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Keywords:

  • museum collecting;
  • material culture;
  • Liberia;
  • history of anthropology

Abstract

The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology holds a large collection of wooden facemasks from the Dan and Mano peoples of Northeast Liberia. Made for ritual use, most of these masks were sold in the 1930s to George W. Harley, a medical missionary who worked in the region. This article explores Harley's training, methods, and motives, and the socio-political conditions under which he collected. Beginning with the notes that Harley provided on the reasons that owners gave for selling their masks, I examine the collection itself for clues to the choices made on the other side of the collecting encounter.