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.
"The Greater Hornbill. A representation of a totem animal (bird). Worn perhaps by a dancer on special occasions."
One of a pair of wooden anklets carved in imitation of the more typical brass anklets.
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.
Worn by a chief's wife, with glass beads and small brass bells made locally.
Complex composite. 65:01:0112
This mace was carried by the messenger sent to call together the jury for "ritual trials."
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.
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
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
Fiber composite. 65:01:0218
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
Glass composite. 65:01:0259
Blue glass beads with a brass pendant or breast-piece.
Glass, brass composite
Strand of Beads
Short strand of beads, yellow on black polka dots.