October is one of my favorite times of the year. I love the changing leaves here in New England, the crisp air, and seeing all the creative Halloween costumes that people come up with. This is also a time for sharing spooky stories and strange experiences…
Have you ever noticed this plaque at the Peabody?
Warren K. Moorehead (1866-1939) was the first curator and second director of the Peabody Institute (then known as the Department of Archaeology). If you don’t know anything about him and his relationship with the Peabody, just try searching ‘Moorehead’ on our blog. I’ll wait.
Moorehead was definitely a strong personality. And I, personally, think some part of his spirit does still live at the Peabody.
Several years ago, there were a series of strange disturbances that were happening at the Peabody. I don’t have the space to tell you everything, but here are a couple that I personally experienced:
One morning, Lindsay and I were the first staff in the building and let ourselves into the basement office space. Sprawled across the floor by our kitchen area were paper plates, a glass shelf (an extra for the fridge), and various other little things that had been on top of the microwave. These things could NOT have fallen like this on their own – it looked like something had swiped its arm and pushed everything onto the floor. Lindsay and I had been the last ones out and were now the first ones in. We immediately photographed what we saw (I am so sorry that I can’t find that photo!) and did some follow-up. No motion alarm had gone off all night and our pest management company found no evidence of an animal.
Another time, a couple years ago, I was talking to work duty students and explaining that Moorehead used to exchange or give away artifacts that I really wish had stayed in our collection. Just as I was mid-sentence in a rebuke of his cavalier behavior, a photographic portrait of him fell from the wall and smashed its frame. This portrait had been hanging in the same spot for my entire tenure at the Peabody (at that point, about 10 years) and had never fallen before. The students and I exchanged shocked looks and I quickly apologized to Moorehead for bad-mouthing him.
Shortly after these incidents, Ryan wrote a note to Moorehead explaining that we were taking care of the building and the collections and that we respected and appreciated him. Ryan slid the note behind the plaque by the front door and the strange occurrences stopped.
I am not big believer in the supernatural, but I do think Moorehead’s spirit does reside in the Peabody in some form. In my opinion, he is a pretty benign ghost who just wants to ensure that the collection and the building are getting their proper respect and care – I strive to meet his standards.
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 TheMasked 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
Returning to the Peabody Institute on a more regular basis this month led me to rediscovery an interesting little artifact on the window of my office. When I first joined the Peabody in 2012, my colleagues pointed this out to me, but it has remained largely covered up by window blinds since an initial peek.
The artifact in question is a scratched signature on a glass windowpane: S. P. Moorehead. Singleton Peabody Moorehead was our first curator’s youngest son.
When I first saw this little relic of past occupants, I imagined the younger Moorehead scratching the signature using his father’s emerald ring. That ring is a prominent feature in pictures of Moorehead, and I can imagine a mischievous child borrowing the ring and testing the stone’s hardness on the nearest handy surface: his father’s office window.
Robert Singleton Peabody, our founder, lent his name to the younger Moorehead. In fact, S. P. Moorehead was born in October 1900, right around the time that his father Warren and Robert Peabody were imagining the Department of Archaeology, our name in the early part of the twentieth century. Robert had befriended the elder Moorehead and hired him about a decade earlier to help amass a collection of Native American objects. He also provided convalescent facilities when Moorehead was recovering from tuberculosis. In fact, Singleton Moorehead was born at Saranac, New York where his father was recovering at Peabody’s cabin.
So who was Singleton Peabody Moorehead? He grew up on Hidden Field Road on the Phillips Academy campus, and graduated from the school in 1918. During his time at Phillips, Singleton, or “Sing,” played football, swam, and served as art editor for the Academy’s yearbook Pot-Pourri. He also participated in archaeological projects, including Alfred V. Kidder’s excavations at Pecos Pueblo, New Mexico. Both of Warren Moorehead’s sons, Ludwig and Singleton, served in World War I. After a brief military service, Singleton attended Harvard, where he received undergraduate and graduate degrees in architecture (BA in 1922 and M. Arch. in 1927). At Harvard, he continued his association with archaeologists, including a friendship with Philip Phillips. One wonders to what extent Moorehead’s exposure to archaeology prepared him for the Colonial Williamsburg project that became his life’s work?
