Facing Artifacts: Casting, Collecting and Profiling at the San Diego Museum of Man
Collecting humans as specimens has a long history in anthropology.
Collecting humans as specimens has a long history in anthropology. In 1915, the Museum of Man worked with the Smithsonian Institution to acquire life casts of members of Native American nations, as well as many other groups of color for anthropological research about racial variation and evolution. These casts were exhibited to the San Diego public for the Panama California Exposition.
Revisiting this troubled history, Parkeology invited the public to donate their faces to the collections of the Museum of Man. Facing Artifacts participants witnessed first hand what it’s like to have the most intimate part of themselves transform into a museum artifact.
For one day, a life casting station was headquartered in the museum rotunda. Selected by a randomized lottery process, visitors sat for 30 minutes with a Parkeology face casting technician. Their faces were molded, cast in plaster, and immediately registered as a loan by Museum of Man collections managers. These new artifacts were documented and exhibited in the Museum of Man alongside their 1915 predecessors.