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Koelz Collection of Himalayan Art

"Tara," UMMAA 17458

Koelz Collection of Himalayan Art
On November 2, 1932, zoologist and adventurer Walter Norman Koelz left Ann Arbor for a two-year collecting mission in northern India. Koelz had been appointed by the University of Michigan to collect biological specimens for the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology and material culture for the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology. From 1932 to 1934 he traveled throughout the Indian Himalayas, collecting birds and other fauna, botanical specimens, and a rare and important assemblage of Western Himalayan art. This exhibition features a portion of the objects that Koelz collected, including religious tangka paintings from Buddhist monasteries, bronze and silver amulet boxes, elaborate shawls, and wooden seals and printing blocks.

For Koelz' diary entries during his expedition, along with a chapter contextualizing his acquisition of sacred Buddhist objects and an appendix presenting previously unpublished thangka paintings that he collected, see The Himalayan Journey of Walter N. Koelz: The University of Michigan Himalayan Expedition, 1932-1934, by Carla M. Sinopoli.

For a closer look at a few of the artifacts in the Koelz Collection, listen to the three podcasts below. Three doctoral students (Vrinda Agrawal, Soyoon Ryu, and Srishti Sankaranarayanan) created these podcasts as part of a class taught in the fall semester of 2020 by Dr. Nachiket Chanchani, associate professor of South Asian Art and Visual Culture at the University of Michigan. The class was Himalayas: An Aesthetic Exploration (ASIAN 335/582); the purpose was to help make information about this important collection accessible to a wider audience.



Manifestation of Compassion

In this podcast, Vrinda Agrawal discusses the art of religious tangka painting. 

Read more about this artifact (UMMAA 17453) here.



In Defense and Devotion

Listen to Srishti Sankaranarayanan explain the origins and uses of three amulet boxes from the Koelz Collection.

Read more about these artifacts (UMMAA 17070, 17071, and 17073) here



Embroidery Garden and Storytelling

Embroidered phulkari textiles are from northwestern India; in this podcast, Soyoon Ryu explains their significance.

Read more about this artifact (UMMAA 17359) here.