The Neria Collection, Uaxactún, Guatemala: Volume 1
In April, 2019, I had the great privilege of photographing almost half of the Doña Neria collection at her museum in Uaxactún, Guatemala. The story behind her collection is fascinating, and well-told in Night Fire Film’s Out of the Maya Tombs (available at https://nightfirefilms.org/films/). The producers at Night Fire Films, David Lebrun and Rosie Guthrie, made a clip especially for this blog to introduce our readers to the museum and its founder. You may see the film clip by clicking here https://vimeo.com/589143884.
I can imagine the looters crawling out of the jungle after weeks on cold coffee and canned rations, bug-ridden, dehydrated, bruised and cut, stumbling into camp at Uaxactún and eagerly trading their second-tier ceramics for a hot shower, a meal, and a cot. And so Neria’s collection grew.
My own association with Neria and her museum began when I was photographing monuments for the Uaxactún archaeological project, run by Milan Kovac and the Slovakian SAHI-Uaxactún Project in 2011. I met Neria and got to see some of her collection at that time, and perhaps the seed was then planted that these pieces needed to be systematically and professionally photographed.
Eight years later, during one of my extended field trips to Petén, I was picking up my laundry in Santa Elena when Bernie Mittelstaedt called to me from across the street and invited me to meet Neria, who was in town trying to start up a new family restaurant.
We met and talked and on an impulse I asked her if I could photograph her collection and make an online catalog with the intention of benefiting her and her museum, but even more so, to honor the patrimony and history of her native land. She said yes and that very afternoon we traveled together to Uaxactún, where she made arrangements for me to work with her bother Antonio to photograph the collection.
Antonio and I hung tarps and black cloth and created a small studio space where I could make it dark and use artificial light. The museum at that time was closed for remodeling and all the pieces were individually wrapped and boxed. Antonio brought them to me one at a time, and I spent the next six days photographing, as well as taking measurements and making notes on each piece.
In six days I completed about half of the collection, more than 275 pieces. In March, 2022, I plan to return to Neria’s and deliver two hard copies of this catalog for her to have. In the meantime, my non-profit, Contributions to Mesoamerican Studies, has managed to send $2,000 U.S. to help with the remodel and expansion of the museum. In 2022, I hope to photograph the rest of her collection and upon returning home create Volume II of this precious catalog.
The pieces, I’m sure you will agree, greatly expand the universe of Classic Maya ceramics, introducing to our viewers forms, styles, treatments, and designs never before seen by students of Maya art and history. It is truly an honor to present these to you, and to present Neria Virginia Herrera Pinelo as the great person that she is. May you savor these images.
December 23, 2021
Juniper Hills, California
Suggested citation: Love, Bruce and Meghan Rubenstein. “La Colección del Museo Dr. Juan Antonio Valdes, Uaxactún, Guatemala: Volumen 1” Contributions to Mesoamerican Studies, December 23, 2021. https://brucelove.com/research/contribution-011/