To celebrate Valentine’s Day this month, the Peabody would like to highlight some love-related objects from our collection. From heart-shaped designs to meanings of love, we hope these featured artifacts give you that “loving feeling.”
Venus – the goddess of love and beauty – is a common figurine found in museums and archaeological excavations. Venus figurines such as those in the Peabody collection, were used in various ways such as offerings, ritual practices, and as grave goods in burials. For more on these figurines and their history check out this article from Current Anthropology by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.
This artifact is a dark green plaster cast reproduction of a Venus figurine. The original figurine was made of crystalline talc and was excavated from the Grimaldi Caves in Italy. The figurine, known as Pulcinella or the Venus of Polichinelle, is dated to the Aurignacian or Upper Paleolithic period (about 40,000 – 10,000 BCE). The cast figurine was acquired by Warren K. Moorehead in 1925 on one of his trips to Europe. The figurine reproduction is a part of the Peabody’s education collection.
Heart-shaped locks have their origins in a Scandinavian-style padlock. These locks were made with various metals such as brass, bronze, and cast iron. The two key characteristics of a traditional heart lock were a spring-loaded keyhole cover called a “drop” that would keep dirt and insects out of the lock (not present on this specific artifact) and a metal loop so a chain could be placed through it to prevent the lock from getting lost or stolen. Source: “The History of Padlocks,” Lock Blog. United Locksmith. 2021.
This large metal padlock was excavated by Adelaide and Ripley Bullen in the summer of 1943. The padlock was found in a dump pile southwest of the cellar hole at the Lucy Foster site, the nineteenth century Andover homestead of an emancipated African American woman. Ripley was employed as a student assistant at the Peabody during the 1940s, and Adelaide helped with the library and other tasks; both of their sons graduated from Phillips Academy. You can learn more about Adelaide Kendall Bullen and the Lucy Foster site from the following blogs: Women of the Peabody, Peabody at the Smithsonian, and Lucy Foster’s Ceramic Collection.
These heart-shaped locks remind me of the Pont des Arts, the famous Lock Bridge in Paris, France. I had first visited this bridge in high school on a study-abroad trip where I fell in love with the story of the Love Lock Bridge (no pun intended). The Pont des Arts is right near the Louvre and crosses the Seine River. The tradition is for lovers to attach personalized padlocks to its railing and throw the keys away in the Seine River. While the tradition did not originate in Paris, it is the most famous destination and is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2015, the French government began to remove the padlocks (45 tons in total!) from the bridge in order to protect the historical structure. For more on this tradition and the efforts for its removal, visit here.
The hand painted, ceramic vessel is a Jemez wedding vase made by artist Andrea Fragua, from the Pueblo of Jemez, New Mexico. The wedding vase plays a significant part in traditional marriage ceremonies. The two spouts represent the separate lives of the to-be married couple. The bridge at the top unites the two spouts. The vase is filled with holy water or herbal infused tea and the couple drinks from their respective side. If the couple manages to drink from the vase together without spilling, they will have a strong relationship. This ceremony is similar to the exchanging of wedding rings. Source: “Pueblo Wedding Vases,” Toh-Atin Gallery. Durango, CO. 2021.
Friend of the Peabody, Dominique Toya, fired a wedding vase in summer 2020. Dominque is an artist and educator from the Pueblo of Jemez. For five years now, the Toya family (Dominque, Maxine, and Mia Toya) have visited Phillips Academy to make traditional Pueblo pottery with PA students through Thayer Zaeder’s ceramic classes. To learn more about these visits check out this blog. To view the live firing of a wedding vase by Dominique Toya check it out here!
As children who anxiously wait for the first snowfall each winter season, we find ourselves looking forward with anticipation to a brand new year. The winter months begin to take hold, bringing not only cold weather, snow storms, and shorter days, but also the excitement of snow days, fresh snow landscapes, and winter activities! In the spirit of the winter season, I would like to highlight some winter artifacts in the Peabody’s collection. I included each object’s ID number for you to find in our online collections catalog. As you explore these objects, think about whether you have seen or used anything similar to these objects in your life and during your winter activities. How have some of these objects changed through time? You may be surprised by what you discover!
