Behind the Photograph: Unpacking the Peabody Collection

Contributed by Emma Lavoie

Throughout history we have used images to tell a story and to document a period or memory in time. Today our society continues to find ways to connect and communicate through social media and digital platforms, using images to share their lives and stories more than ever.

The Peabody collection contains more than 600,000 artifacts, photographs, and documents. The Peabody’s photograph collection, specifically, is extensive and contains many interesting, yet untold stories. To bring these stories and photographs to light, we would like to share them with YOU, fellow readers, in our new blog series, Behind the Photograph.

Our inspiration for this new series of blogs was a photograph of Warren K. Moorehead and the Fort Ancient excavation in Ohio. You can view this story here! To kick off the Behind the Photograph blog series, we’d like to share a second photograph from the Peabody collections.

Students unpack Robert S. Peabody’s collections in the school gymnasium, circa 1901. Lantern slide, from the photographic collections, Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology

This photograph is a lantern slide from the Peabody’s photographic collections. The photograph depicts Phillips Academy students in 1901 unpacking Robert S. Peabody’s donated collections in the school’s old gymnasium. The old gymnasium was located in the Brick Academy – the gym incarnation of Bulfinch Hall. At the time, a new gym (Borden Gymnasium) and the Archaeology Department (later known as the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology) were in the process of being designed and built on the Phillips Academy campus. In June 1896, fire had gutted the gym leaving the brick walls intact. Although the building was re-roofed, it went largely unused until the Peabody collection was sorted and stored there in 1901.

Earlier in this same year, the Archaeology Department was founded on March 21st at a Trustees meeting held in Boston. An endowment and collection were given from an anonymous donor, now known to be Robert S. Peabody. The school chose Principal Bancroft of the Academy, Professor Warren K. Moorehead, and Dr. Charles Peabody (founder’s son) as the officers of the Archaeology Department. Warren K. Moorehead served as the curator and chief executive officer of the department, while Charles Peabody served as honorary director. For more information on the founding of the Peabody Institute, check out this article from the Phillips Academy student newspaper, the Phillipian.

As the development and construction of the Archaeology Department building was underway, archaeology classes and the Archaeology Department’s collections were held in the old gymnasium. An article from the Phillipian states that Dr. Peabody and Professor Moorehead wished to unpack certain specimens and students would not attend lectures for some weeks. Instead, students met in the old gym to unpack Robert S. Peabody’s founding collection and begin preliminary sorting of the artifacts before they were relocated to the completed Archaeology Building several years later. The 1901 article states that “students found the laboratory work unique and interesting.”

If you look closely in the image, you will see a man standing in the background to the left of the long work table. It certainly looks like Warren K. Moorehead overseeing the sorting and work of the students. Also in the image are the very wooden drawers that are still located at the Peabody today!

In an effort to maintain the sustainability and integrity of the Peabody’s collections, the Peabody collection team is working to rehouse all artifacts from these wooden drawers to acid free collection boxes to better preserve and protect the collection materials. It is our hope in the future to provide proper storage space and conditions that match the preservation needs of our collections.

As more and more wooden drawers are emptied through our inventory and rehousing project, we no longer have use for them. As a result of this, we recently began giving away these wooden drawers to those who may find ways to repurpose them through various DIY projects. You can check out these projects here, here, and here!

If you are interested in having your very own historic drawer, you can contact me at elavoie@andover.edu to schedule a safe and socially distanced pickup. (Who knows… you may even get one of the drawers that were originally in this photograph!)

This image marks a significant time in the Peabody’s history, representing the introduction of archaeology to PA students and the birth of the Peabody Institute and its collections. To learn more about archaeology at Phillips Academy check out Peabody Director, Dr. Ryan Wheeler’s blog and article, Archaeology in the Classroom at a New England Prep School.

Hello Spring!

Contributed by Emily Hurley

After months of cold temperatures and snow storms I’m sure we’re all looking forward to spring and warmer weather! This year the first day of spring, or the spring equinox, takes place on March 20th. To some, equinoxes mark nothing more than seasons passing by. But to others, they were and still are an important time for celebration.

For many Indigenous cultures around the world, the spring equinox is an important time for not only practical, but also ceremonial purposes. Equinoxes were traditionally used to determine what animals would be available for hunting, when to plant and harvest crops, and they marked periods of migration for nomadic groups.

The equinox is marked differently by Indigenous nations around the world, but because tracking the sun’s movements was essential for survival, some cultures found ways to do so in the form of solar calendars. The Maya calendar is perhaps the most well-known of these but there were many others. The Mayans also created other ways to track the sun. The Pyramid of Kulkulkan (or El Castillo) at the site of Chichén Itzá in the Yucatán Peninsula, displays a serpent along the staircase during the equinox. Many still flock to the site on the equinox to see the serpent today.

