Though the Peabody is small by museum standards we are mighty, especially when it comes to our baskets. With close to 400 baskets, the Peabody collection covers all major geographical regions and tribal communities of North America, and spans over 200 years. Baskets from notable artists like Molly Neptune Parker (Maine) and Clara Darden (Louisiana) help to support and curate these artists’ work, and are examples of continued and evolving traditions within Native communities.
One of my first large projects at the Peabody was to completely catalog, inventory, and rehouse this great collection. The purpose of this was twofold:
First, it was important to consolidate our records regarding these baskets. Museums are full of information, and it’s usually in five different places! By gathering what we know, and putting it all in one place, we not only gain better control over this knowledge, but we make it more accessible to museum staff, researchers, and students. The convenience of this newfound accessibility encourages more use in the classroom and more research by professionals, giving these baskets the attention they deserve.
Secondly, by revamping the basket organization and rehousing, we are better able to care for these objects and their specific needs. Although baskets aren’t usually as fragile as most people fear, they still require some TLC. By creating storage mounts that are custom designed to each basket, we are able to provide more support to the object, especially when it is being moved and shifted around during handling. Within our ethnographic storage, space is at a premium, so another byproduct of the rehousing was the space it opened up. We were able to clear seven shelves!
Happy baskets, happy collection staff.
To see previous work done with the baskets by Catherine Hunter, check out these previous blogs!