Abbot Academy Fund continues to support the Peabody Institute

Contributed by Marla Taylor

Have you ever heard of the Abbot Academy Fund?  (if you said “yes” from one of our earlier blog posts – Gold Star!)  If not, please allow me to introduce them.

One of the first educational institutions in New England founded for girls and women, Abbot Academy opened its doors in 1829 and flourished until Abbot Academy and Phillips Academy merged on June 28, 1973.  At that point, the Abbot Academy Fund (AAF) was established with $1 million from the Academy’s unrestricted funds.  The fund operates as an internal foundation with its own board of directors.  Its goal is to preserve the history, standards, tradition, and name of Abbot Academy by funding new educational ventures at the combined school.

The Abbot Academy Fund has been a foundational supporter of the Peabody Institute, especially in recent years.  With grants going back to 1990, the AAF has given the Peabody over $250,000!  I was recently reminded of this incredible generosity when the AAF once again provided support to complete the transcription of the Peabody’s original accession ledgers.

Looking back over all the successful grants, the AAF has supported a real variety of projects at the Peabody – everything from exhibition support to object conservation to equipment purchase to expeditionary learning trips.  However, the largest portion of their patronage has gone to support cataloging and rehousing the collection.  They provided funds to purchase a server in 2014 to allow for an online catalog.  And again in 2016-2018 to acquire the boxes needed to rehouse the artifacts and gain physical control over the collection.  All told, the AAF has awarded us over $100,000 in the last ten years!

Basically, the Peabody Institute would not look or operate the way it does now without the incredible support from the Abbot Academy Fund.  I can’t thank them enough!

So much work at the Peabody is brought to you by a grant from the Abbot Academy Fund, continuing Abbot’s tradition of boldness, innovation, and caring.

Halfway there…and funding for the finish!

Contributed by Marla Taylor

I am thrilled to share that we have officially inventoried half of the collection!

As of mid-June, the collections team has inventoried 1,079 artifact drawers – half of the 2,159 that hold our collection.  Those drawers translate to 243,967 individual artifacts that have been counted and rehoused in the process!

A massive “thank you” goes out to all of the staff and volunteers who have contributed to the inventory so far: Rachel Manning, John Bergman-McCool, Emma Cook, Annie Greco, Alex Hagler, Quinn Rosefsky, and dozens of work duty students.

With excitement and deep gratitude, we also announce that funding has been secured to complete the inventory by our target deadline of December 31, 2020.

The Oak River Foundation of Peoria, Illinois has renewed its support for a temporary inventory specialist for another two years.  Our deepest appreciation goes to the Oak River Foundation for its continued generosity and commitment to the Peabody’s goal of improving the intellectual and physical control of the museum’s collections.

But that is not all!

Barbara and Les Callahan have agreed to provide critical funding to extend the appointment of our current inventory specialist – John Bergman-McCool.  Les graduated from Phillips Academy in 1968 and is an active volunteer on campus. Barbara has served on the Peabody Advisory Committee since 2013.  Both have been steadfast advocates and supporters of our mission and we cannot thank them enough for providing this deeply meaningful gift.

We hope these acts 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.

#PAGivingDay

We are delighted to share that we reached our goal of matching Peter Hetzler’s (Class of 1972) generous $10,000 challenge during PA Giving Day 2019!

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Jenny Elkus (Class of 1992) also successfully challenged her class to match gifts up to $1,000 to fund a Peabody Institute Adopt A Drawer!

The final dollar figures and donor counts are not in yet, but this was a big milestone for us, and contributes significantly to our current use fundraising.

Many thanks for all the support received and an extra special thank you to Peter and Jenny for the challenges!

The overall day netted $2,348,896 from 3,624 donors for Andover financial aid, academics, the arts, and outreach programs.

PA Giving Day is March 27, 2019!

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Make your mark on PA Giving Day 2019!

