Elkus Collection of Southwestern Artifacts
Anthropology Dept.

Kachina Dolls

By Ben Elkus

My mother and father made many trips down to the Southwest through the years. Each time they went down there, they would buy something -- Mom would buy Pop a gato (bow guard), Pop would buy Mom a necklace, and perhaps together they would buy a pot to put in the library at home. After a number of journeys, their friends began to talk about the "Elkus Collection," and pretty soon they realized that they really did have a Collection of Indian artifacts.  Now they began buying things specifically to fill in the holes. For instance, they had many blankets, but nothing from 1910 to 1920. So then they would try to get a blanket from that period. And that is the real value of the collection. It is fairly complete chronologically in each category -- blankets, pottery, jewelry, painting and katchinas. And that is how the whole thing came about.

What to do with this collection? Pop and Mom talked about it. They discussed it with their friends and acquaintances, they thought about it, and then Pop died. That left it up to Mom. She talked about it, discussed it with friends and acquaintances, she thought about it, and then she died. That left it up to the four children, with Charlie as the boss, and Ruth, Ben and Bob as advisors. At about this time Mrs. Phyllis Wattis funded what is now Wattis Hall at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, and it was here that we decided the Collection should go. In passing, it is to be noted that Pop's papers also have been given to the J. W. Mailliard, Jr. Library at the Academy. So the work of these two wonderful people is now permanently in San Francisco, a great cultural center, the scene of their personal activities and a place where there are many students, Indians, and friends of Indians.