Out of the basement and into the basement

Contributed by John Bergman-McCool

RSP to Home
4 months of working in my basement and now, I’m back in the Peabody basement.

After four months of working from home, the Peabody is in its third week of a return to almost normal collections work. The two inventory specialists, Emily and myself, are working alternating weeks at the Peabody in order to continue our inventory work. With one week completed, it feels good to be back working toward our goal of a complete inventory of the collection. While working remotely will be an ongoing reality, I would like to share some of what I have been up to at home thus far.

With everything shutting down in March, Marla was quick to come up with projects that could be completed remotely. Her post in April outlined collections materials that were less sensitive and therefore reasonable to take home. I started with photographing site records from Peru and then moved to digitizing vacuum treatment paperwork related to Integrated Pest Management of the collections. We all contributed to finalizing the digitization of the original ledger books, our institution’s version of accession books. Now we have a searchable document with 75,000 records!

Work from home stuff copy
Everything I’ve worked on from home

My favorite project has been photographing and editing photographic slides held in the collection. They include images documenting past exhibits and openings at the Robert S. Peabody Museum and photographs of the collections. The most interesting slides by far have been of Copeland Marks’s travels in Guatemala and South Korea. Mr. Marks was a textile collector who focused on the traditional clothing of ethnic Maya people living in the Guatemalan highlands. Some of his textiles became part of our collection at the Peabody. He would later write several cookbooks on cuisine covering locales ranging from the Mediterranean to South America. The slides I was working with document his travels in Guatemala spanning the 1960s through the 1980s. The subjects in the photographs cover everyday life, the dramatic volcanic landscape of the highlands and ceremonial life- all of which have been a great escape from the realities of coronavirus lockdown.

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00.3.1585- People of San Pedro La Laguna.

It is anybody’s guess when life will return to normal. For the foreseeable future work at the Peabody will be interspersed with the strange blur of working from home with frustratingly cute interruptions from kids and dirty dishes. Until then I have to thank Marla for keeping us safely working from home during these crazy times.

lunch for 2
Oh yeah, I can’t forget my other work from home duty- silly lunches for the kids.

Henry Inman Portraits at the Peabody

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

Three distinctive oil paintings attributed to artist Henry Inman (1801-1846) are among the collections of the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology. These paintings are part of a larger group of portraits created by Inman to produce the hand colored lithographs that appeared in the three volumes of The History of Indian Tribes of North America (1836-1844) by Thomas McKenney and James Hall. Specifically, the Peabody paintings depict Petalesharo (90.181.10), Ki-On-Twog-Ky, or Cornplanter (90.181.11), and Mohongo and Child (90.181.12). The source material for the Inman paintings were original works created principally in Washington DC by portrait painter Charles Bird King (1785-1862). The bulk of the King originals were destroyed in a fire in 1865.

Image shows an oil painting of a Native American man with feather headdress and spontoon pipe, metal gorget at the neck and metal gauntlets.
Henry Inman’s portrait of Ki-On-Twog-Ky, or Cornplanter.

Today, original editions of the McKenney and Hall volumes and individual lithographs are valuable and highly sought after, but at the time the project was not a financial success. Many of the Inman portraits (at least 100 or more) were given to the Tilestone and Hollingsworth Paper Company of Milton, MA, who had supplied paper for the book project. The families of Edmund Tilestone and Amor Hollingsworth made a gift of the paintings to the Harvard Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in 1882. In the late 1970s and early 1980s the Harvard museum sold many of the Inman paintings in their collection, ultimately retaining twenty-five.

Image of cleaned oil painting showing Native American man with eagle feather headdress, silver peace medal necklace, and fur robes.
Henry Inman’s portrait of Petalesharo after a recent cleaning.

Comparison with the list of Harvard’s original holdings indicates that the three Inman portraits at the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology did not come from that source. The frames also are quite different; the paintings at Harvard have simple wood frames, with descriptive plaques affixed, while those at the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology have ornate frames with gold leaf. In correspondence on file, former museum director Richard S. MacNeish told then director James Bradley that the paintings were part of the original gift from Robert S. Peabody. Stebbins and Renn (2014:288) report that Harvard received 107 of the Inman paintings from the Tilestone and Hollingsworth heirs, but that Inman had originally painted 117 and the whereabouts of the remaining paintings is unclear. It is possible that Robert S. Peabody acquired the three paintings when they were exhibited in Philadelphia.

