The Iron Age Abroad: Collections from the site of La Tène in U.S. Museums

The type site for the late Iron Age in Switzerland was discovered and publicized in Europe at a time in the mid-19th /early 20th centuries when museums in the United States had already begun to acquire material from Neolithic and Bronze Age lake dwelling contexts, creating channels of communication between institutions, collectors and scholars that were to be instrumental in the transfer of artifacts from La Tène across the Atlantic. In cases like that of the Logan Museum collection at Beloit College in Wisconsin, there was a direct exchange with the excavator Paul Vouga in 1927, but in other instances a more opaque series of transactions was involved, as in the case of the Field Museum of Chicago’s collection, some of which may in fact be from sites other than La Tène and which were acquired through at least two middlemen. Complete inventories of this material have yet to be produced, although a selection of artifacts is usually available in online data bases (though often without source information or photographs). In 2008 two Masters theses completed at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee began the process of documenting all artifacts putatively from La Tène at six major US museums. The complete catalog will be published in cooperation with the University of Neuchâtel. This paper will focus on the historiographic utility of such collections for understanding larger socio-political developments in US-European interactions.