Building Update!

Contributed by Marla Taylor

The Peabody is currently in the pre-construction phase of a much-needed building update!  This is Phase 1 of a two-phase project.

The project has three main goals:

  • Replace the current basement shelving (that was constructed in the very early 1900s) with modern mobile shelving
  • Provide HVAC and sprinklers for the collections areas
  • Install an elevator and meet other code compliance issues

The Peabody staff have been working diligently to ensure the safety of all the collections during this work.  We have coordinated with the construction company, security vendors, tribal partners, and our Phillips Academy project manager to make the project a success.  There is still a lot to do – and construction hasn’t even started yet!

Here are some photos of the work as it has been happening:

This project will rely on philanthropic support from our donor community. To help advance this critical renovation, please contact Beth Parsons, director for museums and educational outreach, at 978-749-4523 or

The Repatriation Project by ProPublica

For more than a year, a dedicated reporting team at ProPublica has been exploring NAGPRA and repatriation.  They have been investigating what is behind the overall slow return of ancestral remains back to descendant communities.  Their work has culminated in The Repatriation Project:

America’s Biggest Museums Fail to Return Native American Human Remains

The remains of more than 100,000 Native Americans are held by prestigious U.S. institutions, despite a 1990 law meant to return them to tribal nations. Here’s how the ancestors were stolen — and how tribes are working to get them back.

Behind ProPublica’s Reporting on Repatriation

Our reporters answer frequently asked questions about The Repatriation Project from leaders and citizens of tribal nations.

Does Your Local Museum or University Still Have Native American Remains?

Three decades after legislation pushed for the return of Native American remains to Indigenous communities, many of the nation’s top museums and universities still have thousands of human remains in their collections. Check on institutions near you.

They also compiled a database that allows you to explore information related to individual institutions and tribes.  For example, you can see where the statistics place the Peabody Institute on repatriation.  There is always more work to be done and I hope you can watch those numbers change over the next few months.

I am excited to see where they take the project next!

Conference Season

Contributed by Marla Taylor

October/November is conference season!  I was an active participant in multiple conferences over the past couple months and really enjoyed connecting with colleagues after the worst of COVID.

First, I attended the Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA) 8th Annual Repatriation Conference in New Buffalo, Michigan.  The conference “brings together Native Nations, museums, artists, spiritual leaders, academics, lawyers, federal and state agencies, international institutions, collectors and others to work together to reactivate relationships with the past to create a world where diverse Native cultures and values are lived, protected and respected.”

It was a fantastic experience.  The Repatriation Conference is a space where I greeted so many colleagues with hugs and made new and important connections.  The speakers shared meaningful perspectives and insights and I am proud to be a part of that community.  Oh, and the sunrise ceremony by the host Pokagon Band of Potawatomi was an invigorating way to start the day!

The second conference (only one week later!) was the 2022 International Conference of Indigenous Archives, Libraries, and Museums hosted by the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums (ATALM) in Temecula, California.  I love ATALM as an experience.  I learn so much from those sessions and surrounding myself with innovate professionals, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, who work so hard to prioritize Indigenous voices and perspectives.  A couple of shout-outs to my favorite presentations – Traditional plant-based methods for pest control and Your Neighborhood Museum.

At both the Repatriation Conference and ATALM, I was a presenter and shared the work that colleagues and I have done to create the Indigenous Collections Care (ICC) Working Group and Guide.  The ICC is a group of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous museum professionals and academics, Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, collections staff, and NAGPRA coordinators who are working to create a Guide as a reference tool for people who interact regularly with Native American collections.  The Guide will offer scalable considerations and templates for implementation, advocacy, and creation of policies and procedures for all areas of collections stewardship.  This project has been a major focus of mine over the past couple years and I am proud to share our work with the broader community.

The third and final conference in my marathon was the New England Museum Association 2022 Annual Conference.  Now, I was admittedly a little exhausted after traveling from New Hampshire to Michigan to New Hampshire to California and back home to New Hampshire so I only attended NEMA for a day to be a speaker.  This session was slightly different and focused on demystifying decolonization/Indigenizing museum collections stewardship.  I was joined by colleagues from the Boston Children’s Museum and The Trustees of the Reservation for this conversation.  We received positive feedback from everyone and I hope it inspired someone to take a step forward in this work.

While I really did love the opportunity to connect with other professionals, I am happy to be done with conferences for the year!  And I have to admit, I am already planning my schedule for 2023…

Drawing Together: Comics and the Return of Museum Collections to White Earth Nation

Contributed by Marla Taylor

If you don’t know about the NAGPRA Comics yet, you really should take the time to check them out.

NAGPRA Comics is a community- based, collaboratively produced comic series that tells true stories about repatriation from tribal perspectives. They work with Native American communities to share their experiences with the law, from their point of view. This is an  applied/educational comic series, so it also explains what the law is and how it works. [excerpt from]

These comics are amazing teaching tools to introduce students, and members of the public, to the issues surrounding NAGPRA and repatriation. The comics focus on the perspectives of the tribal communities, highlighting their thoughts and experiences. I really love them and regularly recommend them to anyone interested in learning about NAGPRA – so go check it out!

