SAR: A Historical View

Administration Building, Spring 2013SAR CampusPhotograph by Jason S. OrdazSAR CampusPhotograph by Jason S. Ordaz

In 2007, the School for Advanced Research celebrated its 100th anniversary. In the century since its founding, the discipline of anthropology itself came of age. SAR has played an important role in promoting the professionalization of anthropology and the recognition of Southwestern Native American arts and artists. In the century to come, the School will continue to shape efforts to understand, celebrate, and express the joys of the human experience in all their variety.

In the early years of the twentieth century, archaeology was a young discipline with roots in the art historical studies of Old World antiquities. The unveiling of the treasures of Troy, Ephesus, and the Valley of the Kings held the world spellbound. But as the United States expanded westward, a new science sprang up in the native soils of the New World. Explorers, cowboys, missionaries, settlers, and entrepreneurs became fascinated with the remains of early Indian civilizations in the American West. Scholars from the East followed their lead to such sites as Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon. Institutional recognition was not far behind.

In 1906, Alice Cunningham Fletcher, a pioneering anthropologist and ethnographer of Plains Indian groups, was on the American Committee of the Archaeological Institute of America. The AIA, founded in Boston in 1879, had schools in Athens, Rome, and Palestine that sponsored research into the foundations of classical civilization and promoted professional standards in archaeological field work. Fletcher wanted to establish an “Americanist” center with three aims: to train students in the profession of archaeology, to engage in anthropological research on the American continent, and to preserve and study the unique cultural heritage of the Southwest. Her aims coincided with those of Edgar Lee Hewett, an innovative educator and passionate amateur archaeologist whom she met in 1906 in Mexico.

Hewett, nicknamed “El Toro,” was a flamboyant and controversial figure. He served as president of New Mexico Normal School in Las Vegas (now New Mexico Highlands University) from 1898 to 1903, where he taught some of the first courses in anthropology to be offered at any U.S. college. Hewett transformed himself from an amateur to a professional archaeologist, undertaking a doctoral program at the University of Geneva in 1903 and writing his dissertation, “Les communauts anciennes dans le desert americain,” on the distribution and social organization of archaeological peoples in the greater Southwest and northern Mexico. His work as a lobbyist for the protection of archaeological sites led to the creation of Mesa Verde National Park and the passage of the Preservation of American Antiquities Act of 1906.

In December of 1907, the American Committee of the AIA accepted Fletcher’s plan to establish an American program and appointed Hewett the director of the new School of American Archaeology. Alice Fletcher was named the first chairperson of the School’s managing committee. From this institutional base, Hewett became a key architect of the discipline of Southwestern archaeology over the next forty years.

The Early Years

The School of American Archaeology changed its name to the School of American Research in 1917 to reflect the broader scope of its mission, which was “to promote and carry on research in Archaeology and related branches of the Science of Man; to foster Art in all its branches through exhibitions and by other means which may from time to time be desirable” (Articles of Incorporation 1917). Santa Fe, then the capital of New Mexico Territory, was chosen as the new institution’s headquarters in part because the territorial legislature offered the historic Palace of the Governors as a permanent home. In 1909, the legislature established the Museum of New Mexico as a de facto agency of the School, creating a relationship that would continue for the next fifty years. Hewett headed both the Museum and the School.

Edgar Lee HewettEdgar Lee HewettEdgar Lee Hewett

Midway through its first year of operations, the School was already immersed in excavating twelfth- to fourteenth-century Pueblo ruins on the eastern edge of the Pajarito Plateau, west of Santa Fe, and conducting the first of its annual field programs. Many legendary archaeologists, among them Neil Judd, Alfred V. Kidder, Sylvanus Morley, and Earl Morris, received some of their training at SAR field labs at Tyuonyi Ruin on El Rito de los Frijoles (now part of Bandelier National Park), Chaco Canyon, Puy Cliff Dwellings, and other sites. The School also sponsored excavations by Morley, Morris, Judd, Jesse Nusbaum, and others in Mexico, Guatemala, and South America, and led the effort to preserve the twenty-two Spanish missions of New Mexico. From the start, the School was committed to reaching a wide audience through a program of publications, and that first year saw the appearance of its first published papers: Hewett’s “Groundwork of American Archaeology” and Morley’s “Excavation of the Cannonball Ruins in Southwestern Colorado.”

Besides sponsoring field programs, Hewett founded and directed departments of archaeology and anthropology at the University of Southern California and the University of New Mexico. By the 1930s, thanks to Hewett’s innovative work, these and other universities had taken over responsibility for these departments and for large-scale archaeological excavation projects. The School’s focus began to shift from education to anthropological research and scholarly publication.

Through its offshoot, the Museum of New Mexico, the School took an early interest in encouraging and preserving the artistic traditions of Southwestern Indians. Indian workers assisted at the School’s excavations on the Pajarito Plateau, and their interactions with Hewett, Kenneth M. Chapman, and other archaeologists led to a recognition and appreciation of individual talents and traditional aesthetics. Hewett and Chapman, an artist hired by Hewett to head the art department at New Mexico Normal School and later one of the first employees of the School of American Archaeology, were ahead of their time in their support for Indian artists, offering them studio facilities and collecting and exhibiting their work. In 1922, the School sponsored the first Southwest Indian Fair, precursor of today’s enormously popular Santa Fe Indian Market.

Celebrate! The Parties of El DelirioFiesta Parade, 1932. Elizabeth White, resplendent in fiesta attire, sits astride her steed.Fiesta Parade, 1932. Elizabeth White, resplendent in fiesta attire, sits astride her steed.

