This collection began with a couple of Hopi-Tewa pots on a shelf. The website came along a couple of hundred pots later—and the numbers keep growing.
Of what use are the collection and website? Several come to mind.
First, many of the people who access the website are collectors or galleries looking for quick information about a particular potter. The “Artist List” allows them to find such information. Others are interested in a particular type or design of pottery and the “Category List” serves a similar function. Often such folk have a particular pot that they want to compare to similar pots in this collection.
Second, although there is limited access to the internet on the reservation, some Hopi and Hopi-Tewa potters have used the website to see pots they made earlier in their career or see pots made by other family members or friends. Often a potter has several pots in the collection spanning different periods of her/his career. The collection has particularly strong representation of potters in the Nampeyo family (seven generations) and Chapella family (four generations). Numbers of families other than these two are represented in the collection and potters from different families are often linked by marriage. It is my hope that access to generations of pottery will inspire Hopi and Hopi-Tewa artists. As internet connectivity becomes more available on the reservation, it is expected that this use of the collection will grow. Eventually, when the collection becomes part of a reservation museum, potters will be able access the pottery directly.
Third, the collection has become more than a series of pots on a shelf. It has its own internal structure and logic. Thus, it can be used as source data for the development of Native American art history. The development of the style of particular individual can be defined over the course of her career. Similarly, the development of artistic expression within families can be traced (cf. Chervnsik, 2003). The development of particular designs or design motifs might also be examined.
Because the collection covers pottery made over a range of more than 500 years (though mostly the last 150 years), changes in pottery style over time can be examined using collection pots. As an example, in Appendix A I offer a discussion of stylistic changes from 1870 to about 1900. This discussion is just one example of the kind of analysis that can be done using this collection.
To summarize, this collection and its associate website have multiple purposes: 1) as an aid to collectors and dealers, 2) as an inspiration to current Hopi and Hopi-Tewa potters, and 3) as a source of data for the development of art history. Finally there is the most obvious purpose. 4) These pots are beautiful. Seeing them, even online, adds pleasure and joy to life. Though I admit that living with them is even better.