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The Olmec Tradition, exhibition files, 1961-1964.

Author: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Office of the Registrar.
Edition/Format:   Archival material : English
Publication:Exhibition Files, 1924-[ongoing]
Summary:
This subseries documents "The Olmec Tradition" (June 18-August 25, 1963), the first museum retrospective to assemble and exhibit a large body of ancient Mexican artifacts. The exhibition was conceived and curated by James Johnson Sweeney, then Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The papers include Mr. Sweeney's extensive correspondence (1962-1964) with Mexican and American scholars and museum and political
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Genre/Form: Exhibition catalogs
Exhibitions
Named Person: Ignacio Bernal; Antonio Carillo Flores; Eusebio D'avalos Hurtado; Richard De Rochemont; Lyndon B Johnson; Alfonso Medell'in Zenil; James Johnson Sweeney; Ignacio Bernal; Antonio Carrillo Flores; Eusebio Dávalos Hurtado; Richard De Rochemont; Lyndon B Johnson; Alfonso Medellín Zenil; James Johnson Sweeney
Document Type: Archival Material
All Authors / Contributors: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Office of the Registrar.
OCLC Number: 122472687
In: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Office of the Registrar
Language Note: Many letters and documents are in Spanish.
Notes: All photographic materials have been removed from the papers and are stored in the Archives Photograph Collection.
Related materials occur in the following Record Groups: Records of the Office of Public Relations (RG 8), Series 1: Newsclippings; Records of the Office of the Director (RG 2), Subgroup 3.2: James Johnson Sweeney Subject Files. Associated photographic materials occur in the Hickey-Robertson Photonegative Collection.
Description: 0.75 linear ft. plus 0.50 linear ft. of processed photographic materials.

Abstract:

This subseries documents "The Olmec Tradition" (June 18-August 25, 1963), the first museum retrospective to assemble and exhibit a large body of ancient Mexican artifacts. The exhibition was conceived and curated by James Johnson Sweeney, then Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The papers include Mr. Sweeney's extensive correspondence (1962-1964) with Mexican and American scholars and museum and political officials concerning the organization of the exhibition. Of particular interest are his letters (December 1961-January 1962) to President John F. Kennedy, Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson, and Museum benefactor Mrs. George R. Brown, in which he describes his personal vision for the exhibition and his expectations for its positive impact on diplomatic and cultural relations between the United States and Mexico.

Much of the correspondence concerns the unprecedented loan and shipment to Houston of a colossal fifteen-ton sculptured Olmec head (the largest among the La Venta group discovered in 1945 by the Smithsonian's Matthew Stirling), which was subsequently exhibited on the Museum's lawn. The exhibition files also contain descriptive checklists; insurance, customs, and shipping documents; maps; and research materials. Also of interest is Mr. Sweeney's correspondence (1962-1963) with Richard de Rochemont of Vavin, Inc., who photographed Sweeney's 1962 reconnaissance trip to Mexico and who subsequently directed the filming of the Olmec head's 1963 removal from the jungle of Tehuantepec for its 1500-mile shipment to Houston. The resulting documentary, "The Road to the Olmec Head" (16mm, 40 minutes in duration), was previewed at the Museum in June 1963 and subsequently shown in New York City. The exhibition files include associated photographic materials, such as study photographs of Olmec artifacts and views of the installation at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

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