Boxes for Books

Contributed by Marla Taylor

Preserving old books on a budget can be tricky. What is an archaeology museum with dozens of historic books to do?

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The solution is simple: Utilize archival boxes.

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The Peabody recently purchased a small quantity of archival KASEBoxes from ECS Conservation to rehouse about a dozen historic books. Students helped me take detailed measurements of the books so that the boxes could be custom-made. Now, volumes such as Standard History of Essex County, Massachusetts and Warren Moorehead’s annotated copy of Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley are available on the Peabody’s library shelves for use by the Phillips Academy community. These boxes provide a low-cost method of ensuring that fragile, delicate, or rare books are stored properly. Some of these books may eventually be the subject of conservation treatments.

More books are in need of a little TLC, so keep your eyes peeled for new archival boxes on the shelves at the Peabody!

Positive Negatives

Contributed by Marla Taylor

Opening drawers at the Peabody can occasionally lead to a surprise discovery. Recently, approximately 400 acetate negatives were discovered in an “empty” card catalog.

A little investigation revealed that these negatives include the original photographs from Alfred V. Kidder’s The Pottery of Pecos, Volume I. You can see these photos in Kidder’s publication here. The remaining negatives were of photos that Richard “Scotty” MacNeish took during his time at the Peabody, and they range from Canadian artifacts to materials from the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico.

Acetate film, also known as safety film, was introduced by Kodak in the 1930s. Designed to replace nitrate negatives, which can spontaneously combust, acetate was in use for decades. The acids in the film, however, can deteriorate over time and emit a strong vinegar odor, an issue known as vinegar syndrome. The recently discovered negatives are in the early stages of vinegar syndrome.

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Image of a bowl from Pecos

We are working to preserve these negatives and have already sent approximately one-third of them to the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) for digitization. The NEDCC will capture high-resolution images from the negatives and adjust them to create robust image files. The digitization process should be complete by the end of February.

A Day in the Life at the Peabody Museum

Contributed by Bonnie Sousa, Registrar/Senior Collections Manager

When I mention to people outside of the museum world that I am in collections management and registration, some think I work for a collections agency. In fact, museuSousa,Bonniem collections management and registration involves physical and intellectual control of artifact collections and includes such activities as cataloging, inventorying, and storing artifacts; accessioning (the formal process of taking items into the collections); managing loans; answering research and reproduction queries; and working on the museum’s Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) inventory, to name a few.

And at a small museum like the Peabody, the list of responsibilities grows to include additional activities. Not typically mentioned in job descriptions, but still important in the goal of reaching professional standards, are such unglamorous tasks as emptying dehumidifiers in artifact storage spaces, handling early morning calls from the alarm company regarding power outages at the building, and removing food trash at the end of the day so that insects and other pests are not attracted to the artifacts. To give you a better idea of what’s involved in collections management and registration at the Peabody, here is a list of a few behind the scenes tasks I performed on a typical day recently:

Morning:
Answered e-mail queries—Some of the queries we receive are from textbook publishers asking for CornCobs_MacNeish_Tehuacanpermission to use images from the Peabody’s collections. To date, our most received request is for this image of the evolution of corn from the excavations of Richard “Scotty” MacNeish in the Tehuacán Valley of Mexico. Many college-level, introduction to archaeology textbooks feature this image.

Renewed our loan to the Visitor Center at the Pueblo of Jemez—The Peabody has several ongoing loans to other museums, Native American tribes, a national park, and a public high school. On loan to the Visitor Center at the Pueblo of Jemez are artifacts from their ancestral site, Pecos Pueblo.

Put away artifacts for a Phillips Academy history class on westward expansion – Artifacts from the Peabody are regularly used in classes taught at the Peabody. Our PastPerfect collections management database allows us to create lists that work perfectly for pulling artifacts to ensure that we can locate them and put them back in the right spot.

