IUMAA Receives the David and Marjorie Ransom Collection of Yemeni Jewelry
June 6, 2022
The Indiana University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has received a significant collection of Yemeni silver jewelry and costumes that will bolster its Middle Eastern holdings. The entire Ransom collection contains over 2,000 works from the Middle East and features artifacts from Bedouin and tribal people of Yemen, as well as examples of its finely crafted urban jewelry. The gift to the museum consists of over 400 items.
Mrs. Ransom and her late husband David were the first Arabic-speaking tandem couple in the U.S. Foreign Service; their first joint assignment was Yemen. In retirement, Mrs. Ransom spent time in Yemen focusing on the work of traditional silversmiths, traveling to remote Yemeni regions to interview more than 40 silversmiths and their families, and later interviewing Yemeni immigrants in Israel and Brooklyn.
“I am delighted to make this donation to the Indiana University Museum of Archeology and Anthropology,” said Marjorie Ransom. “I hope that this collection of traditional jewelry and costumes and other objects from Yemen will provide a view into the rich and ancient culture of this country on the Arabian Peninsula.”
Mrs. Ransom focused much of her research on the role of jewelry in the marriage contract and as a sign of wealth and security for women in Yemen. Her book, Treasures from the Land of Sheba: Yemeni Regional Jewelry, dives deep into traditional silversmithing in the different regions of Yemen and details the specific cultural context of when and how the jewelry would be typically worn; the book displays the items in the donation. Mrs. Ransom is now at work on a volume about the silversmiths.
“We are very thrilled to receive this remarkable collection,” noted Ellen Sieber, Chief Curator at the museum. “Not only are the objects beautiful, but Marjorie’s research also provides the kinds of in-depth understanding the museum relies on for both meaningful exhibitions and student research opportunities.”
Parts of the Ransom Collection have been exhibited at the Bead Museum in Washington D.C.; the Jefferson Historical Society in Watertown, New York; The State University of New York in Potsdam, New York and the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. The Mingei International Museum in San Diego, California, showed 78 pieces from 18 countries in their exhibit, “Jewelry from Five Continents.” IUMAA plans to mount its own exhibit of the donated collection in the near future.
For more information regarding this collection or collector please visit www.ransomsilverspeaks.com. For more information about the museum please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit iumaa.iu.edu.