Image shows two students standing on either side of an oil painting of a Native American and explaining their work to onlookers.
Phillips Academy students share their independent research on the Henry Inman paintings with members of the Board of Trustees.

The paintings reflect the classical style of portraits painted in the nineteenth century, and do not attempt to portray people in an imagined “primitive” setting as the photographs of Edward S. Curtis do at the end of the century. Clothing and personal items reflect the blend of traditional and Anglo-European attire resulting from varying levels of cultural assimilation. History and Social Sciences instructor Marcelle Doheny uses the paintings in her senior elective, Race and Identity in Indian Country, and they were part of an independent student project in 2015-2016 that examined Anglo-European portrayals of Native Americans.

Image shows an oil painting in an elaborate gold gilt frame that depicts an attractive Native American woman holding her baby. She wears a red blouse which covers the baby's shoulders. A silver Indian Peace Medal around her neck is held by the baby.
Henry Inman’s portrait of Mohongo and child in storage at the Peabody.

The biographical notes that accompany the McKenney and Hall publication provide additional details about the lives of these individuals, at least as documented by the editors. Mohongo’s (1809-1836) story is particularly striking, as she was one of a group of Osage persuaded to make a European tour in 1827. While in Europe, she gave birth to twins, but only one survived. The tour organizer, who had brought the Osage to Europe to perform as a Wild West Show, was arrested for debt in Paris, leaving the rest of the party to fend for themselves. Ultimately, the Marquis de Lafayette learned of the situation and arranged for passage back to North America. During the sea voyage more members of the party perished, but Mohongo and her child survived, ultimately arriving in Norfolk, Virginia, where Charles Bird King painted their portrait. We believe that the peace medal worn by Mohongo depicts Andrew Jackson, who was president at the time. Mohongo and her child made their way back to Missouri. The book, An Osage Journey to Europe, 1827-1830: Three French Accounts edited and translated by William Least Heat-Moon and James K. Wallace, documents the episode.

Several exhibits—for example, the Indian Gallery of Henry Inman, which toured museums from 2006 to 2012—have assembled small collections of the extant Inman paintings, but the examples at the Peabody have never been included, likely because curators and art historians have not known about them.

Other Sources

Christie’s East. 1981. American Paintings and Watercolors of the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries (auction catalog). New York.

Ewers, John C. 1954. Charles Bird King, painter of Indian visitors to the nation’s capital. Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, 1953. Pp. 463-473. Publication 4149. Government Printing Office, Washington DC.

Gerald Peters Gallery. 2008. Henry Inman, Twenty-four Indian Portraits (catalog). New York.

Gerdts, William H., and Carrie Rebora. 1987. The Art of Henry Inman. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

Stebbins, Theodore E., Jr., and Melissa Renn. 2014. American Paintings at Harvard, Volume 1: Paintings, Watercolors, and Pastels by Artists Born before 1826. Harvard Art Museums and Yale University Press, New Haven.

Viola, Herman J. 1976. The Indian Legacy of Charles Bird King. Smithsonian Institution Press and Doubleday & Company, New York.

Viola, Herman J. 1983. Indians of North America: Paintings by Henry Inman from the D. Harold Byrd, Jr. Collection. Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, WY.

The Dirt on Soil Analysis

Contributed by Emma Cook

My latest work for the Peabody Inventory and Rehousing Project has led me to Tehuacán, where I have been cataloguing glass jars that contain soil samples. These jars are a part of the Tehuacán Archaeological-Botanical Project by Richard “Scotty” MacNeish during the early 1960s. The samples were collected for testing and analysis purposes from the project area. When archaeologists excavate a site, they dig through soil layers formed by the activities of past people. What archaeologists recover from these layers provides clues about what happened at that site from features or artifacts. However, the actual soil is another very important clue for archaeologists, as it can help date sites and tell a lot about the environment of the site during the time the soil layers were formed.

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Jars of Soil Samples from the Tehuacán Archaeological-Botanical Project, 1960s

Giving an accurate description of soils help archaeologists better understand what happened in the past at a site. The color and texture of soil can reveal the age of an archaeological site, as well as how the site was used. For example, a circular stain in the soil may reveal a post-hole deposit, indicating that there was once a wooden post that had decayed, leaving a soil discoloration in the ground. Depending on the site, these post-holes could represent a structure or palisade. In addition, studying soil fertility can help archaeologists understand ancient agricultural systems.

