Dia de los Muertos

November 1 is still a few weeks away but Dia de los Muertos—the Mexican Day of the Dead—came early to the Peabody.  On Thursday September 29 Dr. Marisela Ramos of the History and Social Sciences Department brought her History 200 class.  The class has been learning about different civilizations from around the world and the Peabody’s Dia de los Muertos lesson is a fun and interactive way for the students to learn about a holiday that is still celebrated today, but which has deep roots to a time before Europeans came to the Americas.

The holiday is celebrated in Mexico and is a mix of traditional native beliefs (primarily from the Maya and Aztec cultures) that were combined with European Catholic traditions. It is believed that between October 31 and November 2—coinciding with Catholicism’s All Saints Day and All Souls Day—that the souls of loved ones return. Many homes have alters with images of the deceased.  Marigolds are often placed on the alters, as the smell helps guide the souls home, and food is left out for the souls to eat after their long journey.

Tissue paper marigolds
Tissue paper marigolds

Our alter has images of notable people connected with the Peabody:

  • Robert Singlton Peabody – Our founder and PA class of 1857. His image is always in a place of honor.
  • Charles Peabody – Son of Robert and the first director of the Peabody Museum.
  • Warren Moorehead – Excavated many important archaeological sites and appointed by Theodore Roosevelt to the federal Board of Indian Commissioners.
  • Alfred Kidder – Considered the “Grandfather of American Archaeology” for his work at Pecos Pueblo.
  • Douglas Byers – Helped to professionalize the field of archaeology into a legitimate science.
  • Frederick Johnson – One of the first archaeologists to engage experts from other fields while investigating the Boylston Street Fishweir site in Boston.
  • Adelaide Bullen – Excavated the Lucy Foster Site in Andover, one of the first archaeological studies of a free Black
  • Ripley Bullen – Husband of Adelaide. Excavated many sites locally in and around Andover while doing graduate work at Harvard.
  • Richard “Scotty” MacNeish – Investigated the origins of agriculture and civilization in the Americas.
  • Gene Winter – Served as museum caretaker in the 1980s and served as honorary curator. He was associated with the museum for over 70 years.

Students in Dr. Ramos’s class helped arrange the altar and made paper flowers to decorate the shrine as they also enjoyed traditional Mexican candy given out during the holiday.

The completed alter as arranged by the students
The completed alter as arranged by the students

2016-2017 Education Course Catalog

This summer we have worked on updating our course catalog that we share with the faculty at Andover. All of our programs incorporate the Peabody’s unique artifacts into classes that allow students to explore topics in art,  history, science, foreign languages, math, music, and many other subjects. While we offer many classes that support the goals and objectives of faculty through meaningful and engaging experiences for their students, we are also always have to collaborate to create new learning opportunities.

This year we are working with the History Department to create a week long activity for all History 100 students. It is an artifact rich class which will rely heavily on the expertise and assistance of our Curator of Collections, Marla Taylor.  The in-depth lesson will focus on the interaction and trade roots of the Moche, Maya, Puebloan, and Hopewell cultures. We cannot wait to get started!

To see what other lessons and activities we offer to the different departments at Phillips Academy, please browse our catalog

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Peabody Study Hours

Contributed by Marla Taylor

As another school year begins, students on the lookout for a quiet place to study in the evening will have a new option.  The Peabody is now hosting study hours every Thursday evening from 5pm-9:15pm.

We will also be collaborating with the peer tutoring program on campus to provide a calm space for focused study and learning.

We hope to see you here!

Vessels, and Paddles, and Lasers, Oh My!

Contributed by Lindsay Randall

Recently I have been interested in expanding our programming around the methods used by indigenous people to create and decorate ceramic vessels. While at the Society for American Archaeology annual meeting in April 2016 I saw Florida’s archaeology month poster, which features “Artisans of the Woodlands.” The poster described how Swift Creek Complicated Stamped pottery was decorated with intricate designs stamped on the surface of the vessel with a carved paddle; the poster even featured a replica paddle.  Ah ha!!!!! Genius! Now I knew what I wanted to do and I knew just who to contact.

Image of Florida's 2016 Archaeology Month poster titled Artisans of the woodland
The 2016 Archaeology Month poster from Florida.

When I arrived back on campus I contacted Claudia Wessner, OWHL Makerspace Coordinator, and asked if the library’s laser cutter could reproduce one of the complicated stamped paddles. She was sure it could and was excited to collaborate on such an interesting project. I just had to find JPEG images of line drawings that could be uploaded.