Singleton joined the Boston architectural firm Perry, Shaw and Hepburn in 1928 and almost immediately began work at the firm’s field office in Williamsburg, Virginia. Here he was involved in the restoration work of Colonial Williamsburg, ultimately joining the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in 1934, where he worked as director of architecture from 1944 through 1948, and then as a consultant. So, if you’ve visited Colonial Williamsburg, you know Singleton Moorehead’s work! Perhaps one of the best-known structures at Colonial Williamsburg is the capitol building, reconstructed based on elevations, archival descriptions, and archaeological investigations conducted under the director of the Perry, Shaw and Hepburn architects. Another Colonial Williamsburg favorite is Chowning’s Tavern; a 2016 newspaper story on the 1939 reconstruction attributes much of the character of Chowning’s to Moorehead, who was interested in the quotidian aspects of eighteenth century architecture.
He married Cynthia Beverley Tucker Coleman, a descendant of St. George Tucker, a colonial resident of Williamsburg. A New York Times (December 12, 1964) obituary notes his involvement in many other historic preservation and architectural projects, as well as contributions to two books, Colonial Williamsburg: Its Buildings and Gardens (1949) and The Public Buildings of Williamsburg (1958), and authorship of many articles. One such crossover project was Kidder’s revisit of his Pecos excavation, including detailed architectural plans executed by Singleton and published as one of the Peabody Foundation “blue books” in 1958.
S. P. Moorehead died in December 1964 and is interred in the Bruton Parish Church cemetery in Williamsburg.
Lounsbury, Carl R. (1990) Beaux-Arts Ideals and Colonial Reality: The Reconstruction of Williamsburg’s Capitol. Journal of the Society of Architectural History 49(4):373-389.
New York Times (1964) Singleton P. Moorehead Dead: Colonial Williamsburg Planner. December 13, 1964, p. 86.
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.
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.
It’s been almost two months now since John and I have been back at the Peabody alternating weeks of work. In order to save time while we are in the Peabody, we are using that time exclusively to inventory drawers and spending our weeks at home updating the database with the drawers we inventoried the previous week. Now that we’ll be back in the Peabody more regularly, our work from home duties have shifted to more database work. In his post from last month’s newsletter, you can see all the hard work John’s been doing at home so now I’d like to share some of the things I’ve been able to accomplish from home so far.
Marla has kept everyone busy with various projects since we started working remotely in March. For me, that included digitizing photographs, creating condition reports for textiles, digitizing ledger books, and photographing site records. In total, while working remotely, I was able to digitize nine boxes of photos, complete 120 condition reports, digitize 1,700 ledger entries, and photograph 354 site records.
The majority of my time working remotely has been spent scanning and editing photographs of various archaeological projects from the collection. The photos I digitized were from archaeological excavations in Massachusetts, Maine, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, and Connecticut. Perhaps my favorite photos to work with were the ones from the Ayacucho Archaeological-Botanical Project in Peru. This project, directed by Richard MacNeish, was meant to investigate the origin of agriculture and its relationship to the development of civilization in New World Centers. The Ayacucho Valley was subsequently excavated between 1969 and 1975, which produced the hundreds of images that I’ve been working on. Many of the photos are of cave excavations, others show sweeping views of the Peruvian highlands complete with mountains and wildlife, and there’s the occasional photo of the archaeologists acting silly.
Since we’ve been back at the Peabody, John and I have been working hard to make up for lost time on the inventory project. So far we’ve been making great progress as we’ve been able to inventory over 60 drawers since being back. Empty wooden drawers are once again piling up like crazy!
Working from home for the past few months has been an interesting experience. It’s been great saving so much money on gas and I loved being able to make myself gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch every day, but I’m very happy to be back working with the artifacts. Hopefully someday soon we’ll all be able to enjoy being back at the Peabody full time!
