David W. May Collection

Sgraffito jar by Alvina Yepa

About the May Collection

The David W. May American Indian Collection aims to document and expand our appreciation of the rich cultural contributions of indigenous peoples.  The collection is located in Serra Hall.  It utilizes three spaces there: a gallery dedicated to American Indian displays, a classroom with open storage, and an adjacent, secure study-storage room.

The core of the May Collection was bequeathed to the University of San Diego in 1994 by Dorothy Zama May in honor of her son, David, who attended the University from 1969 to 1975.  Zama, David, and Bob May were avid enthusiasts of the Southwestern United States and were especially interested in American Indian culture and its traditions. They traveled extensively, starting in the 1950s, camping in the desert and visiting many remote areas. They frequently spent long vacations in Monument Valley, where Zama worked during the summer at the famous Goulding's Trading Post and Lodge. During this time, the family also began collecting American Indian artifacts.

David May died of cancer at the age of 22. His father, Bob, passed away a few years later, leaving David's mother, Zama, as the only surviving family member. She bequeathed the Mays’ treasured American Indian collection, consisting at the time of more than 1600 artifacts, to the University in David's honor.  The collection continues to grow through gifts and select acquisitions by purchase.  At present, The May Collection consists of more than 2200 objects, including basketry, pottery, wood carvings, jewelry, textiles, folk art, musical instruments, paintings, fetishes, ceremonial costumes and accessories, stone tools, weapons, cradleboards, dolls, and two dimensional representations, all by Native American artists.

Explore the Collection

The May Collection is located in Serra Hall 214A where it can be viewed by appointment. You can schedule a visit by contacting Collections Manager Joyce Antorietto at or (619) 260-4238.

Contact Information

University Galleries
Founders Hall 102
5998 Alcalá Park
San Diego, CA 92110

Phone: (619) 260-7516