Mark your calendars! The third PA Giving Day is Wednesday, March 27, 2019! Last year the Peabody Institute garnered 60 gifts, nearly doubling PA Giving Day gifts in 2017! This year we hope to have more challenges, more social media posts, and even more support!

 

Collections Reboxing project –Update

Contributed by Marla Taylor

When I last shared an update in December of 2016, we had boxed only 52 drawers in our quest to gain full physical control of our collection.  With the diligent work of students, volunteers, and inventory specialist Rachel Manning, we have now inventoried and boxed over 400 drawers!  More than 75,000 individual artifacts have been counted and documented – including projectile points, bone awls, ceramic sherds, and delicately crafted beads.

At the end of the month, our team will grow again with another Temporary Inventory Specialist – Annie Greco.  Annie’s position is generously funded by Barbara and Les Callahan. Les is Phillips Academy Class of 1968 and Barbara is a member of the Peabody Advisory Committee; both have been active advocates and supporters of our mission. I hope that our next update includes even better news!

Our deepest appreciation goes to the Oak River Foundation for their continued generosity and support of the Peabody’s goal 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.

Birdstones

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

We were fortunate to receive a generous gift from Phillips Academy trustee and Peabody Advisory Committee member Peter T. Hetzler MD, FACS (Class of 1972) in December 2017 that allowed us to purchase several important books to add to our library.

One of these is the very rare, privately published volume Birdstones of the North American Indian by Earl C. Townsend, Jr. Published in 1959, Townsend’s book was limited to 700 copies. A reprint edition was released in 2003 by Steven Hart, but these are also scarce and hard to find. Both the original edition and the reprint can be quite expensive, if you are lucky enough to find one. Townsend (1914-2007) was an attorney and founding member of the Indiana Archaeological Society, as well as an avid collector of Native American artifacts, cars, and artwork. According to Townsend’s obituary, he was honored by the Black River-Swan Creek Saginaw Chippewa Tribe with the name Senee Pen Eshee Na Na, meaning “Birdstone Man.”

Image from the Townsend Birdstones book showing a color plate.
One of the color plates in Townsend’s Birdstones book, showing some of the variations in color and material found among this artifact type.

Townsend’s preface begins with a reference to Warren Moorehead, the Peabody’s first curator, who “spoke of the need for specialized volumes, each devoted to one particular form of prehistoric North American Indian relic.” Moorehead insisted that the province of archaeologists was the study of material culture and he urged his contemporaries to abandoned reconnaissance and site survey that were becoming more common in the first quarter of the twentieth century and hunker down on description and classification of artifacts. Moorehead published at least three volumes that highlighted objects, mostly those held by artifact collectors. His most expansive was the 1910 two volume The Stone Age in North America. Moorehead also published more detailed studies of particular artifact types, like his 1906 The So-Called “Gorgets,” an early bulletin of the Phillips Academy Department of Archaeology, and his 1899 The Bird-stone Ceremonial.

Image of a large pop-eyed birdstone from the Peabody Institute collection.
A magnificent example of a pop-eyed birdstone in banded slate, Warren County, Ohio.

Townsend’s 719-page book is nothing short of monumental, and depicts thousands of birdstones from public and private collections. He also covers the ideas about what these objects are, which are myriad and diverse, as well as how they were made, distribution patterns, cultural affiliations, and fraudulent specimens.

Image of birdstones.
A selection of birdstones from the Peabody Institute collection. Note that some are broken and repaired.

So, what is a birdstone? As Townsend notes, this is not an easy question to answer, since there is no clear agreement on how they were used in antiquity. In terms of form, birdstones are often described as highly stylized depictions of birds. A variety of distinct forms are all described in detail by Townsend. The virtuosity of manufacture, incredible symmetry, and sculptural quality have often elicited comparison with modern art. Sizes range from an inch or two to larger examples that are five or six inches in length. A common feature is the presence of bi-conically drilled holes, one at either end of the birdstone’s base. These holes are often the site of breakage and repair. Most birdstones are made of banded slate, especially the greenish-gray banded Huronian variety, but other stones were used as well, including porphyry. Many have projecting eyes or ears. Few if any have come from secure archaeological contexts and most are known as field finds. Townsend’s distribution map indicates that the vast majority of birdstones in his sample come from areas around the southern margins of the Great Lakes, especially in Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, New York, and Ontario. Cultural affiliations of birdstones vary across this area and include a number of Late Archaic and Early Woodland cultures like Glacial Kame and Red Ochre, circa 1500-500 BCE.

