Mitchell Museum
of the American Indian

3001 Central Street
Evanston, IL 60201
847.475.1030

 

 

Meet the Collectors: June and Bernard Kleban

New Jersey natives June and Bernard Kleban spent a month-long honeymoon touring the Southwest by car, after their wedding in 1953. They immediately fell in love with American Indian cultures and peoples during their first holiday and it is a love affair that has lasted. Collecting from 1953 until 2004, their focus was on bolo ties, jewelry, katsinas and dolls - all of which are represented in this exhibition.

The Klebans traveled mainly by car during the summer.  After their retirement, they decided to escape the East Coast winters in Scottsdale, Arizona. Amongst the highlights of their travel was a two week stay on the Hopi reservation, attending the Shalako dance at Zuni and the Indian Ceremonial in Gallup.


It was important for the Klebans to learn as much as they could about American Indian cultures and both of them admired the artistic skills that could transform raw materials into objects of beauty. The role of a collector in June’s own words is “to learn as much of their (the Native Americans) history from them; to try and understand their point of view and honestly interpret their lives in today’s world – without being patronizing. ”She continues that “collecting has opened new knowledge and opened many doors to great experiences and meeting wonderful people as we followed our interest.”

June's advice for novice collectors is “to obtain a piece that you can afford for its interest to you, try to be acquainted with its maker and research it to enhance your appreciation of it, and it will lead you along many interesting trails.” The decision to donate part of the collection to a museum wasn’t an easy one as most museums would be unable to display the collection due to space constraints - whereas every object had a place in the Kleban’s home. June's daughter Marcie, who lives in Skokie, introduced her mother to the Mitchell Museum and after visiting the museum and becoming familiar with the extensive programs (especially for children) June decided it would provides a good home for a significant portion of her and Bernard’s collection.

 

 

 

 

Exhibits are funded in part through a generous grant from the

 

 

 

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Thursday: 10am – 8pm
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