Bowers Receives a Gift Worth $1 Million : Museum: The donation includes more than 400 pre-Columbian and Aymara textiles. The renovated facility will reopen Oct. 15.


The Bowers Museum of Cultural Art has received the largest single donation in its 59-year history.

Valued at more than $1 million, the gift from the collection of Roy and Bentley Dillard of Arizona includes a group of more than 400 pre-Columbian and Aymara textiles, including ponchos and other clothing, as well as pre-Columbian gold, copper and silver objects.

The Aymaras, who live largely in Bolivia and Peru, were believed to have built a great ancient culture before the Inca civilization.

Bowers director Peter Keller said Monday that the addition of these materials boosts the museum’s textile collection into the top four or five in the United States, including those of Harvard University in Massachusetts and the Textile Museum and the Smithsonian Institution, both in Washington.


Another significant recent gift, from Michael Merrifield, a professor of anthropology at Saddleback College, is a group of Amazonian tribal field studies and ethnographic objects collected by former Saddleback trustee James W. Marshall during the 1960s. The field studies consist of notes, slides, photographs, 16-millimeter film, and recordings--some of tribal dances and ceremonies no longer practiced--documenting the Txukarramae Indians of the Xingu River culture in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso.

Closed to the public since January, 1989, the Bowers will reopen Oct. 15 after a $12-million expansion and renovation that has more than doubled its interior space.

Formerly known simply as the Bowers Museum, the institution’s name was changed last summer to reflect concentration on “the disappearing worlds” of ancient cultures whose vestiges scarcely remain today, Keller said.

The museum’s new brochure explains that the institution is “dedicated to the preservation, study and exhibition of the fine arts of indigenous peoples . . . focusing on the artworks of pre-Columbian, Oceanic, Native American and Pacific Rim cultures.”


When the museum reopens, five concurrent exhibitions of objects from far-flung areas of the globe will be on view. “Tribute to the Gods: Treasures of the Gold Museum” (pre-Columbian gold and other objects) is being organized with the Museo del Oro in Bogota, Colombia. “Expanding Horizons: Art of Han Dynasty China” (objects in clay, bronze and other media) will be a co-production with the National History Museum of Taiwan, which also is contributing its expertise for “Traditional Japanese Flower Arrangement,” a changing exhibit of floral and herbal compositions made fresh each day by Taiwanese artists.

Two of the exhibits are being drawn from the Bowers’ collections. “Realm of the Ancestors: Arts of Oceania” will contain sculptures, masks, canoes, jewelry and other objects from the Australoids, who settled New Guinea, Australia and Melanesia (one of the three major divisions of the Pacific islands) some 40,000 years ago.

“Power and Creation: Africa Beyond the Nile” will focus on the arts of sub-Saharan Africa, with an emphasis on wood sculptures from West and Central Africa.