Loyola University Chicago

Department of Anthropology

May Weber Ethnographic Study Collection


Anthropology undergraduate Christian Franck holds a stick-and-rod puppet from Indonesia in collections storage.

Curated and managed by the Department of Anthropology at Loyola University Chicago, the collection consists of approximately 3000 pieces of ethnographic art collected in the mid to late twentieth century by Dr. May Weber, a Chicago-based psychiatrist. Weber’s interest in aesthetically compelling materials from outside Western fine art traditions, her travels, and relationships with tribal art dealers resulted in a personal collection with global geographic diversity of aesthetic works in traditional and contemporary mediums. Weber was especially drawn to masks, figurative sculpture, textiles, as well as more utilitarian pieces. The collection ranges from several examples of masterful artistic expression to numerous pieces of tourist art. View video slideshows of items from the collection here.

Within the collections from the Americas, masks from Mexico are the most numerous and diverse with several representative examples from colonial-style festivals covering all the major geographic regions and cultural traditions. There are limited South American materials, including pieces from the Amazon such as a TapirapĂ© feather headdress. There are very few objects from Native North America. The African collections, sizeable in number, are sourced from mostly sub-Saharan cultures in West and Central Africa. The majority of African material consists of small, domestic objects, including ritual carvings, food service and preparation objects, and garments. There is a selection of larger architectural pieces such as carved doors, a house post, and wooden ladder. The Asia-Pacific collections consist of textiles from India and the indigenous peoples of Southeast Asia (Thailand, Laos, Burma, China, Vietnam). There is a variety of material from Indonesia, with fewer pieces from Papua New Guinea and Australia. 

May Weber Collection -- Finding Aid -- updated July 2023

The collection is housed on the fourth floor of Mundelein Center. For-credit internship and research opportunities are available for students. Please direct research and information requests to the collection's Director, Dr. Catherine Nichols, cnichols@luc.edu or 773.508.3469.