Students Interogate the Peabody Dioramas

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

Ann Wilkin asked if she could bring her two sections of Writing for Success students to the Peabody during summer session, July 2016. Ann said in her e-mail, “This week’s theme is ethics and responsibility, and I recall a particularly exciting experience another one of my classes had with you guys (possibly with you?) two years ago, as we discussed what it meant to put all kinds of artifacts of other cultures (particularly colonized cultures) in gallery spaces.”  She related too that her students had been reading Horace Miner’s “Body Ritual among the Nacirema,” as well as excerpts from Susan Sontag’s 2003 book Regarding the Pain of Others.

Image of the Peabody's Pawtucket village diorama circa 500 years ago.
“A Pawtucket Village on the Merrimack River, 500 Years Ago,” diorama built by Guernsey-Pitman Studios of Cambridge, Mass., 1939.

As I reflected on what we could do I thought it might be interesting to have the students conduct their own critical reading of one of the Peabody’s dioramas. The Peabody houses two dioramas of American Indian life.  The oldest, built in the 1930s by the Guernsey-Pitman Studios, illustrates life at the Shattuck Farm site in Andover, Mass. circa 500 years ago.  The scene is a bustling village, with a variety of daily activities depicted, from the construction of a birch bark canoe to firing pottery.  We understand that the scene was heavily influenced by curator Fred Johnson’s ethnographic work in Canada.

Amy Lonetree, in her 2012 book Decolonizing Museums: Representing Native America in National and Tribal Museums, explains that “many critics have argued that this form of representation (dioramas) reinforces commonly held belief that Native cultures were static and unchanging and that they have since disappeared….” Further, an issue with many museum exhibits about American Indians is that they lack contemporary Native voices.

I asked the students to spend some time looking at the diorama and to do some writing—specifically to answer a few questions which we would then discuss.  The students wrote about the following:

Who are depicted?

When is the diorama depicting?

Whose perspective is shown?

What is shown?  What isn’t?

What are we supposed to understand by looking at the diorama—in other words, what’s the message?

Image of students looking at the Pawtucket diorama
Ann Wilkin’s students examine the Pawtucket diorama.

The answers to these questions were quite interesting, and as our conversation about the diorama unfolded we gained a greater appreciation of some of the inherent biases built into the exhibit.  Several students pointed out that there were a disproportionate number of men depicted and we discussed demographics and talked about why so few women and children were shown. The question of perspective was interesting and we noticed that it depended on whether one was standing or kneeling.  We also kept returning to the question about when was depicted.  Most students wrote that it was 500 years ago (after all, that’s what it says on the diorama’s title), but we talked about what was happening 500 years ago and also about how there are many ways to answer that questions—the time of year, the day, the time of day, etc.  We talked about how many “whens” seemed to be collapsed into one single moment and that it was unlikely all of these things would have happened at the same time.  One student ultimately observed that the diorama might say more about the archaeologists and artists that constructed the model than the Native people being depicted.

The exercise produced some interesting dialogue and gave us an opportunity to talk about contemporary American Indians in Massachusetts and exercise our critical thinking skills when confronted with a museum exhibition.

The Ponca, Presidents, Politics, and Partial Answers

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler and Quinn Rosefsky (Phillips Academy Class of ’59)

There’s nothing like a good mystery and the Peabody Museum has plenty of them. A recent survey of the museum’s archives, including the extensive photographic collection, uncovered an intriguing photograph. The image itself was made with a panoramic camera and measures 22 inches in length by 10 inches in height; it’s tattered and torn and bears traces of the thumbtacks that once held it up. The subject is a large group of American Indians and Anglo-Americans in front of an official looking building. Faces can be seen peering out on the group from the building’s tall windows. In all, there are 16 American Indian men, 4 white men, 2 women, and 2 young boys.

Group photo of American Indians and Euro-Americans at the White House, January 1922
The Peabody Museum version of the Ponca photograph. No identifying information was included–the photo was found in the museum’s archives.