Image of a large birdstone preform showing an early stage of manufacturing birdstones.
A birdstone preform, showing one stage in the manufacture process.

Townsend does a nice job of summarizing the diverse opinions on birdstones. The ideas range from Charles C. Abbott’s notion that they were worn as hair ornaments by women during maternity to use as a spear thrower (atlatl) counterweight. Other ideas include attachment to flutes or similar musical instruments, game pieces, hair or clothing ornaments, staff mounted religious symbols, and atlatl handle grips (Townsend’s preferred idea). Considering the diversity of forms, it seems likely that different styles were used in different ways and there are probably layers of meaning that we are unable to detect. Many contemporary archaeologists have accepted that birdstones are, in fact, associated with atlatls or spear throwers (for example, this is how they are described by David Penney in his essay on Archaic art in the 1985 exhibit catalog Ancient Art of the American Woodland Indians). Many articles about birdstones have been added to the literature since the 1959 publication of Townsend’s book, often proposing new ideas or offering further support or evidence for an existing hypothesis.

We were particularly excited to acquire a copy of Townsend’s Birdstones because the Peabody collections contain many examples of this enigmatic and interesting artifact. Only a few, however, are illustrated in Townsend’s book, including two from Ohio that had been salvaged after breakage (see Townsend 1959: Plates 76s and 77h). A few other fine examples from the Peabody are illustrated here.

It’s unlikely that we will unlock the secret of the birdstone anytime soon, however, we are immensely grateful to Peter Hetzler for his generous gift of the Earl Townsend book, which nicely complements our object collection!

Oak River Foundation continues support of Peabody collections

A storage bay with a mixture of drawers and boxes

Contributed by Marla Taylor

In 2016, the Peabody Museum received a generous grant of $100,000 from the Oak River Foundation of Peoria, Ill., to support work pertaining to the intellectual and physical control of the museum’s collections.

The grant was spread across two years and initially supported the work of an archivist to whip the Peabody’s 100+ years of archives into shape.  With that funding, Irene Gates was able to share archival collection records online and process over 140 linear feet of material.  She also created three finding aids to the material belonging to prominent directors of the Peabody’s past.

The second year of funding is designated to supporting the work of a temporary inventory specialist – Rachel Manning.  Rachel will be spending her time inventorying drawers of artifacts and rehousing them into archival boxes as part of our larger collections storage project.  While she only began her work in early August, Rachael has already been making steady progress.

Rachel inventories a drawer from Massachusetts.
Rachel inventories a drawer from Massachusetts.

And we are pleased to announce that the Oak River Foundation has stepped up again and provided additional funding for Irene to return and spend another year in the Peabody archives!  This second year will facilitate processing the remaining 150 linear feet of material as well as addressing the photographic and map collections.

Our deepest appreciation goes to the Oak River Foundation for their continued generosity and support of the Peabody’s goal 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.

Linda S. Cordell Memorial Research Award

This award supports research at the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology using the collections of the museum. The endowment was named in honor of Dr. Linda S. Cordell, a distinguished archaeologist, specializing in the American Southwest.

Linda Cordell and student participants in Pecos Pathways, near Santa Fe, New Mexico

History

Linda S. Cordell (1943-2013) was Professor Emerita at the University of Colorado Boulder, a Senior Scholar at the School for Advanced Research on the Human Experience, in Santa Fe, external faculty at the Santa Fe Institute, and the former director of the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, Boulder. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she received the A. V. Kidder medal for eminence in American Archaeology from the American Anthropological Association, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for American Archaeology. She was a dedicated and long-time member of the Peabody Advisory Committee and is greatly missed by her colleagues at the museum. Linda’s publications on the archaeology of the Southwest are well-known to scholars and the general public. For more information about Dr. Cordell, visit here.