Afternoon:
Entered catalog records into the Peabody’s database for artifacts from the Mansion Inn, a site in Wayland, Mass. — We recently learned that items from this site must be listed on the museumCatalog Cards’s NAGPRA inventory. Assembling an inventory begins with compiling existing documentation and records and ensuring that all artifacts are entered into the museum’s database. Our next steps will be to contact tribal officials to let them know we hold these collections, and National NAGPRA, a Cultural Resources program of the National Park Service, to update the museum’s inventories. After consulting with tribal officials and submitting drafts to National NAGPRA, a Notice of Inventory Completion will be published in the Federal Register.

Updated storage locations for textile artifacts—I have two volunteers who have been trained to inspect and vacuum textile collections for pest damage as part of a comprehensive pest management program. When textile artifacts have been inspected and vacuumed after undergoing low temperature treatment to eliminate any potential pests, their storage locations must be updated to ensure we can find them in the future.

Backed up our PastPerfect collections management database before heading home—Regular backups of data are important so that recent information added about the artifacts is not lost.

As you can see, one of the most rewarding benefits of working in museum collections is the wide variety of work that needs to be done, and I’ve really only touched the surface here. There is never a dull moment, and the nature of the work keeps me on my toes. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

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

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A portion of the Peabody’s archive.

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

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

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

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

Peabody Student Symposium

IMG_9042_editedJoin the Peabody and the Gene Winter Chapter of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society for a night highlighting student work and research. Three groups of students will present their research ranging from historic preservation to 3D printing artifacts to 19th century portrayals of Native Americans.

Tuesday, February 16, 7:00pm

Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology, corner of Main and Phillips streets, Andover, Mass.

Peabody Strengthening Relationship with Pueblo of Jemez

Contributed by Lindsay Randall

The Peabody Museum has begun the collaborative process of reexamining our relationship with the Pueblo of Jemez. The Peabody’s involvement with the Jemez dates back 100 years—to the period from 1915 through 1929 when Alfred V. Kidder and his colleagues conducted excavations and ethnographic studies of the Pecos and Jemez pueblos. Consultations under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) in the 1990s rekindled the relationship and launched the Pecos Pathways expeditionary learning program at Phillips Academy. Pecos Pathways has been the centerpiece of the Andover-Jemez relationship since 1998, but we’ve seen a host of other collaborative efforts since then, including the recent visits by potters Dominique and Maxine Toya and their friends.

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Dominique Toya works with PA students in Mr. S. Thayer Zaeder’s ceramics class.

The goal of this critical assessment is to ensure that the partnership is maintained in a coherent and consistent manner, despite the changing needs and desires of the partners through time. We want to focus on sustaining and growing the relationship and enhancing its impact through the exchange of knowledge, resources, and individuals from each community. Initially we are working with the Education Department at Jemez, but we will expand the conversations to include other members of the tribe, such as those in the Department of Natural Resources who oversee all tribal archaeological work.

We recently began conversations with Janice Tosa, research associate and student program outreach manager for Jemez Pueblo, and Leander Loretto, student outreach coordinator for Jemez Pueblo, about how we might modify and expand our joint educational offering. A main focus in the conversations has been on creating programming that supports and advances our learning objectives in a more tangible manner, while also being sustainable. Looking at unique and creative ways in which adult members of each community can be engaged and utilized is another area that we are exploring.

We look forward to working with our friends at Jemez Pueblo on this exciting project!

Above Clockwise: Janice Tosa shows off her love of the Boston Red Sox’s; Leander Loretto screens for artifacts on the Mashentucket Pequot Reservation; A Pecos Pathways group prepares to hike up San Diego Mesa.

Family Drop-in Days at the Peabody

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Drop in for a fun-filled morning of archaeology activities at the Peabody!

Build a LEGO model of your favorite ancient ruin, examine stone tools close up, play Native American musical instruments, and make your own Hohokam style etched shell. All families are welcome to join us; there’s something for every age!

Friday, February 19 from 9:00am to 12:00 noon and Friday, March 25 from 9:00am to 12:00 noon.

Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology, corner of Main and Phillips streets, Andover, Mass.

Call 978.749.4490 or e-mail rspeabody@andover.edu for more information.

