Most artefacts at the San Francisco Mexican Museum permanent collection cannot be authenticated as genuine by national museum standards.
The findings of a report show that only 83 of the 2,000 pre-Hispanic or pre-Columbian artefacts from the museum’s permanent collection are not of museum quality. The tests were carried out by independent curators who came from Mexico City. The artefacts that are not considered genuine are described as “decorative”, and will be given to schools or smaller museums. The entire museum collections feature 16,500 items, and this was the first set to have been examined, so the number of decorative items is expected to be much larger after more authentication studies are made.
The entire pre-Hispanic collection included artefacts from the Mesoamerican, Central American and Peruvian cultures. Vessels, tools, ceremonial objects and body ornaments from Teotihuacan, Mayan, Zapotec, Nayarit, Colima and Peruvian Incan civilisation were also included in the collection. The 83 artefacts that have been identified as authentic comprise male and female figurines, jars, bowls, vases and necklace ornaments.
The action of sorting the genuine artefacts was an initiative in the context of the museum moving from its temporary location in Fort Mason to its permanent location between the Contemporary Jewish Museum and the SFMOMA. The move is planned for 2019 when construction of the new tower will have been completed. The report was commissioned by the museum board as it was a requirement of the Smithsonian Institution, which accepted the Mexican Museum as an affiliate in 2012. Eduardo Perez de Heredia Puente, an associate of the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico City submitted the report a few weeks ago. Andrew Kluger, chair of the board of trustees who is serving as temporary museum director, expressed his surprise to the amount of items being decorative, as he had thought more artefacts were of museum quality.
The Mexican Museum was founded in 1975, and during the early years of its operation its permanent collections were comprised of donations. That was when most items were accepted without authentication. However, the Smithsonian standards for lending artefacts to the Museum revealed the large number of items that were not authentic.
Kluger does not believe this will be the case, however, with later periods in the collections, such as the Latino art and Chicano art collection.