Art and Artifacts of the Northern Frontier New Spain and Mexico Exhibit
Presented by Michael D. Higgins Gallery
January 5, 2018 – March 4, 2018
Acoma Pueblo Pottery Jar / Olla
By Lucy Lewis
I have recently acquired the large personal collection of Anthropologist William Neil “Seri Bill” Smith, Jr. who was born in 1920 in New York City and moved to Tucson, Arizona at age fourteen. He attended the University of Arizona from 1939-42 and 1946-48, studying under Byron Cummings and Edward Spicer. From 1945-1967, Smith made many extended ethnographical field trips to Sonora, Mexico, to study the Seri Indians at Desemboque and Tiburon Island. His research included lifestyle, customs, language, genealogy, kinship, and cultural changes due to the influence of outsiders. Smith’s personal Seri Indian collection was assembled while doing his fieldwork. The collection consists of over 600 objects covering all aspects of Seri life. Most of the objects were collected from 1947-1951. University of Arizona Special collections holds 24 linear feet on Smith’s archives and photography. “Seri Bill” wrote many publications throughout his career and wrote a book with artist Ted Degrazia titled, The Seri Indians; a primitive people of Tiburón Island in the Gulf of California. Degrazia illustrated Smith’s personal Santos in the book, which are part of the collection.