Over Thanksgiving break, I was catching up on some news and saw an article that caught my eye – Smithsonian African American Museum Launches Online Interactive Access. First, a headline like that will always catch my attention. Second, it stirred a memory of an email exchange that I had with a registrar from the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) back in July.
The Peabody Institute is proud to have a handful of items on loan to the NMAAHC to tell the story of Lucy Foster, a free Black woman who lived here in Andover from 1771-1845. Lucy’s story is part of the Slavery and Freedom exhibition. This loan has been active since 2019 and will continue until at least early 2023 (and may be extended!).
A few months ago, a registrar from the NMAAHC asked for permission to include the items on loan from the Peabody in their new digital initiative, the Searchable Museum. The Searchable Museum offers rich interactive, digital experiences based on the NMAAHC’s inaugural exhibitions, historical collections, narratives, and educational resources. The Slavery and Freedom exhibition was the first to be developed as a digital experience. I gladly granted permission to include Lucy Foster and her story.
While I was excited to see items from the Peabody as part of this incredible resource, I was also quickly drawn into the rest of the content. I especially enjoyed learning about the Point of Pines Slave Cabin. In 2013, a team from NMAAHC traveled to Edisto Island, South Carolina and began the meticulous process of dismantling and relocating a cabin that had been occupied by Black families from the 1850s until the 1980s. The cabin is a vehicle to tell the story of the people who lived there, the power of land ownership, the architecture of slavery, and modern housing discrimination.
The Searchable Museum is well organized and information is presented in clear terms – I strongly recommend that you all check it out!
Last month we were happy to announce that the Peabody officially completed its collection inventory! Special recognition goes out to our previous Inventory Specialists John Bergman-McCool and Emily Hurley, our financial supporters, as well as our volunteers, work-duty students (past and present), and Peabody collection staff who’ve participated in inventorying the collections from 2017 to present.
Reflecting back on all the drawers I personally inventoried and rehoused, there was one particular item and site that I wanted to share. This item is a large, chipped stone knife from the Swamp site in North Reading, MA.
After looking through the Peabody’s accession file cards, I found more items from the same site consisting of various stone points, perforators, gouges, and knives. The most interesting discovery from my search was the location where these items were found. The land in which the Swamp site was located was at one point in time the location of the North Reading State Sanatorium.
According to a 1933-1935 survey by the Council on Medical Education and Hospitals of the American Medical Association, the term “sanatorium” is an institution operating exclusively for the treatment of tuberculosis. Originally called the Martin’s Brook Sanatorium, the North Reading State Sanatorium was one of four hospitals in Massachusetts for patients with tuberculosis, opening in 1909. The property consisted of 23 structures on 87-acres of land, including a church and school.
During this time, tuberculosis (also known as consumption) was the leading cause of death in both the United States and worldwide, most prevalent amongst teens and adults under 40. Fresh air was considered one of the best ways to treat the disease and was one reason why the North Reading location was chosen for the sanatorium.
In her 2013 presentation, “The Martin’s Brook Sanatorium: The History of Care in North Reading and the Commonwealth,” Dr. Clarisse A. Poirier of Merrimack College shares that the earliest structures on the property had no walls in order to give patients plenty of fresh air. Canvas curtains would also be set up in colder weather in order to protect patients from the elements. In addition to the open porch design, the North Reading Sanatorium buildings were “lean-to” structures with a central interior sitting room that overlooked a wing of open porches on either side.
By 1926, the sanatorium became a facility solely for children with tuberculosis. Adult patients were moved from North Reading to other facilities at Lakeville, Rutland, and Westfield. By 1945, North Reading received children suffering from the rheumatic fever epidemic and in 1958 the facility received children suffering from any chronic diseases.
After the sanatorium closed in 1962, the property became the John T. Berry Rehabilitation Center until 1995. Part of the land was then sold in 2006 to Lincoln Properties and the other half in 2017 to Pulte Homes. From 2005 to 2008, the Public Archaeology Laboratory (PAL) completed archaeological data recovery programs for five ancient Native American sites located on the property. These projects were completed in advance of the business/residential properties that would later take over the 87-acres of land that once held the former North Reading Sanatorium and John T. Berry Rehabilitation Center. Today the site is now the location of the Edgewood Apartments and the Martin’s Landing Condominiums off of Lowell Road.
The archaeological investigation yielded more than 14,000 items consisting of chipped and ground stone tools, knapping debris, fire pits, storage and trash pits, and rock clusters. The evidence identified that the site was pre-contact and used by Middle and Late Archaic populations about 8,000 to 3,000 years ago.
The items in the Peabody collection from this site were discovered by a Mr. Margerison and sold to Dr. Warren K. Moorehead by Mr. Margerison’s son before 1940. Perhaps Moorehead’s decision to obtain these items from the North Reading State Sanatorium site stemmed from his own battle with tuberculosis.
