Volunteers are back at the Peabody!

Contributed by John Bergman-McCool

If you’re keeping track of the progress of renovations occurring at our building, you know that construction started last month, and that we are in our new temporary office space on campus. If you aren’t up to date on the project, read these two blogs out to see the changes that have already occurred (here and here).

Last week our non-student volunteers returned to duty. They were on a two-month hiatus while we figured out what projects they could assist with in our new space. With a month of our stay at the Abbot campus behind us, we decided it was time for the volunteers to come back and help carry out inventory clean-up. While the surroundings have changed, Mike and Richard picked right up where they left off.

Volunteer Mike rehousing items for inventory clean-up.

If you are interested in volunteering at the Peabody, you can contact me at jbergmanmccool@andover.edu. Currently we have limited capacity, but when we are back in our building in the fall, we’ll have a lot more space and the big job of moving the collection into our newly redesigned collection space.

Construction Begins

Contributed by Marla Taylor

It is finally happening – the Peabody Institute building project is underway!

It has been quite a whirlwind preparing for this project over the past months (planning began in earnest about a year ago).  

Since my last update, the full collection has been relocated within the building, asbestos has been remediated, the old storage bays have been demolished, and staff transitioned to working at small folding tables.  We made the move to our temporary office space on-campus and are beginning to settle in.

So much credit goes to the Peabody staff members (and past interns) who collaborated to facilitate keeping the collection safe and organized during this process – thank you all!

We will keep you updated on progress as we are able.

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 bparsons@andover.edu.

Pueblo Revolt at ASECS

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

At this year’s American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies (ASECS) conference, I had the opportunity to participate in the roundtable Teaching the Global Eighteenth Century. Phillips Academy instructor in history and social sciences Natalya Baldyga and I presented Assimilation, Acculturation, Catachresis, and Syncretism: Employing Archaeology to Foreground Indigenous Resistance in the Spanish Southwest, sharing our experiences teaching the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 to History 200 classes at the Academy.

Contemporary Indigenous artist Jason Garcia’s take on the Pueblo Revolt combines traditional materials and methods with graphic designs depicting Po’Pay, the architect of the revolt, as a comic book superhero. These two pieces are in the collection of the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology–you can see the vessel on the right in the inaugural exhibition of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Latino.

If you are not familiar with the Pueblo Revolt, it is a pivotal moment in the history of the Southwest and the modern descendants of those who fought Spanish colonization at the end of the seventeenth century. Our abstract has a little more information on the Revolt and our approach:

Using the case study of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, our presentation illustrates how archaeological artifacts can be employed to unsettle and decenter colonial narratives by refocusing the North American story of the early eighteenth century on Indigenous peoples of the Spanish Southwest. Too often, Anglophone histories associate the long eighteenth century in the Americas with English colonialism in general, and with the American Revolution in particular. We ask students to consider instead the “first American Revolution,” in which the Pueblo Peoples, led by the Tewa religious leader Po’pay, confronted missionaries and soldiers in the Spanish borderlands of what is now New Mexico. In our classes, students explore both artifacts from the Pueblo Revolt and contemporary Puebloan artistic responses to the historical event, foregrounding Indigenous resistance and survival over tales of erasure and domination. This approach both reorientates students’ understanding of colonial North American history towards wider global narratives of European expansion, and, perhaps more importantly, introduces students to multiple ways that Indigenous peoples adapted to, resisted, and overcame the efforts to erase their cultural identities and physical existence.

Drs. Wheeler and Baldyga also celebrated their anniversary during the conference.

The Peabody Institute has long offered various versions of a Pueblo Revolt lesson, but the current iteration has greatly benefitted from Dr. Baldyga’s experience and training. Together we’ve developed the lesson, typically delivered in the world history survey course for tenth grade, providing students with anthropological concepts, like assimilation and catachresis, that they can use in other settings, as well as foregrounding contemporary Indigenous perspectives and objects directly related to the Revolt. Conversations with other participants in the workshop were productive, especially in their pedagogical approach to topics like the production of sugar.

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 bparsons@andover.edu.

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…

A New Photo of Margaret Ashley Towle

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

Several years ago as we organized the Peabody Institute’s extensive photographic collection, we came across a group of black-and-white prints that had not been flattened. These images relate to Warren Moorehead’s 1920’s era excavation of the Etowah mound group in Georgia. Any attempt to unroll the images would produce a tear and threatened to damage the prints. We did some research on techniques that might help these older prints relax a little, to no avail. Help was nearby, however, in the form of the Northeast Document Conservation Center or NEDCC, one of the leading paper and media conservation organizations in the country. We’ve used them before to digitize oversized maps and to scan black-and-white negatives.

The images were returned to us after conservation recently, and we also received high resolution digital versions. Most of the photos show items from the Etowah site, but one picture was of Margaret Ashley Towle, one of the pioneering female archaeologists of the southeastern United States. The image is marked on the reverse as “Etowah Ga 1928 Miss Ashley” and has our recent catalog number 2020.3.283. It is a wonderful complement to Frank Schnell Jr’s 1999 chapter “Margaret E. Ashley: Georgia’s First Professional Archaeologist,” which appeared in Grit-Tempered: Early Women Archaeologists in the Southeastern United States. She was also featured, sans photo, in Irene Gates’s Women of the Peabody blog in 2018.

Image of Margaret Ashley as a smiling young woman wearing a cloche hat and light-colored trench coat with collar turned up. She has several scarves loosely around her neck. Hazy, out of focus image of Warren Moorehead in the background.
Image of Margaret Ashley at the Etowah site, 1928. In the right background is a slightly out of focus image of archaeologist Warren Moorehead. The image has been cropped to exclude several cultural items from the site. Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology 2020.3.283.

Margaret Ashley was already well-versed in archaeology and was a skilled outdoorswoman when she worked with Warren Moorehead at the Etowah site, and went on to assist with his projects in Maine and to continue her own research in the Southeast. She also contributed to Moorehead’s Etowah Papers publication and published on her technique for illustrating pottery. According to Frank Schnell’s chapter in Grit-Tempered, Ashley married Moorehead’s main field assistant Gerald Towle in 1930. Unfortunately, Ashley’s marriage coincided with a significant hiatus to her training and research. We do know that after Towle’s death, Ashley completed her Ph.D. at Columbia with her dissertation later appearing as The Ethnobotany of Pre-Columbian Peru, number 30 of the Wenner-Gren Foundation’s Viking Fund Publications in Anthropology (1961). Colleagues working in the Andes report that Ashley’s publication remains a significant resource. Ashley spent several decades as an unpaid research associate at the Harvard Botanical Museum where she worked with botanist Paul Mangelsdorf, who had also been encouraging Richard “Scotty” MacNeish’s interests in agriculture, also around this same time.

We are delighted that we have been able to recover this early photo of Margaret Ashley Towle. If you get a chance, get a copy of Grit-Tempered–the biographical entries also include Adelaide Bullen, another pioneering archaeologist with connections to the Peabody Institute!

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 napgracomics.weebly.com]

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!