Status: Complete


Department of Radiology and Radiological Sciences * School of Medicine * Direct phone 322-0999

October 23, 1987

David Driskell, Ph.D.

Dear David:

I enjoyed seeing you and was sorry that a prior commitment precluded my making
the gala. I am writing to you about a little project that I have proved to
president Henry Ponder. I just wanted you to know about it in case your
opinion was aked regarding its value. What I have proposed is an exhibit of
the gourds and vessels used in the everyday life of the people of Kenya. This
would be a collection of some sixty objects which would also include some more
personal things than utensils, such as a Masai wedding purse, snuff and tobacco
pouches, perfume pouches, and sheaths for the arrows of the primitive tribesmen
from around Lake Victoria.

There would be a poster-type exhibit with photographs of Kenyan culture and
x-rays studies of some of the vessels that would problably have more eye appeal
than science. I would like to do this as an exhibit with a poster exhibit and
small, modest catalogue. I would assume the financial obligations of the
exhibit and catalogue and would, obviously, supply the objects. At the end of
the exhibition if this was successful we might consider sending it elsewhere,
but finally I would like to donate it to Fisk University.

This all came about as a result of my work as consultant to the Smithsonian. I
had the opportunity to go to Nairobi to study with the famous group at the
museum there, but upon my arrival realized that no real preparation for x-ray
studies had been made and that in the time period I had it would be impossible
to do anything meaningful. I became interested in the gourds and vessels and
was told by the people at the museum that no work had been done. Since part of
my arrangement had been to visit the various zoological parks throughout all of
Kenya, I had them make arrangements for me to visit also the primitive tribes
in a reasonably unofficial capacity. Through a system of bartering, I was able
to acquire all but a few of the pieces that I had on my "wish" list. I never
did find a way to have anyone be interested in a witch doctor's gourd. It
seems that these are just too rare, valuable and important to donate or
contribute anywhere. Through a rather heroic effort and some extraordinary
assistance I was able to get all of this back here and wrote a preliminary
article in the Explorer's Journal. This was seen by the Smithsonian and they
wanted to do a more extensive article but this would have involved an exhibit
there and a great deal of my time. After about two years it became obvious
that, while this was worthwhile, it was not practical. I them became
interested in the possibility of doing this with a museum and found that the
only museum in the U.S.A. that had done something similar was the Cleveland
Museum of Art. They published a rather elaborate catalogue, and I suspect this
was a resonably successful venture. That was when I became interested in the
museum at Fisk and made the proposal to them.

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