Image showing the descent of Kulkulkan at Chichén Itzá, March 21st 2009. Image courtesy of Bmamlin, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

At the prehistoric site of Cahokia in Illinois, archaeologists in the 1960s discovered pits arranged into five large circles. Fragments of wood inside the pits indicated that sacred red cedar wood had been used as posts. Archaeologists dubbed this area as “Woodhenge” after realizing that some of the posts act as seasonal markers, marking the solstices and equinoxes. On the day of the spring equinox, the post marking this event aligns with Monk’s Mound (the largest Pre-Columbian earthwork in the Americas and the residence of the leader of Cahokia), where the sun emerges from behind the mound.

An artist’s conception of Woodhenge at sunrise, circa 1000 CE. Image courtesy of Herb Roe, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons
The reconstructed Woodhenge at the site of Cahokia, 2010. Image courtesy of Ryan Wheeler.
Ryan Wheeler visiting the reconstructed Woodhenge at the site of Cahokia, 2010. Image courtesy of Ryan Wheeler.

Another example of using the sun to create certain images is found at the site of Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. At the top of the Fajada Butte are two spirals etched into the rock which on the equinox, are sliced by a dagger of sunlight, called the “Sun Dagger.” Unfortunately the rocks on the butte have shifted, possibly due to human traffic at the site, and now the sunlit images no longer appear. At other areas of the Chaco Canyon site, interred bird bones have been discovered, and archaeologists believe these were the result of sacrificing scarlet macaws during the equinox. Due to their red and yellow feathers, these birds were associated with the sun and fire, and it is thought that sacrificing them during the equinox was a symbolic way of ending the winter season. This was also a common practice among groups throughout the Southwest and Northern Mexico.

Fajade Butte in 2015. Image courtesy of Rationalobserver, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
A diagram of the sunlit areas that were present during equinoxes and solstices at Fajada Butte. The spring, or vernal equinox, is in the center. Image courtesy of Nationalparks, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

In the Anishinaabe tradition, spring is celebrated as the beginning of their new year. Known as the Sugar Moon, this was the time when maple sap would start to run from the trees. Maple sap is considered to have important medicinal properties to the Anishinaabe as it balanced the blood.

Spring traditions in many native cultures are inextricably linked to the sun and moon, as the beginning of spring is marked by the equinox. It was a time symbolic of balance, because during the equinox day and night are of equal length. Spring has also historically symbolized rebirth and growth. It is the time when the earth is awakening from its winter slumber, and the life cycle is beginning again. Animals come out of hibernation and plants begin to bloom and grow again. Many traditions that have grown out of the equinox are based around this idea of balance and new beginnings.

Spring was also recognized by many Native American groups as a time to gather together and make decisions about their communities. It was a time to discuss which groups travelled where, what to do about hostile tribes, and where they could find resources. Today, many Indigenous groups still hold spring equinox gatherings and celebrations, which generally include music, dancing, ritual ceremonies, arts and crafts, and a feast of traditional dishes.

While spring traditions may look different to everyone, I think most can agree that it is a time of growth and fresh starts. With the upcoming season we have a lot to look forward to. We get to smell the fresh, clean air after a spring rain and watch flowers start to bloom. And let’s not forget about spring cleaning! Hopefully warmer weather and fun spring activities are right around the corner!

For further reading check out these resources:

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/160317-spring-vernal-equinox-astronomy-native-american

http://blog.nativepartnership.org/spring-equinox-in-native-american-cultures/

http://muskratmagazine.com/indigenous-calendars-mark-much-more-than-the-spring-equinox/

From the Peabody With Love

Contributed by Emma Lavoie

To celebrate Valentine’s Day this month, the Peabody would like to highlight some love-related objects from our collection. From heart-shaped designs to meanings of love, we hope these featured artifacts give you that “loving feeling.”

Venus Figurine (59953)

Venus – the goddess of love and beauty – is a common figurine found in museums and archaeological excavations. Venus figurines such as those in the Peabody collection, were used in various ways such as offerings, ritual practices, and as grave goods in burials. For more on these figurines and their history check out this article from Current Anthropology by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

This artifact is a dark green plaster cast reproduction of a Venus figurine. The original figurine was made of crystalline talc and was excavated from the Grimaldi Caves in Italy. The figurine, known as Pulcinella or the Venus of Polichinelle, is dated to the Aurignacian or Upper Paleolithic period (about 40,000 – 10,000 BCE). The cast figurine was acquired by Warren K. Moorehead in 1925 on one of his trips to Europe. The figurine reproduction is a part of the Peabody’s education collection.

Cast reproduction of a Venus figurine from Italy.

Heart Padlock (107/7688)

Heart-shaped locks have their origins in a Scandinavian-style padlock. These locks were made with various metals such as brass, bronze, and cast iron. The two key characteristics of a traditional heart lock were a spring-loaded keyhole cover called a “drop” that would keep dirt and insects out of the lock (not present on this specific artifact) and a metal loop so a chain could be placed through it to prevent the lock from getting lost or stolen. Source: “The History of Padlocks,” Lock Blog. United Locksmith. 2021.

