Last fall, the Peabody loaned ten objects to the Addison Gallery of American Art here at Phillips Academy. They spent nearly a year there for the exhibition A Wildness Distant from Ourselves: Art and Ecology in 19th Century America.
Due to public health concerns related to COVID-19, both the Peabody and the Addison have been closed to visitors since mid-March. But, the behind the scenes work never ends. The Addison regularly exhibits works of art on loan from other institutions and actively loans its own collection to museums around the world. Returning these objects during COVID shutdowns has been a logistical challenge for our friends, and we were happy to coordinate with them to return the materials back across the street to us.
When the objects from the Peabody went to the Addison, a professional fine arts shipping company took care of packing and moving everything. To come home, the Addison staff did the packing themselves – and they are awesome at it!
It is now up to me to put these artifacts back into our storage areas – a job I am happy to do! Typically, we would use many of these in the upcoming school year for classes, but this year is different. Like most other institutions, any of our classes will be taught online.
But I know that I will be happy to see Champ the auk back at home in his case every time I come into the Peabody.
After four months of working from home, the Peabody is in its third week of a return to almost normal collections work. The two inventory specialists, Emily and myself, are working alternating weeks at the Peabody in order to continue our inventory work. With one week completed, it feels good to be back working toward our goal of a complete inventory of the collection. While working remotely will be an ongoing reality, I would like to share some of what I have been up to at home thus far.
With everything shutting down in March, Marla was quick to come up with projects that could be completed remotely. Her post in April outlined collections materials that were less sensitive and therefore reasonable to take home. I started with photographing site records from Peru and then moved to digitizing vacuum treatment paperwork related to Integrated Pest Management of the collections. We all contributed to finalizing the digitization of the original ledger books, our institution’s version of accession books. Now we have a searchable document with 75,000 records!
My favorite project has been photographing and editing photographic slides held in the collection. They include images documenting past exhibits and openings at the Robert S. Peabody Museum and photographs of the collections. The most interesting slides by far have been of Copeland Marks’s travels in Guatemala and South Korea. Mr. Marks was a textile collector who focused on the traditional clothing of ethnic Maya people living in the Guatemalan highlands. Some of his textiles became part of our collection at the Peabody. He would later write several cookbooks on cuisine covering locales ranging from the Mediterranean to South America. The slides I was working with document his travels in Guatemala spanning the 1960s through the 1980s. The subjects in the photographs cover everyday life, the dramatic volcanic landscape of the highlands and ceremonial life- all of which have been a great escape from the realities of coronavirus lockdown.
It is anybody’s guess when life will return to normal. For the foreseeable future work at the Peabody will be interspersed with the strange blur of working from home with frustratingly cute interruptions from kids and dirty dishes. Until then I have to thank Marla for keeping us safely working from home during these crazy times.
As we weather this pandemic storm, we are finding more and more that the days of yesterday are unlike the days of tomorrow. Many of our daily activities have gone virtual and museums, galleries, and institutions alike have adapted to reach their audiences online in order to continue their mission of educating and engaging with the public.
Another wonderful site to add to this collection is New Day Culture. This site is a society and culture website founded by a group of cultural enthusiasts that have created an online community (amidst the pandemic) where audiences can connect, explore, and experience the world of art and culture.
From live animal cams at the San Diego Zoo to drone footage of amazing destinations and historical sites, this site has everything for all ages and interests! Here are a few highlights of some of my favorite activities.
Explore the Depths of an Ancient Egyptian Queen’s Tomb
Thanks to this 3D modeling project by Harvard University, you can take a virtual tour of the tomb of Queen Meresankh III. Discover photographs from the original excavations of the tomb along with details and reconstructions of the wall art found in each room. Take a winding staircase down about 5 meters below the upper level to discover the burial chamber of Queen Meresankh III. For more information about this project click here.
Explore the Civil Rights Trail
This activity is an interactive map of the United States’ Civil Rights Trail. This map highlights places and moments that impacted history, including the heroes and stories behind the movement that forged new trails for civil rights.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art creates a space of learning and exploring for, with, and by kids and the Met. Kids (or the young at heart) can watch videos to learn more about art, create their own time machine adventure, or explore the Met through an interactive map.
The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire
Discover one of the most incredible achievements in history – the Great Inka Road, a 20,000 mile route through mountains and hillsides, all made by hand. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian shares a virtual walkthrough of its Inka Road exhibition.
Buckle in to Climb a Mountain
Through storytelling and 360 views, this interactive video and Google Maps site follows renowned rock climbers as they scale the heights of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Prepare your gear and experience the dizzying views of the Yosemite Valley from your 3,000 foot climb.
Some honorable mentions I have come across in my exploring are a photo tour of the Burnt Food Museum (yes, you read that right), an elevator ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower, a YouTube tour of how Pixar films are made along with links to activities, a video tour of the “It’s a Small World” ride for the Disney enthusiast (Viewer disclaimer: the song will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day), and iconic performances to revisit or discover (without the hassle of waiting in lines, nosebleed seating, and even buying tickets!)
