Welcome to my inaugural blog post. I have been working at the Peabody Institute for three months, so it is high time I introduce myself. I am the new Inventory Specialist. It is my job to inventory and rehouse the collections in storage for the next year.
I am a graduate student at UMass Boston and am passionate about Indigenous studies, both in and outside of archaeology. I interned for National NAGPRA last fall where I learned the importance of employing ethical daily practices at museums, especially when looking through the lens of civil rights issues. I have also worked on various archaeological projects in New England, New Mexico, California, and Iceland.
I have learned a lot in my time here so far, the diversity of regional material culture across North America, the importance of preservation, the most effective rehousing practices…even how to throw an atlatl. (Although my success rate is nothing to brag about.)
While most of my work experience is with freshly excavated archaeological collections, I am excited to transition my focus to the preservation of older collections, including collections on which the foundations of Native American archaeology were built. At least once a week, I am blown away by the Peabody’s collections. Objects I have only had the pleasure of reading about appear in their drawers. Needless to say, I am happy to be here and happy to help with the rehousing inventory project.
A spatulate celt originally found at the Etowah site recently returned to the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology.
Warren K. Moorehead, then director of the Phillips Academy Department of Archaeology, conducted excavations at the Etowah site near Cartersville, Georgia from 1925 through 1929. He published his results in 1932 as The Etowah Papers, through an arrangement with Yale University Press. A few reprint editions were available in the 1970s and in 2000 the University Press of Florida reprinted that publication as Exploration of the Etowah Site in Georgia: The Etowah Papers. Contemporary scholars have struggled to correlate and interpret Moorehead’s work. For example, writing in their compendium of Southeastern shell gorgets, Brain and Phillips (1996:135) note “many conflicts between the published report, the field notes, and the RSPF catalogue entries, and the artifacts that could be located at the RSPF in Andover, Massachusetts.” Despite the issues with Moorehead’s approach, he recovered many amazing objects and in his publication presented the two prevailing models about the origins of Mississippian imagery.
Moorehead’s Etowah collection has garnered attention over the years, including work to conserve some of the copper specimens (Byers 1962), as well as research into the preserved textiles (by Lucy R. Sibley, clothing and textile specialist from Ohio State University in 1985) and the incredible array of shell gorgets recovered during the project (Brain and Phillips 1996; Muller 1966). For more on Etowah and the history of excavations at site see Adam King (2003a, 2003b).
In 1991 it became clear that objects had been pilfered from the Etowah collection assembled by Moorehead. Then director of the Peabody James Bradley learned that Jan Sorgenfrei of Old Barn Auctions in Findlay, Ohio was offering to sell a shell woodpecker gorget from the collection. The prospective purchaser discovered that the gorget had originated at the Andover Peabody and that there was no evidence that the object had been legally traded, transferred, or sold into private hands. Bradley worked with local law enforcement and the FBI to recover the shell gorget, which served for a time as the museum’s logo (see Figure 31 in Moorehead 1932). Dr. Arthur Cushman, the prospective buyer, generously agreed to pay Sorgenfrei for the gorget and donate it back to the museum (Britton 1992). Bradley suspected that other objects from the Etowah collection also were missing.
Such thefts are not unknown. Art crimes in general have garnered more and more attention, beginning with the high-profile theft of paintings from the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum in Boston and continuing with the wholesale looting of European and Near Eastern sites, often to fund terrorism. In terms of other objects like the Etowah collection, thefts of southeastern Native American pottery occurred in 1974 at the Kolomoki site museum in Georgia (see Georgia Department of Community Affairs website 2006) and, in 1980, at the Erskine Ramsey Archaeological Repository at Moundville in Alabama (see Office of Archaeological Research, University of Alabama website 2003). A few of the objects from Kolomoki have been recovered, but the majority of the Kolomoki and Moundville vessels remain at large. No arrests have been made in either theft.
Museum records and information provided by the late Eugene C. Winter Jr., volunteer and longtime friend of the Peabody, documents at least one known theft. The thefts included the Robert S. Peabody Foundation for Archaeology as we were then known. Mr. McLaughlin had systematically removed catalog numbers from artifacts. The large number of bifaces and other objects recovered from his parent’s home were divided among the institutions involved since it was impossible to positively identify the bulk of the objects. Both Winter and Bradley suspected that other thefts had gone undetected. In 2005, collector Kurt Spurr returned a number of Maine stone gouges and chipped stone artifacts that he had purchased from Jan Sorgenfrei. The Etowah and Maine recoveries suggest that there were multiple thefts, since those objects retained their catalog numbers, while McLaughlin removed numbers from the objects that he took.