Linda’s commitment to scholarship and research was the catalyst for the creation of an endowed award in her memory at the Peabody Museum.

Criteria

Professionals in archaeology, anthropology, and allied social, natural and physical sciences. PhD candidates, junior faculty at colleges and universities, and Native American scholars are encouraged to apply.

Application Information

Applications will include: 1) completed application form; 2) one letter of recommendation from faculty advisor (if Ph.D. candidate), academic department chair (if junior faculty), or professional reference; 3) current curriculum vita. The Linda S. Cordell Memorial Research Award application is available from Ryan Wheeler. Applications will be reviewed and ranked by the Linda S. Cordell Memorial Research Award sub-committee, with awards announced annually in the spring. Any destructive sampling or analysis will require approval from Peabody Collections Oversight Committee. Recipients may be invited to share their research with students and faculty at Phillips Academy. Awards support research at the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology using the collections of the museum.

Applications should be submitted to the Director, Robert S. Peabody Museum by January 15. Submissions, including letters of recommendation, should be submitted by e-mail. Award recipients will be selected and notified in spring. The Award may be used anytime during the twelve month period following notification.

Support the Endowment

To make a gift in support of the Linda S. Cordell Memorial Research Award please contact Ryan Wheeler or visit our online giving page.

Recipients

2014

Zac Singer in front of the Peabody storage cabinets that house the Bull Brook collectionUniversity of Connecticut PhD candidate Zac Singer was the first recipient of the Linda S. Cordell Memorial Research Award, which supported his reanalysis of the Neponset site collection, specifically focusing on the middle Paleoindian (circa 10,000 to 11,000 years ago) assemblage from the site. Singer will use the data to complement his excavation and analysis of a Paleoindian site on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in southeastern Connecticut. This research will expand understanding of Paleoindian life in the Northeast, including study of lithic sources and stone tool manufacture; the work also will document a significant but little-studied Peabody Museum collection.

2015

Jessica Watson examines the faunal materials from the Hornblower II siteJessica Watson is a PhD candidate at University at Albany-SUNY. Her research involves analysis of animal bones from the Frisby-Butler and Hornblower II sites on Martha’s Vineyard. These collections were donated to the Peabody in 2012 by Jim Richardson and represent excavations made in 1982 with the late archaeologist Jim Peterson. Jessica says her dissertation research will use “faunal assemblages from sites in the Northeastern U.S. … (to) examine human-environmental interactions by identifying changes in animal populations during early European colonization (ca. 1600-1700).” Her dissertation is tentatively titled Ecological Effects of Colonization on Mammals and Birds along the Northeastern Atlantic Coast.

Photo of archaeologist Adam KingAdam King is Research Associate Professor at the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of South Carolina. His Cordell project focuses on Warren Moorehead’s 1925-1927 excavations at the Etowah site village near Cartersville, Georgia. King says, “my goal is to use the artifacts and documents produced to help evaluate the … ideas about the distribution of village areas at the site and the possibility that the Late Wilbanks village was burned.” He plans to examine pottery collections from the site and collect carbon samples for radiocarbon dating. Adam’s  dissertation on the Etowah site was published as Etowah: The Political History of a Chiefdom Capital (2003) and his research was instrumental in NAGPRA determinations of affiliation made by the Peabody in the 1990s.

