Field Museum exhibit displays the incredible array of mankind

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Her name was Malvina Hoffman, and in the 1930's she sculpted over 100 different people from around the world. (WLS)

Her name was Malvina Hoffman, and in the 1930's she sculpted over 100 different people from around the world.

Now her sculptures are back on display at the Field Museum. The exhibit, which opens Friday, was first on display from the mid-1930's until 1966, at which point it was put into storage. Now it has returned under the title "Looking at Ourselves: Rethinking the Sculptures of Malvina Hoffman.

Hoffman traveled the world for the Field, sculpting 104 different types of mankind: 104 different, as they called them, races.

"She was given a list by the curator and the types of people that they wanted represented in the exhibit. Different races," says Dr, Alaka Wali, the exhibit's curator.

Fifty of the sculptures are on exhibt, from a New Yorker named Tony Sansone, a doctor from China, a Crow Indian from the American West, a woman from Africa and on and on. It was much longer than 80 days around the world, but she brought them all back: an incredible array of mankind.

"In the 30's there were many scientists who thought you could categorize all the people in the world by their physical characteristics. Their skin color, their hair texture," says Janet Hong, Project Manager for Exhibitions at the Field Museum.

At the time the field museum thought it was great art, a great new exhibit. But when we look at it now it seems more than that.

"It was racism," says Dr. Wali. "Because there was really no scientific evidence for the kinds of categories they came up with."

You have to remember that back in the 1930's it was a very politically incorrect time. So you have to wonder, in these sensitive times, this exhibit: Why now?

"I think it's a good idea. I hope everyone in Chicago comes to see this exhibition and will talk about it," says Hong.

"Now with all the DNA evidence we accumulated, especially since World War II, we know that all of humanity is one species. There are no divisions within that species," says Dr. Wali.

We're all the same; from a Frenchman, to man from India, to the first surfer in Hawaii.
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societyfrank mathiemuseum exhibitthe field museumsculptureChicago - Museum Campus
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