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MacNeish (left) and a field assistant analyzing stratigraphy at the Gladstone site on Kluane Lake in the Yukon.

Archaeologists use the Munsell Color Chart to help them describe the colors of the soil layers in a standardized way. This system was developed by Albert H. Munsell at what is now MassArt in 1905. Archaeologists compare the soil color in their excavation units to the color chips of the Munsell Chart – similar to the color squares found in hardware stores for paint. Where a color may be brown to one person, it may be gray to another – so it is important that archaeologists use this chart so they can standardize their descriptions.

Munsell Color Chart
Munsell Color Chart

To describe soil textures, archaeologists and geomorphologists use a soil triangle to help them determine what type of soil they are examining in the field. There are three types of soil components: sand, silt, and clay. Most soils have a combination of these three components and each of these components vary in sizes – sand particles being the largest and clay particles being the smallest. Similar to how the Munsell Color Chart describes soil color the same way, the soil triangle helps archaeologists describe soil texture consistently.

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Soil Triangle – Courtesy of the United States Department of Agriculture

Another way archaeologists analyze their site is through soil stratigraphy. This is the different types of strata, or layers of soil that archaeologists examine to map out the archaeological site over time. Stratigraphy can be used to determine which soil was associated with human occupation and which layers are sterile, meaning the soil is not associated with human occupation and does not contain any archaeological material. Layers that include artifacts and features represent a place where people lived and worked, as archaeologists can see the objects left behind by human activity. Sterile layers such as subsoil, flood sediment, and bedrock are not as distinct, but provide information on a site’s activity or inactivity.

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Archaeologists mapping out the stratigraphy at Purron Cave, TC 272, in the Tehuacán Valley.

The jars of soil samples were most likely examined after excavation and retained for further analysis. Presently, these soil samples have been rehoused and cataloguing for each of these jars is complete. To learn more about Richard “Scotty” MacNeish and the Tehuacán Archaeological-Botanical Project, visit the Peabody’s online archival collections. The MacNeish archives are available for research, separated into two collections – the Richard S. MacNeish Papers and the Richard S. MacNeish Records.

 

Further Readings

Birkeland, Peter W. 1974. Pedology, Weathering, and Geomorphological Research, New York: Oxford University Press.

Limbrey, Susan. 1975. Soil Science and Archaeology. London and New York: Academic Press.

Solecki, R. 1951. Notes on Soil Analysis and Archaeology. American Antiquity, 16(3), 254-256.

Archaeology in the Classroom at a New England Prep School

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

In 1901 Robert S. Peabody lamented the lack of instruction in archaeology at his high school alma mater Phillips Academy, a prestigious New England boarding school. To rectify the situation, he used family funds and artifacts amassed by his personal curator Warren K. Moorehead to establish a Department of Archaeology at the school. A building was constructed and Moorehead and Peabody’s son, Charles, set about teaching classes. The pattern established by Moorehead and Peabody, however, was disrupted in 1914 when the school refocused the program exclusively on research. Classes were offered periodically over the next decades, and some students were inspired to follow their high school passions to lifetime careers in our field. Successive administrators at the institution, ultimately called the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology, struggled to find a place for archaeology in the high school curriculum due to a variety of factors. Cyclical trends in teaching archaeology at Phillips Academy and long term struggles to integrate archaeology into the high school classroom mirror nationwide patterns, providing a case study that can inform the broader initiative to harness the excitement and interdisciplinary aspect of archaeology, and to encourage stewardship of  archaeological resources. The experience of the educators at Phillips Academy, however, suggests that these goals may be at odds with one another and require a delicate balancing act to achieve sustained results.

Image of Peabody director Scotty MacNeish showing students how to excavate at the Andover town dump site.
Peabody director Richard “Scotty” MacNeish instructing Phillips Academy students at the Andover town dump, 1970s.

To read Ryan Wheeler’s new article on the history of teaching archaeology and anthropology at Phillips Academy–Archaeology in the Classroom at a New England Prep School–please visit the Journal of Archaeology & Education!

Transcribing the Collection

Contributed by Marla Taylor

The Peabody Institute has been working for some time now to establish full physical and intellectual control over our collection. You can read about our progress here, here, here, and here.

