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Collecting in Life and Death: The Curatorial Legacy of Leland Stanford Jr.

Leland Stanford Jr.

Sabrina Papazian, PhD candidate, Department of Anthropology, Stanford University 

Leland Stanford Jr., only son of Governor and railroad tycoon Leland Stanford Sr. and heiress Jane Lathrop Stanford, died suddenly in 1884, just shy of his 16th birthday. It is no secret that the Leland Stanford Junior University and Museum were created in memoriam for Leland Jr., but much less is said about how these institutions, and in particular the museum, emerged. The museum’s early collections reflect Leland Jr.’s curatorial interests, nurtured by his doting parents’ great wealth, class tastes, and social connections. Renowned curators even reckoned Leland Jr.’s early death a great loss to “the art-training” of the American people. In her talk, Sabrina Papazian, PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology, analyzed the objects collected by Leland and provided insight into his role as a budding intellectual.