The Legacy Museum Collections are rich and varied and, in actuality, three collections in one. The first collection is African Objects. The second collection is Antiques and Miscellaneous Items, and the third collection is Art Works. The African collection contains approximately 900 items. There are masks, regalia and personal adornment, objects created by artisans for their clients, objects that house spiritual beings used for divination, and objects that are used for rites of passage. There are, also, objects made for personal pleasure and everyday use. These include items used for house hold activities such as bowls, utensils, rugs, headrests, chairs, hoes, hatchets and knives. Musical instruments figure prominently in the African Collection including the balafon or marimba. Masks are also significant. Examples are the Gelede Mask/headdress from The Yoruba of Nigeria, created to honor women. Another example from the African Collection is the Ifa Divination Tray. Also from the Yoruba, in its ritual function, the Ifa Divination Tray is marked by the head of Eshu. Eshu, the Yoruba trickster deity, is thought to deliver messages to and from the spirit world.
Other very fine examples include a Divination Bag, a Bamileke chair, an iron Asen altar from the Fon people, and an assertively rendered Central Post from a Lineage Meeting House. This Ritual Post with Two Male Figures, one atop the other, is an exceptionally powerful sculptural pair. Staff with Figure with Raised Arms was created by the Dogon of Mali and Burkina Fas and like the Asen altar, this staff has ritual purpose and meaning.
Among the antiques and miscellaneous items, the second category, is a group of ornately carved antique furniture and other items that probably belonged to the second president, Dr. Robert Russa Moton and a carriage that, supposedly, belonged to Booker T. Washington, the first president. Other examples from Washington's collection include the ornate desk with a scroll design around the top and sides with caryatids mounted on claw and ball feet. Representing Tuskegee's very early years, is the Booker T. Washington buggy. The carriage demonstrates Tuskegee's bounteous legacies from generation to generation.
The Legacy Museum's collection (third category) of art work is stunning. Among these examples are The William A. Harper "Landscape," "William H. Johnson's "London Bridge," "Harbor Scene," and "Untitled" ( Farm Couple at Work). Other important artworks are Ernest Crichlow's "Portrait of Jennie Patrick," J. Nolman's "John A. Andrew," and Maria Howard Weeden's "Old Rome."
Edmonia Lewis's (1845-1911) masterpieces are the sine quibus non of the collection. "Awake/Asleep" and "The Old Arrow Maker and his Daughter" are significant works and represent the depth and breadth of the Legacy Museum's collections. These sculptural works along with the bas relief "Jennie Booth Moton" by Isaac Scott Hathaway and the "Bust" by Julian H. Harris reflect Tuskegee's longstanding involvement in and appreciation of the arts. Finally, from this category are twenty episodic dioramas designed to chronicle the contributions of African and African American peoples to world civilization over a period of many centuries. Before his death in 1943, research scientist Dr. George Washington Carver allocated funds to Tuskegee for the development of his museum. This was Tuskegee’s first museum. This museum was in collaboration with the Museum of Negro Art and Culture. Charles C. Dawson was hired by the National Youth Administration (NYA) a WPA program in 1940 to design the space for the Chicago Negro Exposition. Mr. Dawson, who attended Tuskegee University for two years and studied drafting with architect Walter Bailey, left Tuskegee University to study in New York at the Art Students League in 1907. However, Dawson would return to Tuskegee University, after the Negro Exposition in Chicago ended, as curator of the Museum of Negro Art and Culture and the Dr. George Washington Carver Museum, from 1944 to 1951. This suggests that Charles C. Dawson was the first curator of the Museum of Negro Art and Culture and the Dr. George Washington Carver Museum. Bess Bolden Walcott succeeded Dawson as curator from 1951 to 1961 when Elaine Thomas began her tenure as the third curator. Tuskegee President Luther Foster asked Mr. Dawson to accompany the TWENTY DIORAMAS to Tuskegee and to assume curatorship of the new museums. These formal displays of Carver’s art and experiments and the installation of the TWENTY DIORAMAS and other important sculptures and paintings are connected to and herald the birth of the Legacy Museum.
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