Museum pays £650,000 for Native American art

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The Independent Online

A rare collection of early Native American art brought to Britain by the son of a wealthy Irish emigrant nearly two centuries ago has been bought by the British Museum for £650,000.

A rare collection of early Native American art brought to Britain by the son of a wealthy Irish emigrant nearly two centuries ago has been bought by the British Museum for £650,000.

The pieces, unrivalled even in the collections of American museum giants such as the Smithsonian, was sold by Stonyhurst College in Lancashire to safeguard the future of other items in its college museum.

The art includes a unique deerskin map dating from 1774-75 showing land sales by Algonquin peoples in Indiana, a buffalo-hide war shield, rawhide horse armour and ceremonial peace pipes.

Most collections in America were usually formed later, when Indians were being forced into reservations from 1875. Unusually, they have a known history. The collection was brought to Britain in 1825 by Brian Mullanphy, an Irish-American student at Stonyhurst, to add to the ethnographic collection the Jesuit college had begun acquiring.

Mr Mullanphy's father John had emigrated from near Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, to St Louis, Missouri, the trading centre for American expansion west, and become a millionaire through cotton sales.

Jo Allyn Archambault, from the US National Museum of Natural History, part of the Smithsonian, said: "The collection is rare because it's so early and so well-documented. The map is extraordinarily rare because maps hardly ever survive."

The items had been on loan to the British Museum which bought them with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the National Art Collections Fund and JP Morgan. The collection will go on show in Northern Ireland.

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