This large metal padlock was excavated by Adelaide and Ripley Bullen in the summer of 1943. The padlock was found in a dump pile southwest of the cellar hole at the Lucy Foster site, the nineteenth century Andover homestead of an emancipated African American woman. Ripley was employed as a student assistant at the Peabody during the 1940s, and Adelaide helped with the library and other tasks; both of their sons graduated from Phillips Academy. You can learn more about Adelaide Kendall Bullen and the Lucy Foster site from the following blogs: Women of the Peabody, Peabody at the Smithsonian, and Lucy Foster’s Ceramic Collection.

These heart-shaped locks remind me of the Pont des Arts, the famous Lock Bridge in Paris, France. I had first visited this bridge in high school on a study-abroad trip where I fell in love with the story of the Love Lock Bridge (no pun intended). The Pont des Arts is right near the Louvre and crosses the Seine River. The tradition is for lovers to attach personalized padlocks to its railing and throw the keys away in the Seine River. While the tradition did not originate in Paris, it is the most famous destination and is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2015, the French government began to remove the padlocks (45 tons in total!) from the bridge in order to protect the historical structure. For more on this tradition and the efforts for its removal, visit here.

One large heart-shaped padlock excavated from the Lucy Foster Site in 1943.

Wedding Vessel (2018.5.4)

The hand painted, ceramic vessel is a Jemez wedding vase made by artist Andrea Fragua, from the Pueblo of Jemez, New Mexico. The wedding vase plays a significant part in traditional marriage ceremonies. The two spouts represent the separate lives of the to-be married couple. The bridge at the top unites the two spouts. The vase is filled with holy water or herbal infused tea and the couple drinks from their respective side. If the couple manages to drink from the vase together without spilling, they will have a strong relationship. This ceremony is similar to the exchanging of wedding rings. Source: “Pueblo Wedding Vases,” Toh-Atin Gallery. Durango, CO. 2021.

Friend of the Peabody, Dominique Toya, fired a wedding vase in summer 2020. Dominque is an artist and educator from the Pueblo of Jemez. For five years now, the Toya family (Dominque, Maxine, and Mia Toya) have visited Phillips Academy to make traditional Pueblo pottery with PA students through Thayer Zaeder’s ceramic classes. To learn more about these visits check out this blog. To view the live firing of a wedding vase by Dominique Toya check it out here!

Wedding vessel used in marriage ceremonies.

Winter Artifacts in the Peabody Collections

Contributed by Emma Lavoie

As children who anxiously wait for the first snowfall each winter season, we find ourselves looking forward with anticipation to a brand new year. The winter months begin to take hold, bringing not only cold weather, snow storms, and shorter days, but also the excitement of snow days, fresh snow landscapes, and winter activities! In the spirit of the winter season, I would like to highlight some winter artifacts in the Peabody’s collection. I included each object’s ID number for you to find in our online collections catalog. As you explore these objects, think about whether you have seen or used anything similar to these objects in your life and during your winter activities. How have some of these objects changed through time? You may be surprised by what you discover!

Snowshoes are a classic winter activity, but also a necessity for survival and travel in Arctic regions. Historians believe snowshoes were created about 4,000-6,000 years ago, however the exact origin and age of snowshoes is unknown. The invention of snowshoes may even be inspired by animals such as the snowshoe hare and the Canadian lynx, whose oversized feet give them the ability to move quickly through the snow. The snowshoes pictured here are made of wood, sinew, rawhide, cloth, and yarn. The tear drop shape makes these snowshoes well suited for distance travel in more open environments, especially in deep snow.

A pair of snow shoes in the ‘Siouan’ style from the Great Lakes Area, 1850-1950. Object #99.35.1

Boots are an essential accessory for winter wear and many who have experienced a snowy climate have owned more than one pair of winter boots. Mukluks are a soft, watertight boot traditionally made of seal or caribou skin. The sole of most mukluks are made of sealskin, which is sewn to tops of caribou skin with sinew thread to produce watertight seams. Mukluks are worn by Arctic native cultures such as the Inuit,Iñupiat, and Yupik. The term “mukluk” is of Yupik origins (from maklak), meaning “bearded seal.” The Mukluks pictured here were made by Inuit seamstress Anna Etegeak, from Unalakleet, Alaska.

A pair of women’s seal Mukluks from Unalakleet, Alaska. Object #99.7.1

Snow knives were designed as a multi-purpose tool between 1800 and 1925 by the Inuit, a cultural group inhabiting Arctic areas of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. These knives were made of ivory, horn, or bone. Snow knives are used for cutting and trimming blocks of snow for building Inuit snow houses known as igloos. Snow knives were also used to cut snow for drinking water.

Bone snow knife with handle wrapped in hide from Kotzebue, Alaska. Object #251/27

The Ulu or “woman’s knife,” was used by Inuit women as an all-purpose tool. Ulu’s could be used to skin an animal, cut food, trim ice blocks for igloos, or to give a haircut. Early Ulu’s were made from flat, thin rock or slate. Handles were made out of wood, ivory, or bone. Later, as whaling became more common in Alaska, the Inuit took advantage of steel to make their Ulu’s sharper and more varied in design. Ulu’s are still made and used today – there is even an Ulu factory in Alaska! This particular Ulu is of a later design from the Nuwuk site, an unincorporated Inuit village known as “Kokmullit.” This site is located in Point Barrow or Nuvuk, a headland on the Arctic coast of Alaska.