But, physically inventorying the collection is only half the project. The Peabody also needs to document and account for all the artifacts that came into, and left, the collection over the years. Currently, about 56,000 catalog records are present in our database, PastPerfect, versus the nearly 120,000 unique catalog numbers that have been assigned over the years. Original cataloging records at the Institute are largely on paper in two formats – ledger books that document the first phase of collections and individual catalog cards that were in use through the 1980s. Often, a single line of handwritten text or a 3×5 index card contains all the documented information for a specific artifact. That data is invaluable for making objects relevant and accessible to researchers, faculty, students, and in our ongoing repatriation work with Native American tribes.

example accession ledger page
A page from one of the accession ledgers

Recently, I presented this problem to the Board of the Abbot Academy Fund as part of their biannual grant cycle. Focusing on the need to transcribe the hand-written ledger books – 78,094 individual line entries in 14 ledger books. I am thrilled to report that the Abbot Academy Fund has chosen to support our Transcribing the Collection initiative!

The grant funds a temporary project transcriptionist who will type each line of the original accession ledgers from early twentieth century cursive into an Excel document. The project will be complete in the fall of 2019.

Once all this information is recorded, the Peabody will collaborate with PastPerfect to migrate the data into our database. The ultimate goal is to make the collection more accessible to staff, researchers, students and tribes.

I will keep you updated!

The Transcribing the Collection project is made possible by a grant from the Abbot Academy Fund, continuing Abbot’s tradition of boldness, innovation, and caring.

Oral history project

Ted Stoddard and Irene Gates at the SAA Annual Meeting, April 2018

The Peabody oral history project began last year, a little by chance. I recognized the name of a family friend, retired Brandeis Anthropology professor Robert (Bob) Hunt, in some of our archival records from the Scotty MacNeish era. Peabody director Ryan Wheeler suggested I reach out to Bob and ask about his memories of MacNeish. I did, and Bob eventually came up from Cambridge to carry out the oral history in April 2017. Curator of collections Marla Taylor and I had an hour-long conversation with him, which was recorded and transcribed and is now part of our archives (and available for anyone who is interested). As it turns out, Bob and his first wife Eva Hunt met MacNeish in Mexico in the 1960s – they were doing archival research in Mexico City, and fieldwork among the Cuicatec, a small Mexican-Indian group located between the Tehuacán Valley and the Valley of Oaxaca. They crossed paths with MacNeish and his crew in the city of Tehuacán and became friends. Eva also wrote a chapter on irrigation for Volume Four of the Tehuacán publications.

Marla Taylor, Bob Hunt and Irene Gates at the time of his oral history, April 2017
Marla Taylor, Bob Hunt and Irene Gates at the Peabody, April 2017

It was fascinating to hear about MacNeish from someone who had known him personally and who could describe and contextualize his personality, fieldwork and scholarship. I had just spent several months processing MacNeish’s papers and welcomed the opportunity to learn something new about this person who was very familiar to me, but in a two-dimensional, removed in time sort of way. Now that I have done several oral histories, I recognize this wondrous quality while conducting them of time being suspended, of the past and present merging, as individuals and situations are evoked and memories are transmitted anew. As an archivist who usually works with static records, experiencing the living, human dimension of archives through these conversations has been very meaningful.

After the interview with Bob Hunt, Ryan suggested a few other people with whom he thought it would be great to do oral histories. Anticipating that some of them would be at the Society for American Archaeology conference in Washington, D.C. in April, Ryan proposed I attend too. I then arranged ahead of time to meet and carry out the interviews with Ted Stoddard, associated with the Peabody in the late 1940s-early 1950s, and with Dick Drennan, a curator at the Peabody in the 1970s. Their stories were wonderful to listen to: Ted described carrying out fieldwork in Maine for the Peabody as an undergraduate and then graduate student at Harvard, his memories of the Peabody director and curator team Doug Byers and Fred Johnson, and how he went on to pursue a career outside of archaeology. Dick talked about carrying out fieldwork in Mexico, teaching the archaeology class to Phillips Academy students and carrying out excavations at the Andover town dump, other memories of the Peabody at the time, and how the position fit into his overall career. I am still finalizing those transcripts but they will soon be available for anyone interested to consult.

Ted Stoddard and Irene Gates at the SAA Annual Meeting, April 2018
Ted Stoddard and Irene Gates at the SAA Annual Meeting, April 2018

I hope the oral history project will continue over the years to come!

