George Gustav Heye
|Died||January 20, 1957|
|Alma mater||Columbia University|
|Occupation||engineer, investment banker|
|Known for||Collector and authority on Indigenous peoples of the Americas|
|Museum of the American Indian|
George Gustav Heye (1874 – January 20, 1957) was an American collector of Native American artifacts in the Western Hemisphere, particularly in North America. He founded the Museum of the American Indian, and his collection became the core of the National Museum of the American Indian.
It is described as the largest and most comprehensive collection in the world. During his years of collecting and study, Heye funded numerous archeological expeditions and supported scholarly work of the time. He established the Heye Foundation in the early 20th century to support such work, as well as contributing independently.
Life and career
Heye was born in 1874, the son of Carl Friederich Gustav Heye and Marie Antoinette Lawrence of Hudson, New York. His father was a German immigrant who earned wealth in the new petroleum industry.
George Gustav Heye graduated from Columbia School of Mines (now Columbia School of Engineering and Applied Science) in 1896 with a degree in electrical engineering. While superintending railroad construction in Kingman, Arizona in 1897, Heye acquired a Navajo deerskin shirt, his first Native American item. He continued to acquire individual items until 1903, then he began collecting material in larger numbers.
In 1901, Heye started a career in investment banking that lasted until 1909. His success gave him the financial means to fund archeological expeditions conducted by scholars in the field. For instance, he funded an expedition in 1907 to Ecuador and Colombia by Professor Saville of the Department of Anthropology of Columbia University, Heye's alma mater. Saville had already completed two expeditions to sites in those countries.
Heye continued with his interest in Native American culture, funding archeological surveys and excavations in the American Southeast. The field was young, but he supported some of the most professional work of the time. In 1915, Heye worked with Frederick W. Hodge and George H. Pepper on the Nacoochee Mound in White County, Georgia. The work on Nacoochee Mound was done through the Heye Foundation, the Museum of the American Indian (which opened in 1922), and the Bureau of American Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution. It was some of the most complete work of the time, including numerous photographs. In 1918, Heye and his colleagues published a report entitled The Nacoochee Mound In Georgia.
Also from 1915 to 1919, the Heye Foundation sponsored a team excavating the James Plott Mound (later referred to as Mound#3) at the Garden Creek site west of Asheville, in Haywood County, North Carolina. The Foundation published a report on this in 1919. Other parts of the archeological site were excavated in 1965–1967, including two villages and two earthwork mounds.
Through the years, Heye accumulated the largest private collection of Native American objects in the world. hey included both prehistoric and historic items. The collection was initially stored in Heye's Madison Avenue apartment in New York City, and later in a rented room.
By 1908, Heye was referring to the collection as "The Heye Museum." He began to lend materials for exhibit at the University of Pennsylvania, at what later became the its Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia.
In 1916, he purchased the collection of Alaskan Native artifacts that had won the gold medal for ethnological collections at the 1909 Alaska–Yukon–Pacific Exposition, from J. E. Standley of Ye Olde Curiosity Shop. Eventually, the Heye collection was moved to the Heye Foundation's Museum of the American Indian at 155th Street and Broadway, which broke ground in May 1916. He had been encouraged to build there by Archer Milton Huntington, who had already established The Hispanic Society of America in its own building and sponsored a complex of cultural institutions.
In 1919, Heye founded the journal Indian Notes and Monographs. The Museum of the American Indian opened to the public in 1922. It closed in 1994, after the collection had been moved in 1989 to the Smithsonian Institution. In 1994 the George Gustav Heye Center of the National Museum of the American Indian opened in the former Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House near Battery Park in Lower Manhattan.
Museum of the American Indian
Heye created the Museum of the American Indian in 1916 in New York City and was its director until 1956. His collection of Native American materials was gathered over a period of 45 years. This collection became the basis of the National Museum of the American Indian. The largest and most comprehensive in the world, the collection contains over one million objects, particularly from Native Americans, Inuit and Alaskan Natives, and also other indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere.
The collection was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution in 1989, which established the National Museum of the American Indian. (It now has two locations, in New York City and in Washington, DC.)
About one-third of the original collection has been repatriated under NAGPRA, the Native American Grave Protection Act. This federal legislation recognized that grave goods and other sacred items had been taken from Native American tribes without permission through archeological and other collecting expeditions. Artifacts were once stored in the Bronx in a building along the Interstate 95 corridor. After the land and building were sold, the property was cleared for redevelopment as private housing.
- American Anthropological Association
- American Museum of Natural History
- American Geographical Society
- American Association for the Advancement of Science
- The Explorers Club; he served twice as president, from 1922 to 1925 and 1928 to 1930
- George G. Heye, Frederick W. Hodge, and George H. Pepper, The Nacoochee Mound in Georgia. New York: Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, 1918.
- "George Heye Dies. Authority on Indian Tribes Endowed a Foundation for Scientific Collections Respect for Customs". The New York Times. January 21, 1957.
George Gustav Heye, founder of the Museum of the American Indian, died yesterday at his home in the Ritz Tower after a long illness. His age was 82.
- "Researches in South America". Columbia Daily Spectator. 17 December 1907. Retrieved 2020-06-18.
- Duncan 2001, p. 85.
- Dickens, Roy S. Cherokee Prehistory: The Pisgah Phase in the Appalachian Summit Region. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1976. ISBN 0-87049-193-8, pp. 69-72
- Duncan 2001, pp. 85–86.
- Duncan 2001, p. 85 et. seq..
- Duncan 2001, p. 86.
- Duncan 2001, p. 92.
- "George Gustav Heye". National Museum of the American Indian. January 1, 1997. Archived from the original on July 18, 2011. Retrieved 2010-07-07.
George Gustav Heye (1874-1957) was the founder of the Museum of the American Indian (1916) in New York City and served as its director until 1956. His personal collection of materials, gathered during a 45-year period, became the basis of the museum’s collection and is considered the most comprehensive in the world. It includes 1 million objects from indigenous peoples throughout the Western Hemisphere.
- Duncan, Kate C. (2001). 1001 Curious Things: Ye Olde Curiosity Shop and Native American Art. University of Washington Press. ISBN 0-295-98010-9.
- Redman, Samuel J. (2016). Bone Rooms: From Scientific Racism to Human Prehistory in Museums. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674660410.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to George Gustav Heye.|
- Biography: Gustav Heye, National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian