Josef and Anni set off on their first trip to Mexico in 1935 in a Ford Model A. They were accompanied by close friends who would become their frequent travel companions: Ted Drier, a founder of Black Mountain College, and his wife, Bobbie. It was the first of many trips. Between 1935 and 1967, the Alberses traveled to Mexico 14 times by car. Occasionally, they traveled farther, to Peru, staying at boarding houses along the way. “They loved to stock up on supplies at Sears & Roebuck in Dallas,” says Fox Weber.
They also loved to stock up on Mesoamerican objects, which were available in abundance in Mexico in the 1930s and ’40s. Large-scale archaeological excavations were in full swing at pre-Columbian sites like Monte Albán and Mitla in Oaxaca, and Josef and Anni took it all in with tremendous interest, exploring the ancient architecture and documenting their findings, as well as acquiring beloved pieces from marketplaces and merchants.
Over the years, they amassed a collection of around 1,400 objects, ranging from softly molded Tlatlico figurines from 1200 B.C. to 16th-century Aztec pottery shards to antique and modern Mexican textiles. “They started by photographing and visiting museums and sites, picking up a few things along the way, and developing this eye for prehistoric art and textiles,” says Kaye-Reynolds. “Their collecting ramped up as their careers ramped up.”