Box Us In! Abbot Academy Association Funds Archival Boxes for Peabody Collections

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Peabody archaeology collections storage will undergo an ambitious upgrade made possible by a grant from the Abbot Academy Association, continuing Abbot’s tradition of boldness, innovation, and caring. The Peabody Museum received $45,746 to fund 3,000 archival boxes to replace deteriorating wooden drawers where collections are currently housed. Boxes eliminate contamination from wood debris in addition to improving accessibility and portability. Heavy or large artifacts such as stone axes and ceramic vessels will be stored on open shelving.

The project will be split over three years and will use the museum’s existing workforce of Phillips Academy work duty students, college interns, and adult and student volunteers guided by the collections management team of Marla Taylor and Bonnie Sousa. Archival boxes are a first step in a broader collections storage plan to consolidate museum collections and improve environmental conditions.

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Stay Woke: Finding Prejudice in the Research Process

stay woke

Contributed by Lindsay Randall

Stay Woke: Deriving from “stay awake,” to stay woke is to keep informed of what going on around you in times of turmoil and conflict, specifically on occasions when the media is being heavily filtered.

In the past few years, the Peabody Museum has collaborated with members of the Phillips Academy community on projects that not only have benefited the Academy’s students, but also have allowed us as professionals to learn new ways to look at a variety of topics and issues that are beyond our areas of expertise.

For example, recently the Peabody partnered with the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library to create a 50-minute workshop for students that will be part of the school’s programming for Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January. The process we followed in developing this workshop was quite interesting, since the way in which librarians Liza Oldham, Beth Tompkins, and Stephanie Aude view or think about issues is very different from how I approach the same topics. It was exciting to sit together, throw ideas around, and build on one another’s suggestions to create a workshop that will enlighten and engage PA students.

We began our development process by agreeing on the focus of the workshop: digital landscapes (the librarians’ expertise), with a particular emphasis on Native Americans (my expertise). Then we began generating ideas. One was to concentrate on the issue of mascots or native people as costumes. Another was to focus on how Native Americans are represetneted in the media. Next, Stephanie mentioned it would be interesting to investigate how subjects are tagged in blogs or other online resources. From there, Beth started talking about how the Library of Congress tags subjects and mentioned some that she felt were problematic.

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Librarians Liza Oldham and Beth Tompkins and I meeting 

I then brought up a Google image search activity that I had performed with students regarding how native people are perceived. If you enter “African American,” “Asian American,” or almost any other racial group as a search term in Google, you will receive contemporary photos. If you enter “Native American” as a search term, most of the images you will receive are from the 1800s. This means the manner in which Google generates its images, although unintentional, reinforces the damaging belief that native people only live in the past and do not exist today.

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Screen grab of Google image search for “African American

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Screen grab of Google image search for “Native American”

After conducting additional Google image searches and looking at some of the search terms or categories in the Library of Congress, we decided to focus the workshop on how digital resources related to Native Americans were categorized and grouped, and compared that to other groups. Approaching race in the United States in this manner seamlessly melded our two areas of focus into a simple yet cutting-edge way to look at race in our society. Such a multifaceted approach and understanding of the complexities of race in the United States and elsewhere is critical for our students to have if they are to become global citizens.

Here is the description of our workshop that the Office of Community and Multicultural Development (CAMD; https://www.andover.edu/StudentLife/CAMD/Pages/default.aspx) will be sharing campus wide in its MLK Jr. Day programming materials:

Stay Woke: Finding Prejudice in the Research Process 

Contemporary prejudice is often insidious. It doesn’t announce itself with a clear sign – “Look at this clearly defined racism!” – but rather creeps in, makes itself at home, and becomes such a part of everyday life that it’s hard to see. Understanding the prejudices that are built into the digital and organizational landscapes we use constantly, like Google and libraries, is vital to modern ethical development. Through hands-on activities and discussions, participants will begin to explore the complex issues surrounding this topic and improve their awareness and digital literacy.

We are very excited to run this workshop, and I look forward to sharing more about it and its outcomes with everyone in January!