Naturalist and ethnographer Clinton Hart Merriam collected Native American basketry from California and the greater American West in his travels during the latter part of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Approximately three-quarters of his baskets were collected between 1900-1904. Merriam's interest in the functions of basketry in Native American societies led him to collect many used and worn baskets, as opposed to only baskets made for sale in collector markets of the time. Additionally, Merriam had the good habit of documenting his collections, often including the names of the people he bought baskets from as well as native words for the baskets. The widespread geographic distribution, limited temporal spread, well-kept documentation, and focus on how basketry was used in the context of Native American societies makes Merriam's basketry collection particularly informative in understanding cultural and environmental variation in basketry technology in the American West.
The Clinton Hart Merriam collection at UC Davis is open to researchers and visitors by appointment. Our in-progress online gallery showcases some of the basketry culture areas represented by our collection.
Basketry Galleries by Cultural Group
The photography of the collection is currently underway, and the gallery will be updated with new photos periodically. Be sure to check back to experience more!