The Temporary Archivist position is supported by a generous grant from the Oak River Foundation of Peoria, Ill. to improve the intellectual and physical control of the institute’s collections. We hope this gift will inspire others to support our work to better catalog, document, and make accessible the Peabody’s world-class collections of objects, photographs, and archival materials. If you would like information on how you can help please contact Peabody director Ryan Wheeler at rwheeler@andover.eduor 978 749 4493.

Women of the Peabody

Malinda Stafford Blustain in New Mexico, circa 2002

March is Women’s History Month, so it seemed like the perfect time to write about some of the women who have worked at or been associated with the Peabody. I have been struck during my work here by how male dominated the Peabody was for most of the twentieth century – there is a noticeable absence of women in the archives. Almost all Peabody director and curator positions were held by men, with the exception of Jane C. Wheeler, curator in the late 1970s. In the 1990s, this began to shift, with women beginning to occupy more leadership and professional posts (staff size also grew and new roles developed); eventually Malinda Stafford Blustain would become the Peabody’s first female director in 2001. This shift reflects broader trends in museum staff demographics – today, 60% of museum staff members are female, though leadership positions continue to be dominated by men (see the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey, which also highlights the underrepresentation of people of color among museum staff).

Most of the women who worked at the Peabody before the 1990s were administrative assistants. There are traces of them in our archives and in the Phillips Academy handbooks: their names, titles, salaries, and occasionally correspondence or internal documents that they wrote. Theodora George, who received a bachelors’ degree in archaeology from Columbia University, worked at the Peabody from 1968 to 1980 – she is the only administrative assistant for whom I’ve found an obituary, which includes her photograph. I also discovered that her father was of Syrian descent and owned a grocery store in Lawrence for a time. She is acknowledged with helping catalog museum collections and editing the Tehuacán publications. Other administrative assistant names I’ve come across are Florence Cummings, Gladys Dill Salta (later Gladys Jump), Ethel Cohen, Evelyn Willett Drew, Marie Indurre, Marjory McC. Stevens, Ashley Baker, Carole A. Walker, and Elizabeth Steinert.

Two early women pioneers of archaeology and anthropology were briefly associated with the Peabody. Margaret E. Ashley Towle (1902-1985) and Adelaide Kendall Bullen (1908-1987) are both notable for pursuing these interests in a time when those fields (like museums) were very much male dominated. Presumably, their socio-economic status also gave them a certain measure of freedom in doing so. Margaret E. Ashley Ph.D., is listed as the Research Associate in Southeastern Archaeology at the Peabody in 1929 and in 1930 (she actually received her PhD later in her career). Her association with the Peabody came because of Warren Moorehead’s Etowah, Georgia excavations; Emory University asked her to serve as a representative on the dig because some of the collections were destined to come to them. Ashley subsequently came to Andover to further study the ceramics. Her ceramic analysis forms part of the official site publication, the Etowah Papers. Ashley went on to work extensively in South American paleobotany, with a long association at Harvard’s Botanical Museum. To learn more about her, see pages 25-41 in Grit-Tempered, Early Women Archaeologists in the Southeastern United States (1999).

Adelaide and Ripley Bullen and their sons, visiting Aztec ruins in New Mexico, 1941
Adelaide and Ripley Bullen and their sons, visiting Aztec ruins in New Mexico, 1941

Adelaide Kendall Bullen came into the Peabody’s orbit through her husband, Ripley Bullen. Ripley worked as a student assistant at the Peabody while pursuing graduate studies at Harvard in anthropology. Meanwhile Adelaide began undergraduate studies at Radcliffe College in her early thirties, and after receiving her A.B., also pursued graduate studies in anthropology at Harvard. Together they began working on excavations, including the Lucy Foster site, the nineteenth century Andover home site of an emancipated African American woman. They also lived on campus and both of their sons graduated from Phillips Academy: Dana Ripley Bullen II (Class of 1949) and Pierce Kendall Bullen (Class of 1952). In the Peabody’s annual reports from that time, Ripley’s excavation projects in the area are briefly mentioned, but Adelaide’s involvement with them is not acknowledged. She is only mentioned in 1942 as helping select and arrange “material on the Navaho and Iroquois Indians” for an exhibit at the Andover Public Library. After leaving Massachusetts in 1948 Adelaide and Ripley expanded their work to involve avocational archaeologists in Florida and the Caribbean and continued to publish extensively; they maintained connections with their Peabody colleagues and Ripley was an earlier adopter of radiocarbon dating. To learn more about Adelaide, see pages 148-162 in Grit-Tempered, Early Women Archaeologists in the Southeastern United States (1999).