The NAGPRA Comics team is working on several more issues and the Peabody Institute is proud to be a contributor to one upcoming issue.

In 2017, the Peabody Institute repatriated a birch bark scroll and other items of cultural patrimony back to the White Earth Nation of Minnesota. Those items left the reservation in 1909 with Warren K. Moorehead. Moorehead went to White Earth in his capacity as a member of the Board of Indian Commissioners, charged with investigating non-Natives’ rampant land and resource theft and the consequences of disposition, disease, and hunger. Investigations by the Minnesota attorney general and Congress, using the testimony that Moorehead and his team collected, led to the restoration of some lands and resources.

The story in the upcoming comic is complex and rich. We are honored to be a small part of this meaningful project.

Jen Shannon, Program Manager and Curator at the National Museum of the American Indian and member of the NAGPRA Comics team, wrote a fantastic blog for the Ohio History Connection exploring the story and how it will be told in the comic. Her blog includes a glimpse of some draft pages. Take a look for yourself!

You can learn more about our work with White Earth Nation here and here.

Sample draft page of NAGPRA Comics. Courtesy of artist John Swogger.

An Archaeologist and a Museum Professional walk into a basement…

Contributed by David Spidaliere and Jessica Dow

Hello! We are the new temporary collections project assistants for the Peabody’s upcoming collections move. Our combined knowledge of archaeology and museum studies helps us assess the needs of the collection and to find efficient ways to track the collections. Here’s a little about each of us:

My name is David Spidaliere. I am currently pursuing my master’s in Historical Archaeology at UMass Boston, finishing up my thesis on trade in Plimoth Colony. I was drawn to this role at Robert S. Peabody because my background is in seventeenth and eighteenth century New England archaeology and history, but I have very little knowledge of Indigenous archeology. This position has afforded me the opportunity to work with Native materials and to learn more about the importance of repatriation legislation.

My name is Jessica Dow, I recently completed my Masters in Museum Studies at Harvard’s Extension School, with a focus on collections management, Indigenization and public service. I currently work in the Visitor Services Department of the Harvard Art Museums, and I was drawn to this role because it offered me a chance to learn more about Archaeology and the care and planning that goes into Archaeological collections management. I’m passionate about ethical stewardship and repatriation, and Marla has been a fantastic resource as I continue to learn more about this field!

Dave and Jess hard at work

We were brought on to help the Peabody create a system by which they could track collections as they move throughout the building. This type of system is crucial for day-to-day movement of collections for research and teaching purposes, as well as for larger projects that require the collections to be moved, such as construction or pest and mold remediation. Our work is concerned with the types of data that determine risk factors such as vibration, and factors that dictate how objects are stored, such as size, weight, and cultural sensitivity.

To track this data, we are using software that was designed for retail use and allows us to barcode boxes and items and assign information to each barcode using iPads. We can then review all of that data on a desktop computer in order to help Peabody staff assess collections needs on a larger scale.

In the picture below you can see the desktop view that we use to review the data we have collected as we barcode the collection. We can easily see which boxes have lids, the dimensions of items that are too large to be boxed, and other factors like weight and cultural sensitivity.

Example Orcascan screen shot

While our roles here at the Peabody are temporary, the work we are doing will continue to be useful to Peabody staff in the future. We are honored to be a part of this stage of the Peabody’s growth and hope to continue our relationship with the museum and its staff as we step into whatever is next in our respective careers!

American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting

Contributed by Marla Taylor

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!

Retiring Volunteers

Contributed by Marla Taylor

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:

Quinn (on left) hard at work

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.

Susan at work inspecting a textile

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!”

Thank you to all our volunteers!

Ethnographic Photographs – Greater Understanding

Contributed by Deirdre Hutchison

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.

101 Magazine/The 101 Ranch Official Souvenir. BLISS, OKLA. 5127.1000. Tulsa: Gilcrease Museum, (08/03/2017)

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.

Geronimo Driving a Car. Oklahoma Gala Day, June 11, 1905. Wall Street Journal

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. 

Further Reading

Bordewich, Fergus M. “Fierce Echoes from the Frontier.” Wall Street Journal, April 19, 2013, sec. Life and Style. 6634203336120

Collings, Ellsworth, and Alma Miller England. The 101 Ranch. Norman: University Of Oklahoma Press, 1987.

Wallis, Michael. The Real Wild West: The 101 Ranch and the Creation of the American West. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999.

Loan to the Molina Family Latino Gallery

Contributed by Marla Taylor

Did you know that the Smithsonian is opening a new gallery – the Molina Family Latino Gallery of the National Museum of the American Latino – dedicated to highlighting Latino contributions to the United States? 

I learned about this cool gallery about 18 months ago when the Peabody Institute was first contacted about potentially loaning an item from the collection for the inaugural exhibition that will open in mid-2022.  The exhibition is the first to be presented by the National Museum of the American Latino.  We were thrilled to contribute a small piece to the important story of how Latinos and Latinas inform and shape U.S. history. 

