Campus & Community

Marshall Collection opens at Peabody

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‘Regarding the Kalahari: The Marshall Family and the Ju/’hoansi !Kung, 1950-1961’

N!ai, a !Kung
N!ai, the subject of one of John Marshall’s films. (From the Laurence and Lorna Marshall Collection © Peabody Museum, President and Fellows of Harvard College)

A new exhibit of 28 photographic prints and 20 stereographs from the Peabody Museum’s Marshall Collection opens today (March 18).

The exhibit examines the first chapter in the relationship between the Marshall family and the Ju/’hoansi !Kung – a relationship that has lasted over a half-century and endures still. Through the portraits of individuals, the exhibit documents the !Kung on the brink of cultural change and offers a photographic record of the Marshalls’ multifaceted perspectives on the !Kung.

The Marshalls

In 1950, Laurence Marshall, retired co-founder of the Raytheon Co., and 17-year-old John Marshall embarked on the first of numerous Peabody Museum expeditions to the Kalahari Desert where they encountered Jo/’hoansi !Kung, still living as nomadic hunter-gatherers. Arrangements were made to return the next year along with Lorna Marshall, an English teacher, and their college-aged

The new Peabody Museum exhibit – ‘Regarding the Kalahari: The Marshall Family and the Ju/’hoansi !Kung, 1950-1961’ – which opens today (March 18), will continue through Sept. 29 at 11 Divinity Ave. A screening of two of John Marshall’s films and a moderated discussion with the filmmaker will be held March 25. See the Calendar for details.

daughter Elizabeth Marshall [Thomas]. For 11 years, the Marshall family – Lorna, Laurence, and their children, Elizabeth and John – documented the way of life of the indigenous Ju/’hoansi !Kung of the Kalahari desert in southern Africa.

Unschooled in anthropology and in photography, the Marshalls literally trained themselves in the field. Lorna and Elizabeth conducted extensive ethnography, writing numerous books and articles. John ultimately produced more than 20 films – some to be screened in conjunction with this exhibit. Laurence managed the expeditions and was largely responsible for the 25,000 photographs, Ektachrome, and stereoscopic slides that now make up the Marshall Collection at the Peabody Museum, many of which have never been seen by the public. Their intention was to produce as complete a visual record as possible of !Kung culture – a kind of all-encompassing ethnography of a way of life that they assumed would not survive. The images in this exhibit offer rich ethnographic information about the !Kung, but also invite us to contemplate how photography can frame our regard of an entire people.

About the curator

Ilisa Barbash is a nonfiction filmmaker and the associate curator of visual anthropology at the Peabody Museum, Harvard University. Her films include the award-winning “In and Out of Africa” (with Lucien Taylor) about authenticity, taste, and racial politics in the African art market. She is also the co-author (with Taylor) of “Cross-Cultural Filmmaking” (University of California Press, 1977).

Laurence and Lorna Marshall, Old
Laurence and Lorna Marshall talking with Old Di/kao, circa 1952.