At the beginning of January 2018 I entered into correspondence with Mr. Thomas Rachels of Cordele, Georgia. Mr. Rachels had purchased a spatulate celt at a private sale and was researching the piece, which was reputed to be from Warren Moorehead’s investigation of Etowah. In fact, someone had written “Etowah” on the artifact. Figure 50c in The Etowah Papers seemed to match the artifact and a partial catalog number was written in India ink on the side of the piece. Mr. Rachels wrote and asked if we had any paperwork on the artifact, including documents indicating that the celt had been deaccessioned from the Peabody. I located an archival image of the artifact in question and consulted our original ledger books. Object # 61783 was described as “a beautiful spatulate ceremonial.” There was no indication that the object had been deaccessioned. We searched the collection and found no object bearing this catalog number. I inquired about the celt’s provenance, and Mr. Rachels shared the name of the seller and that of the late Jan Sorgenfrei, who had been in possession of the celt at some time in the past.
Upon learning about Mr. Sorgenfrei’s involvement, I contacted the Andover Police Department to seek advice about how to proceed. I also shared with Mr. Rachels that I believed the artifact had been stolen, perhaps in the 1970s or 1980s, when security was lax. Mr. Rachels immediately decided that the piece should be returned to the Peabody. The local law enforcement and FBI art crimes division personnel agreed that Mr. Rachels had not been involved in the theft and had purchased the celt in good faith. They encouraged us to work with Mr. Rachels on the amicable return of the object. At that point Mr. Rachels and I began to work on an agreement for the celt’s return. We ultimately offered Mr. Rachels a $2,500 reward and completed an IRS form 8283, covering the donation of art objects valued in excess of $5,000. The celt was returned on March 2, 2018.
Brain and Phillips (1996:140, 377-379) provide a brief discussion and preliminary chronology of this rare, though widely-distributed artifact type. They note that these artifacts have a short poll and broad bit, often exhibiting a biconically drilled perforation. Other authors suggest that lack of use wear, specialized manufacture, exotic materials, and mortuary associations make these elaborate weapons markers of social status (see, for example, Mainfort et al. 2006). Hally (2008:561) suggests that spatulate celts were markers of an achieved war honor or perhaps even the marker for town war chief. The Etowah example is particularly important, since, as Brain and Phillips (1996:14) note, this is the only site that exhibits the complete range of their proposed chronological sequence; the example discussed here is considered a late form.
We spent four months completely inventorying the Etowah collection and checking our holdings against Moorehead’s original artifact ledger entries. This was complicated. We faced many of the issues raised by Brain and Phillips (1996), including some objects that were not given catalog numbers, some with duplicate numbers, and other objects that were re-cataloged in the 1950s and 1990s and have multiple numbers. At this point we are certain that the following objects are missing:
Monolithic ax (Ga-Brt-E63 in Brain and Phillips 1996:141; Moorehead 1932:82 and 100).
Big Toco style shell gorget (Ga-Brt-E8 in Brain and Phillips 1996:45, 141, 418; Moorehead 1932:51 and 54).
Citico style shell gorget (Ga-Mu-LE12 in Brain and Phillips 1996:97, 195, and 426; Moorehead 1932:153) from the nearby Little Egypt site.
Canoe or basket-shaped ceramic pipe (see Moorehead 1932:Figure 62a).
Three shell gorgets, never previously illustrated. The specimen in color is from Etowah, the two in black-and-white are from the Little Egypt site.
We anticipate that the FBI will list these and any other missing objects in their art loss database.
It also is worth noting that the pertinent laws and legal process for recovering stolen artifacts, like those from the Peabody Etowah collection, are not immediately clear. Stealing such items is a violation of both state and federal law. For example, the 1979 Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) provides additional federal penalties for artifact crimes covered under state law. When so much time elapsed, however, and those involved in the initial theft are deceased, unknown, or outside the statute of limitations, what recourse does an institution have? Possession of stolen property is an offense, but law enforcement may be unwilling to penalize those who have unknowingly purchased or obtained stolen artifacts. Much of the case law revolves around recovery of art that was stolen or disposed of under duress during the Nazi regime in 1930s and 1940s Europe. Now, museums have obtained this artwork, either through gifts, bequests, or purchase. Heirs are interested in recovering the artwork, while museums want to retain valuable parts of their collections. Several legal theories are at play, including the efforts made by former owners and heirs to recover the art.
