The Jessop Weapons Collection at the Museum of Man
For many years, San Diego Archers have heard about a mysterious, incredible archery collection hidden away in the basement of the Museum of Man. We walk within a few feet of this collection as we wander through the Balboa Park Rube Powell Archery Range, especially during tournaments when pulling arrows from Targets 1 & 4, right next to the basement of the Museum (or in my case, when I am looking for my arrows BEHIND Targets 1 & 4….)
For decades, the Collection has been tucked away on dark shelves with little attention paid to the condition of each item. Two years ago, the Museum of Man initiated preservation work on the Collection. This involves inspecting each item in the collection, taking digital photos and notes, then storing each in a secure, clean environment.
The San Diego Archers would like to contribute to this important preservation effort with a financial contribution and with volunteers from the San Diego Archers.
In recent months, SDA Member Jim Baker has been researching the history of the San Diego Archers and archery in Balboa Park, in an effort to confirm whether the San Diego Archers is the longest, continuously active archery club in North America. During his extensive research, he has found important information about the Jessop Collection, its connection to archery in Balboa Park, and the evolution of the San Diego Archers. Below is a compilation of information from Jim Baker, Kelly Hyberger (Director of Collections, SD Museum of Man) and from the Museum of Man’s website regarding the Jessop Collection.
The entire collection has nearly 6,000 weapons, many related to archery from worldwide cultures. The collection ranges from stone arrow points to elaborate crossbows. It includes objects from six continents and numerous islands, and it covers 235 cultures from 60 countries.
The arrow portion of the collection was previously stored in cardboard tubes. Nearly 3,000 arrows have now been rehoused in custom storage trays to protect the fragile fletching and prevent abrasion. Once all the arrows have been rehoused, the staff will start on the assortment of shields in the collection, then the bows. They expect to begin work on the bow portion of the collection in approximately six months.
The weapons were collected between 1881 and 1911 by San Diego Jeweler and archery enthusiast, Joseph Jessop, Sr., who engaged ship captains, sailors, shipping companies, travelers, and expeditions to bring back examples of weapons from remote islands and the far reaches of the globe to his home in Coronado. Jessop loaned his collection to the Park and the new Museum at various times, starting in 1917. In mid-February 1917, the Park Board accepted Jessop’s proposal to locate an archery range south of the Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park. Following this agreement, Jessop moved his archery collection into the U.S. Government Building (current location of the SD Museum of Art). Portions of the collection have been displayed in the 1920’s, 40’s and 1978-92. The entire Jessop Collection was formally donated to the Museum of Man in 1974.