What did they want to borrow? 

Vessel depicting the Pueblo Revolt by Jason Garcia

This amazing vessel by Jason Garcia (Okuu Pin), Santa Clara Pueblo, is an exploration of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.  Garcia is known for his mixture of traditional materials and methods with pop culture.  Past blog posts have discussed this piece and his work.

After months of correspondence and paperwork, the vessel was packed for transportation in mid-February of this year.  It is always a pleasure to watch skilled art handlers create custom packaging and work to ensure that items make it safely to their destination.  The team was great and the vessel is awaiting installation in its new temporary home.

I enjoyed learning more about the Molina Family Latino Gallery and the National Museum of the American Latino and encourage you to explore the newest branch of the Smithsonian.  Keep your eyes peeled for an online version of the gallery later in 2022 for those who are unable to travel there in person.

Understanding Ethnographic Photographs

Contributed by Deirdre Hutchison

My name is Deirdre Hutchison and I am currently studying for my B.A. in history at UMass Lowell. One of the things I love most about college is delving into archival research, unraveling forgotten stories, and the thrill when making connections that reveal new pieces of information, or even reshape the original context.

Recently I came across Warren K. Moorehead through his publication “The Merrimack Archaeological Survey.” Intrigued by this contradictory personality, I was excited to get the opportunity to do an internship at the Peabody and expand my knowledge on his work. Given my previous exposure and interest, curator Marla Taylor suggested I work on identifying information on approximately 30-50 photographs at the Peabody. The collection depicts ethnographic images of Native Americans. My objective was to discover how these images came to the museum, what was the purpose of the photos, and who may own the copyright. Given the magnitude of the search, it made sense to focus initially on only a few photographs. Several images had dates (early 20th century), captions with “101 Ranch, Oklahoma”, tribal names, and even a photographer name. Collectively, this seemed to occur during Moorehead’s tenure, and thus the investigation began with the Peabody’s first curator.

An example of one of the photographs being researched

As I eagerly navigated box after box of Moorehead records, I felt sure it was only a matter of time before I would make a connection between the man and the photos. After combing through his publications, correspondence centered on Oklahoma and the early 1900s, and hundreds of lantern slides later, a different narrative was emerging, though no less intriguing. Despite the vast array of articles, records and collections at the museum, disappointingly, no connection could yet be found between Moorehead and these early images. Details on the named photographer, Kent Chandler of OK, proved equally elusive. However, as we all learn in high school, never underestimate the importance of a comma. With no comma between Kent and Chandler on the photograph mount, I assumed it was his full name. Further digging finally revealed a gentleman named James Kent who lived in Chandler and worked with the 101 Ranch in OK.

My next investigative step was the Library of Congress. For three of the photos held at the Peabody I found a match. Excitedly I noticed the details confirmed those at the Peabody – the photos were of the Ponca tribe and taken at the 101 Ranch in Bliss, OK. However, I now had another new piece of key information, the publisher was H.H.Clarke. Investigation into the 101 Ranch revealed the Miller Brothers, famed for their wild west shows for decades, as the brainchild behind the images. Further insight came from a bio on the Oklahoma Historical Society of photographer James B. Kent, revealing he was a resident photographer for the Miller Brothers.

Despite making headway, H.H. Clarke, the publisher of the images, also proved difficult to trace. Finally, I found a reference to publishers H.H. Clarke on the Cherokee Strip Museum website in Perry, Oklahoma. Clarke and his wife operated a small newspaper and native curio store but also had a sideline in publishing postcards. Once again, up popped the 101 Ranch as the backdrop for many of their postcards. All roads keep circling back to the Miller Brothers. It seems they had quite the operation! The Oklahoma Historical Society has an interesting documentary from c.1950 that highlights the magnitude of the activities of the brothers and the ranch which can be watched here.

At the “Oklahoma Gala day” exhibit in 1905, the Millers had their ranch hands and Native Americans demonstrate their skills and featured the incarcerated Geronimo killing a buffalo as a special attraction.

Geronimo skinning a buffalo from the Peabody’s image collection – a similar image to the one in the Library of Congress yet with notable differences

It appears the brothers showcased many Native Americans performing a range of similar publicity stunts. Kent was one of their preferred photographers for these staged events and H.H. Clarke often published them.

How the images came to the Peabody is still not clear. However, I hope I can uncover more information from the archives of the Oklahoma Historical Society which has a great deal of information on the Millers and the ranch.

There is no doubt headway has been made on the purpose of the photos. As I navigate the vast empire of the Miller brothers, propaganda, and unashamedly, profit, seem to be the key factors in their relationship with Native American photos. The question stills remains of how the images came to the Peabody. As I move through the next few weeks, I am hoping to find a link between the Miller brothers, 101 Ranch, and the Peabody. At the same time, establishing who has reproduction rights on the images that I have identified will be key to achieving my goals. As with any historical research, and in the absence of records, there are no guarantees. However, I hope to get as close to the truth as one can and there is no doubt that this journey is as exiting as the destination. More to come…