With that in mind I began looking through the book A World Engraved edited by Mark Williams and Daniel T. Elliott. The book focuses on the Swift Creek culture, which is centered in the Southeastern United States. The Swift Creek people are famously known for their pottery which features intricate paddle stamped designs. It is believed that by gaining insight and knowledge about these designs that archaeologists might be able to begin to understand more abstract aspects of the culture, such as religion and world view.

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This vessel is from the Peabody Museum collections and was excavated by Clarence B. Moore from a site in Florida. The vessel dates from 100 AD – 300 AD.

One of the designs that Claudia and I selected was a Late Swift Creek design (circa AD 580) which is a mask-like image with slanting eyes, furrowed brows, and a frowning mouth. The image that we used as a starting point for the laser cut design can be found on page 63 (Figure 6-1) in the chapter Swift Creek Design Investigations: The Hartford Case written by Frankie Snow in A World Engraved.

Image of the mask-like motif in clay
Image of the mask-like motif impression in clay

We also picked a design that was used in another type of pottery called Irene Complicated Stamped. The name for this pottery is only used for specific pottery found on the Georgia coast. To be honest I only picked this because we had just hired Irene Gates as our temporary archivist and I thought it was so fun that there was a stamped design that shared her name!

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The five paddle designs that we created. The Irene Complicated stamp design is the farthest on the left, made from 4 swirls that join in the middle.

Claudia and I spent an entire day testing out depth and paddle handle width and have finally settled on what we believe will be the best paddle type for the large variety of people who will be using them.  This has certainly been a fun and educational project!

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The laser cutter hard at work!

 

 

Summer work duty students begin rehousing inventory

Work duty student inventorying a drawer

Embarking on a full inventory and rehousing of your museum collection is a daunting task.  Transferring approximately 1,700 drawers into 3,000 archival boxes will take years of work.  Fortunately for me, I have access to an invaluable resource – Phillips Academy students.

For a week in July, two Lowers (10th graders) came to the Peabody every day for four hours to fulfill their work duty commitment for the school year.  I gave them a crash course in artifact identification and object handling techniques before they got down to business.  As they worked through the meticulous process of inventorying everything in the collection, they made crucial observations that will improve my workflow.  Together, these two students recorded the contents of twenty-nine drawers!

Work duty student inventorying a drawer
Work duty student inventorying a drawer

Work duty students will continue to be an essential work force as we move through the collection.  I will share their progress and successes in the months and years to come.

Curator of Collections Marla Taylor and work duty students stand behind the empty boxes
Curator of Collections Marla Taylor and work duty students stand behind the empty boxes

The Language of Weaving

Contributed by Catherine K. Hunter

Warps, warp-face, wefts, weft-face, ikat or jaspe, brocade, coiling, twining, plaiting—these technical terms come from the language of weaving. For students in Therese Zemlin’s art class, an exploration of weaving was motivation for a tour of collections at the Peabody Museum in April and May 2016 with research associate Catherine Hunter. The themes were textiles of Guatemala and Peru, and Native American baskets.

Weaving involves the interlacing of two elements: warp and weft. The loom supports vertical elements or yarns (warps) under tension. Then, weaving is the process of interlacing horizontal elements (wefts) side-to-side perpendicular to the warps. The weaver manipulates the colors and density of the warp or weft, making the potential for new designs endless.

Forty items were selected from the museum’s collection of 400+ 20th century Guatemalan textiles and back-strap looms, and ancient Peruvian textiles. The majority were blouses called huipiles, assembled from several parallel lengths of cloth. Among the Maya distinctive traditional designs have been associated with specific villages. Communities consistently favor bright colors with beautiful sophisticated geometric and zoomorphic designs.

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Students examines a vibrant Guatemalan textile on backstrap loom.

From an inventory of 350 19th-20th century Native American baskets, 20 were chosen to represent the cultural preferences of five geographic regions. This tradition is acknowledged as the finest expression of its type, setting the standard for anyone who studies baskets as art. The basic techniques are coiling, twining and plaiting.

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Catherine Hunter sharing the vast array of baskets in the Peabody’s collections.

There is remarkable ingenuity in the variety of plants and trees discovered for basketry materials, including ash splints, river cane, pine needles, roots, grasses, and red cedar. Harvesting and processing of materials was a time-consuming community activity with an appreciation of seasonal and sustainable practices.