Metal Ulu with ivory handle from the Nuwuk site, Alaska. Object #98.15.262

Snow goggles functioned as sun glasses for the Inuit. These were used to protect the eyes against the harsh Arctic sun that would blindingly reflect off a landscape of snow and ice.

Anavik wearing snow goggles made of wood. Photo by Rudolph M. Anderson, May 1916, Canadian Museum of Civilization.

Below are some examples of snow goggles within our collection. One is an incomplete pair of snow goggles made from walrus ivory. The eye and nose areas have been carved, but no slits were cut for the eyes. The other is a complete pair of snow goggles made by contemporary indigenous artist, Sandy Maniapik, from Pangnirtung, Nunavut on Baffin Island. These snow goggles were purchased in Vancouver at the Inuit Gallery of Vancouver to be used in our teaching collections where students examine the Peabody’s arctic collections to support their learning about northern societies. Check out more of this lesson here.

Pair of unfinished snow goggles made from walrus ivory: Alaska, 1800 AD. Object #98.25.2
A complete pair of Inuit style snow goggles made of caribou antler with black cordage as a strap. Object #2017.4.2

Inuit men in the western Arctic often wore labrets, also known as lip plugs or lip gauges. Inuit boys and men would pierce below their lips and place a large ivory labret inside the lip where it would rest against the lower teeth. Labrets were removed for long-distance travel in the cold to protect them from frostbite caused by cold conducted through the labret.

Four ivory lip plugs from the Western Inuit. Object #270/18

This form of body modification was designed to make the men look like a walrus, an important animal to the Western Inuit. This form of adornment represented the sense of spirit or “Inua” possessed by every living or natural thing. “Inua” facilitates the transformation of man into animal and animal into man, a common theme in Inuit belief. (Source: Peabody Exhibit Label, 2005, Past Perfect Database.)

A whaling captain wearing a labret. Wales, Alaska circa 1905. Courtesy of the Anchorage Museum, B96.9.05

In the mid-1800s, beaver pelts were a unit trade, prized for their water repellant fur and warmth, and material longevity. After being cleaned and stretched (see image below), beaver skins were transformed into beaver pelts. Furs have played a large role in clothing across human history. Beaver pelts were popularly used in the production of outerwear such as coats, hats, garment and shoe lining, and ornamental adornment. Explore a brief history of the beaver trade and beaver pelts here.

Beaver pelt stretched on an oval frame with leather strips. Object #2012.8.40

Carvings of human figures served many purposes in traditional Inuit culture. They could possess curative powers when used by shamans. Sometimes they ‘stood in’ for someone missing an important social or religious event. Fathers also carved figurines for their daughters for play. Dolls for play were armless or had their arms close to their bodies so that their clothing could be easily changed. Both male and female figurines were made and dressed in clothing appropriate to their social group and gender.

Inuit girls would dress their dolls in clothes that they made. This was how many young girls learned to make water and wind proof clothes, a very important skill for survival in Arctic regions.

In some regions, such as the Bering Sea area, girls could not play with figurines inside the house or during winter. It was common belief that the return of geese in spring represented a period in which it was safe to play again and girls were allowed to play with their dolls. If a girl did not wait, she risked causing the geese to fly by without stopping and spring would pass directly into winter. (Source: Peabody Exhibit Label, 2005, Past Perfect Database.)

Female figurine made from ivory: Northwest Alaska, 1778-1896. Object #98.27.1

Animal effigies carved from ivory such as this polar bear may be linked to “hunting magic” or “sympathetic magic” in which effigies were used in rituals to increase the number of animals before a hunt or influence reality. Hunting is one of the oldest and most successful human adaptations, and is necessary for survival in the Arctic. The French priest and archaeologist, Abbe Henri Breuil, is an important figure in the history of cave art interpretation. Breuil believed many Paleolithic cave paintings were evidence of hunting magic. For more on Abbe Henri Breuil and hunting magic click here.

This particular polar bear effigy and style is suggested to be Thule, a culture that migrated throughout Alaska, Canada, and Greenland about 1000 years ago. (Source: Peabody Exhibit Label, 2005, Past Perfect Database.)

Polar bear effigy made from ivory: Northwest Alaska, date unknown. Object #98.27.2

To learn more about the history of these artifacts, check out these sources:

Snowshoes Magazine – From Bear Paws to Beaver Tails: The History of Snowshoes

History of Snowshoes and How They Were Made

Canadian Icons: History of the Mukluk

Traditional Snow Tools and Technologies: Snow Knives by Our Winter World

Ulu Factory, Alaska – History of the Ulu

Smithsonian Magazine: These Snow Goggles Demonstrate Thousands of Years of Indigenous Ingenuity

A Note on Labret Use Around the Bering and Chukchi Seas by Don E. Dumond

A Brief History of the Beaver Trade

Hunting Magic and Abbe Breuil

Technology Meets Creativity at the Peabody

Contributed by Lindsay Randall

This winter I have been exploring and learning a new online platform – PowToon

PowToon is a digital platform that is used to create fully customized videos for a variety of audiences. The videos can be short or long (max 20 min) and can include cartoon elements or real images and video.