Snowshoes are a classic winter activity, but also a necessity for survival and travel in Arctic regions. Historians believe snowshoes were created about 4,000-6,000 years ago, however the exact origin and age of snowshoes is unknown. The invention of snowshoes may even be inspired by animals such as the snowshoe hare and the Canadian lynx, whose oversized feet give them the ability to move quickly through the snow. The snowshoes pictured here are made of wood, sinew, rawhide, cloth, and yarn. The tear drop shape makes these snowshoes well suited for distance travel in more open environments, especially in deep snow.
Boots are an essential accessory for winter wear and many who have experienced a snowy climate have owned more than one pair of winter boots. Mukluks are a soft, watertight boot traditionally made of seal or caribou skin. The sole of most mukluks are made of sealskin, which is sewn to tops of caribou skin with sinew thread to produce watertight seams. Mukluks are worn by Arctic native cultures such as the Inuit,Iñupiat, and Yupik. The term “mukluk” is of Yupik origins (from maklak), meaning “bearded seal.” The Mukluks pictured here were made by Inuit seamstress Anna Etegeak, from Unalakleet, Alaska.
Snow knives were designed as a multi-purpose tool between 1800 and 1925 by the Inuit, a cultural group inhabiting Arctic areas of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. These knives were made of ivory, horn, or bone. Snow knives are used for cutting and trimming blocks of snow for building Inuit snow houses known as igloos. Snow knives were also used to cut snow for drinking water.
The Ulu or “woman’s knife,” was used by Inuit women as an all-purpose tool. Ulu’s could be used to skin an animal, cut food, trim ice blocks for igloos, or to give a haircut. Early Ulu’s were made from flat, thin rock or slate. Handles were made out of wood, ivory, or bone. Later, as whaling became more common in Alaska, the Inuit took advantage of steel to make their Ulu’s sharper and more varied in design. Ulu’s are still made and used today – there is even an Ulu factory in Alaska! This particular Ulu is of a later design from the Nuwuk site, an unincorporated Inuit village known as “Kokmullit.” This site is located in Point Barrow or Nuvuk, a headland on the Arctic coast of Alaska.
Snow goggles functioned as sun glasses for the Inuit. These were used to protect the eyes against the harsh Arctic sun that would blindingly reflect off a landscape of snow and ice.
Below are some examples of snow goggles within our collection. One is an incomplete pair of snow goggles made from walrus ivory. The eye and nose areas have been carved, but no slits were cut for the eyes. The other is a complete pair of snow goggles made by contemporary indigenous artist, Sandy Maniapik, from Pangnirtung, Nunavut on Baffin Island. These snow goggles were purchased in Vancouver at the Inuit Gallery of Vancouver to be used in our teaching collections where students examine the Peabody’s arctic collections to support their learning about northern societies. Check out more of this lesson here.
Inuit men in the western Arctic often wore labrets, also known as lip plugs or lip gauges. Inuit boys and men would pierce below their lips and place a large ivory labret inside the lip where it would rest against the lower teeth. Labrets were removed for long-distance travel in the cold to protect them from frostbite caused by cold conducted through the labret.
This form of body modification was designed to make the men look like a walrus, an important animal to the Western Inuit. This form of adornment represented the sense of spirit or “Inua” possessed by every living or natural thing. “Inua” facilitates the transformation of man into animal and animal into man, a common theme in Inuit belief. (Source: Peabody Exhibit Label, 2005, Past Perfect Database.)
In the mid-1800s, beaver pelts were a unit trade, prized for their water repellant fur and warmth, and material longevity. After being cleaned and stretched (see image below), beaver skins were transformed into beaver pelts. Furs have played a large role in clothing across human history. Beaver pelts were popularly used in the production of outerwear such as coats, hats, garment and shoe lining, and ornamental adornment. Explore a brief history of the beaver trade and beaver pelts here.
Carvings of human figures served many purposes in traditional Inuit culture. They could possess curative powers when used by shamans. Sometimes they ‘stood in’ for someone missing an important social or religious event. Fathers also carved figurines for their daughters for play. Dolls for play were armless or had their arms close to their bodies so that their clothing could be easily changed. Both male and female figurines were made and dressed in clothing appropriate to their social group and gender.