There is amazing vitality in the forms of baskets including bowls, jars, rectangles, cones, trays, and plaques. Fascinating objects in themselves, it is all the more interesting to know their uses include food gathering, cooking (in water tight baskets), water bottles, seed bottles, pictorial trays illustrating mythology, feather-covered gift baskets, hats, and forms targeting the interest of tourists.

Both traditions—Guatemalan weaving and Native American basketry— continue today as a source of cultural pride for communities and as professions for artists.

AUTHOR BIO

Catherine K. Hunter is an independent museum consultant whose career began in the Department of Textiles at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She began an inventory of the Peabody Museum’s basket collection in November 2015 and will complete the project in summer 2016.

Invisible Injustice: Discovering & Disseminating the Story of Slavery in the North

Contributed by Lindsay Randall

Logo of conference courtesy of Salem State History Department

Scholars, museum professionals, educators and interested members of the public gathered at Salem State University for a symposium that delved into the history and implications of slavery in New England. Essex Heritage organized this event to be interactive and engaging. In addition to scholars they also invited the participants to explore the topic through breakout sessions and facilitated activities.

Beth Beringer of Essex Heritage invited me to lead one of the activities. During the morning session I lead participants through our History 200 lesson, The Little Spots Allow’d Them.  Participants explored how landscapes can and have shaped human behavior using archaeological data from Isaac Royall’s Ten Hills Farm in Medford, Mass. (now the Royall House and Slave Quarters).

Curator of Education Lindsay Randall leads her break out group through the interactive activity
Curator of Education Lindsay Randall leads her break out group through the interactive activity

The program then shifted to exploration of the difficult discussions that arise when confronting northern slavery. The experts on this panel had a diverse background as historians, professors, and museum professionals. They focused on meaningful strategies that could be used to engage any audience – classroom, museum goers, or the public – in a substantive manner.

Keynote speaker (and ChuBbs Woodrow Randall enthusiast) Dr. Joanne Pope Melish spoke about the often complex relationship that New England had with the institution of slavery. She focused on the impact that this history has had on the region and its legacy today. Melish was also quick to point out that “rich men did not own slaves. Slaves made men rich” and how we need to shift the typical narratives used when engaging with students in any setting.

Two books promoted during the program, Understanding and teaching American Slavery by Bethany Jay and Cythia Lyerly and Disowning Slavery by Joanne Pope Melish

There also was a group of museum educators who talked about their unique ways of engaging the public in the history of slavery in New England. Maryann Zujewski from Salem Maritime National Park has been working with Dr. Bethany Jay of Salem State University to reframe their interpretive tours so that they are not simply ADDING black people to history, but that they and other minorities are becoming more integrated in a meaningful and natural manner.  Olivia Searcy discussed how she has helped to create the educational programming for the Royall House and Slave Quarters Museum in a manner that has focused on the history of the enslaved people at the site. The Caribbean Connections program from the House of the Seven Gables  is a duel language program, described by Ana Nuncio as innovative in its outreach to minority groups in a community which might not otherwise feel welcomed in a museum setting.

At the end of the day participants could self-select into a variety of breakout sessions to dive further into a topic of interest.

This symposium was very important and offered me a great deal of new information and ways of thinking. I am already furiously at work on how to integrate all that I learned into the lessons and activities that I teach. I hope that another symposium of this kind will be offered again and I anxiously await word from my friends at Essex Heritage!

 

Masks at the Peabody

Contributed by Lindsay Randall

Masks are one of the most visual elements of a culture, often used to transform the wearer during rituals, ceremonies, or other events. The use of masks dates back thousands of years, at least to the Neolithic period some 9,000 years ago or much earlier. Many of our masks are believed to be from Mexico. Two years ago work duty students began researching some of the masks in our collection.  While not complete, their work has been invaluable for the classes we teach. Recently the Peabody pulled all the masks from our collection to share with students in Therese Zemlin’s art classes.

One class has an assignment to make a 3 dimensional clay gargoyle. By studying the Peabody’s masks students investigate how artist’s created expressions, developed the proportions of facial features, and how human and animal features were melded together. The other class is learning to perceive minute details that are otherwise missed when we assume we understand what we see.

After looking at the masks and talking with me, the students are given time to begin sketching a mask of their choosing. This helps them to focus their attention even more and to gain a more intimate appreciation of the object in front of them, which will in turn aid them with their art projects.

