The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) held their Annual Meeting in Boston in May. Like many other conferences, this was the first in-person meeting in two years. The Peabody Institute was fortunate enough to present our work in a few different formats.
I was part of two sessions – Research Requires Consultation and Centering Culturally Appropriate Care: Re-examining Stewardship of Native American Cultural Items.
The session discussing research presented the Peabody Institute’s research policy that requires consultation and approval from an authorized tribal representative as part of any application for access to collections. You can find details about the policy here. My co-presenters were the NAGPRA Coordinator for the Osage Nation and the Senior Director of Heritage and Environmental Resources for the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Together we discussed the power of respecting tribal sovereignty by requiring these conversations about all levels of research into the cultural heritage of Native American communities.
Centering Culturally Appropriate Care presented the work of the Indigenous Collections Care Working Group (ICC) that I co-founded with my colleague Laura Bryant, Anthropology Collections Manager and NAGPRA Coordinator at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, OK. The ICC has been working to develop a Guide as a reference tool for people (including museum professionals) who interact regularly with Native American collections, including those at all levels of experience and exposure. We are excited to be focusing on this conversation and developing a resource that is truly needed in the museum world. You can learn more about our work here.
But I was not the only one from the Peabody Institute presenting at AAM!
Ryan Wheeler, Peabody Institute director, was part of a session called #NoMoreStolenAncestors: Repatriation and the NMAI Act. Facilitated by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the session explored the issues with curating human remains, obstacles to repatriation, ways to improve the process. The Seminole have been pushing for policy change at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History and has had some success. You can learn about their work here, here, and here.
Lindsay Randall, curator of education, co-authored a poster examining the explosive growth in digital technologies in small organizations and how it can be used to deliver high-quality content to museum audiences. The poster shone a spotlight on the Diggin’ In series produced by the Peabody Institute and the Massachusetts Archaeological Society. You can find all the Diggin’ In talks on the Peabody’s YouTube channel here.
It was an honor to share our work with our colleagues in the museum field and receive such supportive feedback. We look forward to presenting at many more conferences – hopefully in person!
Museums are so often supported by behind-the-scenes volunteer labor and the Peabody Institute is no exception. Most of my fourteen years at the Peabody have been accompanied by two of the best volunteers you could ask for – Susan and Quinn Rosefsky.
Quinn is Phillips Academy class of 1959 and came to the Peabody for a reunion event in 2009 with his wife, Susan. There they met then director Malinda Blustain; offered their services as volunteers and have been with us ever since.
While a powerful team together, they often worked on separate projects. Quinn was a tireless force assisting with inventory of the collection. He became well versed in stone tool typology (well outside his previous career as a psychiatrist) and has never stopped learning. Quinn has also been a contributor to this blog with his perspective and thoughts on items in the collection. Here are some of my favorites that he has written:
Susan, on the other hand, has been an invaluable part of the team cleaning and inspecting the Peabody’s textile collection for pest damage. Susan learned how to vacuum textiles from a local conservator and has spent years working her way through the textile collection. Her calm and focused dedication has ensured completion of this important project.
I cannot express the gratitude that the Peabody staff have for these two wonderful people and their contributions to our work. I know that I will miss Quinn’s stories and jokes as well as Susan’s kindness and support. The Peabody Institute was lucky to have them, and we wish Susan and Quinn all the best in their “retirement!”
My name is Deirdre Hutchison, and I am currently studying for my B.A. in history at UMass Lowell. As part of a semester internship, I had the opportunity to research the provenance of several unidentified Native American photographs held by the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology. My first blog outlined initial findings and potential areas of investigation. To summarize that blog, the photos, mounted on board, illustrate a 1905 event at the 101 Ranch in Oklahoma.
As I navigated various connections, photographer James B. Kent became a more prominent fixture of my research. Kent was a regular photographer at the 101 Ranch, and the Millers tapped him to design and compile the souvenir booklet for “Oklahoma’s Gala Day” at the ranch on June 11, 1905. –. Kent, it seems, was an integral part of photography at the 101 Ranch, ultimately becoming the head of the moving pictures department by 1927.
The 101 Ranch souvenir booklet is discussed by Michael Wallis in his book The Real Wild West. According to Wallis, it contains multiple images taken by Kent – including the picture of Geronimo skinning a buffalo held by the Peabody (discussed in my previous blog). The booklet also contains one of the most famous images of Geronimo, “Geronimo in an Automobile.” . Working with the archival staff at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, I hope to view the images to confirm Kent’s pictures and perhaps discern other possible photo matches.