Inuit girls would dress their dolls in clothes that they made. This was how many young girls learned to make water and wind proof clothes, a very important skill for survival in Arctic regions.
In some regions, such as the Bering Sea area, girls could not play with figurines inside the house or during winter. It was common belief that the return of geese in spring represented a period in which it was safe to play again and girls were allowed to play with their dolls. If a girl did not wait, she risked causing the geese to fly by without stopping and spring would pass directly into winter. (Source: Peabody Exhibit Label, 2005, Past Perfect Database.)
Animal effigies carved from ivory such as this polar bear may be linked to “hunting magic” or “sympathetic magic” in which effigies were used in rituals to increase the number of animals before a hunt or influence reality. Hunting is one of the oldest and most successful human adaptations, and is necessary for survival in the Arctic. The French priest and archaeologist, Abbe Henri Breuil, is an important figure in the history of cave art interpretation. Breuil believed many Paleolithic cave paintings were evidence of hunting magic. For more on Abbe Henri Breuil and hunting magic click here.
This particular polar bear effigy and style is suggested to be Thule, a culture that migrated throughout Alaska, Canada, and Greenland about 1000 years ago. (Source: Peabody Exhibit Label, 2005, Past Perfect Database.)
To learn more about the history of these artifacts, check out these sources:
As Halloween draws near and the October chill finally takes hold, I enjoy getting into the Halloween spirit with either a frightening book or movie. Recently, I have taken an interest in a Netflix show called, The Haunting of Bly Manor. It is the follow-up series to The Haunting of Hill House and the second entry in The Haunting series. This series is loosely based on Henry James’ 1898 novella, The Turn of the Screw (for any avid readers out there.)
As I watch each episode of Bly Manor (no spoilers here!), a “hidden” ghost has captured my attention. A figure with a beaked mask lurks in the shadows in the background of several scenes, most of the time not moving, but watching and hiding. Something so obscure has had such a profound impact that I find myself continuing to search the background of every scene in each episode I watch. A significant part of this obscurity is the ghost’s mask. The mask itself disguises the true identity of the character, but its design reveals a significant clue – the ghost was a plague doctor.
Suddenly, I had so many questions – Who is behind the mask? What is their story? What role will this “ghost” play as we unravel the terrifying history of Bly Manor? So many questions and predictions I began to make, yet, one thing became clear – I was going to write a Peabody blog on masks! 😃
The history of the mask is extensive and has changed across time and space. The Halloween tradition began as an old Celtic, pagan celebration (known as Samhain) marking the end of summer and the coming of winter. It was believed on this night that the veil between the world of the living and the dead diminished enough to allow ghosts to cross over and wreak havoc on the living world. To avoid and drive away these spirits, it was custom to wear masks and costumes. People would wear masks before leaving their homes at night so that ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits. Other masks were designed to scare away spirits and protect people’s homes and identities.
During the Renaissance, the Halloween mask became popular in masquerade balls. They were not scary, but beautiful and extravagant. However, instead of scaring away spirits, these masks disguised the identities of the upper class giving them the ability to take part in activities society typically frowned upon.
Today, for many Halloween-goers, masks and costumes take on various designs that are scary or inspired by characters, historic figures, or pop culture. No longer a means to ward off unwanted hauntings from ghosts, Halloween masks are still used as a disguise and give trick-or-treaters a new identity for one night each year.
For more history on Halloween and Halloween masks click here and here!
There are so many “faces” in our world’s mask history. There are “death” or “funeral” masks like those used in Ancient Egypt. Masks to show expression for plays in Ancient Greece. Some masks were designed for war, celebrations, and dances. We also now, more than ever, see the presence of masks in our world today. There are masks used in rituals and ceremonies by many cultures around the world. In pop culture, there are masked characters in movies such as Darth Vadar, Zorro, and Scream. There are masks in music such as Daft Punk, Kiss, and celebrity talent shows like TheMasked Singer. There are functional masks used for work (welding masks) or protection (sport masks.) And most popular of all, we see face masks during the Covid-19 pandemic. As we have come to realize, masks cannot be easily defined to one category or function, but they all have a purpose and cultural meaning behind them.
Click here for an interesting infographic and cultural guide to the history of masks.
