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Harvard's Peabody Museum Highlights Tozzer Connections
image from the Hemenway codex

An exhibition at Harvard's Peabody Museum also helps celebrate the 150th anniversary of Tozzer Library. Tozzer, the oldest library in the U.S. devoted to collecting ethnology, archaeology and related anthropological fields, was founded in 1866 as the Peabody Museum Library. Its collections represent a wide array of fields in anthropology, specializing in materials on the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

Tozzer has contributed over a dozen items to the exhibition highlighting historical themes as well as collection strengths in New World archaeology and ethnology. Houghton and Widener have also contributed materials.  

Items chosen from Tozzer involve three indigenous communities: the Inuit peoples of Greenland, the Nahua-speaking community of Huixcuilucan, Mexico, and the Mixteca people of Puebla and Oaxaca, Mexico. The first book acquired by the library (and the first to be published in Greenland) is entitled Kaladlit okalluktualliait: kalâdlisut kablunâtudlo, in the language of the Inuit people. The previously oral legends of the Inuit were written in their language using the Roman alphabet with stories illustrated by an Inuit artist. The second item is a rare manuscript called the Hemenway codex, dating from the first century following the Spanish conquest of Mexico. Written on bark fiber, it records land ownership, genealogies, and community history with written commentary in the Nahuatl language. The third item is the Nuttall Codex, the first published facsimile of a pictorial codex from the Mixtec people.

As Tozzer looks ahead to the next 150 years, staff imagine what the future will look like. “My expectation is that Tozzer Library will continue to build its extraordinary and world famous collection, one of the oldest and largest in the world focusing on anthropology and closely related fields,” said Janet Steins, Associate Librarian for Collections.   

“All the World is Here: Harvard’s Peabody Museum and the Invention of American Anthropology” is currently on view in the museum’s fourth floor gallery. 

Published on August 9, 2017.