A number of women participated in Peabody-sponsored surveys and excavations, sometimes contributing to the project publication as well. These women include Elsie Clews Parsons, Anna O. Shepard and Madeleine Appleton Kidder at the Pecos Pueblo, New Mexico excavations directed by Alfred V. Kidder, 1915-1929; Lucy Raup in the Yukon surveys, co-directed by Fred Johnson and Hugh Raup, of 1944 and 1948; Eva Hunt and Antoinette Nelken-Terner at the Tehuacán Valley, Mexico, excavations directed by Richard “Scotty” MacNeish, 1960-1965; and Antoinette Nelken-Terner again in the Ayacucho, Peru, excavations directed by MacNeish, 1969-1975. There may be many that I have missed – if so please name them in the comments below.

Lucy and Hugh Raup on the southeast slope of Big Arm, Kluane Lake, Andover-Harvard Yukon Expedition 1944. Photograph by J.H.H. Sticht.
Lucy and Hugh Raup on the southeast slope of Big Arm, Kluane Lake, Andover-Harvard Yukon Expedition 1944. Photograph by J.H.H. Sticht.
Ed Sisson, Antoinette Nelken-Terner and Scotty MacNeish
Ed Sisson, Antoinette Nelken-Terner and Scotty MacNeish at Penefiel near El Riego Cave, February 5, 1973. Photograph taken by Ray Potvin.

The first woman to hold a permanent professional position at the Peabody above the administrative assistant level was Curator Jane C. Wheeler, PhD (1977-1982). (Mary Ellen Conaway worked on new exhibits at the Peabody, 1970-1974, but is not listed among permanent staff.) During her time at the Peabody, Wheeler conducted research in Peru and Bolivia, published extensively, and taught courses to Phillips Academy students as well as conducting a field school at the Andover Town Dump.

One hundred years after the Peabody’s founding, Malinda Stafford Blustain became its first female director. She began here as the Collections Manager (1992-1997), then became Curator (1997-2001), Interim Director (2001-2004) and Director (2004-2012). Blustain helped raise support for the museum and oversaw it through a crisis period in the early 2000s. She refocused efforts on integrating the museum into Phillips Academy’s curriculum, developing collections management programs, and ensuring NAGPRA compliance. These priorities continue to guide the Peabody’s work today.

Malinda Stafford Blustain in New Mexico, circa 2002
Malinda Stafford Blustain in New Mexico, circa 2002

Other women in the 1990s, such as Leah Rosenmeier, contributed significantly to the Peabody – this post thanks all of these women and pays tribute to their work here.

Cataloging photographs in our database, and the Andover-Harvard Yukon Expedition photographs

L-25-5. Collecting Primulas on muskeg between beaches west of Mile 1020-21. Near Pine Creek Camp. Alaska Highway. 6/23/44.

Contributed by Irene Gates

Since November, I’ve been focused on better organizing and rehousing the Peabody’s photographic collections (a rough extent estimate: 10,000 prints, 35,000 slides, 230 rolls of film, 500 glass plate negatives and 1,500 lantern slides). These consist of excavation, ethnographic and museum object photographs. Some were created during the course of the Peabody’s activities; others were donated to the museum. There are some wonderful images here, many unknown to Peabody staff members even. In keeping with the archives project’s mission to make the Peabody’s archival collections more accessible, contract librarian Mary Beth Clack has begun cataloging photographs in our Past Perfect collections management database. For many photographs, some type of bibliographic record such as a catalog card or an index already exists, so adding a record to the database is a question of transcribing and consistently formatting existing information. Work duty students and I have been scanning photographs so that a digital image can then be attached to the catalog records, which are then easily published online via our Past Perfect web portal. In addition to the benefits of making these publically available, cataloging them in the database makes them infinitely more findable for staff members.