The Peabody has a fascinating collection of masks and I would like to share some with you! These masks are primarily from Mexico and Guatemala. All the masks are hand-painted with some masks including other materials such as fabric, mirrors, glass, horse hair, and animal teeth. Some of these masks were created to specifically scare evil spirits in cultural rituals, so some of these masks may appear scary or have an eerie appearance to them, which is their intended purpose.
The first mask is from Guatemala and depicts a deer with silver painted antlers and a fabric headdress with attached mirrors. If you look closely you can see bottle caps strung between the deer’s antlers.
This wood mask is a shaman’s mask from Mexico, carved and painted with polychrome paint. The upper half of the mask depicts a human face with the lower half of the mask depicting the face of a jaguar. The use of two faces may symbolize the duality of life. The jaguar is a popular symbol used in Maya and Aztec mythology. Some cultures had a jaguar god, while others believed in a “were-jaguar,” a human-jaguar hybrid similar to what we know as a werewolf in various folklore. It is unlikely that the mask was worn by anyone, as there are no eyeholes.
These next two masks from Mexico are festival masks representing a green ghoul and red face with yellow slanted eyes. Although there is little known about these designs, the green ghoul mask has similar features to masks used in the Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) ceremony, while the red face mask has similar design features to Pastorelas (plays performed around Christmas) masks that depict the devil. These masks would have been used in holiday festival ceremonies or dances.
Next are two painted, wood masks depicting the Devil. This design features a black face and horns with red eyes and mouth. The teeth of these masks are traditionally real animal teeth. The expressions of the devil masks vary between angry and laughing. The fangs and color schemes are carried on from depictions of ancient Aztec gods, as the devil is a post-Hispanic idea in Central America. Before Spanish Conquest, Mexican cultures had no equivalent to the Devil. Masks like these would have been used in ritual dances such as Los Tecuanes (re-enacts a jaguar hunt) and Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians), where the devil was associated with death. The masks would have also been used in ceremonies during festivals such as Carnival and Holy Week.
This mask is a devil mask from Michoacan, Mexico and is most likely from the village of Angahuan belonging to the Purepecha indigenous group. The mask is made of painted, carved wood with dark hair decoration and pigs’ teeth. The bottom jaw was moveable in performances and the seven small devils on the forehead represent the seven deadly sins. This mask would have been used during Christmas Pastorelas when many devils are humorously trying to prevent the shepherds and hermits from getting to Bethlehem to pay homage to the new born baby Jesus.
This mask is a very old mask from Charo, Michoacan, Mexico. The mask is from the Purepecha indigenous group, which is now today described as the Mestizo, as most inhabitants no longer speak Purepecha. The mask itself represents an old man and was used in La Danza del Toro y Los Viejitos (The Dance of the Bull and the Old Men) during Carnival celebrations. An example of the Danza de los Viejitos (Dance of the Little Old Men) can be found here.
Many of these masks were researched by past Phillips Academy work duty students who helped provide further information on mask designs and depictions that were not originally known or available.
The Purepecha devil mask and old man mask were identified by Bill LeVasseur, an American collector of Mexican ceremonial masks from San Miguel de Allende. Bill owns and operates a gallery of over 500 Mexican masks called, Another Face of Mexico. Explore the gallery here!
To many institutions, the annual report is one of the most important pieces of information. A single document, yet a powerful tool in communicating an institution’s performance during each fiscal year. Each fall the Peabody presents their annual report to the public, highlighting their achievements, overall performance of the past year, as well as their goals and objectives for the coming year. Not only does the annual report provide a snap shot of what a year at the Peabody looks like, it provides transparency of the institution to the public and its local community.
The making of the Peabody annual report includes several staff members who collaborate in the documentation, writing, and gathering of the material across several departments within the Peabody. These include: Administration (Ryan, Director), Education and Outreach (Lindsay, Curator of Education and Outreach and Ryan, Director), Collections (Marla, Curator of Collections), and Peabody Donors and Support (Beth, PA Director for Museums and Educational Outreach). Once the information is gathered and content is written, I take over to design the overall layout of the annual report.
