In the depths of the Fahy basement lies Seton Hall’s very own museum, dedicated to ancient Native North American artifacts.
The Seton Hall University Museum was established in 1960 when a then-recent graduate, Herbert Kraft, persuaded the university president at the time to establish a place for collected artifacts on campus.
Tom Kavanagh, assistant professor Department of Sociology and Anthropology and director of the Seton Hall Museum said that the museum was “a natural history museum, a history museum and an anthropology museum.”
“Our artifacts are mostly Native North American,” Kavanagh said. “Most of it is actually from New Jersey, but we do have things from all over.”
Herbert Kraft was the main reason the museum was established.
Though he graduated as a business major and worked primarily as an elementary school teacher, Kavanagh said that “Kraft was an amateur archeologist.”
The first museum at Seton Hall was located in the old library, the current site of Jubilee Hall. The museum featured collections which were gathered and donated by or purchased from outside sources. Kavanagh called these people “relic hunters.”
“They would go out to different sites and collect artifacts that had worked their way up from when they were deposited,” Kavanagh said. “These were not archeologists, so there were no digs per se. They were collectors. Herb got them to either donate their collections to Seton Hall or he bought them for Seton Hall.”
Other than housing artifacts from New Jersey, Seton Hall is also home to baskets from the Aleut peoples of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska and Russia.
There are also Navajo and Paiute artifacts including a large display of pottery from the American Southwest and a large collection of various moccasins.
Besides Native American, Seton Hall also houses pieces from Japan, ancient Greece and Rome, Babylon, reproductions of African pieces, and a copy of the Rosetta Stone.
In total, the university has about 26,000 pieces, a few of which are worth several thousand dollars. One Native American shirt is very similar to a piece that sold for over $300,000 in 2007.
The one that Seton Hall owns is not in perfect condition; it is estimated to be worth less.
The artifacts used to be on display in Fahy Hall until the building’s remodel in 2003. Kavanagh was hired in 2006 to inventory the pieces and let the tribes know what the university had in its possession.
This was done in accordance with the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act. This is a federal law that states that any institution that holds Native American materials and receives federal money has to let the tribes know what they have.
“The university realized they had done nothing about NAGPRA and, because they receive federal money, they were in danger of losing everything,” Kavanagh said.
Graduate students helped Kavanagh count, photograph and catalogue everything the University Museum had in its possession.
“We wrote a hundred and some letters out to the tribes,” Kavanagh said. “We received maybe five back, of which only one, the Onondogas of New York, made a claim.”
The university still has some of these artifacts on display. On the first floor of Fahy, there is a display case full of native beads as well as a petroglyph, which means writing or carving on a stone, which was found in the Delaware Valley.
“We are in the process of talking to the provost about what our possibilities are for everything,” Kavanagh said. “We will eventually have everything on display again.”
Alyana Alfaro can be reached at email@example.com.