David W. May Collection


Native American basket

The David W. May American Indian Collection and Gallery, housed in the Anthropology Museum, encourage the campus and the community to increase their knowledge, awareness, and understanding of American Indians--especially those of the Southwest--through their art and other artifacts.  The Collection is the basis for exciting and informative exhibits which are displayed in the Gallery, and for special related events. The Museum has permanent visual storage for the majority of the Collection and can be seen by appointment. Research is encouraged, both by the students and faculty of the University of San Diego, as well as academicians from the community.

The David W. May American Indian Collection is located in Serra Hall, room 214A. The core of the Collection was bequeathed to the University 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 traditions. They traveled extensively, starting in the 1950s, camping throughout the deserts of the Southwest and visiting many of the most remote and inaccessible areas. They frequently spent long vacations in Monument Valley, where Zama ultimately would work summers at the famous Goulding's Trading Post and Lodge. During this time, the family began collecting American Indian artifacts.

Tragically, David died of cancer at the age of 22. His father, Bob, passed away some years later, leaving David's mother, Zama, as his only survivor. At her death in 1994 she bequeathed the family's treasured collection, consisting then of over 1660 artifacts, to the University of San Diego in David's honor, requesting that it be named for him. The University had a profound religious and educational impact upon David, and his mother thought it fitting that something of his life should become part of USD. Zama hoped that the collection would be used to further the educational goals of the University and, especially, to foster an appreciation of the cultural history of the American Southwest throughout the USD community.

Presently the Collection is composed of over 2000 objects, including basketry, pottery, wood  carvings, jewelry, textiles, folk art, musical instruments, paintings, fetishes, ceremonial costumes and accessories, stone tools, weapons, cradleboards, and dolls. These are used to explore Native American art and material culture, both past and present.

Several outstanding items of basketry are made by Hopi, Tohono O’odham, Pomo, Southern California Indian, and Northwest Coast Indian artisans. Also represented are many fine examples of prehistoric, historic, and contemporary pottery, many by well known artisans such as Maria Martinez, Carmelita Dunlap, Mark Wayne Garcia, Dorothy and Paul Gutierrez, Lucy Lewis, Josephine Nahohai, members of the Nampeyo family, Stella Teller, Pablita Velarde, Maria Romero, Preston Duwyenie, and Alvina Yepa. Though small in number, the fetishes in the collection are important because they show how collectors have influenced the development of this art form over time. Both the materials used and the types of animals carved have changed to include requests of the collectors. The jewelry in the Collection also demonstrates changes that have occurred over the last hundred years due to innovations by the artists in the methods and materials they use. New pieces continue to be added to the Collection, through private donations, and by purchases, specifically from the American Indian artists themselves. An important mission in increasing the Collection is adding additional pieces from a particular artist, or an artist's family, including the children.

Contact Information

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

Phone: (619) 260-7516