Alan C. Buck and Kay Collins Buck Collection of African and Oceanic Tribal Art
This collection contains nearly 1,000 pieces. Working as a researcher at the University of Hawaii in the mid-1960s, one of Alan's projects was studying Aku Tuna migrations and red tide predictions in the South Pacific. When in ports, he spent his time learning about and obtaining tribal art pieces from the local populations. While doing Ph.D. research on Arctic physiology and adaptations, he spent time on the pack ice with the Inuits to learn how they adapted to the cold. He added Alaskan tribal masks and ivory carvings to his collection.
Upon graduation, Alan accepted a position at Makerere University, Uganda teaching in the medical school and doing research in East African countries under a grant from the U.N. Working in local areas he began collecting tribal masks that had been danced in ceremonies. He discovered the Makonde workshops in Tanzania and added pieces to his collection. He was hired to help supply a tribal art gallery in Nairobi with tribal art. This included musical instruments and spears, knives and shields. When Idi Amin came into power and Alan had to leave Uganda, people were allowed to take out household goods. Tribal art was not considered valuable and could be a household item. Alan spent the last part of his time in Africa traveling Africa, buying and shipping tribal art to the U.S.
Upon his return to the U.S., Alan was hired at NASA as a Senior Researcher in Environmental Physiology and Toxicology. He worked on the Apollo and Soyuz projects, including Apollo 13 where he was a major developer of the system of air purification used to keep them alive. At the same time he worked on his art collection and developed displays and programs in the area. After leaving NASA, Alan became a consultant.
It was during this time that he met Kay Collins, who was Head of the Conservation Library in Denver, at a national environmental conference in Washington, D.C. In 1966 Kay had moved to Denver to finish her education and began working at the Conservation Library in 1967. Resources for the Future awarded her a fellowship to get her M.L.S. and become the first person to major in environmental librarianship. She earned appointments to the National Commission for Libraries and Information Services and the State Advisory Board, U.S. Bureau of Land Management
Around 1980, Kay left the Conservation Library and formed her own consulting firm, Applied Information and Documentation, and joined Alan in Southern California. Alan finished his career as a consultant and an expert witness in toxic tort legal cases. Kay was appointed Head of Documents at California State University, Fullerton. She later moved to the Documents Dept. at UC Irvine where she remained until her retirement.
They began a collection of Mexican masks during a trip to Mexico but stopped when they realized they did not have room for another collection. Alan worked on maintaining the physical “health” of the tribal art collection and Kay began researching the various pieces. They also decorated the walls and shelves of their house with pieces from that collection. Upon Alan’s death from cancer in 2003, Kay began the task of photographing and cataloging their tribal art collection, now consisting of nearly 1,000 pieces.
Kay learned of the Los Alamos Museum of Art from other work she was doing in Albuquerque. After discussing art and education with LAMOA president, Ruth Tatter, Kay believes that LAMOA is the best place for the tribal art collection.