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Anthony "Tony" Taylor spent his life hunting for and collecting Indian art. His 1,000-piece collection ranges from turquoise jewelry to Navajo tapestries to carved masks from the American Northwest. But in October, when Taylor gave his collection to the Utah Museum of Natural History, he didn't donate the thing that collections manager Kathy Kankainen values most.

Taylor's art "more than doubles" the museum's collection, Kankainen says. "But the light in Tony's eyes and his face is what I would like more of." Museum staff members videotaped Taylor as he discussed his treasured collection, Kankainen explains, "but the time is too short. I wish we could just have him around forever." Taylor died of cancer two months after making the donation.

Talking about his collection as he sat in his sun-drenched Provo living room, Taylor, 63, held up the beadwork trim on a Crow piece to catch the light. "People often ask me what piece I like most, but I like everything," he said. "Ever since I was a tiny boy in grade school, I was interested. I was fascinated by Indians' resourcefulness in using available materials – wood, hide, feathers, seeds, bark – in creating beautiful things. And Indian art has an inviting tactile quality. But it wasn't till I had a job and could really pay for art that I started to collect." The first piece of art Taylor bought, now on display in the museum, is a Santo Domingo Pueblo jockla, a necklace with chunks of turquoise and shells.

Taylor received his bachelor's degree in art from Brigham Young University and a master's in fine art from Utah State University. In 1996 he retired after 30 years of teaching art at South High School and East High School in Salt Lake City. As a schoolteacher, he took advantage of summer vacations and holidays to search for Indian treasures, a quest that took him around the world.

"You never know where you'll find things," he said. In 1996 Taylor and his brother, BYU design professor David Taylor, were touring London. A piece of beading in a dark store window caught David's eye. It was a Chippewa bandolier, sort of an over-the-shoulder backpack.

The bandolier, in near mint condition, was from a Victorian collection, "and we got it for $800 cheaper than we could have bought it here," Taylor chuckled with a bargain-hunter's glee.

Unlike archeologists, who dig for their treasures, Taylor purchased all the items in his prized collection. He acquired most of the art from reservations and trading posts, estimating he spent $400,000.

Taylor decided to give away his collection a few years ago. "I was growing older and thought about what to do in the future, where it should go," he explained. He offered it to his family, but, says younger brother David, "we thought it should be kept intact.

"He has a very organized collection, although I didn't see any order until he gave it away," says David. And the family wanted a lot of people to see the cherished objects, he added.

Many Utah museums were interested in the collection, Taylor said. He invited Kankainen to his family's cabin in Sundance, where he spread the art over every surface to show to her.

"There were these wonderful pieces on the walls, on the ceilings, and I nearly fainted," says Kankainen. "The only thing I did was tell him how we could care for it, how people all over the state would see it, how we could keep the collection together."

Taylor listened to her carefully, Kankainen remembers. "Then it was kind of sudden – I was really surprised in October when he told us it was coming here."

Taylor gave the collection to the state of Utah. The museum is the state repository, Kankainen explains.

"The museum has great facilities for caring for things," Taylor noted. "It has a great conservatory staff, heat and moisture monitoring, and a maintenance system."

When the museum displayed the first part of the collection, a former student of Taylor's, U student Matt Kankainen, ran into his art teacher. "He remembered me right away," Kankainen says. "He was one of the best art teachers we had; if we were doing a project, he'd do one too," adds Kankainen, the son of Kathy Kankainen.

"My art has nothing to do with Indian art," said Taylor, and he rarely used his collection to teach art, either. "I was never tempted to major in anthropology or Indian studies. My interest in Indian art didn't spill over into my own art or my work," he added. "To me, they just seemed like two different things."

"I really don't know" why Taylor kept his teaching and his own art separate from his interest in Indian art, muses David, while noting that the collection "really was his passion, more than his teaching, more than his own art."

"The objects Tony gave us represent people's lives, and they have infinite value for all of us."

But while Taylor kept his passion for Indian art apart from his professional life, he lavished care and attention on his collection, says Kathy Kankainen. He meticulously documented each piece, including provenance, artist's name, and tribe affiliation. "He saved me years, literally years, of research," she explains.

According to Kankainen, it is unusual for collections of Indian art to include the artists' names. Taylor knew many of the artists, and enjoyed talking with and learning from them. He learned from them how to weave, to carve, to bead. He supported Native American artists by buying their art, documenting it, and now, giving it to the people of Utah.

"There's no way the museum could ever acquire or buy this collection," Kankainen says. "The Northwest Coast masks alone could fill an entire exhibit at Dumke Hall. And where we had one cradleboard before, we now have about 50 cradleboards."

The museum will care for and display Taylor's collection for all time, says Sarah George, Director of the Museum of Natural History and The Hansen Planetarium. "The objects Tony gave us represent people's lives, and they have infinite value for all of us. We value them and we're honored that Tony would entrust them to us."

The Museum of Natural History's Web site can be found at:

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