Hewett led the School and Museum until his death at age 82 in 1946. A twenty-year period of relative inactivity followed, as the two conjoined institutions sought to establish their separate identities and missions. The School continued to pursue archaeological research projects on a modest scale and was headed, successively, by Sylvanus Morley, the Honorable Boaz Long, Wayne L. Mauzy, Edward Weyer, Jr., and Eugene McCluney. This uneasy transition period ended in 1959, when the State Legislature formally separated the Museum of New Mexico from the School of American Research. The School—the original, founding organization—was gutted, left with a staff of two, an unclear mission, and an uncertain future.

A New Era

On July 1, 1967, the Board of Managers of the School of American Research appointed Douglas W. Schwartz as its new director. A young archaeologist and professor of anthropology at the University of Kentucky, Schwartz revitalized the institution and broadened its focus to embrace advanced scholarship in anthropology and the humanities worldwide and to promote the study, preservation, and creation of Southwest Indian art. At the same time, Schwartz continued the School’s tradition of archaeological research with summer field excavations in the Grand Canyon in the late 1960s and, in the 1970s, the interdisciplinary excavations of Arroyo Hondo Pueblo.

Map of El Delirio (1927), now SAR’s campusMap of El Delirio (1927), now SAR’s campus“Surveyed with a leather thong, drawn and animated by Gustave Baumann”Map of El Delirio (1927), now SAR’s campus“Surveyed with a leather thong, drawn and animated by Gustave Baumann”

Over the years, SAR’s offices had relocated from the Palace of the Governors to the Museum of Fine Arts and, after 1959, to the Hewett House on Lincoln Street. In 1972 the School found a permanent home, a beautiful adobe estate on Santa Fe's east side. “El Delirio” had been the home of Martha Root White and Amelia Elizabeth White, wealthy New York business women. Martha and Elizabeth built El Delirio in the 1920s, and it became a popular gathering place for Santa Fe artists, writers, and intellectuals—among them Edgar Hewett, Sylvanus Morley, and others closely associated with the School. The White sisters were avid patrons and promoters of Indian art, and together opened the first Native American art gallery in New York City. Elizabeth was a founding member of the Indian Arts Fund (IAF) in Santa Fe and sat on SAR’s Board of Managers for twenty-five years. Martha White died in 1937. When Elizabeth died at age 96 in 1972, she generously left El Delirio, along with other Santa Fe properties, to the then-named School of American Research. In that same year, the IAF disbanded and deeded its superb collections of Southwest Indian art to SAR.

The new campus, with its extensive grounds and numerous buildings, permitted the realization of Dr. Schwartz’s vision for SAR. The Advanced Seminar Program, inaugurated in 1968, has sponsored more than 150 seminars, the results of which are published in SAR’s Advanced Seminar Series. The Resident Scholar Program, launched in 1972, has provided over 160 pre- and postdoctoral scholars with nine-month residencies in which to read, reflect, and write up research results. The construction of the Indian Arts Research Center, completed in 1978, gave the collections inherited from the IAF a suitable home. In 1979, the SAR Press began to publish independently the results of scholarship undertaken at the School, and in 1988 the J. I. Staley Prize was established to recognize books by living authors that exemplify outstanding research in anthropology. In 1997, the state-of-the-art Arroyo Hondo Archaeological Repository was completed.

New Century, New Directions

David E. StuartDavid E. StuartPhotograph by Jason S. OrdazDavid E. StuartPhotograph by Jason S. Ordaz

In 2001, SAR entered the new century with a new president, Richard M. Leventhal, an archaeologist from UCLA who assumed leadership of the School on the retirement of Dr. Schwartz. During his three-year tenure at the School, Dr. Leventhal worked to revitalize SAR’s core programs and extend greater opportunities for scholars and visiting Native artists. With Dr. Leventhal’s departure for the directorship of the University of Pennsylvania Museum in 2004, Dr. George J. Gumerman stepped in ably as Interim President and initiated new partnerships with like-minded institutions through his previous affiliation as Vice President for Academic Affairs at the Santa Fe Institute. During his term, the Board of Managers opened a new search for president, and in August 2005 appointed Dr. James F. Brooks, formerly director of SAR Press, as the School’s new leader. His term coincided with the School’s Centennial in 2007, a momentous year in which SAR changed its name from the School of American Research to the School for Advanced Research, to better reflect the global reach of its support for scholarship in the social sciences and humanities. Some of the highlights of Dr. Brooks’s tenure include new programs such as the Campbell Program for Women Scholar Practitioners—which has supported women from Morocco, Ethiopia, and Kenya in developing strategies for women’s economic and social empowerment—and an emphasis on collaborative research and exhibition projects with Native peoples; public outreach and education, which expanded considerably with the creation of the Southwest Crossroads educational website, used by more than 50,000 students and teachers each year; monthly Sparks Talks on local history and culture; and a field trip program serving more than two hundred participants annually, visiting locations as near as Pecos National Monument and as far as the borderlands of southeastern Turkey.

When Dr. Brooks resigned his post in June of 2013, SAR’s Board of Directors sought an interim president who was already a member of the SAR family to preside over the transition. They chose Dr. David E. Stuart, an anthropologist and long-time teacher and senior administrator at the University of New Mexico. Dr. Stuart is an award-winning author and novelist with over twenty books and monographs to his credit, including his novels The Guaymas Chronicles and Angel of Vilcabamba. When a new president is chosen, Dr. Stuart will remain at SAR to continue his research and writing as a senior scholar.