My first video is targeted toward new faculty at the school who may not know how they can work with the Peabody. An engaging, fun video – in addition to our course catalogue – will hopefully bring new collaborations and faculty to the Peabody.

I am excited to continue learning this program and producing videos to highlight and augment our educational initiatives and digital programs such as Diggin’ In.

NAGPRA at 30: Reflecting on the Past, Looking to the Future

NAGPRA at 30: Reflecting on the Past, Looking to the Future

New England Museum Association Annual Meeting 2020

NAGPRA resources for session attendees:

NAGPRA Communities of Practice: https://liberalarts.du.edu/anthropology-museum/nagpra/community-practice Network of NAGPRA practitioners from museums, tribes, universities, and government agencies; bimonthly Zoom calls with presentations and networking opportunities; document and repatriation policy sharing.

National NAGPRA: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nagpra/index.htm The National Park Service’s national NAGPRA website, with templates, databases, grant information, and contacts for the NPS professional NAGPRA staff.

NAGPRA data visualization: https://public.tableau.com/profile/melanie.obrien#!/vizhome/NAGPRA-Totals/1_Reported Tableau presentation of NAGPRA data, highlighting institutional and geographic compliance.

Association on American Indian Affairs annual repatriation conference: https://www.indian-affairs.org/repatriation_conference.html The annual conference brings together repatriation practitioners and includes plenary and specialized sessions on all aspects of NAGPRA and repatriation.

Carrying our Ancestors Home: https://www.fowler.ucla.edu/archaeology/coah/ Fowler Museum at UCLA project that documents their work with repatriation.

NAGPRA resources from the University of Indiana, Bloomington: https://lrnagpra.sitehost.iu.edu/nagpra-education/Educational%20Resources.php Includes online resources, further reading, videos, and more.

Contact information and bios for facilitators:

Nekole Alligood, independent consultant, is a member of the Delaware Nation and has served as the NAGPRA Officer for the Nation. Alligood is a cultural anthropologist who has worked in museums and in Section 106.  She has conducted NAGPRA repatriations in collaboration with the Delaware Tribe of Indians and the Stockbridge-Munsee Community and a non-NAGPRA reburial teaming with the National Forest Service in West Virginia.  She currently is a scholar on the development of a traveling exhibit with Ball State University and Ohio History Connection focused on St. Claire’s Defeat (Battle of the Wabash).  She also is working with Ohio History Connection on a reinterpretation of Schoenbrunn Village in Ohio. E-mail: workinglenape@gmail.com

Jaime Arsenault is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO), Repatriation Representative, and Archives Manager for the White Earth Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. Ms. Arsenault has worked with Indigenous communities for over 20 years. Currently, she is a member of the Minnesota Historical Society Indian Advisory Committee and the Repatriation Working Group with the Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA) and a member of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History Repatriation Review Committee. She is a Community Intellectual Property Advisory Board Member for the Penobscot Nation and sits on both the Advisory Committee and the Collections Committee of the Peabody Institute of Archaeology. Ms. Arsenault also serves as a MuseDI Partner on decolonization practice for the Abbe Museum. E-mail: Jaime.Arsenault@whiteearth-nsn.gov

David Goldstein is an anthropologist with the National Park Service currently serving as the Tribal and Cultural Affairs Specialist in the Northeast Region. David works to bring the region’s tribal and community partners into the NPS stewardship programs through sharing capacity and ongoing consultation.  The goal is to support self-determination and resource protection, acknowledging that tribal and community partnerships provide long term sustainability to stewardship. E-mail: david_goldstein@nps.gov

Katie Kirakosian is a trained archaeologist whose research focuses on the history of Native American archaeology. She has conducted archival research in repositories throughout New England and New York State on many NAGPRA sensitive sites, particularly shell middens, prompting recent research with co-author Irene Gates on the complex nature of archival records and digital repatriation. E-mail: kvkirako@anthro.umass.edu

Krystiana L. Krupa is NAGPRA Program Officer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her NAGPRA experience includes osteology and archival research relating to university and museum collections in addition to consultation. Krystiana’s current work focuses on tribal perspectives on the repatriation of biological samples extracted from ancestral remains, such as ancient DNA extracts. E-mail: klkrupa@illinois.edu

Melanie O’Brien is responsible for carrying out all duties assigned to the National NAGPRA Program by the Secretary of the Interior and serves as the Designated Federal Officer to the NAGPRA Review Committee. Throughout her career, Melanie has specialized in Federal-Indian law and policy, applying her master’s degree in public history from Loyola University Chicago to the work of the Federal government. E-mail: maobrien@nps.gov

