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George W. Harley Collection

George Way Harley and his wife, Winifred, acquired substantial collections of African materials during their missionary work in Ganta, Liberia, between 1926 and 1960. Professor Nathan Altshuler, one of the founding faculty of the Anthropology Department, recognized the potential of these materials as a teaching resource and purchased the present collection for the College in 1965. The collection comprises a total of 274 objects.

The items pictured below give an indication of the collection as a whole. Included with each image is the object’s title, description, material(s) of manufacture, and accession number. Text inside quotation marks is taken directly from Harley’s documentation. Click on any image to launch a full-size version in a new window.

Headpiece
Headpiece

"The Greater Hornbill. A representation of a totem animal (bird). Worn perhaps by a dancer on special occasions."

Wood. 65:01:0018

Details:

Headpiece Detail     Headpiece Detail 2

Anklet
Anklet

One of a pair of wooden anklets carved in imitation of the more typical brass anklets.

Wood. 65:01:0099a

Detail:

Anklet Detail

Chair
Chair

This chief’s chair is unique in that the seat is mortised into side bars, and legs go through like pins holding it all together.

Wood. 65:01:0110

Detail:

Chair Detail

Necklace
Necklace

Worn by a chief's wife, with glass beads and small brass bells made locally.

Complex composite. 65:01:0112

Details:

Necklace Detail 1     Necklace Detail 2     Necklace Detail 3

Mace
Mace

This mace was carried by the messenger sent to call together the jury for "ritual trials."

Brass. 65:01:0113

Detail:

Mace Detail 1

Replica Mask
Replica Mask

Harley mentions seeing one other mask with legs, a wooden "mask which stood at the entrance of the Poro during sessions . . . acting as an oath-piece on which all who entered must swear, 'May lightning strike me if I tell anything I have seen.'" This mask is of the great Forest-Spirit type and was probably made especially for Harley.

Brass. 65:01:0128

Details:

Replica Mask Detail 1     Replica Mask Detail 2     Replica Mask Detail 3

Twin Pot Vessel
Twin Pot Vessel

Harley wrote that twins were viewed with anxiety among the peoples with whom he worked, because it was believed that twins shared one soul. Twins were typically fed "twin-medicine" that resulted in the death of one of the twins, giving the soul a single place of residence. This ceramic piece, identified as a twin pot, has a "covered section which belongs to the deceased twin and an open part which belongs to the surviving twin. A small hole connects the two sections. By tilting and maneuvering the pot, the living twin can manage to get most of his twin's rightful portion" of food or drink.  

Ceramic and fiber composite. 65:01:0191

Details:

Twin Pot Vessel Detail 1      Twin Pot Vessel Detail 2

Effigy (Kra or Geh)
Effigy (Kra or Geh)

The "owner-priest dances with an effigy such as one of the these on his head when acting as a diviner. Effigies are made in set of three, a big one and two smaller ones such as these (shown here) which act as 'helpers.' One of the effigy 'helpers' acts as an interpreter and the other 'helper' invokes the ancestral spirits."

Ceramic and fiber composite. 65:01:0193, 65:01:0194

Details:

Effigy Detail 1      Effigy Detail 2

Bag
Bag

Raffia purse.

Fiber composite. 65:01:0218

Details:

Bag Detail 1      Bag Detail 2
Beaded Sash
Beaded Sash

Hank of small blue and white trade beads, worn by women as a girdle. These beaded sashes were decorative status symbols and not part of the clothing itself.

Glass composite. 65:01:0259

Details:

Beaded Sash Detail 1      Beaded Sash Detail 2
Bead Necklace
Bead Necklace

Blue glass beads with a brass pendant or breast-piece.

Glass, brass composite

65:01:0263

Details:

Bead Necklace Detail 1      Bead Necklace Detail 2
Strand of Beads
Strand of Beads

Short strand of beads, yellow on black polka dots.

Glass. 65:01:0265

Detail:

Strand of Beads Detail