No caption or identifying information is included. Dress varies, with some of the American Indians in beaded regalia and feathered headdresses, while others are dressed in suits and ties with overcoats; on the right side of the photo some men wear feathered headdresses, while some on the left side wear their hair in long braids. The white members of the group are attired in suits with starched collars, ties and either bowler or fedora hats.  Only one of the member of the group was immediately recognizable to us—namely Warren Moorehead—the Peabody’s first curator and then director (he’s in the back, wearing a bowler hat and a dour expression). Moorehead’s activities extended beyond archaeology and included service on the Board of Indian Commissioners from 1908 through 1933. The commission was established as part of the federal government’s “peace policy” toward Native peoples and as a commissioner Moorehead had many opportunities to interact with tribal members and visit Indian Country. Peabody archivist Irene Gates used this information to run a series of Google searches and discovered a similar, though truncated, image preserved in the Library of Congress (http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/hec2013002121/). Metadata with the Library of Congress photo identifies at least two of the party—General Hugh L. Scott (to the right of Moorehead)—and Chief Chas. McDonald (on Moorehead’s left, wearing the bear claw necklace). The White House is given as the location and 1921 to 1923 is offered as a date range; the photo was made by Harris & Ewing, a Washington D.C. photographic firm.

Truncated version of the Ponca photo at the Library of Congress
The Library of Congress truncated version of the Ponca photograph. The title is given as Gen. Hugh L. Scott & Chief Chas. McDonald with group in front of White House. LC-H27- A-4011 [P&P] Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Who were Scott and McDonald? Hugh Lenox Scott (1853-1934) was a West Point graduate, later superintendent of West Point, and veteran of US conflicts from the Indian wars of the late 19th century through the beginning of World War I. In the army he worked closely with tribal allies and developed military signal systems based on American Indian sign language. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Scott had relied on diplomacy and level-headedness to de-escalate conflicts with American Indians. After his retirement as a major general and army chief of staff he served on the Board of Indian Commissioners from 1919 to 1929, during which time he remained friendly towards American Indians and influential on their behalf. He published a 1928 memoir called Some Memories of a Soldier, as well as several anthropological articles dealing with the Sun Dance and American Indian sign language.

General Hugh L. Scott and Chief Charles McDonald
Gen. Hugh L. Scott & Chief Chas. McDonald of Inca City, Okla. LC-H27- A-4010 [P&P] Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
Chief Chas McDonald is more of an enigma. Another Library of Congress photo (https://www.loc.gov/item/hec2013002120/) provides some clues. Here we find just two men–Hugh Scott and McDonald; the metadata indicates that the photo, also taken by Harris & Ewing, was made in Washington, DC on January 27, 1922. The photograph was published in The Washington Post on the same date—the caption reads “Gen. Hugh L. Scott, formerly chief of staff, U.S.A., and a famous old Indian fighter in his day, conversing by Indian sign language with Chief Charles McDonald, of the Ponca City tribe, Ponca City, Oklahoma. Photo made after the chief had called on the President.” At this point we can probably assume that the Peabody’s group photo and the similar, but truncated, Library of Congress image were made at the same time, specifically on or around January 27, 1922. Here things begin to come together. McDonald and his delegation could well be members of the Ponca tribe. The Ponca are a Siouan-speaking group, now with federally-recognized tribes in Nebraska and Oklahoma. The Ponca place their origins in the Ohio Valley, but were living in Nebraska when first contacted by Anglo-Americans. Federal efforts at relocation saw their removal, in part, to Oklahoma. And the Ponca were no strangers to sending delegations to Washington;  in 1877, 1909, and 1914 Ponca representatives visited the capital to lobby for their rights. One of the Ponca delegates in 1909 and 1914 was Louis McDonald, identified as the son of Buffalo Bull Chief (aka McDonald). A little genealogical research reveals that Charles McDonald (1873-1928) was also the son of Buffalo Chief McDonald (d. 1912). Charles appears occasionally in records; for example, in 1897 he and all adult Ponca in Oklahoma signed a grazing agreement that has been preserved in U.S. Congressional records. Louis McDonald (1880-1958), however, is better known; he helped found the Native American Church, a blend of traditional and Protestant beliefs known for its use of peyote in ceremonies. He also served as an informant for several ethnographic studies of the Ponca, including James Howard’s 1965 study for the Bureau of American Ethnography and Weston La Barre’s 1938 classic The Peyote Cult. Howard notes of Louis McDonald that he attended Carlisle Indian School and spent much of his adult life working on his tribe’s behalf in Washington. Comparison with a National Anthropological Archives portrait suggests that he’s also in the panoramic photo—standing behind the man with the cane.

