Woman with metal coils,
Tanganyika, 1961.
Photo by Luella Buros.
Another key element in documenting collections is to know who your donors are. One question often posed to museum professionals is, "Where do you get your collections? Who are your donors, and how do they find you or vice versa?" In the case of the Buros, I can briefly report the following facts.

Oscar Krisen Buros (1905-1978) was a statistician, a professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Born in Wisconsin, he attended, in turn, the Wisconsin State Normal School, the University of Minnesota, and Columbia University. He was affiliated with Rutgers from 1932 to his retirement in 1960 at the age of 60. He is best known for his Mental Measurements Yearbooks, which contained critical reviews of commercially available standardized tests in English-speaking countries. Mr. Buros firmly believed that the available tests (touted as miracle tools for helping teachers to predict a student's ability to achieve) were over-rated. To this end, he solicited test reviews from professionals in education, psychology, and testing for publication. Founded in 1938, there were eight yearbooks published before his death in 1978. Over the years, money came in from different sources ranging from WPA funds to small grants to Rutgers University financing. Eventually, the Buros created Gryphon Press and from 1940 onward, Oscar and Luella became partners in the organization and publication of the yearbooks out of their home. His professional standing brought may honors and awards, two of which led him to Africa: a senior Fulbright lectureship in statistics at Makerere University College, Uganda (1956-57) and an appointment as an advisor on educational testing in several African countries under the Ford Foundation (1965-67). These honors and the yearbook series are important links that tie the Buros collection to the Museum.

Luella Gubrud Buros (1901-1995) was born in Minnesota and spent her youth in North Dakota. She attended Columbia University, Rutgers University, and the Ohio State University. In 1920 she moved to Superior, Wisconsin to take a job that her sister Mabel had secured for her. This was where she met Oscar and, in 1925, they were married. Luella played a vital role at Gryphon Press, putting aside her own vocation as a talented artist to help publish the yearbook series. Beginning with wild rides Oscar provided on Wisconsin National Guard Cavalry Division horses during their budding friendship, the couple went on to spend thirty years riding camels, elephants, and ostriches in such places as India, Mongolia, and South Africa. Luella recorded it all in dozens of notebooks, inventory logs, diaries, and with thousands of slides. The Buros also purchased hundreds of items on their treks, many of which now reside in the Museum along with the slides, records, and hundreds of Luella's illustrations. Luella's visual acumen shines through in her drawings and in the meticulous compositional and technical care she brought to her photography.

When Oscar Buros died in 1978, Luella wanted to make sure that there would be a place for his work to continue. She found it at the University of Nebraska, and, with the aid of the University of Nebraska Foundation, the Buros Institute of Mental Measurements opened its doors at Bancroft Hall in 1979. It was this association that led to her meeting with Dr. Thomas Myers, Curator of the Anthropology Division. At the request of the Foundation, Dr. Myers made several trips to Luella's Arizona home to photograph and evaluate the items she had brought back from the Africa years as well as those purchased after her trips abroad. These visits were productive, and, in 1988, the Museum received Luella's first donation, two costumes from Ghana and Cameroon. The Ghanian "hunters" tunic and helmet are currently on display in the African Exhibit at Morrill Hall. Luella continued to send more items to the Museum. Over fifty textiles in the forms of yardage and costumes with masks were donated in 1990, and the Museum received over 225 items in 1992. She continued to correspond over the years, and when she died in 1995, she left the bulk of her remaining collection and her research library to the Museum. The slide collection was not included in the bequest. After being assured that the slides were of interest to the Museum because they would compliment the collections, and that they would be properly housed, Luella's niece, Arlene Haugen, decided to donate them. Besides the superior quality of the photography, the candid images Luella recorded in many countries during their transition from colonial rule to independent government cannot be underrated. The images provide an unparalleled visual history of cultural customs that, in many cases, have nearly disappeared. There are also records of changing environmental conditions and wildlife habitat. With over 18,000 images from thirty years of world travel to be studied, their value as historical visual documentation of a metamorphosing world is just now being realized.
Previous
-
Next
Back to Collections
-
Anthropology Home
© University of Nebraska State Museum. All Rights Reserved.