Native North America: The Stonyhurst Collection

Stonyhurst College is a Jesuit school in Lancashire. With a medieval library and a collection of religious relics, the College museum also acquired artefacts from across the world between 1820 and 1910 for educational purposes. Sixty Native North American objects, which had been on loan since 1977, were transferred permanently to the British Museum in 2003.

The Stonyhurst collection came from several sources. Bryan Mullanphy, a schoolboy educated at the college between 1821 and 1827, brought a collection of Plains Indian costume and weapons from his home in St. Louis. His father, John Mullanphy, had left Ireland for America in the 1790s. He became a successful trader and then landowner, investing much of his wealth in what had previously been Native lands. Both father and son were great philanthropists, giving generously to educational charities in Missouri.

During the nineteenth century the museum at Stonyhurst College continued to grow, particularly due to donations from missionaries in North America. Native North Americans were mostly confined to reserves and reservations by 1871. Souvenir arts, developing traditional techniques, began to provide a significant new source of income. People such as the Revd Edward Purbrick, S.J., in Ontario, made collections to donate to the College.

This tour introduces Native North American art and culture and features some of the highlights of the Stonyhurst collection. Part of it is on display in the British Museum's North American Gallery (Room 26).

Illustration: The leader of the Hidatsa tribe, called Two Ravens, wearing the regalia of the Dog Society, 1834. After Karl Bodmer.