The Henry Madden Library at Fresno State presents an exhibition of late 19th and early 20th century Native American artwork and historical imagery called “Collecting Culture: Early Native American Collections from Central California,” now through Dec. 1, in the Leon S. Peters Ellipse Gallery (2nd floor, North Wing).

The exhibition features early collections from Central California Yokuts and Mono communities of Friant, Sanger, Dunlap, Visalia and Porterville, acquired by Table Mountain Rancheria, including the Native American collections of the now-closed Fresno Metropolitan Museum. These collections form the foundation for this exhibition, which will also display six extraordinary and historically significant gambling trays, including the gambling tray commissioned from Lois Conner for the 2009 opening of the new Madden Library (displayed in video on the library’s front mesh panel).

In addition to the Table Mountain Rancheria Collections, the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois, is loaning 13 sporting and gaming objects collected in Central California in 1901. For the first time, these objects will be temporarily returning home after an absence of more than a century.

The pieces of the exhibition come from a time of transition. Following the upheavals of the California Gold Rush, at the turn of the 20th century, indigenous people were living by traditional means the only way they knew how—gathering material for baskets, trading for goods they needed and surviving off the land the best they could. Their way of life and their traditional arts began to catch the interest of various collectors and art dealers. In California, some collectors began acquiring beautiful Native American basketry in trade for medications, used cars and sundry items. Some art dealers began commissioning special pieces such as large gambling trays with complex and meaningful design elements.

The exhibition is curated by Robert Pennell, Cultural Resources Director and Cristina Gonzales, Museum Registrar at Table Mountain Rancheria who also curated the exhibition, “Reassembling History at Table Mountain Rancheria” for the California Association of Museums annual conference in 2008 and the 2009 “The Pursuit of Beauty; California Indian Basketry and the Art of Ansel Adams” at the Madden Library.

The presenting sponsor for “Collecting Culture” is Table Mountain Rancheria. The exhibition is co-sponsored by Community Medical Centers, Valley Children’s Healthcare and Taylor’s American Indian Shop.

For more information about disability accommodations or physical access, call Sharon Ramirez at 559.278.5790 or email in advance of your visit.

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