Isolating Kent’s work is relevant because he was not the only photographer working at the famous extravaganza on June 11, 1905. The Millers masterfully orchestrated spectacle – 65,000 people attended – could not be supported by just one photographer. Multiple photographers were present capturing various promotional images at the behest of the brothers. This is immediately evident in the Library of Congress photo of “Geronimo Skinning a Buffalo” that identifies O. Drum as the photographer. The strikingly similar images of the Peabody and the Library of Congress differ in only small ways. It seems a bank of photographers captured the same scene, each image similar, but slightly different: a person with a head facing a different direction, an extra person, women bending, or a western-clad gentleman caught talking with those being prepped for the publicity shoot.
Another name that kept popping up in my research and commonly associated with a broad range of images, including Kent’s, was the publisher H. H. Clarke. Not only did Clarke produce black and white photographs, but he also manufactured color versions for global distribution, and several of his postcards bear the notation Made in Germany. Clarke’s color versions are considered unique as he employed a hand-coloring technique rather than standard lithography. Other examples of this work are at the Cherokee Strip Museum (Cheryl DeJager, Cherokee Strip Museum, personal communication).
Although Clarke published images by Kent and other photographers, establishing a direct link between them is difficult. However, sifting through metadata across several institutions, I discovered interesting connections that explore the publishing and manufacture of images onto postcards. For example, in the early twentieth century, professional and amateur photographers could sell their negatives directly to distributors such as Clarke or major publishing houses such as The Albertype Company. The Library of Congress cites Albertype and Clarke for one of two images listed of Geronimo in a car.
Clarke published three photos I initially matched with the Library of Congress. However, with only a thumbnail view available, I could not say with conviction they were identical to the Peabody images. After corresponding with the Prints and Photographs Division at the Library of Congress, enlarged views are now accessible online which allowed me to confirm that two photos were identical to those at the Peabody, but a discrepancy arose with the third. A close inspection reveals small but salient differences between the image at the Peabody and the one at the Library of Congress. For example, in the Peabody image, women are standing over the buffalo, but in the Library of Congress, they are bending over. Furthermore, in the Peabody image, a man stands to the buffalo’s left with his back to the camera, notable for his western-style suit, boots, and derby hat. Kent was known for always wearing his signature derby hat, leading me to speculate he was directing the people for the staged photograph and was caught on camera by another photographer.
When I started this project, I naively thought I would find solid evidence pertaining to Warren Moorehead’s acquisition of the images. As the museum’s first curator and renowned Native American expert, I thought, how could there not be a connection? Yet, every avenue of research proved fruitless with Moorehead. The narrative unfolded around the Miller Brothers, James “Bennie” Kent, and H. H. Clarke. The interconnectedness of these people provided many answers; the photographs were staged publicity images, taken at the 101 Ranch and predominantly early 1900s. Unraveling this fascinating story has been immensely rewarding, yet it seemed unlikely I would find any correlation between the images and their arrival at the museum.
Despite this disappointment, potential connections with the Peabody Institute and theories of acquisition emerged when reviewing my data, though initially not with Moorehead. Ernest Whitworth Marland was in business with the Millers and became Governor of Oklahoma. Frank Phillips of Phillips Oil was also involved with the Millers and the 101 Ranch. Both men were natives of Pennsylvania, as was Robert S. Peabody. Each man was wealthy, prominent, and quite conceivably moved in the same upper echelons of society. It is possible either of these could have passed photographs to Moorehead or the Peabody. Considering the student body of Phillips Academy, any alum could have given the images as a donation to their alma mater. Equally so, any faculty member may have been gifted the photos. All of these are plausible scenarios. However, another tenuous link emerged, excitedly leading me back to Moorehead. The collections description for the three Library of Congress images mentioned earlier notes that they are mounted photographs, as are the ones at the Peabody.
Another facet that piqued my interest was the descriptions accompanying records at the National Archives. “Geronimo in a Car” is cited as taken on June 11, 1905, at the Millers’ Oklahoma Gala Day, along with other images; all are 8×10 or larger, just like the Peabody images. Although far from compelling, there are commonalities.
What I found most compelling with the National Archives photo of “Geronimo in a Car” was that it states a copy was sent to the Office of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. The Office of Indian Affairs later became the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Moorehead was appointed to the board of commissioners for the Bureau of Indian Affairs by President Roosevelt in 1908.
As an emerging historian, I like to focus on facts. Unfortunately, facts can be notoriously distorted by time, memory, and absent material evidence. However, the absence of proof does not equate to the absence of the action. Although I had discounted Moorehead as the conduit, I have circled back and believe he is a strong acquisition candidate based on my latest discoveries. That particular mystery may never be solved, but it does not detract from the powerful narrative of Native American presence and treatment in mainstream society in the early twentieth century.