The curator of the Catalina Island Museum opened the door to a musty backroom a few weeks ago hoping to find material for an upcoming exhibit on the World War II era. Closing the door behind him, he trudged down a narrow aisle lined with storage boxes and bins filled with gray photocopies of old letters, civic records, celebrity kitsch — and dust.
“No luck,” curator John Boraggina muttered.
But as he made his way to a back corner, he noticed another row of boxes. He carried the largest to a table, blew off the dust and lifted the lid.
Inside were leather-bound journals and yellowing photographs showing freshly unearthed skeletons lying on their backs or sides, or curled as if in sleep. Many were surrounded by grinding stones, pots and beadwork.
Several photos showed a man in soiled clothes standing tall with spade in hand beside chaotic jumbles of bones. Boraggina recognized him: Ralph Glidden.
The images, Boraggina soon realized, came from a time 90 years ago that many on Santa Catalina Island had forgotten — or tried to forget. The photos were of the work of a pseudo-scientist — some say a huckster — who made a living unearthing Native American artifacts and human remains for sale and trade. Read more.