Photo of Ponca delegation to Washington DC, April 1909
Ponca delegation to Washington DC, April 1909. Left to right, standing: Louis McDonald (son of Te-nu’-gaga-hi), Mon’-non’-ku-ge or Mike Roy; sitting: Mon-chu’-hin-xte, or Hairy Bear, Monshitin’-nu-ga (called Frank White Eagle). Negative 4239, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution

Again, Irene examined other photographs in the Library of Congress digital archive and noticed that the man with the cane was in other photos that included American Indians. This man appears to be Charles H. Burke, who served as Commissioner of Indian Affairs from 1921 to 1929. Burke was often at odds with the members of the Board of Indian Commissioners and strongly advocated for the assimilation of American Indians and the end to traditional lifeways and religious practices, as well as dances—both sacred and secular. In fact, Burke’s presence may explain Moorehead’s sour expression in the photo. The other members of the group—Anglo and American Indian—remain unknown to us. We attempted to match them to other members of the Board of Indian Commissioners. From their annual report we learn that the Commissioners met in Washington for their annual meeting, January 25-26, 1922—just days before these photos were made. We even considered the possibility that one of the men was Warren Harding or Calvin Coolidge—not outlandish since the setting is the exterior of the West Wing. The photos, however, just don’t match. Comparisons with photos of other Poncas may help.

The purpose of the Ponca visit to Washington remains unknown to us, though from what we have pieced together it appears that Ponca Chief Charles McDonald met with President Warren Harding. A brief in The Washington Post from January 28, 1922—the same time period as our group photo—tells us that “a troupe of eleven Ponca Indians from Oklahoma” performed at the new auditorium of the City Club. Anthropologist Francis La Flesche of the Smithsonian Institution was on hand to explain the dances. Other newspaper stories from the same time confirm that these are the Ponca that had visited the White House; a note in the Friday, January 1927 edition of The Evening Star (page 10) tells us:

Eleven Indians from the plains of Oklahoma, garbed in their native costumes and equipped with all the weapons and tokens for their primitive war and sun dances, will furnish the feature number of the program to be presented at the City Club’s first stag night party in the new clubhouse tonight. The Indians, members of Ponca tribe, are in Washington to lay a petition before President Harding.

A similar note in the January 21, 1922 edition of The Washington Herald (page 5) confirms that dance was a big part of the Ponca’s delegation to Washington and that they and members of other Plains tribes participated in a “powwow” organized by the Archaeological Society of Washington:

The Archaeological Society of Washington has sent out cards for the 106th meeting of the society as guests of Victor J. Evans at the Victor Building. 724-726 Ninth Street Northwest, this evening, at 8:30 o’clock, when an Indian pow wow will be featured by native Indians from the Plains tribes, including champion dancers and singers from the Poncas, Otoes and other tribes interpreted by Francis La Flesche, a full-blooded Indian. Also the all-Indian film illustrating an historical event among the Kiowas and Comanches entitled “The Daughters of Dawn.” Guests are invited only by host or executive committee. In addition to a large collection of Indian curios which will be on display, there will be a number of Indians from the Poncas, Winnebagoes and other tribes, in their native dances and costumes. Indian men, women and children will take part in this entertainment. This affair, will he attended by a number of members of Congress.