If you are unsure where to start I recommend exploring the “Top 15 Tours” first. You can find a list of them here.
There is so many experiences to discover and so much this site has to offer. All it takes is just your name, email, and a minute of your time to register! Don’t worry it’s free! Once you have joined the New Day Culture community, you will have all these art and culture resources at your fingertips – including exclusive events. For more information check out New Day Culture’s Facebook page here.
Three distinctive oil paintings attributed to artist Henry Inman (1801-1846) are among the collections of the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology. These paintings are part of a larger group of portraits created by Inman to produce the hand colored lithographs that appeared in the three volumes of The History of Indian Tribes of North America (1836-1844) by Thomas McKenney and James Hall. Specifically, the Peabody paintings depict Petalesharo (90.181.10), Ki-On-Twog-Ky, or Cornplanter (90.181.11), and Mohongo and Child (90.181.12). The source material for the Inman paintings were original works created principally in Washington DC by portrait painter Charles Bird King (1785-1862). The bulk of the King originals were destroyed in a fire in 1865.
Today, original editions of the McKenney and Hall volumes and individual lithographs are valuable and highly sought after, but at the time the project was not a financial success. Many of the Inman portraits (at least 100 or more) were given to the Tilestone and Hollingsworth Paper Company of Milton, MA, who had supplied paper for the book project. The families of Edmund Tilestone and Amor Hollingsworth made a gift of the paintings to the Harvard Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in 1882. In the late 1970s and early 1980s the Harvard museum sold many of the Inman paintings in their collection, ultimately retaining twenty-five.
Comparison with the list of Harvard’s original holdings indicates that the three Inman portraits at the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology did not come from that source. The frames also are quite different; the paintings at Harvard have simple wood frames, with descriptive plaques affixed, while those at the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology have ornate frames with gold leaf. In correspondence on file, former museum director Richard S. MacNeish told then director James Bradley that the paintings were part of the original gift from Robert S. Peabody. Stebbins and Renn (2014:288) report that Harvard received 107 of the Inman paintings from the Tilestone and Hollingsworth heirs, but that Inman had originally painted 117 and the whereabouts of the remaining paintings is unclear. It is possible that Robert S. Peabody acquired the three paintings when they were exhibited in Philadelphia.
The paintings reflect the classical style of portraits painted in the nineteenth century, and do not attempt to portray people in an imagined “primitive” setting as the photographs of Edward S. Curtis do at the end of the century. Clothing and personal items reflect the blend of traditional and Anglo-European attire resulting from varying levels of cultural assimilation. History and Social Sciences instructor Marcelle Doheny uses the paintings in her senior elective, Race and Identity in Indian Country, and they were part of an independent student project in 2015-2016 that examined Anglo-European portrayals of Native Americans.
The biographical notes that accompany the McKenney and Hall publication provide additional details about the lives of these individuals, at least as documented by the editors. Mohongo’s (1809-1836) story is particularly striking, as she was one of a group of Osage persuaded to make a European tour in 1827. While in Europe, she gave birth to twins, but only one survived. The tour organizer, who had brought the Osage to Europe to perform as a Wild West Show, was arrested for debt in Paris, leaving the rest of the party to fend for themselves. Ultimately, the Marquis de Lafayette learned of the situation and arranged for passage back to North America. During the sea voyage more members of the party perished, but Mohongo and her child survived, ultimately arriving in Norfolk, Virginia, where Charles Bird King painted their portrait. We believe that the peace medal worn by Mohongo depicts Andrew Jackson, who was president at the time. Mohongo and her child made their way back to Missouri. The book, An Osage Journey to Europe, 1827-1830: Three French Accounts edited and translated by William Least Heat-Moon and James K. Wallace, documents the episode.
Several exhibits—for example, the Indian Gallery of Henry Inman, which toured museums from 2006 to 2012—have assembled small collections of the extant Inman paintings, but the examples at the Peabody have never been included, likely because curators and art historians have not known about them.
Christie’s East. 1981. American Paintings and Watercolors of the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries (auction catalog). New York.
Ewers, John C. 1954. Charles Bird King, painter of Indian visitors to the nation’s capital. Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, 1953. Pp. 463-473. Publication 4149. Government Printing Office, Washington DC.
Gerald Peters Gallery. 2008. Henry Inman, Twenty-four Indian Portraits (catalog). New York.
Gerdts, William H., and Carrie Rebora. 1987. The Art of Henry Inman. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.
Stebbins, Theodore E., Jr., and Melissa Renn. 2014. American Paintings at Harvard, Volume 1: Paintings, Watercolors, and Pastels by Artists Born before 1826. Harvard Art Museums and Yale University Press, New Haven.
Viola, Herman J. 1976. The Indian Legacy of Charles Bird King. Smithsonian Institution Press and Doubleday & Company, New York.
Viola, Herman J. 1983. Indians of North America: Paintings by Henry Inman from the D. Harold Byrd, Jr. Collection. Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, WY.