L-28-28. Fairbanks, Alaska. Snapshots of Chena Slough, streets and houses. 7/30/44
L-28-28. Fairbanks, Alaska. Snapshots of Chena Slough, streets and houses. 7/30/44

Mary Beth is currently working on the 1944 and 1948 Andover-Harvard Yukon Expedition print photographs. These approximately 1,500 images document the archaeological and geobotanical expeditions carried out jointly by the Peabody and Harvard University (and funded by additional sources, including the Wenner-Gren Foundation) in parts of the Shakwak and Dezadeash Valleys, in southwestern Yukon. The photographs, taken by Fred Johnson, Hugh Miller Raup and John H.H. Sticht, are mounted on stiff paper, typically two to a page, with typewritten captions below each image. Many of them, in addition to being important documentation of the expeditions, are very beautiful. Included here a few examples. The first batch of records have just been published online, and more will be added soon: please browse them here.

Example of an Andover-Harvard Yukon Expedition photographs page, with images from 1944.
Example of an Andover-Harvard Yukon Expedition photographs page, with images from 1944.
L-25-5. Collecting Primulas on muskeg between beaches west of Mile 1020-21. Near Pine Creek Camp. Alaska Highway. 6/23/44.
L-25-5. Collecting Primulas on muskeg between beaches west of Mile 1020-21. Near Pine Creek Camp. Alaska Highway. 6/23/44.

For more information about the Yukon project, see its publication: Investigation in Southwest Yukon, by Fred Johnson, Hugh Raup and Richard MacNeish, 1964

The Temporary Archivist position is supported by a generous grant from the Oak River Foundation of Peoria, Ill. to improve the intellectual and physical control of the institute’s collections. We hope this gift will inspire others to support our work to better catalog, document, and make accessible the Peabody’s world-class collections of objects, photographs, and archival materials. If you would like information on how you can help please contact Peabody director Ryan Wheeler at rwheeler@andover.eduor 978 749 4493.

Radiocarbon Dates Association, Inc.

Drawers of punch cards

This blog represents the eleventh entry in a blog series – Peabody 25 – that will delve into the history of the Peabody Institute through objects in our collection.  A new post will be out with each newsletter, so keep your eyes peeled for the Peabody 25 tag!

One of the more unusual collections I came across during my survey of the Peabody’s archives last year was a group of notched 5×8-inch cards containing radiocarbon dating information. It took me a while to figure out what these cards were, and as it turns out, both the format and the content have interesting back stories. These “punch cards,” widely used as a form of data storage in the late nineteenth to twentieth century, represent an endeavor to create a data set of known radiocarbon dates from sites around the world and share it with researchers.

Dr. Willard Frank Libby, a chemist who studied radioactivity and worked on the development of the atomic bomb during World War II, invented radiocarbon dating in the 1940s. He recognized its potential for fields such as archaeology and geology (and received a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1960 for these efforts). His research quickly came to the attention of Doug Byers and Fred Johnson at the Peabody, who were already using scientific dating techniques such as pollen analysis and dendrochronology. When the American Anthropological Association formed the Committee on Radioactive Carbon 14 in 1948, to liaise between the archaeological community and Libby and provide him with archaeological samples on which to test his method, Johnson was appointed its Chairman.

(See the additional resources below for publications on radiocarbon dating authored or edited by Johnson, who became so involved with this subject that in a 1958 letter he wrote, “… now I wish to heaven that I had never heard of radiocarbon”)!

Beginning in 1953, conferences on radiocarbon dating began to be held at the Peabody. In October 1956, the Committee for Distribution of Radiocarbon Dates was established at one such conference. The R.S. Peabody Foundation was listed as the committee’s address. A $1,500 grant by the Wenner-Gren Foundation in 1957 was used to finance a survey sent to 1,500 scientists to gauge interest in radiocarbon dates punch cards. Enough interest was shown that the enterprise moved forward. In 1958, Radiocarbon Dates Association, Inc., was established, with Johnson as President and Byers as Secretary-Treasurer. Subscriptions were purchased by museums and universities across the world.

Committee for Distribution of Radiocarbon Dates informational page
Committee for Distribution of Radiocarbon Dates informational page accompanying survey
Mockup of radiocarbon dates punch cards
Mockup of radiocarbon dates punch cards

The cards were published and sent to subscribers in batches, along with sorting and coding equipment, and index guides. Each card contained information about a sample, such as its geographic location, its material (plant remains, oak, i.e.), where it was processed, its date, a citation if published, and occasionally a narrative description of where it was collected. This information was collected from the approximately forty laboratories carrying out this type of dating. Through the notches on the cards, using the sorter, subscribers could parse out samples having a common trait, like doing a search of records through a computer database with a particular term.

