March 14, 2013 - 5:30pm

David Hurst Thomas, Curator of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History (N.Y.), Whatever Happened to the Franciscan Missions of Spanish Florida?

A remarkable nostalgia and romance has long surrounded the Franciscan mission experience across America’s Spanish Borderlands—from San Francisco (California), through the American Southwest to San Augustine (Florida). Mainstream historical narratives have constructed and perpetuated an idealized, romanticized version of the Spanish mission in America – complete with Mission Revival architectural styles and reconstructed archaeological sites that sometimes look like Hollywood stage sets. Somewhere along the way, the Spanish missions of early Florida evaporated from the national narrative. This illustrated talk draws upon the most current archaeological and ethnohistorical evidence that documents a radically different history of Franciscan missions in Spanish Florida, perhaps suggesting some more historically-appropriate perspectives on America’s mission heritage.

Presented in conjunction with the JCB's current exhibition, "The Florida Story, 1513 to 1783: Reconnaissance and Rivalry on a Maritime Periphery," on view in the MacMillan Reading Room and online; underwritten by the Center for New World Comparative Studies at the JCB; and co-sponsored by the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, Brown University. Reception to Follow.

Lecture given in the MacMillan Reading Room, John Carter Brown Library.

Biographical notes:

David Hurst Thomas has served since 1972 as Curator of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History (New York); for seven years, he was Chairman of Department of Anthropology. He has taught at Columbia University, New York University, University of California (Davis), University of Florida, University of Nevada, the City College of New York. Thomas has written 30 books, edited 90 additional volumes, and written more than 100 scientific papers.  He is Trustee of the National Museum of the American Indian, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. A specialist in native American archeology, he discovered Gatecliff Shelter (Nevada), the deepest archaeological rockshelter in the Americas. Thomas also discovered and systematically excavated the 16th-/17th-century Franciscan mission Santa Catalina de Guale (St. Catherines Island, Georgia).