2016

Dave Thulman is an Assistant Professorial Lecturer at George Washington UnivPhoto of archaeologist David Thulmanersity where he teaches courses on human rights and ethics, cultural property, the archaeology of North America, and the peopling of the Americas.  He received the Linda S. Cordell Memorial Research Award to support his ongoing documentation of Paleoindian and Early Archaic period artifacts. Dave has already collected over 5000 early stone tool images, mainly from the Southeast, and new data from the Peabody’s collections will be used in several shape analyses, particularly looking at shape differences and assessing the degree of regional variation. He notes that current shape analyses of Paleoindian tools has been done on small datasets and that his “intent is to analyze hundreds of Paleoindian and Early Archaic artifacts to produce robust statistical inferences about temporal and spatial group relationships.” Dave received his PhD in 2006 from Florida State University in Tallahassee and serves as president of the non-profit Archaeological Research Cooperative, Inc. (ARCOOP).

 

Adopt A Drawer: What is it like to catalog a drawer?

The drawer before cataloging

Contributed by Marla Taylor

In fall 2013 the Peabody launched Adopt A Drawer, which connects supporters with our collections. Each gift of $1,000 supports the complete cataloging of one artifact storage drawer. Participants receive an Adopt A Drawer t-shirt, updates on cataloging,  and their support is acknowledged with a name plaque and in our online catalog, PastPerfect.

Cataloging the adopted drawers is a time-consuming but rewarding task. Each drawer is selected with care to identify areas of the collection that need a little extra TLC. Often times, I don’t even know what I am going to find in the drawer!

The drawer that I am currently working on has taken quite some time. There are over 130 artifacts – mostly stone tools – from at least 13 different sites across France. Many of them are from cave sites of the Magdalenian era (10,000 – 17,000 years ago), but some of these blades, scrapers, and cores date as far back as 70,000 years old. Some of these tools could have been crafted by the hands of Neanderthals.

The drawer before cataloging
The drawer before cataloging

When I first began work on the drawer, the tools were piled on top of one another in several smaller boxes. This poor storage can easily lead to damage along the delicately crafted edges of these tools. It was in need of a major upgrade!

With the help of work duty students – I couldn’t do this without them! – each artifact was photographed, measured, and rehoused. I have researched each artifact in our original accession ledgers for location and collection information. These records have then been combined with notes provided by Kathleen Sterling and Sebastien Lacombe of Binghampton University and experts in the lithic technology of France’s Upper Paleolithic who visited the collection in May 2015. I am integrating all of this information into their catalog records and the adoption process is nearly complete.

I will soon share details of the contents of this drawer with its donor and you can access it too by exploring our collection online.

For additional information how to adopt a drawer watch our short video or visit our website.

Oak River Foundation Supports Peabody Collections with $100,000 Grant

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

The Peabody Museum received a grant of $100,000 from the Oak River Foundation of Peoria, Ill., to support work pertaining to the intellectual and physical control of the museum’s collections.

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A portion of the Peabody’s archive.

The first year of funding will support the work of a museum archivist who will organize the Peabody archives, which contain significant materials related to work by Warren Moorehead, Doug Byers, Fred Johnson, Scotty MacNeish, and others. This project will facilitate digitization of archival collections through our partnership with the Boston Public Library’s Digital Commonwealth, a statewide consortium of libraries, museums, archives, and historical societies from across Massachusetts. Researchers regularly use our archives, and this project will aid in locating materials and making collections more broadly available.

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Students with some of the ceramic figurines from Scotty MacNeish’s excavations in Mexico’s Tehuacán Valley.

The second year of funding will support the process of cataloging the Peabody’s significant object collections related to Scotty MacNeish’s excavations in Mexico, Peru, and the American Southwest, as well as collections from the Northeast. We also hope to substantially increase the number of records in the museum’s database and include all cataloged artifacts in our online catalog, PastPerfect (http://peabody.pastperfect-online.com/40391cgi/mweb.exe?request=random).

The work supported by the Oak River Foundation is just a small part of the overall effort to increase physical and intellectual control of the Peabody’s collections. We hope this gift will inspire others to support work to better catalog, document, and make accessible the Peabody’s world-class collections of objects, photographs, and archival materials. If you would like to support this work, please contact me at 978-749-4493 or rwheeler@andover.edu.