Using the Adobe InDesign software, I create each page spread using the information that staff give me. When designing, it is important to always keep in mind the overall flow of information and that the format/design features are cohesive throughout the document. Something new I incorporated into the report this year were black and white photographs from the Peabody archives. I used these photographs as transitions between specific sections of the report to provide a natural break, while still maintaining the overall flow of the report. I also had a little fun creating a new page dedicated to our collections remote work during Covid-19.
I really enjoy designing the annual report and watching all the work Peabody staff put into the year unfold with the design of each page. Not only does it provide an opportunity for each department to feature their success and performance, its where all the Peabody’s work finally comes together.
You can view the 2020 Peabody Annual Report here. Enjoy!
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.
Our last newsletter sparked the interest of many readers with a featured black and white photograph of seven individuals posing with shovels, trowels, and cigars in hand. Their eyes focused intently on the camera, full of hope and mystery – reminds me of a moment like the Carpe Diem scene from Dead Poet’s Society. By popular demand, we share some additional information about this photograph.
This photograph was taken at the Fort Ancient site in Warren County, Ohio in the late nineteenth century. The photograph is of Warren K. Moorehead (second from right) and some of his field crew. Another man is identified in the photograph as Joseph Wigglesworth (closest to camera on left with trowel), a collector and amateur archaeologist from Wilmington, Delaware. You can view the original image in Moorehead’s publication of the Fort Ancient site here.
Fort Ancient is a series of earthen embankments, known as earthworks, with 18,000 feet of earthen walls enclosing 100 acres near the Little Miami River. People of the Hopewell culture (100 B.C. to 500 A.D.) built these walls and many other features both within the enclosure and on the steep valleys that surround the site. Investigations at Fort Ancient began in the early 1800s as mapping expeditions, expanding to surface collecting and full-scale excavations near the end of the century.
Warren K. Moorehead was the first curator for the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society (now the Ohio History Connection). In 1893, Frederic Ward Putnam hired Moorehead to conduct excavations at Fort Ancient and obtain artifacts for the Columbian Exposition. One of Moorehead’s major contributions to archaeology was the preservation of Fort Ancient as an archaeological park. Later in his career, Moorehead served as the curator and then director of the Phillips Academy Department of Archaeology (now the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology) in Andover, Massachusetts, where he conducted important excavations at the Cahokia site in Illinois and the Etowah site in Georgia.
The Fort Ancient site is maintained by the Ohio History Connection and is a National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Along with its earthworks, the site includes a museum about Ohio’s ancient history. You can explore the site’s website here!
In these unprecedented times, we are adjusting to a “new normal” in our lives – whether that be working from home, wearing a mask and social distancing in public places, ordering more online, participating in video calls and Zoom meetings, or assisting students with schoolwork. As we persevere during this time, we are finding ways to safely connect with friends and family, get outside, exercise, and continue our lives while embracing new changes to keep everyone safe and healthy.
House projects have been a popular trend for many, especially with the warming weather. A few friends of the Peabody have used this time to revive and repurpose some of our old collection drawers.
Planting season is in full swing! This drawer is being used to sort out seeds for the Andover Community Garden. It is the perfect medium for organizing the seeds before they are packaged and distributed to those in the community looking to begin their planting season.
A little bit of sanding, wood stain, and cabinet handles can go a long way. Revive a drawer into a serving or decorative tray. Pair some bright flowers with that Rae Dunn piece you’ve always wanted and voilà! You have a decorative centerpiece for your kitchen table or coffee table.
The large drawers are great for holding large items or large quantities of smaller items. Add handles and they make a perfect storage feature for your household. These drawers are being used to store artwork. What a great way to stay organized with a little piece of history!
We love seeing our drawers revived and repurposed into new creations. Not only do the drawers provide great opportunities for organization, storage, décor, and material design, they provide a unique story and history to share with your family and friends. If you have repurposed some of the Peabody drawers, we would love to see and share your projects! Please share your photos with us at email@example.com. Stay tuned for our next blog update featuring more repurposed drawer ideas!
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus. One recommendation included in these guidelines was for “social distancing” – a term referring to the conscious effort to reduce close contact between people and hopefully hinder the community transmission of the virus.
While schools, companies, and various workplaces determine the best possible options to both adhere to these guidelines as well as provide the appropriate support to their staff, students, and customers – many have chosen to close their doors. Some institutions and companies have shut down indefinitely, while various schools and universities have moved to remote teaching, where students complete their classes online and stay at home. Universities and colleges all over the country have moved courses to online platforms. Undergrads are being told to move out of their dorms and off campus for the remainder of the semester.