The reference here to Victor J. Evans is interesting. Evans (1865-1931) was a successful patent attorney who also amassed a large collection of American Indian artifacts. His plan to construct a replica Maya temple near the National Zoo to house his collection never came to fruition, but he did represent several American Indian tribes in legal matters before the federal government. The other American Indians depicted in the photo may well be Otoe, Kiowa, and Comanche, since the newspaper accounts indicate that they were visiting at the same time. Also, it is interesting that the American Indian visitors participated in several dance performances—at least one newspaper account tells us that Commissioner Charles Burke was in attendance at one of these events—since Burke’s organization, the Indian Service, was working to stop Native dances. Specifically, Burke issued Circular No. 1655 in 1921, which made many dances “Indian offenses.” More genealogical research reveals that Charles McDonald had a son, Augustus or Gus. Gus McDonald’s (1898-1974) legacy is as one of the originators of the Fancy Dance style, which has its roots in the dances of the Hethuska Society. Attendees at modern powwows are familiar with the Fancy Dance, especially the brightly colored feather bustles.  The dance was developed in response to the government’s crackdown on traditional styles of dancing, and the Fancy Dance became popular in Wild West shows and at events open to the general public.  Gus McDonald certainly could be one of the young men in the photos of the Ponca delegation to Washington in 1922. An entry in Art and Archaeology magazine (January-June 1922 issue, pages 94-95) complete with a photograph, presents a more detailed account of the dances performed by the Ponca at the Archaeological Society powwow. Francis LaFlesche and Victor Evans are identified, but none of the Ponca are named. The same individuals seen in the Peabody photo, however, are pictured, including the two little boys—a total of 13 individuals altogether.

Image of Ponca dancers at the Archaeological Society of Washington's January 1922 powwow.
The Ponca dancers with Francis La Flesche and Victor Evans at the January 1922 powwow organized by the Archaeological Society of Washington. The image was published in the society’s magazine Art and Archaeology along with La Flesche’s interpretation of the dance.

A little more remains to be said though, specifically about the manner in which the photo preserved in the Library of Congress is both cropped—something presumably done by the photographers in the 1920s—and the way in which the picture is cataloged in the digital archive. Both effectively erase the American Indians depicted. The way the picture is cropped is most obvious. Here, the photographer “left out” 10 of the American Indians originally photographed—pretty much everyone to General Scott’s right. Why? Again, we can only speculate, however, the remaining image brackets the American Indians between two white men—General Scott and the unnamed man on the photo’s far right. Lucy Lippard, in the introduction to Partial Recall, tells us:

As we peruse old photographs from a century’s distance, we are all looking not only at but for something. That something varies among Euro-Americans and Native people. It is often necessary to pry up the surfaces of apparent pathos, as well as apparent pride, and to dig out from beneath something less accessible (page 19).

Lippard goes on to remind us that often what is most interesting is what is not in photographs of American Indians.  Similarly, Susan Sontag, in her 2003 book Regarding the Pain of Others, talks about how photographs have the power to objectify, to memorialize atrocities, but also to leave out the horrors—of genocide, of oppression, of loss—to create a narrative that might be more palatable.  With the group picture in mind, we can see some of this in play, especially in terms of the truncated version preserved in the Library of Congress.  Not only are people missing, left off the official version, but the decisions made in cataloging the photo in the digital archive effectively hide the entire image. The cataloger includes a title, presumably something that accompanied the original glass plate negative: “Gen. Hugh L. Scott & Chief Chas. McDonald with group in front of White House.” There is no mention that some of the group are American Indians or are wearing traditional American Indian regalia.  The lack of names associated with the image leaves us in an uncomfortable position of having to guess who is Native and who isn’t, or to simply sidestep this question, which is difficult in trying to give even the simplest description of the photo.

