Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology Review – Exciting Exhibits in a Newly Renovated Space

Approaching the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Photo: Deborah Swarts
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I had a roundabout introduction to the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology in Berkeley, California on the University of California, Berkeley campus.  I learned about its extensive Egyptology collection because some of the items from this collection are on loan to the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University. As a visitor to the Bay Area, I thought it would be very interesting to see the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, which has the largest collection of this kind in this country. (see below)

The museum is ahead

As it turned out, I had the good fortune of seeing the first exhibit in this newly redesigned space. It was lovely, replete with warm woods and comfortable seating areas, an extremely pleasant space to explore. The successful inaugural show People Made These Things: Connecting WIth the Makers of Our World led the way for the second exhibit entitled Face to Face: Looking at Objects that Look at You.

A few objects from the first exhibit

For this Spring 2018 exhibit, entitled Face to Face: Looking at Objects that Look at You, the Hearst staff and 14 UC Berkeley freshmen have co-curated a global selection of objects that depict human faces in different ways. The exhibit asks: Why and how do crafting traditions of the world so often incorporate human faces, and how do people respond to those faces?  Objects such as West African helmet masks and Roman sculpture illustrate varying conceptions of the “ideal” face, while Japanese tobacco boxes and ancient Peruvian portrait jars raise the question of what a facial expression can mean.  Additional objects, including Chinese bamboo figurines and Caroline Mytinger’s paintings of Papua New Guineans, represent the contrast between portraying faces of one’s own ethnic group versus those of another. Visitors are invited to examine the way they themselves depict and interpret faces in their everyday lives. This timely exhibit cultivates critical thinking about crucial issues such as stereotyping, representation and misrepresentation, and snap judgments.


Alongside the exhibit, the Hearst Museum will be continuing its monthly Lounge Lecture series. These lectures, hosted in the cozy Lounge of Anthropological Discoveries, will focus on topics related to the exhibit and give visitors the opportunity to learn and discuss in an intimate and casual space. Featured speakers include Ken Goldberg, who will speak about the history of “the uncanny”, and Paul Koudounaris, who will speak about global death and funerary practices. In addition to lectures, the Hearst will also be hosting a variety of hands-on and performance events ranging from caricature drawing workshops to Maori song and dance demonstrations.

Be sure to see “The Cave kiosk”

“The opportunity to co-design this exhibit, along with interviewing experts and independently investigating these items gave me a deeper understanding of and appreciation for ancient Egyptian culture. It was such a privilege and eye-opening experience to work with the Hearst Museum.”

– Nika Esmailizadeh, UC Berkeley Class of 2021


“This exhibit is full of beautiful and fascinating objects. Inspired by UC Berkeley students and staff, it cultivates critical thinking about crucial issues related to cultural representation that are important for building an engaged global citizenry.”

– Richard L. (“Dick”) Greene, ’58; ’60; ’63 (L.L.B.); Trustee, UC Berkeley Foundation, 2006-present
“Continuing in the spirit of the last exhibit, it’s great to see the Hearst Museum again partner with Cal undergraduates to offer engaging public-facing projects that will be experienced by thousands of campus and community members. The experiential benefits to the students and the museum are immense.”

– Catherine P. Koshland, Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education at UC Berkeley


“In flipping the exhibit development process by inviting UC Berkeley students to become everyday curators of culture, it strikes me that the learning potential of this exhibit and similar projects is rich and compelling.”

– Randy H. Katz, UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor for Research,


Front Hall, “You are already an anthropologist”

“The new Face to Face exhibit is a bold offering that encourages the visitor to appreciate their role and potential to be a force for positive change. Because the Hearst Museum is a place where people from different cultures can connect meaningfully, I hope the visitor gets a sense of joy from the exhibit while reimagining the weight of their cultural gaze through the lenses of people around us.”

– Benjamin W. Porter, Hearst Museum Director


Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology Visitor Information


102 Kroeber Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720


Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Saturdays, 10 a.m, to 6 p.m.



hearstmuseum.berkeley. website

(510) 643-1191


Gallery Admission

$6 general admission

$3 non-UC Berkeley students, UC Berkeley alumni, 65+

Free for all UC Berkeley students, faculty, and staff; 18 & under

About Phoebe A. Hearst, Photo:Deborah Swarts

About The Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology

We are anthropologists, educators and researchers, motivated by a passion for preserving stories today in order to make new connections tomorrow. Founded in 1901, the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology is dedicated to the study of cultures from yesterday and today, both near and far. Today, the Museum contains an estimated 3.8 million objects from California and around the world, as well as extensive documents, photographs and film recordings. In this capacity we continue a legacy of enrichment and education, functioning as a research unit for the University of California, Berkeley supporting scholarly discovery and community-based research.

The Hearst Museum’s mission is to steward a vast collection of objects spanning the infinite breadth of human cultures for the advancement of knowledge and understanding. We promote the tools of humanists and social scientists, encouraging people to reflect on alternative perspectives, connect with others, and take action for positive change.



The George Reisner Egyptian Collection

Phoebe Hearst met George A. Reisner on her first trip to Egypt in early 1899. While the American Egyptologist had no excavation experience at this time, Hearst had faith in his abilities and sent him to work immediately. With several assistants and a large and skilled Egyptian crew, Reisner explored the sites of Coptos and Shurafa (1899-1900), El Ahaiwah (1900), Deir el-Ballas (1900-1901), Naga ed-Deir (1901–1904), and Giza (1903-1905). When his work for Phoebe Hearst was complete, Reisner had collected approximately 17,000 cataloged objects. Almost all of Reisner’s work was impeccably documented in notes, maps, plans, and photographs.


Today, the Hearst’s Egyptian collection ranges in time from the Predynastic to Coptic Eras, spanning 4,000 years of ancient Egyptian history, with about three-quarters from the Predynastic and Old Kingdom periods. Indeed, the Predynastic Era collection is the largest outside of Egypt.

hearstmuseum.berkeley. website


About Phoebe Hearst


Photos: B. Keer unless otherwise noted



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