Visiting the California missions as an art historian is often a challenge. The variety of the collections, especially, is sometimes overwhelming. There are the expected paintings and church furniture, but also unexpected paintings and sculptures, tools of all kinds, books, and so on. By now, I have been to all of the missions and former missions in northern Mexico, California, and southwestern United States, and my first point is simply to insist on the obvious fact that the histories and missions of each region are different, reflecting varied circumstances, but that basic elements are similar, while the need and opportunities for research are everywhere. The differences originate, in part, in geography and available natural resources, of course. They also have to do with the people involved: individuals as well as groups, Native populations as well as those of European...

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