Lorén M. Spears, Narragansett, Executive Director of Tomaquag Museum, holds a Master’s in Education and received a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from the University of Rhode Island. She is an author, artist and shares her cultural knowledge with the public through museum programs. She has written curriculum, poetry, and narratives published in a variety of publications such as Dawnland Voices, An Anthology of Indigenous Writing of New England; Through Our Eyes: An Indigenous View of Mashapaug Pond; The Pursuit of Happiness: An Indigenous View and From Slaves to Soldiers: The 1st Rhode Island Regiment in the American Revolution. Recently, she co-edited a new edition of A Key into the Language of America by Roger Williams. She consults with K-12 districts, Higher Education, museums and historical societies on Native American Cultural Competency and DEI/J training. E-mail: lorenspears@tomaquagmuseum.org

Marla Taylor is the curator of collections at the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA.  She has worked in all facets of collections management from cataloging to conservation to repatriation.  Marla currently splits her time between leading an effort to conduct a full inventory of the collection and facilitating access to the Peabody’s collection for tribal partners, researchers, and educators. E-mail: mtaylor@andover.edu

Jayne-Leigh Thomas is the Director of the Office of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act at Indiana University. Her work involves active consultation with over 100 federally recognized sovereign nations across the United States to return ancestral human remains and cultural items to their rightful communities. Her research interests are NAGPRA, repatriation, bioarchaeology, ethics, cremation studies, and mortuary studies. E-mail: thomajay@indiana.edu

Jackie Veninger-Robert is the NAGPRA Coordinator for the University of Connecticut.  In addition to her NAGPRA and collection management responsibilities for the Office of State Archaeology, Jackie advises students and provides instruction on issues surrounding Native American cultural property law and advocates for opportunities to decolonize museum anthropology.  Jackie has worked for tribal governments in southern New England in a NAGPRA and collections management capacity.  She is a non-member advisee of Connecticut’s Native American Heritage Advisory Council (NAHAC).  Her research interests include: archaeological ethics, heritage management and conflict archaeology. E-mail: jacqueline.veninger@uconn.edu

Ryan Wheeler is the director of the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology, a museum at Phillips Academy, Andover MA. At the Peabody he has advanced a strategic vision focused on collections, education, and repatriation. In 2017, Ryan co-founded the Journal of Archaeology & Education, the only academic journal devoted to the intersection of these two fields. Ryan lives with his family in Medford, MA. E-mail: rwheeler@andover.edu

What’s Behind the Mask? Exploring the Many Faces of the Peabody’s Mask Collection

Contributed by Emma Lavoie

As Halloween draws near and the October chill finally takes hold, I enjoy getting into the Halloween spirit with either a frightening book or movie. Recently, I have taken an interest in a Netflix show called, The Haunting of Bly Manor. It is the follow-up series to The Haunting of Hill House and the second entry in The Haunting series. This series is loosely based on Henry James’ 1898 novella, The Turn of the Screw (for any avid readers out there.)

As I watch each episode of Bly Manor (no spoilers here!), a “hidden” ghost has captured my attention. A figure with a beaked mask lurks in the shadows in the background of several scenes, most of the time not moving, but watching and hiding. Something so obscure has had such a profound impact that I find myself continuing to search the background of every scene in each episode I watch. A significant part of this obscurity is the ghost’s mask. The mask itself disguises the true identity of the character, but its design reveals a significant clue – the ghost was a plague doctor.

Suddenly, I had so many questions – Who is behind the mask? What is their story? What role will this “ghost” play as we unravel the terrifying history of Bly Manor? So many questions and predictions I began to make, yet, one thing became clear – I was going to write a Peabody blog on masks! 😃

The history of the mask is extensive and has changed across time and space. The Halloween tradition began as an old Celtic, pagan celebration (known as Samhain) marking the end of summer and the coming of winter. It was believed on this night that the veil between the world of the living and the dead diminished enough to allow ghosts to cross over and wreak havoc on the living world. To avoid and drive away these spirits, it was custom to wear masks and costumes. People would wear masks before leaving their homes at night so that ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits. Other masks were designed to scare away spirits and protect people’s homes and identities.

During the Renaissance, the Halloween mask became popular in masquerade balls. They were not scary, but beautiful and extravagant. However, instead of scaring away spirits, these masks disguised the identities of the upper class giving them the ability to take part in activities society typically frowned upon.

Today, for many Halloween-goers, masks and costumes take on various designs that are scary or inspired by characters, historic figures, or pop culture. No longer a means to ward off unwanted hauntings from ghosts, Halloween masks are still used as a disguise and give trick-or-treaters a new identity for one night each year.

For more history on Halloween and Halloween masks click here and here!

There are so many “faces” in our world’s mask history. There are “death” or “funeral” masks like those used in Ancient Egypt. Masks to show expression for plays in Ancient Greece. Some masks were designed for war, celebrations, and dances. We also now, more than ever, see the presence of masks in our world today. There are masks used in rituals and ceremonies by many cultures around the world. In pop culture, there are masked characters in movies such as Darth Vadar, Zorro, and Scream. There are masks in music such as Daft Punk, Kiss, and celebrity talent shows like The Masked Singer. There are functional masks used for work (welding masks) or protection (sport masks.) And most popular of all, we see face masks during the Covid-19 pandemic. As we have come to realize, masks cannot be easily defined to one category or function, but they all have a purpose and cultural meaning behind them.