If you’re in need of some grilled cheese inspiration here is one of my favorites—olive tapenade, roasted red peppers, arugula, and manchego cheese! (I only had pita pockets at the time but I think a nice sourdough would be great)
The Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology Award for Archaeology and Education recognizes the excellence of individuals or institutions in using archaeological methods, theory, and/or data to enliven, enrich, and enhance other disciplines, and to foster the community of archaeology education practitioners. The Peabody Award will spotlight these contributions and promote teaching ideas, exercises, activities, and methods across the educational spectrum, from K-12 through higher education and public education.
Peabody Advisory Committee member and recent chair Dan Sandweiss ’75 proposed the award to the PAC and SAA. Both organizations agreed that it was a great opportunity to honor those involved in archaeology and education, joining the Journal of Archaeology & Education as another important tool for creating community among those engaged in these endeavors.
One important criterion is that nomination documentation must include materials—like activities or lesson plans—that can be shared with the broader community via SAA’s website.
The award description indicates that anyone may submit a nomination and that nominees do not have to be members of the SAA. Both individuals and programs are eligible. The award committee offered this list as examples of activities that might distinguish a nominee, including archaeology service learning programs, popular archaeology writing, adult or youth training programs, lessons or lesson plans for K-12 educators, archaeological outreach programming, oral history projects, lifelong learning classes or programs, archaeology camp experiences, and collaborative work with other educators or institutions around archaeological pedagogy.
Last fall, the Peabody loaned ten objects to the Addison Gallery of American Art here at Phillips Academy. They spent nearly a year there for the exhibition A Wildness Distant from Ourselves: Art and Ecology in 19th Century America.
Due to public health concerns related to COVID-19, both the Peabody and the Addison have been closed to visitors since mid-March. But, the behind the scenes work never ends. The Addison regularly exhibits works of art on loan from other institutions and actively loans its own collection to museums around the world. Returning these objects during COVID shutdowns has been a logistical challenge for our friends, and we were happy to coordinate with them to return the materials back across the street to us.
When the objects from the Peabody went to the Addison, a professional fine arts shipping company took care of packing and moving everything. To come home, the Addison staff did the packing themselves – and they are awesome at it!
It is now up to me to put these artifacts back into our storage areas – a job I am happy to do! Typically, we would use many of these in the upcoming school year for classes, but this year is different. Like most other institutions, any of our classes will be taught online.
But I know that I will be happy to see Champ the auk back at home in his case every time I come into the Peabody.
After four months of working from home, the Peabody is in its third week of a return to almost normal collections work. The two inventory specialists, Emily and myself, are working alternating weeks at the Peabody in order to continue our inventory work. With one week completed, it feels good to be back working toward our goal of a complete inventory of the collection. While working remotely will be an ongoing reality, I would like to share some of what I have been up to at home thus far.
With everything shutting down in March, Marla was quick to come up with projects that could be completed remotely. Her post in April outlined collections materials that were less sensitive and therefore reasonable to take home. I started with photographing site records from Peru and then moved to digitizing vacuum treatment paperwork related to Integrated Pest Management of the collections. We all contributed to finalizing the digitization of the original ledger books, our institution’s version of accession books. Now we have a searchable document with 75,000 records!
My favorite project has been photographing and editing photographic slides held in the collection. They include images documenting past exhibits and openings at the Robert S. Peabody Museum and photographs of the collections. The most interesting slides by far have been of Copeland Marks’s travels in Guatemala and South Korea. Mr. Marks was a textile collector who focused on the traditional clothing of ethnic Maya people living in the Guatemalan highlands. Some of his textiles became part of our collection at the Peabody. He would later write several cookbooks on cuisine covering locales ranging from the Mediterranean to South America. The slides I was working with document his travels in Guatemala spanning the 1960s through the 1980s. The subjects in the photographs cover everyday life, the dramatic volcanic landscape of the highlands and ceremonial life- all of which have been a great escape from the realities of coronavirus lockdown.
It is anybody’s guess when life will return to normal. For the foreseeable future work at the Peabody will be interspersed with the strange blur of working from home with frustratingly cute interruptions from kids and dirty dishes. Until then I have to thank Marla for keeping us safely working from home during these crazy times.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.