Merle Greene Robertson Collection, 1966 - 1993
Prepared by Ruth Olivera, June 1998; revised by Devin Dittfurth, August
Arrangement of Collection
Merle Greene Robert Correspondence
Written works by Merle Greene Robertson
Other works by Merle Greene Robertson
Articles about Merle Greene Robertson
Merle Greene Robertson, who is not related to Martha or Donald
Robertson although they were good friends, has distinguished herself in
many fields. Trained as an artist, she began her career as a teacher in
California. By the 1960's Robertson was seriously engaged in recording in
rubbing the relief sculpture of the ancient Mayas in Central America.
Enduring hardships and facing untold dangers, Merle, along with her
husband Bob, eventually made close to 2000 rubbings from sites
in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Belize. Thereby, she
preserved much of the Maya art and epigraphy, which has been
systematically pillaged or lost to the elements.
Some of Robertson's rubbings have been displayed at the Museum of
Primitive Art in New York, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and
elsewhere. A grant from the late Edith Stern allowed Merle
to give the bulk of her rubbings to the Latin American Library, where
they are available for research purposes. Merle is also a skilled
photographer and has photographed all her rubbings.
In the 1970's, Merle established the Pre-Colombian Art Research
Institute at Palenque with a library of 6000 volumes and research
facilities for scholars and scientific institutions. She regularly held
Mesa Redondas, or Round Tables, at Palenque for the presentation of
scholarly papers which were then published. The 1982 eruption of
nearby volcano, El Chichón, forced her to move the institute to San
Francisco, eventhough the Mesa Redondas continued in Palenque.
Merle Greene Robertson was long recognized as an archaeologist. She
became an Associate at the Middle American Research Institute of Tulane
University and in 1987 she was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of
Humane Letters by Tulane. There are eighteen entries of her works in the
Tulane Library. Her most important contributions may be her work on
Palenque and her multi-volume publication The Sculpture of
Palenque. Merle no longer ventures into the jungle to make rubbings.
Yet she remains dedicated to promoting the understanding and
preservation of Mayan art. She also paints water colors of
and travels in her free time.
Other sources on Merle Greene Robertson are the Merle Greene
Robertson Collection of Rubbings of Maya Relief Sculpture along with
the binders of her photographs in the Rare section of the Latin American
Library and also her rubbings photographs, Collection #54, in the
Throughout the Collection Guide, Merle Greene Robertson is referred to
by her initials, MGR.
The Merle Greene Robertson Collection
Folder 1 (1970 - 1989, n.d.)
Letters to, from, or concerned with MGR. Although few in number, they
depict the hardships and dangers she faced while making rubbings in the
jungle - her charitable contributions to Tulane University - her
overcoming the pain of her husband's sudden death by continuing
her work in writing, traveling, presenting papers, and arranging
of her rubbings - as well as her adaptation to the aftermath of the 1982
volcanic eruption in Mexico. Undated notes on a manila folder reveal her
intention towards Tulane. For a more complete set of correspondence of
MGR with both Donald and Martha Robertson, see their Collection, #125, Box
29. 13 pieces.
Folder 2 (c. 1986)
Outline of the educational background, teaching experience,
professional memberships, present activities, archaeological projects,
publications, exhibitions, and grants of MGR. Also, there is a MGR
bibliography compiled by Martha Robertson noting certain omissions in the
vitae as well as including a section on the Mesas Redondas de Palenque,
review of the Tercera Mesa Redonda de Palenque appearing in the
Handbook of Latin American Studies, Vol. 36. 3 pieces.
Works by Merle Greene Robertson
Folder 3 ( 1966, 1967)
"Classic Maya rubbings." Expedition. VOl. 9, No. 1, Fall
1966, pp. 30 - 39, with illustrations of her rubbings and photograph of
Photocopy of title page of Ancient Maya relief sculpture, 1967,
and dedication to Tulane by MGR. 3 pieces.
Folder 4 (1972)
Advertising materials for MGR's Maya sculpture including color
brochures with her photograph and a brief biography. 4 pieces.
Folder 5 (1979)
Photocopy of a reprint of "Methods used in recording sculptural art at
Palenque," Actes du XLII Congrès International des Américanistes,
Vol. VII, 1979, pp. 439 - 462, with illustrations. 1 piece.
Folder 6 (April 4, 1982)
Photocopies of an 18-page manuscript by MGR with photographs,
handwritten by candlelight, and a typewritten transcription describing the
1982 eruption (and consequences of the ash fall at Palenque) of the
Chichonal volcano, near Pichucalco, Mexico. There is also a set of April
25, 1982 notes by Martha Robertson apparently of a telephone conversation
with MGR on continuing events. 3 pieces.
"The great ballgame: a sacrificial act," a paper given for the
Louisiana Science Center in conjunction with the "Cenote of sacrifice: Maya
treasures from the sacred well at Chichen Itza," 43 pages. There is a
1986 review by Warwick Bray of MGR's book, The sculpture of
Palenque, as well. 2 pieces.
Other Works by Merle Greene Robertson
Folder 8 (1989)
"Investigation of color on Maya sculpture and the effects of acidic
precipitation," published by the Pre-Colombian Art Research Institute and
financed by the National Geographic Society, 44 pages. Also a photocopy
of the title page of the periodical Mesoamerica Vol. 2, No. 2
listing the article by MGR under a revised name, along with a note on its
unauthorized publication. 3 pieces.
Other Works by Merle Greene Robertson
Folder 9 (c. 1972)
List of slides of MGR rubbings, possibly for the 1972 Tulane
University Symposia on the Art of Latin America. 1 piece.
Folder 10 (1978, 1987, and n.d.)
Photocopies of the 1978 Times-Picayune announcement of the
traveling exhibit of MGR rubbings and a 1987 letter from Thomas Niehaus
about lending a MGR rubbing for exhibition in Merida. There is also an
undated catalog of an exhibition of MGR rubbings sponsored by the
California Arts Commission, with an introductory article by MGR. 3
Folder 11 (1983)
Card announcing the 5th Palenque Round Table Conference to be held at
Palenque, Mexico, organized by MGR, and the program fro the conference.
There is also a newspaper clipping from the Advance of Tabasco
reporting the event. 3 piece.
Folder 13 (1989, 1990, 1993)
The Pre-Columbian Art Research Institute Newsletter, Nos. 11,
12, and 17. MGR is the Director in Charge. 3 pieces.
Folder 14 (1993)
List of the 43 Merle Greene (as she is named here) watercolors of
France with prices, for sale at an exhibition. Also a color card of her
painting "Les deux Garcons." 2 pieces.
Folder 15 (n.d.)
Note cards of MGR rubbings. 10 pieces.
Folder 16 (n.d<)
Three 5 x 7 and three 3 x 5 photographs of MGR with her rubbings.
There is also a MGR note to Martha Robertson about chosing a photograph
and a negative film strip. 8 pieces.
Articles about Merle Greene Robertson
Folder 17 (1985, 1988, n.d.)
Articles by Martha Robertson about MGR and her Collection of Maya
Relief Sculpture in the Latin American Library in Tulas, Fall
Semester 1985, and in Significa, 6, 1985, and Vol. V, No. 2, 1988.
There is also an entry on the Collection in an undated Latin American
Library brochure. 6 pieces.
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Last updated: August 20, 1998