Punch cards were inspired by notched papers designed in the eighteenth century for looms, to help automate patterns in weaving.  By the late nineteenth century, the idea had been adapted to other uses. Herman Hollerith, working at the United States Census Bureau, applied his Electric Tabulating System invention to census data processing. This game-changing system led to the formation of IBM, and punch cards dominated data processing for most of the twentieth century, and were used with early computers until about a generation ago.

After the launch of Radiocarbon Dates Association, Inc., in the late 1950s, the production and distribution of the cards are not mentioned as much in the Peabody’s Annual Reports (my main source of information for this post!). A 1973 letter shows that the name had been shortened to Radiocarbon Dates, and that the main address had been moved to Braintree, MA, c/o John Ramsden. That is the last trace of the project that I’ve found here, besides the cards themselves. Fred Johnson donated his radiocarbon dating-related papers to the University of California, Los Angeles, where Willard Libby taught for a substantial amount of his career (and which hold his papers as well). More information about the project exists in those records, which were used by Keith Baich in his 2010 Portland State University master’s thesis, American Scientists, Americanist Archaeology: The Committee on Radioactive Carbon 14, which heavily features Fred Johnson.

Additional resources:

Finding aid for the Frederick Johnson Papers at UCLA: http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt296nc30m/entire_text/

Finding aid for the Willard F. Libby Papers at UCLA: http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt9j49q5hh/admin/#ref7

Baich, Keith David, “American Scientists, Americanist Archaeology: The Committee on Radioactive Carbon 14” (2010). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 168.
http://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/open_access_etds/168

Johnson, Frederick, et al. “Radiocarbon Dating: A Report on the Program to Aid in the Development of the Method of Dating.” Memoirs of the Society for American Archaeology, no. 8, 1951, pp. 1–65. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/25146610.

Johnson, Frederick. “Radiocarbon Dating and Archeology in North America.” Science, vol. 155, no. 3759, 1967, pp. 165–169. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1721124.

The Temporary Archivist position is supported by a generous grant from the Oak River Foundation of Peoria, Ill. to improve the intellectual and physical control of the museum’s collections. We hope this gift will inspire others to support our work to better catalog, document, and make accessible the Peabody’s world-class collections of objects, photographs, and archival materials. If you would like information on how you can help please contact Peabody director Ryan Wheeler at rwheeler@andover.edu or 978 749 4493.

Learning about and from the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials

A color photograph of the Peabody's library and a window looking out onto a red-colored tree outside.

I’ve been thinking about archives and recordkeeping in relation to Native American communities since our Collections Assistant Samantha returned from the International Conference of Indigenous Archives, Libraries and Museums, and shared some resources she learned about there. One of these resources was the 2006 Protocols for Native American Archival Materials, a series of recommendations for non-tribal institutions holding Native American archival material. These are relevant to the Peabody because the archives here contain records documenting excavations of Native American sites, and more recently, repatriations, as well as ethnographic photographs.

The Protocols were created by a group of 19 Native American and non-Native American librarians, archivists (including the then President of the Society of American Archivists), museum curators, historians and anthropologists, and address how institutions can be culturally responsive stewards of these materials and provide culturally appropriate services to the communities with which they are affiliated. Essentially, the protocols speak to the fact that Native American archival records (textual, photographic, audio-visual, etc.) should be treated with as much sensitivity as other cultural objects in a museum’s collection, and may require rethinking a non-Native institution’s policies about access, description and control. Consulting with affiliated tribes to let them know these materials exist, inquiring about any access restrictions or changes in the way materials should be preserved, and not artificially extending the life cycle of a documentary record upon request are examples of recommendations in the Protocols. While archival materials do not currently fall under the jurisdiction of NAGPRA, apparently some institutions, in the spirit of the law, have repatriated them.

A fundamental question to ask about archives and current recordkeeping practices in general is what records get kept, and by whom: historically, it’s been a question of control. The Protocols essentially advocate for non-Native institutions to let go of some of the control they have over Native American archival material, even if this might go against the usual policies of their institution. A contemporary example in the news resonates with this practice: the recent Canadian court ruling allowing First Nations people to destroy testimonies of the abuse they endured at boarding schools: read an article about this here. The destruction of these testimonies means that they will not survive in the form of documentary evidence, accessible to the general public, even at a center that is committed to social justice. However, the victims of this abuse now control their stories, rather than, as quoted in the article, the government “which caused or contributed to the horrible harms to those survivors in the first place.”