Click here for an interesting infographic and cultural guide to the history of masks.

The Peabody has a fascinating collection of masks and I would like to share some with you! These masks are primarily from Mexico and Guatemala. All the masks are hand-painted with some masks including other materials such as fabric, mirrors, glass, horse hair, and animal teeth. Some of these masks were created to specifically scare evil spirits in cultural rituals, so some of these masks may appear scary or have an eerie appearance to them, which is their intended purpose.

Deer mask from Guatemala

The first mask is from Guatemala and depicts a deer with silver painted antlers and a fabric headdress with attached mirrors. If you look closely you can see bottle caps strung between the deer’s antlers.

Wood and polychrome paint, shaman’s mask

This wood mask is a shaman’s mask from Mexico, carved and painted with polychrome paint. The upper half of the mask depicts a human face with the lower half of the mask depicting the face of a jaguar. The use of two faces may symbolize the duality of life. The jaguar is a popular symbol used in Maya and Aztec mythology. Some cultures had a jaguar god, while others believed in a “were-jaguar,” a human-jaguar hybrid similar to what we know as a werewolf in various folklore. It is unlikely that the mask was worn by anyone, as there are no eyeholes.

Green ghoul festival mask
Carved and painted festival mask

These next two masks from Mexico are festival masks representing a green ghoul and red face with yellow slanted eyes. Although there is little known about these designs, the green ghoul mask has similar features to masks used in the Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) ceremony, while the red face mask has similar design features to Pastorelas (plays performed around Christmas) masks that depict the devil. These masks would have been used in holiday festival ceremonies or dances.

Wooden black devil masks

Next are two painted, wood masks depicting the Devil. This design features a black face and horns with red eyes and mouth. The teeth of these masks are traditionally real animal teeth. The expressions of the devil masks vary between angry and laughing. The fangs and color schemes are carried on from depictions of ancient Aztec gods, as the devil is a post-Hispanic idea in Central America. Before Spanish Conquest, Mexican cultures had no equivalent to the Devil. Masks like these would have been used in ritual dances such as Los Tecuanes (re-enacts a jaguar hunt) and Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians), where the devil was associated with death. The masks would have also been used in ceremonies during festivals such as Carnival and Holy Week.

Purepecha Devil Mask

This mask is a devil mask from Michoacan, Mexico and is most likely from the village of Angahuan belonging to the Purepecha indigenous group. The mask is made of painted, carved wood with dark hair decoration and pigs’ teeth. The bottom jaw was moveable in performances and the seven small devils on the forehead represent the seven deadly sins. This mask would have been used during Christmas Pastorelas when many devils are humorously trying to prevent the shepherds and hermits from getting to Bethlehem to pay homage to the new born baby Jesus.

Purepecha Old Man Mask

This mask is a very old mask from Charo, Michoacan, Mexico. The mask is from the Purepecha indigenous group, which is now today described as the Mestizo, as most inhabitants no longer speak Purepecha. The mask itself represents an old man and was used in La Danza del Toro y Los Viejitos (The Dance of the Bull and the Old Men) during Carnival celebrations. An example of the Danza de los Viejitos (Dance of the Little Old Men) can be found here.

Many of these masks were researched by past Phillips Academy work duty students who helped provide further information on mask designs and depictions that were not originally known or available.

The Purepecha devil mask and old man mask were identified by Bill LeVasseur, an American collector of Mexican ceremonial masks from San Miguel de Allende. Bill owns and operates a gallery of over 500 Mexican masks called, Another Face of Mexico. Explore the gallery here!

The Making of the Peabody Annual Report

Contributed by Emma Lavoie

To many institutions, the annual report is one of the most important pieces of information. A single document, yet a powerful tool in communicating an institution’s performance during each fiscal year. Each fall the Peabody presents their annual report to the public, highlighting their achievements, overall performance of the past year, as well as their goals and objectives for the coming year. Not only does the annual report provide a snap shot of what a year at the Peabody looks like, it provides transparency of the institution to the public and its local community.

The making of the Peabody annual report includes several staff members who collaborate in the documentation, writing, and gathering of the material across several departments within the Peabody. These include: Administration (Ryan, Director), Education and Outreach (Lindsay, Curator of Education and Outreach and Ryan, Director), Collections (Marla, Curator of Collections), and Peabody Donors and Support (Beth, PA Director for Museums and Educational Outreach). Once the information is gathered and content is written, I take over to design the overall layout of the annual report.

A page from the 2020 Peabody Annual Report

Using the Adobe InDesign software, I create each page spread using the information that staff give me. When designing, it is important to always keep in mind the overall flow of information and that the format/design features are cohesive throughout the document. Something new I incorporated into the report this year were black and white photographs from the Peabody archives. I used these photographs as transitions between specific sections of the report to provide a natural break, while still maintaining the overall flow of the report. I also had a little fun creating a new page dedicated to our collections remote work during Covid-19.

Photograph from the Peabody archives used in the 2020 Peabody Annual Report

I really enjoy designing the annual report and watching all the work Peabody staff put into the year unfold with the design of each page. Not only does it provide an opportunity for each department to feature their success and performance, its where all the Peabody’s work finally comes together.