What we learn is that images like this have a lot to tell us and a lot to hide. They don’t give up their secrets willingly. Without more information it is hard to know what we are seeing—a photographic ritual where Natives pose with Euro-Americans, one that is repeated over and over again.  Are we witness to an act of resistance or submission?  We hope that sharing this more complete version of the photo helps add to the list of known individuals in the image, makes the existence of the photo better known to scholars and the Ponca themselves, and hopefully will lead to more information on the Ponca’s 1922 visit to Washington and their petition to the President. Is it possible that it was related to Commissioner of Indian Affairs Charles Burke’s crackdown on Native dance? As Lucy Lippard reminds us, however, it is best if Euro-Americans “surrender the right to represent everybody.”  With that in mind we will share this image with the Ponca.

Further reading:

Brown, Donald, and Lee Irwin 2001. Ponca. In Handbook of North American Indians: Plains, Vol. 13, part 1, edited by Raymond J. DeMallie, pp. 416-431. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

Howard, James H. 1965. The Ponca Tribe. Bulletin No. 195, Bureau of American Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC.

Lippard, Lucy (editor). 1993 Partial Recall: With Essays on Photographs of Native North Americans. New Press, New York.

Paul, R. Eli (editor). 2016 Sign Talker: Hugh Lenox Scott Remembers Indian Country. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.

Scott, Hugh Lenox 1928. Some Memories of a Soldier. The Century Co., New York.

Sontag, Susan. 2003. Regarding the Pain of Others. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York.

Young, Gloria A., and Erik D. Gooding 2001. Celebrations and Giveaways. In Handbook of North American Indians: Plains, Vol. 13, part 2, edited by Raymond J. DeMallie, pp. 1011-1025. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

Dipping a toe into the Peabody’s archives

Folders full of Scotty MacNeish's Tehuacan survey records from the 1960s

In my first few weeks at the Peabody, I’ve been surveying the museum’s archival material to gain a better sense of the collections before proceeding to more detailed cataloging and processing work. It’s been fascinating to begin to piece together the history of the Peabody through the materials I’m coming across, and to learn about 20th century American Archaeology in the process. For this first blog post, I thought I’d share a few items that illustrate the types of collections found here at the Peabody.

This 1916 budget and letter from Curator and subsequent Director Warren Moorehead to Director Charles Peabody discussing canoes are examples of routine records found in the museum’s organizational archives: they document the operation of the institution at a given time, and often provide as much information about the time period in question as they do about the institution. Organizational records can include correspondence, museum publications, annual reports, meeting minutes, grant files, and any other material produced in the course of the museum’s administration.

Phillips Academy Department of Archaeology budget, 1915-1916
Phillips Academy Department of Archaeology budget, 1915-1916
Letter from Warren K. Moorehead to Charles S. Peabody, February 16, 1916
Letter from Warren K. Moorehead to Charles Peabody, February 16, 1916

Another significant amount of archival material here is comprised of excavation and field records. The Peabody carried out and funded numerous projects under the curatorship and directorship of Warren Moorehead, Douglas Byers and Fred Johnson, and Richard “Scotty” MacNeish, from the museum’s founding up until the early 1980s. Some of these projects were carried out locally in New England (note the canoes mentioned above, and Fred Johnson with expedition gear below), while others were carried out in the Southwest, the Yukon, and under Scotty MacNeish, Mexico and South America.

Fred Johnson in front of the Peabody Museum, 1948
Fred Johnson in front of the Peabody Museum, 1948
Folders full of Scotty MacNeish's Tehuacan survey records from the 1960s
Folders full of Scotty MacNeish’s Tehuacan survey records from the 1960s

As some of the museum’s artifact collections were accumulated during these excavations, the records provide contextual information about the finds through their documentation of the sites in question, in addition to their significance for archaeological research more generally.

Another critical component of museum records are collection and registrar files, which document objects and their provenance. The museum’s accession files contain acquisition or gift information, correspondence about the object/collection, and other relevant documentation. Object ID images also fall under this category, and the Peabody has over 10,000 slides of object images alone. Occasionally, supplemental materials accompany gifts or acquisitions by the museum, providing additional context of an object or a collection. One such example are the 500 or so color slides taken by Copeland Marks in Guatemala during the 1970s, where he collected textiles that are now part of the Peabody’s collection. These beautiful, bright images may include shots of these textiles being made or worn by their original owners.