Phillips Academy (PA), a New England boarding school and the Peabody’s parent institution has instituted similar measures, following the directives issued by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.
A local restaurant closes their doors in light of “on-site eating” bans over COVID-19
Now many would say they like working from home and actually get more done, but it is not the case for everyone. The Peabody staff are doing what they can to continue their museum work from home. For the Peabody collections team, it is very difficult to continue much of the work they do every day at the institution, as much of the collections and material cannot leave the building. While inventory, rehousing, and cataloguing of the collection is put on hold, our staff is editing object photographs, digitizing documents, transcribing collection ledgers, writing blogs (like this one), and more.
Outside of my remote-work, I am wondering like many others who are stuck at home – what else can I do with the rest of my week? By being at home, we miss out on the daily interactions with our coworkers, colleagues, and classmates. Our experiences with each other fuel our creativity and critical thinking, and are important for much needed collaborative efforts. Through “social distancing” we are recommended to not take part in every day, public activities such as eating out, going to the store, or visiting a museum or historical site with our friends and family.
But don’t let social distancing doom your week and weekend! Museums have found a way to bring some of their collections to their visitors. So worry no more! You can view that Van Gough from the couch!
I was happy to enjoy a little culture and education in my off-time while at home. According to Fast Company, Google Arts & Culture has teamed up with over 500 museums and galleries around the world to bring virtual tours and online exhibits to a global audience.
The first museum I “visited” was the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, France. As a student, I had visited this museum on a class trip many years ago and I was interested in the exhibits they provided online. This exhibit was a detailed history on the building of the museum titled, From Station to the Renovated Musée d’Orsay. This endeavor was a groundbreaking project for Paris as it was the first time an industrial building had been restored to accommodate a major museum. The virtual exhibit showcases the early building plans and images of the Orsay train station and hotel from the 1900s as well as images of the museum and its galleries after the renovation project in the early 2000s. Explore this virtual exhibit here!
I visited a second virtual exhibition, this time, at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The exhibition is called, Fashioning a Nation. This exhibit features drawings from the Index of American Design, a collection of more than 18,000 watercolor pictures of American decorative art objects. This exhibition explores the American fashions from 1740 to 1895, giving insight into the character and quality of American life from the colonial period to the Industrial Revolution. Click here to explore this exhibit!
If museums aren’t your thing, explore a historic site!Open Heritage – Google Arts & Culture offers iconic locations in 3D, using 3D modeling techniques for you to explore. You can learn about the tools of digital preservation and how people all over the world are preserving our shared history. One site I visited was the Mesa Verde National Park. This site is home to Native American cliff dwellings in southern Colorado that span over 700 years of Native American history (600-1300 CE). An expedition was led by CyArk in February 2017. CyArk is a nonprofit organization that specializes in the digital documentation and preservation of historic sites. The organization documented the Balcony House at Mesa Verde using Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) and terrestrial photogrammetry. Combining these two technologies is what creates the 3D model of a site. To explore the 3D model of the Balcony House at Mesa Verde, click here!
Unfortunately, not all popular museums and galleries are included on Google Arts & Culture’s collection website, but some museums are offering virtual tours and online visits on their own websites, such as the Louvre in Paris, France. To see more of Google Arts & Culture’s collection of virtual museums and exhibits, visit their collection website. Explore and enjoy your visit!
Nearly $345 million dollars is spent on chocolate for Valentine’s Day each year – that’s about 58 million pounds of chocolate! Holy cacao! Chocolate candy plays such a significant role for this romantic holiday, but did you ever think those very boxes would be used to store artifacts? Currently, I am cataloguing and rehousing artifacts from Tamaulipas, Mexico – a collection from Richard “Scotty” MacNeish’s 1948-1949 Tamaulipas Project. About halfway through the collection I found a sweet surprise – an old chocolate box from Cambridge, MA!
