310) 206-7007
Fowler Collections Online
Fowler Collections Online is the beginning of an initiative to make all of the Fowler Museum collections available online. Presently this resource includes all objects that appear or have appeared in Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives, as well as in the rotating Fowler in Focus gallery inside that exhibition.
Online Archive of California
With generous grants from the Getty Grant Program, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and private donors, the Fowler has digitized all of its art and material culture holdings, as well as many of its primary source materials, including irreplaceable images, manuscripts, detailed field notes, photographs, maps, and illustrations of some of the world’s oldest and finest artistic traditions.
Now, through a partnership with the Online Archive of California, seven of the Fowler’s primary source collections are available online:
One of the most extensive collections of visual and written material on the expressive cultures of northern Nigeria, the Arnold Rubin Collection features the results of nearly three decades of comprehensive fieldwork and research among the area’s diverse ethnic groups. Primary source materials include slides, black-and-white photos, and extensive film footage of such groups as the Jukun, Mumuye, Chamba, and Tiv peoples. A prolific writer, the late Dr. Rubin was a professor in the Department of Art History at UCLA from 1965 to 1988. During that time, he collected 619 objects for the Fowler’s West Africa collection, including northern Nigerian masks, ceramics, wood figures, bronzes, and ornaments.
Since the early tenth century BCE, historians, grammarians, priests, and poets have celebrated the art of puppetry in India. Deeply rooted in the Hindu tradition, shadow puppetry is a form of folk theater that is transmitted orally and performed by itinerant puppeteers and musicians who travel the vast countryside. Today, it is a fast-disappearing art, and its demise threatens the traditional tales, stories of local village life, and reworkings of the great Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. This collection provides access to the field research materials of the late Dr. Melvyn Helstein, professor of theater arts at UCLA, who collected nearly six hundred puppets for the Museum’s collections. Materials include interviews with puppet makers from South India, transcriptions of plays, slides capturing the drama of these nighttime performances, several volumes of diapositives, and pen-and-ink illustrations of puppets.
This collection of images is the result of two Museum-funded expeditions to the Kuna Yala Archipelago off the coast of Panama to document the Kuna peoples and the full range of Kuna expressive culture with a particular focus on molas as a distinctive genre of art. Although molas are among the most commonly collected textile arts in the United States, few art enthusiasts are well informed about the peoples who create them. The Kuna field collection features photos and fifteen hours of video footage of the making of molas, Congreso meetings, ambient environment, and activities within the home. As life has changed rapidly in Kuna Yala, these images have become invaluable records of Kuna secular and sacred occasions of the 1990s.
Conducted between 1933 and 1938 by noted archaeologist Ansel F. Hall, the Rainbow Bridge-Monument Valley Expedition of the Colorado River Valley brought together over 250 geologists, archaeologists, paleontologists, biologists, photographers, cinematographers, and topographical engineers to explore the ancestral Pueblo peoples who settled in this region during the early thirteenth century. A team of scientists representing such a diverse range of disciplines had never before collaborated on an endeavor of this scope. The largest, and one of the most beautiful natural bridges in the world, Rainbow Bridge is today a National Monument consisting of a 160-acre block of land surrounded almost entirely by the Navajo Indian Reservation. Primary resource materials include field photos, daily field notes, journal entries, and correspondence.
The Cerro Portesuelo Collection documents the excavations conducted by George Brainerd in 1954 and 1955 and by H. B. Nicholson in 1957. The site is located near the ancient shores of Lake Texcoco in Central Mexico (now Mexico City) and spans the Classic to Post-Classic time periods (350–1500 CE). The city grew during the florescence of the larger nearby city of Teotihuacan, but it survived long after its neighbor’s fall and lasted into the time of the Aztec Empire. The ceramic objects in the collection represent the most complete and unbroken sequence for the region and are thus an invaluable research tool for understanding the turbulent political and social climate during Mesoamerican times. The collection includes ceramics, spindle whorls, figurines, stamps, chipped stone, ancestral burials, and memorial objects. Primary source materials include an inventory, maps, photos, negatives, artifact analyses, field notes, correspondence, burial accession records, progress reports, an unpublished dissertation (Branstetter-Hardesty 1978), and a published report (Hicks and Nicholson 1964).
The La Robleda Collection has its source in excavations conducted in 1966 at the headwaters of Medea Creek in Oak Park, Ventura County, California, by UCLA Anthropologist James N. Hill and a team of UCLA graduate students. The location was most likely a seasonal Chumash hunting/butchering site used during the Middle Period (100 BCE to 1000 CE). Dr. Hill was at the vanguard of the “New Archaeology,” established by a group of archaeologists during the 1960s and stressing “scientific method.” At the La Robleda excavation site, Hill tested different probabilistic sampling strategies that today form the largest sample taken in California using these methods. The unbiased nature of the collection has made it an extremely important research tool. The extensive documentation included features a catalog, field notes, photographs, slides, artifact count sheets, and maps.
Fowler Museum at UCLA Installations Collection
This collection features photographs taken of approximately 160 Fowler installations beginning with the Museum’s 1963 premiere exhibition titled Balega and Other Tribal Arts from the Congo to the present.