Coban, Guatemala, color slide by Copeland Marks, 1970s
Coban, Guatemala, color slide by Copeland Marks, 1970s
Coban, Guatemala, color slide by Copeland Marks, 1970s
Coban, Guatemala, color slide by Copeland Marks, 1970s

Another colorful find are six small notebooks belonging to Stuart Travis, who painted the large “Culture Areas of North America” mural at the Peabody. These notebooks are full of illustrations and information Travis recorded about the indigenous communities represented in the mural. A collection like this offers a glimpse into how Travis presumably conducted research for the mural and conveys how meaningful this project was for him. Several other collections here were donated by individuals who carried out specific projects for the museum, or volunteered here, such as Eugene Winter, who donated his large collection of personal papers.

Stuart Travis notebook, 1942
Stuart Travis notebook, 1942
Stuart Travis notebook, 1942
Stuart Travis notebook, 1942

That’s all for now – I hope to delve more deeply into individual collections in the blog in the coming months. Thank you for following the project!

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

Peabody Advisory Committee Welcomes New Members

Photo of Ben BurkeBenjamin Burke ’11

Ben is business development analyst and developer at Dispel, a New York based technology start-up specializing in online security. He is a graduate of Yale University. Ben aided with collections organization during his Phillips Academy work duty service at the Peabody. Ben says of his experiences, “the Peabody Museum was a source of endless adventure during my time at Andover. I am happy to have spent countless hours there through work duty, various classes, and through one of the Peabody’s sponsored trips (BALAM-Bilingual Archaeological Learning Adventure in Mesoamerica). I am pleased to have the opportunity to make sure the Peabody remains a welcoming place for students and to help grow that mission of inclusion, education, and exploration.”

Jenny Elkus ’92Photo of Jenny Elkus

Jenny Elkus is an architect at Elkus Manfredi Architects in Boston. She is a graduate of Harvard University and Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Jenny has fond memories of using the Peabody’s library as a senior at Phillips Academy in the early 1990s—she notes that it was much quieter at the Peabody then!

 

 

Photo of Agnes Hsu-TangAgnes Hsu-Tang

Agnes Hsu-Tang received her PhD in Chinese art and archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2004. Agnes is an accomplished scholar, cultural heritage policy advisor, and is well-known as the host of several award-winning TV documentaries, including the History Channel’s Mankind: The Story of All of Us. Dr. Hsu-Tang serves on a number of boards, including the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology and the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at NYU. Along with her scholarly achievements, Dr. Hsu-Tang is an accomplished musician and serves as a managing director of the Metropolitan Opera. She is adjunct associate research scholar in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University.

Margot Steiner ’17Photo of Margot Steiner with museum textiles

Margot is a three year upper from New York City. She especially likes working with textiles and rearranging artifacts during her volunteer time at the Peabody. Although she only started working at the Peabody this year Margot had always enjoyed coming as a lower and junior. Her weaving class last year really pushed her to start volunteering after seeing the Peruvian burial shawl. Outside of the Peabody Margot can be found in Silent Study tackling her work in order to get her much needed 8 hours of sleep!

katherine-hallKatherine Hall ’17

Katherine is a three year upper from Andover, Mass. She began working at the Peabody Museum in the fall of 2014, and she has enjoyed working on various research, cataloging, and creative projects during her time here. Outside of her life at the Peabody, Katherine is active in local theater, enjoys rock climbing, and tutors other students in math. She is excited to be a part of the advisory committee!

Welcome Irene!

Contributed by Marla Taylor

Irene Gates recently joined the Robert S. Peabody Museum as Temporary Archivist.

Her position will focus on increasing access to the significant archival materials held by the museum, which include museum records dating from the early 20th century onwards, archaeological excavation records, photographs, and papers of individuals associated with the museum.