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A student sketches a mask of unidentified origin

To see some of the masks that the Peabody has visit our online catalog: http://peabody.pastperfect-online.com/40391cgi/mweb.exe?request=record;id=5114D1BC-AAD1-4BF5-A8B7-271626649170;type=101

Sharing what you learn – Student presentations

Image of student presenter

Contributed by Marla Taylor

On the third Tuesday of every month, the Massachusetts Archaeological Society – Gene Winter Chapter invites a guest speaker to their meeting at the Peabody Museum.  For the past six years, Phillips Academy students have been invited to speak about their experiences with archaeology at one of these meetings.

On February 16th, seven students, in three groups, shared their research and work on a variety of topics.

Youth for Restoration: Preserving Local History

Viraj Kumar’s ’17 interest in local history led him to create a non-profit organization that works to preserve and restore local history in Poughquag, New York. He discussed his experiences working with the community on a 19th century grist mill.

Printing History: 3D Rendering of Artifacts

Four students, Alana Gudinas ’16, Jacob Boudreau ’16, Mia LaRocca ’16, and Sarah Schmaier ‘16, were challenged to scan three artifacts from the Peabody Museum’s collection and print them as 3D models.  They discussed the process and highlight some of the implications of this technology for museums and other institutions.

More than Meets the Eye:  19th Century Portrayals of Native Americans

In the 1830s, the first director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs launched an ambitious effort to collect over one hundred portraits of Native Americans.  Veronica Nutting ’16 and Alex Armour’16 investigated three of these paintings at the Peabody–how and when they got here, why they’re important, and how they compare to contemporary depictions of Native Americans.

Speaking to an audience of nearly 50 chapter members, professional archaeologists, and members of the PA community, all the presentations were very well received.  Congratulations to all the students for their hard work!

Check out this article from the Phillipian to learn even more.

Blubber: It’s what’s for dinner

Contributed by Lindsay Randall

The end of Winter Term has arrived and with it the bitter New England cold, which is fitting given our most popular lesson during this time is our Inuit focused activity, Blubber: It’s What’s for Dinner.

The lesson is part of the History 100 theme related to nomadic people. In the fall 9th graders learn about the Bedouins who travel throughout a desert landscape. During winter term students continue that theme by learning about the Mongols, a nomadic group who live in the Asiatic steppe. Classes examine the Peabody’s arctic collections as a way to support their learning about nomadic societies, giving them a chance to apply concept they have learned in class and applying them to another nomadic culture.

The three extreme environments; desert, temperate grasslands, and the frozen north help to highlight the similarities of the three groups. This allows students to pick out important key aspects that are central to any nomadic group, no matter the landscape they inhabit.

Students move between four stations that are set up around the Peabody and work in groups to determine answers to the following questions:

  • What is each object? How was it used?
  • What is the object made from?
  • Why are the objects grouped together?

As class begins we review what it means to be nomadic and how that might be reflected in material culture. An initial activity emphasizes that everything a nomadic person carries has a purpose and the heavier an item, the more important it might be.

This is illustrated by the object depicted below. Students quickly determine that it is made from stone, which automatically demonstrates its importance.  The shape suggests that it was made to hold something, similar to a bowl. They know that whatever it held had to be extremely important. Some students notice that each bowl has some black markings around the rim. It is usually this revelation that helps students to work towards the correct assumption – the bowl held fire, which in the arctic is central to survival.

This stone blubber lamp was collected by William Duncan Strong in Hopedale, Labrador Canada. You can see charring along the edge as well as a hole in the center to hold the wick.
This stone blubber lamp was collected by William Duncan Strong in Hopedale, Labrador Canada. You can see charring along the edge as well as a hole in the center to hold the wick.

This is one of my favorite lessons to do because it gets students to look at objects as cultural markers and to understand how they can be “read” for information about the people who made and used them.

The class is also a source of enjoyment because of how deeply engaged students get, particularly when I give them frustrating answers. “Yes but no” or “no, but close” are two of the phrases I often tell students when they share with me their hypotheses about the objects.

To many students these answers are a challenge. However, the most enjoyable moment is when the entire group rushes across the room to conspiratorially whisper their new answers to me  – least their classmates hear – and jump around in joy to find out they are, in fact, correct.

Best. Part. Of. Teaching. EVER.

Lindsay Randall revealing to the entire class the names and uses of objects at one of the stations.
Lindsay Randall revealing to the entire class the names and uses of objects at one of the stations.