Moorehead had been diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1895. A year later he became associated with Robert S. Peabody, curating artifacts from various sites for Peabody’s personal collections. He moved to the east in 1898 to recover from his illness at Peabody’s cabin in Saranac Lake, New York. This was also the location of the Adirondack Cottage Sanatorium at Saranac Lake (also known as the “Cure Cottages”) established in 1884. Perhaps Moorehead spent some time here as well during his recovery.
What many do not know, is what was believed to be the cause of Moorehead’s illness. In 1888, Moorehead was involved in an excavation accident where a wall of earth collapsed on him in the excavation unit, burying him alive. According to an article in the Phillips Academy student newspaper, the Phillipian, Moorehead was paralyzed from the waist down for several days after the accident and he later developed a case of pulmonary tuberculosis as a result.
After his accident and development of tuberculosis, Moorehead eventually (with the help of his friend Robert S. Peabody) made his way to New England. By 1901, Moorehead arrived to the newly-founded Department of Archaeology at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA (now the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology), serving as curator, 1901-1924, and Director, 1924-1938 before his death in 1939. A private struggle for life by Moorehead, but none the less an extraordinary rebirth by the time of his curatorship at the Peabody at the beginning of the twentieth century.
The Peabody has a long history with the Society for American Archaeology (SAA), dating back to the origins of the society in the mid-1930s. Carl Guthe, who had served as Alfred Kidder’s assistant on excavations at Pecos Pueblo, organized the society in 1934 and the first meeting was held at Phillips Academy a year later. Connections between the Peabody and SAA continued throughout the twentieth century and still exist today.
In 2020, the Peabody and the SAA partnered to create a new award honoring individuals and organizations dedicated to archaeology and education. The Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology Award for Archaeology and Education recognizes excellence of individuals or institutions in using archaeological methods, theory, and/or data to enliven, enrich, and enhance other disciplines, and to foster the community of archaeology education practitioners. The Peabody Award will spotlight these contributions and promote teaching ideas, exercises, activities, and methods across the educational spectrum, from K-12 through higher education and including public education broadly conceived. Diving with a Purpose was the inaugural award winner in 2021.
I’ve had the honor of helping to create the Peabody Award as chair of the SAA’s teaching awards subcommittee, and to help launch the Binford Family Award for Teaching Critical Thinking in Archaeology, which is new this year. The Binford Family Award encourages curriculum development with a deliberate focus on teaching critical thinking and scientific reasoning skills in archaeology courses at any level, to reward individuals or institutions that develop excellent examples of such curricula, and to promote the sharing of ideas and materials relating to these efforts.
Both the Peabody and Binford awards include a $1,000 prize. Nominations are open to both members and non-members of SAA, as well as those based in the United States or internationally. The nomination deadline is December 1, 2021.
Details about each award and how to make a nomination can be found on the SAA website:
The way the Peabody Institute is supporting collections-based research is changing.
We are committed to involving Native American and Indigenous nations, communities, and groups in research efforts involving collections held by the Peabody (archives, photographs, and items), including decision-making about the appropriateness of research activities and analysis. As of November 2021, consultation with an authorized tribal representative is a required part of any application for access to collections. This is consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (September 13, 2007), specifically Article 11, which states that:
Indigenous peoples have the right to practice and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature.
This approach stems from the Peabody Institute’s commitment to practice ethical management in all aspects of the Peabody’s collection, and our response to the UN Declaration, which requires member states to:
provide redress through effective mechanisms, which may include restitution, developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples, with respect to their cultural, intellectual, religious and spiritual property taken without their free, prior and informed consent or in violation of their laws, traditions and customs.
Preference will be given to research projects that are conducted by descendant communities or at the written request of those communities. The Peabody encourages researchers to foster their own relationship with geographically and culturally affiliated descendant communities. In cases where relationships have not been, or cannot be, established, the Peabody may assist with limited guidance on consultation on a case by case basis.
Researchers must submit a completed Collections Research Request Form to the Curator of Collections for evaluation. Non-invasive techniques including, but not limited to, 3D scanning, pXRF, and x-ray, as well as invasive techniques, including, but not limited to, radiocarbon dating, compositional analysis, DNA, and isotopic analysis require the completion of the Analysis Request Form.
Prior to consultation, the Peabody Institute is able to confirm or deny the presence of the requested information and respond to general questions about the proposed research material. In some cases, a list may be provided to the researcher to assist them in conducting an effective consultation. However, no direct access or detailed information will be shared without appropriate community authorization.
The Peabody Institute recognizes that this is a shift in traditional museum research access practices. Our goal is prioritize Indigenous voices in any use of Indigenous cultural heritage and to make certain that research is conducted collaboratively with descendant communities. All questions or comments can be sent to the Curator of Collections.