We are grateful to Mr. Rachels for returning the Etowah spatulate celt. We are hopeful that other collectors will come forward with other objects from the Peabody collection, especially those from Etowah and Little Egypt. We look forward to working with the folks who have these objects in the same spirit of cooperation most recently exhibited in the return of the Etowah spatulate celt. If you have information on the whereabouts of objects from our collection, please contact me and know that our objective is to restore our significant museum collection.
Taking a 5 hour drive might seem like a slog, but the destination was well worth it! On Friday May 18 I headed up to Bar Harbor to attend the inaugural Indian Art Market being put on by the Abbe Museum.
The Abbe Museum is an institution that focuses on using artifacts to tell the story and history of Maine’s indigenous people in a collaborative and inclusive manner. The Indian Art Market is just another way that they are using their institution to promote Wabanaki artisans, as well as other native artists.
On Saturday I got to enjoy the first day of the market with a fairly sizeable crowd of other interested visitors. All of the booths had exceptional stuff, but I was very interested in talking to a man named Hawk Henries (Nipmuc). Mr. Henries is a master flute carver and player. I am very interested in adding one of his pieces to our collection, particularly as we look to expand upon our offerings for the Music Department. It was a delight to talk with him and his wife, Sierra, about not only the flutes and his music, but how he is an active and engaged educator, who apparently even came to PA in 2003 and worked with students as well as toured the Peabody!
2. Hawk Henries at his booth.
1. Selection of flutes hand made by Hawk Henries.
3. Image of a PA announcement from 2003 of Hawk Henries visit to the campus.
In addition to the opportunity to talk to Mr. Henries, I also had fascinating conversations with others such as Karen Ann Hoffman (Oneida Nation of Wisconsin), Geo Neptune (Passamaquoddy), and many others. It was a fabulous trip and I would like to congratulate the Abbe Museum on a very successful venture and am very happy to see that plans for the 2nd annual Indian Art Market is underway!
To read more about the Indian Art Market, check out these articles form local news outlets:
Today we unloaded another truck full of custom boxes from Hollinger Metal Edge. This batch of 1,500 boxes is our final purchase with the Box Us In! Abbot grant that was generously funded by the Abbot Academy Fund in 2015, continuing Abbot’s tradition of boldness, innovation, and caring.
The ongoing project to obtain physical and intellectual control over our collections continues!
A stack of archival boxes waiting for their objects!
To the uninformed, the Peabody Institute of Archaeology is just a building on the Phillips Academy campus that houses old artifacts and sherds of pottery from long ago archaeological expeditions. They would be very mistaken! The Peabody provides incredible academic enrichment opportunities to the student body across all disciplines.
In a unique approach to education, the Peabody collections are used to demonstrate the practical applications of history, language, mathematics, science and sociology. This year celebrates the fifth year the Peabody has arranged for pottery artists from the Pueblo of Jemez to come to campus to work with students.
In collaboration with Thayer Zaeder’s ceramics classes the potters spent the week working with 48 students teaching the ancient techniques of transforming clay into pottery. I had the rare opportunity to not only observe these artists work with the students, but to actually work with them myself. Maxine, Dominique and Mia worked with students individually on both shape and decorative painting to create unique pieces of art.
Glazing is not used in Pueblo pottery. Any glossy surfaces are achieved by polishing the area with smooth stones. The process is delicate and time consuming and if you mess up, as one student found out, the Potters would show you how to fix the problem – sand it all off and start again!
Dominique, Mia and their mother, Maxine Toya come from a multi-generational family tradition of Pueblo Potters. Each is known for their unique style, Dominique for her mellon designs, Mia for her signature butterfly designs and Maxine for her animals and figures. Their work is highly collectible and sought after. Nancy Youngblood, another prominent Pueblo potter, has joined them the last three years. These four ladies are the “Super Stars” in the Native American world of ceramic art.
Maxine Toya working on one of her famous owls.
Mia Toya talks about her butterfly swirl jar, in process.
Dominique Toya begins the spiral ribs on a miniature swirl pot.
Mia’s friend Ward Weppa helps sand the ribs on her butterfly swirl bowl.
Maxine Toya’s completed owl figurine–all the fine line painting is done with Maxine’s masterful hand-eye coordination!
Dominique Toya’s distinctive swirl vessels with micaceous slip, collection of the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology.
When speaking with the Potters, one theme stood out. They love bringing the ancient methods to this generation to instill a knowledge of their culture and heritage. They each spoke of how polite the Andover students were as well as the appreciation shown to them by each student for the opportunity to learn this ancient art form.
