American Museum of Natural History. Chinese and Siberian Collections (Hall)

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Exist Dates

1911 - 1963

Biographical or Historical Note

Permanent exhibition. Opened approximately 1911 and closed approximately 1962-1963. Located on Floor 3, Section 6. The first documentation of the Chinese and Siberian Collections at the American Museum of Natural History is in the 1911 General Guide (1, 1911, p. 69) and the last is in the 1962 or 1963 General Guide (1, 1962, p. 10, 13, 32). The hall, originally curated by Berthold Laufer with financial support from Jacob H. Schiff and other members of the East Asiatic Committee, (2, 1913, p. 67) featured Asian ethnology collections and was arranged geographically. The hall was regularly updated and went through rearrangements in 1917 and in the late 1930’s (2, 1917, p. 46; 2, 1937, p. 18). The Drummond Collection of Jade, related in theme to the Chinese and Siberian Collections, was exhibited in the tower off the South Sea Island Hall (1, 1943, p. 162).

The Chinese and Siberian Collections, also known as the Collections from Asia , the Chinese Hall, Asiatic Hall, or Peoples of Asia, first appears in the 1911 General Guide and originally exhibited objects from China and Siberia. The Chinese exhibits presented culture, industries, and religion, and included displays of bamboo, porcelain, basketry, inlaid work, cloisonné enamel, ivory, stone, embroidery, wood carvings, and agricultural tools. The Siberian exhibits were related to the mode of living culture and ethnology, highlighting weapons, dress, rugs, and furs from Siberia. The hall also included two models that showed winter and summer scenes in Siberia, and a small model that represented the process of pottery-making (1, 1911, p. 69).

The hall underwent frequent updates and additions. In 1912 Museum Director Frederic A. Lucas designed new cases for the tower of the Chinese Hall to be dedicated to Chinese archaeology, and included bronze and pottery (7, p. 71). Dr. Berthold Laufer, who composed the collection for the Museum, prepared a handbook descriptive of Chinese culture as illustrated by the collection at the time of the installation (2, 1913, p. 67).

In 1928 Dr. Walter L. Hildburgh presented the Museum with a large collection of Asian religious and archaeological material from Japan, Europe, and Egypt. Some of the collection was installed in the Japanese section of the Asiatic Hall, with the rest temporarily on display in the Philippine Hall (2, 1928, p. 54). More exhibits were added in the 1930’s, which included some Japanese objects in the tower, and main hall exhibits which covered the Ainu and Amur River tribes, collections of Tibetan religious objects and costumes, objects from Japanese prehistory, a special display of Japanese sword guards, and a suit of Chinese armor from the Manchu (Qing) Dynasty (1, 1931, p. 101-102; 2, 1932, p. 65). In 1934-1935 Volunteer Antoinette K. Gordon installed a collection of religious images with prepared labels to make room for the Japanese exhibit formerly housed in the tower. A small exhibit of ethnological material from India was also installed at this time. The tower section was readied for new cases being constructed for the Whitney exhibit of Tibetan religious objects donated by William B. Whitney and supported by Suydam Cutting. [Schoichi] Ichikawa completed a model showing the manufacture of Chinese pottery using the ancient method (2, 1934, p. 10; 2, 1935, p. 13). The Japanese Reception Room may have also been exhibited in this hall at one time (2, 1929, p. 123).

By the 1950’s, the hall presented exhibits on Korea, Japan, which included two models of Japanese dwellings, Japanese armor, and No drama masks, exhibits on the Ainu, Tibetan collections, a series on the Vedic and Puranic gods of India, exhibits on Burma (Myanmar), which included the Meiteis and Maring of the Assam-Burma region and Chin and Kachin (Jingpho Wupong) of Upper Chindwin River, exhibits on Siberia, which included the Chukchi, Koryak, Tungus (Evenki), Yakut, Lamut (Even), Yukaghir, and Gold (Nanai) (1, 1953, p. 199). At this time the hall also featured exhibits on Chinese cloisonné and printing, and Chinese life from the turn of the century when the collection was made, but had by then significantly changed (1, 1956, p. 199).

Many of these collections may be currently viewed in the Gardner D. Stout Hall of Asian Peoples, which opened in 1980 and succeeded the Chinese and Siberian Collections in exhibiting the Museum’s collections of Asian ethnology.


    (1) American Museum of Natural History. General Guide to [the Exhibition Halls of] the American Museum of Natural History. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1911-1962.
    (2) American Museum of Natural History. Annual Reports. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1913-1937.
    Information for the hall appears in the following Museum publications:
    American Museum of Natural History Annual Reports for years 1912 (page 71); 1913 (page 67); 1916 (page 30); 1917 (page 46); 1928 (page 54); 1929 (page 123); 1932 (page 65); 1935 (page 13); 1937 (page 18); 1938 (page 11); 1939 (page 9); 1940 (page 23); 1941 (page 22)
    American Museum of Natural History General Guides for years 1911 (Table of Contents, page 55); 1913 (page 64, 81); 1914 (page 71, 89); 1916 (page 75, 95); 1918 (page 67, 88); 1919 (page 69, 91); 1921 (page 69, 91); 1922 (page 69, 91); 1923 (page 69, 91); 1926 (page 38); 1927 (page 38); 1928 (page 82); 1930 (page 82); 1931 (page 101); 1932 (page 101); 1933 (page 103); 1934 (page 105); 1935 (page 105); 1936 (page 105); 1939 (page 18, 157); 1943 (page 18, 163); 1945 (page 18, 163); 1947 (page 18, 163); 1949 (page 18, 163); 1953 (Floor plans, page 197); 1962 (page 13)


New YorkExternal link
AMNH: Floor 3, Section 6. Additional location information: Southwest Pavilion.

Related Corporate, Personal, and Family Names

Cutting, C. Suydam (Charles Suydam), 1889-1972
Donor for hall (2, 1934, p. 10; 2, 1935, p. 13).
Filley, Mary Payne
Donor for hall (as Mrs. Suydam Cutting) (2, 1934 p. 10; 2, 1935 p. 13).
Gordon, Antoinette K.
Volunteer, installation and labels for hall (2, 1934, p. 10; 2, 1935, p. 13).
Hildburgh, Walter Leo, 1876-1955External link
Donor, objects in hall (2, 1928, p. 54).
Ichikawa, Schoichi
Museum employee, created pottery manufacture model for hall (2, 1934, p. 10; 2, 1935, p. 13).
Laufer, Berthold 1874-1934
Curator for hall (2, 1913 p. 67).
Lucas, Frederic A. (Frederic Augustus) 1852-1929
Museum Director, designed new cases for hall, (2, 1912 p. 71).
Schiff, Jacob H. (Jacob Henry) 1847-1920
Donor for (2,1913 p. 67)).

Related Resources

Historic Halls of the American Museum of Natural History
Curated digital images of permanent halls in the American Museum of Natural History Library, Digital Special Collections.

Written by: Clare O'Dowd
Last modified: 2018 December 7


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