In the Inventory and Rehousing Project, it is common to come across artifacts stored in their original housing material from archaeological recovery in the field. Many of these materials are unique and there is always something new to find! Examples of some of these materials can be found here in an earlier article by Peabody Director, Ryan Wheeler. Like Forrest Gump would say about life being a box of chocolates (pun intended here), the same goes for the Peabody collection – you never know what you’re going to get!
Alongside the chocolate box, I also found a holiday gift box and a greeting card box with artifact information and excavation notes written on the outside cover. The chocolate box was the most intriguing to me, because the product and box were from Massachusetts. Upon looking up the company name on the box, “Handspun Chocolate Co, Cambridge, MA,” I came across Boston’s rich history of chocolate production.
New England candy was king of the American confectionary industry from colonial times through to the 1950s. In 1764, two men from Dorchester, MA named John Hannon and Dr. James Baker began importing cacao beans into the United States and producing chocolate in Dorchester Lower Mills. These two men were the chocolate meisters of Revolutionary America and are known today as the oldest producers of chocolate in the United States. In 1779, John Hannon had traveled to the West Indies and never returned. As a result, Dr. James Baker became the “King of Cocoa” with the Baker Chocolate Company.
As sugar refineries began to pop up throughout New England, the candy industry reached a new height with Oliver R. Chase’s machine invention of a chalk-like candy, known today as Necco wafers. White chocolate was later created by Frederick Herbert of Hebert Candies in Shrewsbury, MA. Another local creation occurred in 1930 at the Toll House Inn in Whiteman, MA. An accidental invention, Ruth Wakefield added cut up pieces of a semisweet, chocolate bar, in hopes of melting the chocolate into the dough of her baked cookies. The chocolate kept its shape and just like that – the chocolate chip cookie was born! (Fun Fact: The chocolate chip cookie is the official cookie of the State of Massachusetts.) Nestle began selling chocolate chips in 1939.
By the 1940s, candy companies began consolidating into two large companies – Daggett Chocolates and New England Confectionary Company (NECCO). The latter still survives today, but is no longer locally owned. As of 2018, NECCO was the oldest operating candy company, celebrating 153 years of their most popular “sweethearts” candy. However, by July 2018, the company closed and announced their plans to sell everything to the Spangler Candy Company in the fall. Spangler Candy produces Dum Dum lollipops, Necco Wafers, and Circus Peanuts. In 2019, Spangler announced it would not be producing conversation hearts, as there was not enough time to meet the demand of sweethearts for Valentine’s Day. Typically it took NECCO 11 months to produce 8 billion sweethearts just to be sold for 6 weeks out of the year for Valentine’s Day. Although they were gone for 2019, the sweethearts are back for Valentine’s Day 2020! They are in limited supply at select retailers and – believe it or not – many are missing their signature sayings due to equipment printing problems!
The Daggett Chocolate Company is the lesser known of the two candy companies. Fred L. Daggett began his business in 1892 with several factories located around the city of Boston. Daggett later concentrated his production plant in Cambridge in 1925. Daggett Chocolates produced more than 40 brands of chocolate as well as strawberry fillings for their chocolates. The company also made an impact in the soda and ice cream industries, supplying syrups and crushed fruit to manufacturers. As a result, ice cream and candy were connected and Boston became the first place to mix candy into ice cream.
Looking back at the chocolate box I had found in the Peabody collection, I had searched the company name and found that the company was bought out by Daggett Chocolates along with 30 other small chocolate companies by the 1950s.
The sugar industry reached its peak in the 1950s. By this time, the Boston metro area boasted over 140 confectionaries and factories, with the main street of Cambridge, MA as the epicenter for production – known as “Confectioners Row.” Some of our favorite candy treats including Necco wafers and sweethearts, Sugar Daddies, Charleston Chews, and Junior Mints were produced on this very street. For over a century, the smell of chocolate could be found along the streets of Boston. Chocolate was in the air – literally.
After the 1950s, the candy industry in Boston took a turn. As more candy companies such as Hershey’s, Nestle, and Mars took to the world stage, smaller brands were left behind. The box chocolate dynasty was reaching an end as candy bars began to take over store shelves. The candy epicenter soon waned and Confectioner’s Row became an ordinary main street. Box chocolate giant, Schrafft’s also closed in Charlestown, MA (that’s right, the building you can see from I-93 entering Boston, bearing the Schrafft’s name in red along with a clock tower, was in fact an old chocolate factory.)
