The anthropology collection includes more than 8,000 objects from around the world. Frederica de Laguna (Class of 1927), the founder of Bryn Mawr’s Anthropology Department, was instrumental in the creation and growth of this important collection in the 1950s and 1960s.
The largest portion of the anthropology holdings is the William S. Vaux Collection, a gift from the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, which includes archaeological artifacts from North, Central, and South America and pre-historic Europe.
Other important collections include the Twyeffort-Hollenback Collection of Southwest Pottery and Native American Ethnography, the George and Anna Hawks Vaux '35, M.A. '41 Collection of Native American Basketry; the Ward and Miriam Coffin Canaday '06 collection of Pre-Columbian ceramics and Peruvian textiles; and pieces collected in Oceania by retired anthropology professor Dr. Jane Goodale.
One of the highlights of the anthropology collection is the African collection, which has grown rapidly since 1990, when Bryn Mawr alumna Margaret Feurer Plass '17 bequeathed to the college select pieces from her private collection. A world-renowned Africanist, Plass traveled and collected for forty years. A major addition to the collection during the 1990s was the donation of more than 270 African art objects by Mace Neufeld and Helen Katz Neufeld '53. Bryn Mawr Professor of Anthropology Philip Kilbride has supplemented these collections with ethnographic objects he collected in East Africa in the 1960s.
The Asian holdings include Helen B. Chapin's (Class of 1925) collection of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese scrolls, porcelains, lacquerware, terracottas, bronzes, and wood and stone artifacts. Also included in the Asian collection are imperial Japanese art and artifacts from the Elizabeth Gray Vining (Class of 1923) Collection, which she assembled while she was tutor to the Crown Prince (present Emperor) of Japan.