Leland Stanford Jr.’s posthumously lauded artifact collection reveals how his legacy was shaped by personal memorialization and cultural trends of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Leland Stanford Jr., only son of Governor and railroad tycoon Leland Stanford Sr. and heiress Jane Lathrop Stanford, died suddenly in 1884, just shy of his 16th birthday. The Leland Stanford Junior University (opened 1891) and Museum (opened 1893) were created in memoriam for Leland Jr. In fact, the museum’s early collections reflect Leland Jr.’s budding curatorial interests, nurtured by his doting parents’ great wealth, class tastes, and social connections. Renowned curators reckoned Leland Jr.’s early death a great loss to “the art-training” of the American people. Was his collecting that remarkable? Or was it a boyhood hobby amplified by his parents’ loss and remembrance?
Sabrina Papazian, Phd candidate at the Stanford Archaeology Center, is student curator of Collecting in Life and Death: The Curatorial Legacy of Leland Stanford Jr. The exhibit is not open to the public but can be seen by students, researchers, and others spending time in SUAC's Collections Classroom.
On View through Fall 2017