May 12, 2013

Catalina huckster looted Tongva graves

Catalina exhibit illuminates a dark episode in island's past

'The Strange and Mysterious Case of Dr. Glidden' tells the story of a man who created public entertainment from native inhabitants' bones.

By Louis Sahagun
The Catalina Island Museum has opened a window into a dark period of life on the island with an exhibition devoted to a pseudoscientist who looted Native American graves for profit eight decades ago.

"The Strange and Mysterious Case of Dr. Glidden," which opened over the weekend, examines the life and times of Ralph Glidden, a hucksterish entrepreneur who in the 1920s and '30s excavated bones and relics from Tongva Indian burial grounds for sale and trade. He also presided over an "Indian museum" literally made of bones and situated on a hill overlooking Avalon harbor.

News articles from the 1920s written by Glidden's publicist describe his "Indian museum" as a "unique and weirdly spectacular institution," with shoulder-blade cornices and windows edged with toe, ankle, wrist and finger bones. Leg and arm bones served as brackets for shelves lined with skulls. Ceiling panels were decorated with human vertebra and rosettes of shoulder blades.

The Catalina Island Museum's look back at Glidden is rooted in a discovery last year. Curator John Boraggina chanced upon boxes of Glidden's journals, ledgers, letters and photographs while searching a musty backroom for items for an exhibit of the World War II era.
Comment:  For more on looting, see Petroglyph Theft Is "Worse Act of Vandalism" and Kincaid Mounds Vandalized.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Most pseudoscientists fetishize particular things; colonics, for instance, were started by klismaphiles. I can assume this dude had a bone obsession.