Irene received her MS degree in Library and Information Science with an Archives Management Concentration from Simmons College two years ago, and has since worked as a contract Processing Archivist for the City of Boston Archives and the Harvard Business School Baker Library Special Collections.

The Temporary Archivist position is supported by a generous grant from the Oak River Foundation of Peoria, Ill. to support work pertaining to 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.

As she dives into the archives, Irene will share some of the gems she finds on the blog – keep your eyes peeled!

Irene with boxes of documents
Irene with a small portion of the Peabody’s archival information.

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.

IMG_9335 (1)
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.

IMG_4502
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.

David Thulman Receives Cordell Award

The Peabody Advisory Committee has selected archaeologist David Thulman as recipient of the Linda S. Cordell Memorial Research Award for 2016. 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 was Senior Scholar at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, recipient of the A.V. Kidder Medal for eminence in American Archaeology, and a valued member of the Peabody Advisory Committee.

Photo of archaeologist David ThulmanDave is an Assistant Professorial Lecturer at George Washington University 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 would 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).

For more on the Linda S. Cordell Memorial Research Award see our blog: http://bit.ly/22pgzV5

 

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).

 

Student Reflection – Alex Hagler ’16

Alex and Marla excavated on campus

Contributed by Alex Hagler ’16

I began working at the Peabody in sixth grade, under the brilliant supervision of Lindsay Randall. I was introduced to the behind-the-scenes workings of a museum, cataloging artifacts, organizing photos, preparing materials for classes, all the jobs of a high school work duty student. It amazed me, and still does, that, despite my young age, I was treated just about the same as any other work duty student. I was given the trust of the people I worked with at the museum, and that trust has remained to this day. Because of that, I have had wonderful, momentous occasions at the Peabody. I represented the Peabody at the 2014 Alumni Reunion Weekend, and I presented the findings of my own independent research project to the Massachusetts Archaeological Society, to name only two. I have enjoyed the constant support of the people with whom I have worked all these years, and so the Peabody has become like a second home to me.

Now, as a graduating senior, I look back on my years at the Peabody. I find that I am mostly content, with only some minor regrets, namely that I have yet to see the floppy disk I was promised way back in sixth grade. But beyond that, I find that I am overwhelmed, reflecting on how I have changed over my years working here. At the beginning, I was nervous, hesitantly exploring the Peabody for the very first time, just starting to explore my new found interest in history. At the end, I am confident, not only in that I have made smart and responsible choices during my time here, but also in that I will continue to do so for the rest of my life. And I have the Peabody to thank for that.

Interested to read more student reflections?  Visit here and here for more perspectives.

Student Reflection – Alana Gudinas ’16

Alana and other work duty students learn about Pueblo pottery from Dominique Toya

Contributed by Alana Gudinas ’16

I started work duty at the Peabody in the beginning of my 10th grade year, mainly because it seemed like the most interesting job to do on campus. How many other high school students have the opportunity to help out at a renowned archaeological museum just a short walk’s away? That year I did a lot of of boring, but necessary, work cataloging objects and essentially entering data into computers. What made doing this so amazing, however, was the fact that I was handling objects that were often thousands of years old, all with their own history and archaeological context. I worked in the same room as Marla and Lindsay, both who shared with me a lot of information about what we were working with and why. This experience I had my sophomore year made me passionate about history and archaeology and want to dive in even deeper.

I did, in fact, become more involved in the Peabody these last two years, through listening to speakers that came to the Peabody for Massachusetts Archaeological Society meetings (and even giving a presentation myself at one of them), meeting the incredibly special artists (such as Dominique and Maxine Toya), teachers, and scholars who visit the museum, and taking a history class the fall term of this year that met in the museum classroom. Having such extensive access and exposure to the Peabody the past three years has instilled in me a love and appreciation for archaeology and all the people involved in the field. I feel that I have learned so much not only about the archaeological and historical background of various objects, but also about the nature of the two fields in general and how they are used in a museum setting. I am endlessly thankful for this experience.

Interested to read more student reflections?  Visit here and here for more perspectives.