Merle Greene Robertson Collection, 1966 - 1993


Prepared by Ruth Olivera, June 1998; revised by Devin Dittfurth, August 1998.

Arrangement of Collection

Merle Greene Robert Correspondence

Curriculum Vitae

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 the 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 France, 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 Photographic Archive.

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 exhibitions 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.

Curriculum Vitae

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, with a 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 MGR.

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.

Folder 7

"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 pieces.

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