You can view the 2020 Peabody Annual Report here. Enjoy!

A Wreck Has Been Wrecked

Contributed by Lindsay Randall

Last fall I had the opportunity to work with students and faculty in Outdoor Pursuits in a unique way. Ranbel Sun, Stephanie Cormier, and Miriam Villanueva learned that I knew about a terrestrial ship wreck that the students could visit and asked me to join them on their planned outing to Crane Beach, where the wreck has rested for over 100 years.

Outdoor Pursuits visiting the Ada K. Damon in 2019

The shipwreck that we visited was of the Ada K. Damon in Ipswich, MA. It is a great place to bring students to learn more about maritime archaeology since it is accessible at low tide. Salem State University and partner SEAMAHP have also done field schools at the site.

The Ada K. Damon was a schooner built in 1875 by H.A. Burnham Boat Building (still in operation today!). By 1909, the owner was Captain A.K. Brewster who had sold his property and used the proceeds, along with all his savings, to invest in the ship.

It a bout of terrible luck, it was during her first voyage for Brewster that the Ada K. Damon was wrecked. She was caught in what locals called the “Great Christmas Snowstorm.” That storm was also responsible for destroying many other ships on Cape Ann.

Since 1909, she has sat on the sands of Crane Beach at the base of Steep Hill and become quite a tourist attraction for visitors.

Sadly, due to the strong surf that resulted from Hurricane Teddy, the Ada K. Damon has been broken up and strewed across the beach. 

Both Dave Robinson, the current state underwater archaeologist for Massachusetts, and his predecessor Vic Mastone will survey the damage.

While I hope that the damage isn’t too extensive and that I will be able to bring future students back to this shipwreck, it does serve as an example about the fragility of archaeological sites.

New Day Culture

Contributed by Emma Lavoie

As we weather this pandemic storm, we are finding more and more that the days of yesterday are unlike the days of tomorrow. Many of our daily activities have gone virtual and museums, galleries, and institutions alike have adapted to reach their audiences online in order to continue their mission of educating and engaging with the public.

The Peabody staff shared several blogs in the past highlighting online educational resources and virtual museum activities, media, and exhibits. The Peabody has also created their own YouTube channel to share family craft activities and video presentations with educators and archaeologists.

Another wonderful site to add to this collection is New Day Culture. This site is a society and culture website founded by a group of cultural enthusiasts that have created an online community (amidst the pandemic) where audiences can connect, explore, and experience the world of art and culture.

From live animal cams at the San Diego Zoo to drone footage of amazing destinations and historical sites, this site has everything for all ages and interests! Here are a few highlights of some of my favorite activities.

Explore the Depths of an Ancient Egyptian Queen’s Tomb

Thanks to this 3D modeling project by Harvard University, you can take a virtual tour of the tomb of Queen Meresankh III. Discover photographs from the original excavations of the tomb along with details and reconstructions of the wall art found in each room. Take a winding staircase down about 5 meters below the upper level to discover the burial chamber of Queen Meresankh III. For more information about this project click here.

3D image of the upper level of Queen Meresankh III’s tomb. Image courtesy of Matterport, The Giza Project by Harvard University.

Explore the Civil Rights Trail

This activity is an interactive map of the United States’ Civil Rights Trail. This map highlights places and moments that impacted history, including the heroes and stories behind the movement that forged new trails for civil rights.

#metkids

The Metropolitan Museum of Art creates a space of learning and exploring for, with, and by kids and the Met. Kids (or the young at heart) can watch videos to learn more about art, create their own time machine adventure, or explore the Met through an interactive map.

An interactive map of the Met by #metkids. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire

Discover one of the most incredible achievements in history – the Great Inka Road, a 20,000 mile route through mountains and hillsides, all made by hand. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian shares a virtual walkthrough of its Inka Road exhibition.

Buckle in to Climb a Mountain

Through storytelling and 360 views, this interactive video and Google Maps site follows renowned rock climbers as they scale the heights of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Prepare your gear and experience the dizzying views of the Yosemite Valley from your 3,000 foot climb.

Climber, Lynn Hill, as she scales the Nose of El Capitan – the most famous rock climb in the world. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

Some honorable mentions I have come across in my exploring are a photo tour of the Burnt Food Museum (yes, you read that right), an elevator ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower, a YouTube tour of how Pixar films are made along with links to activities, a video tour of the “It’s a Small World” ride for the Disney enthusiast (Viewer disclaimer: the song will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day), and iconic performances to revisit or discover (without the hassle of waiting in lines, nosebleed seating, and even buying tickets!)

If you are unsure where to start I recommend exploring the “Top 15 Tours” first. You can find a list of them here.

There is so many experiences to discover and so much this site has to offer. All it takes is just your name, email, and a minute of your time to register! Don’t worry it’s free! Once you have joined the New Day Culture community, you will have all these art and culture resources at your fingertips – including exclusive events. For more information check out New Day Culture’s Facebook page here.