Although Boston is no longer candy land today, you can still find candy makers throughout New England sharing their old-fashioned homemade treats and iconic candy classics. One candy store still in operation today is the Spindler Confections shop in North Cambridge, MA. This shop continues to hand make all of their candy and chocolate on site. They even have a candy museum! Check it out here! As for my sweet find in the Peabody collection – how could a box of chocolates send me down a rabbit hole of Boston’s sweet-toothed past? I was surprised that a simple (and chocolate-less), chocolate box could do so much.
To explore more chocolate history click here, here, and here! Enjoy your sweet finds!
For any museum institution with a vast collection and storage of artifacts, there is no holiday from IPM work! IPM stands for Integrated Pest Management and focuses on prevention of pests through preventative actions that protect museum collection environments from various pests. Examples of these actions include reducing clutter, sealing areas where pests may be entering the building, removing items that may be attracting pests such as food, and protecting artifacts that have the potential to be food or shelter to pests.
What’s important about this work is the long-term prevention taken to protect collections and their housing space. IPM work is not simply eliminating the pests, but looking at the environmental factors that affect the pest and its ability to thrive in its current conditions. Part of what museum staff do is use this information, and the observations made to locate potential pests, to create conditions that are unfavorable to pests and disrupt their occupied environment.
A large part of what Peabody staff do with IPM work is monitor the collection and building environments and identify potential threats or pests. The most common pests to come across in a museum collection space are various carpet beetles, webbing clothes moths, and case-making clothes moths. The type of pest one may have or attract depends on what is in the collection for the pest to eat. Most insect pests are drawn to animal and plant products such as wool, skins, fur, feathers, hair, silk, paper, horns, whalebone, and leather. As you can imagine, a museum collection looks a lot like a buffet to these insects.
The Peabody uses small insect sticky traps to monitor specific areas of the building for pests. These traps can catch insects and staff can then closely inspect these traps to understand what pests may be a potential threat and where they are occupying in the museum. It is always important to consistently check these traps as well as circulate new ones every so often.
Another form of monitoring for pests is through observation and identification. As staff rehouses and inventories the collections, they complete condition reports and inspections of each artifact that may be threatened by pests. If any evidence is identified on or around the artifact, further pest control must take place. The types of pest evidence that staff is looking for is frass, webbing, larvae carcasses, and live insects. Frass consists of the excrement of an insect and the refuse produced by the activity of the boring insect. Webbing and tubular-looking cases are present for webbing and case-making clothes moths. These are usually present in textiles and are made by these insects when they are larvae. Larvae carcasses are present when the insect sheds its larvae form into an adult. These carcasses are something to look out for with objects and their storage, as it demonstrates that an insect had once been there and the same kind of pest could very likely return. If an insect or evidence of an insect are found, staff then must try to identify which insect is the threat and begin pest control and further prevention from the artifact and surrounding collection.
Artifacts with evidence of insect activity are cleaned and rehoused with new acid-free tissue paper. The box holding the artifact is also cleaned. Once the artifacts are placed back into their box storage, the box is sealed in a large, acid-free plastic bag with little to no air in the bag. The box is then wrapped further in another layer before being placed in the freezer for low-temperature treatment. This type of treatment control helps eradicate pests from the artifact through freezing. After a few weeks of freezing, the artifact is inspected again by staff to determine if there is any additional evidence of infestation. If the artifact has no further evidence of insect activity, the artifact will sit for a few more weeks, sealed in a plastic bag, through a process called bagging or isolation. After another few weeks a final analysis will be given before the artifact is deemed safe to return to its original storage in the collection.
There are several other treatments that are used amongst museum professionals to control pest infestations in their collections. These are heat treatment, the use of pesticides in collection areas, and controlled atmosphere through nitrogen/argon gas, carbon dioxide, and depleting oxygen levels. The treatment that is used on each artifact depends on the artifact’s material. Some treatments cannot be used on all objects and it is important to always keep the artifacts’ well-being in mind.
IPM work requires a careful eye and patience, along with a resilience to properly eliminate pests and protect collections from future threats of infestation. To learn more about Integrated Pest Management visit Museum Pests, a product of the IPM working group.