The culmination of each of their visits is the “firing.” They still use the ancient method of firing the pottery outdoors, which usually draws a large crowd. A huge bonfire is built to bake all the pieces the classes have created. The end result brings pride and a sense of accomplishment to both students and teachers alike.
*Guest contributor Barbara Callahan is Secretary of the Peabody Advisory Committee. She and her husband Les Callahan (Phillips Academy Class of 1968) provided the generous support for the Pueblo Potters program in 2017 and 2018.
Native American basketry was the subject of a special research visit on June 4th. Ralph Shanks, Research Associate at University of California, Davis, and Lisa Woo Shanks are experts in identifying and analyzing Native American California basketry. Together, they produced an outstanding 3-volume series on California basketry that has been indispensable in examining the Peabody collection. The goal of their visit was the examination of over 100 Californian baskets for cultural identification. The visit developed into a tutorial for staff as the discussions addressed ethnobotany, physical structure, and design elements found on the baskets.
Immersion in basketry required a specialized vocabulary for structures and materials such as twining, coiling, plaiting, overlay, double interlacing, foundation, willow, red bud, juncos and more. The forms of baskets were confirmed as bowls, hats, seed beaters, burden baskets, winnowing trays, toys, and cooking vessels. Many Californian Indians cooked in water-tight water-filled baskets by adding heated stones; and examples of these were identified in the Peabody collection.
The visit was facilitated by Marla Taylor, Curator of Collections, and Catherine Hunter, Research Associate, who inventoried the collection of 300+ Native American baskets in 2015-16. Hunter returned to the Peabody recently to continue research for a paper “Indian Basketry in Yosemite Valley, 19th-20th Century: Gertrude ‘Cosie’ Hutchings Mills, Tourists and the National Park Service” to be presented at the Textile Society of America Symposium in September 2018. After Hunter consulted Shanks last month, he extended an East Coast vacation to include a visit to Andover.
Ralph and Lisa examining the intricate design on a CA basket
Ralph viewing part of the collection
Ralph viewing part of the collection
Ralph and Lisa examining the intricate design on a CA basket
Hunter selected this topic because of the Hutchings Mills Collection of baskets. Collector and donor Gertrude “Cosie” Hutchings Mills (1867-1956) was one of the first Anglo-American children born in Yosemite Valley to early settlers James Mason and Elvira Hutchings. She collected Native American baskets in the Yosemite Valley region before 1900, recording many acquisition sites and the names of three weavers. Such documentation is very rare; thus, the collection was of special interest to Ralph Shanks.
After marriage to William Elligood Mills in 1899, they lived in New England and their son attended Phillips Academy. In 1937 the collection of fifty-six baskets was donated by Mrs. Mills to the Peabody Institute.
Shanks was enthusiastic about the quality of the basketry, contributed significantly to our interpretation of the collection, and identified rare baskets that would enhance his own research. We were thrilled to host his visit!
As part of my work at the Peabody, my supervisor suggested that I take an online class in Collections Management. Throughout school, I had never been offered classes that pertained to museum studies or collections management, so I thought that this was a great idea considering it is directly related to my current and hopefully future line of work. Therefore, over the past 6 weeks, I have been enrolled in an online class on Collections Management Policies for Cultural Institutions through museumclasses.org.
Over the period of the course, I learned a great deal about what it takes to create and implement a collections management policy at an institution such as the Peabody. For cultural institutions, these policies are very important to have because they set up guidelines for almost every aspect of the institution. These guidelines are good to have on file should any issues arise within the institution. For example, if an institution received a collection that does not fit within the scope of the collections, the museum staff could refer to their collections management policy for information on how to handle the situation. The policy also helps to establish consistency in practices regarding the proper management of collections associated with cultural institutions.
Throughout the course of the class, I have been tasked each week with writing various portions of a policy. My classmates and I would upload our segments to the online forum so that we could read and critique each other’s documents before turning them in for grading. The feedback was incredibly helpful and I feel it helped strengthen my policy. An additional part of the class was to participate in a chat room discussion for an hour once a week. These chats were always very interesting and everyone was very engaging. It was really interesting to see how different cultural institutions are run and how similar institutions can end up with very different policies tailored to their individual needs. I think that this class was an excellent decision, and one that will be very useful as I continue to pursue my career in collections management!
In other news, I have recently started cataloging drawers in the South Bay Storage area of the Peabody’s collections space! These bays primarily consist of sites from the American Southeast and Southwest, but also contain sites from Missouri, Kentucky, and even as far away as Labrador. I am very excited to continue working with artifacts that I don’t get to see as often as I would like!
The Inventory Specialist position is supported by a generous grant from the Oak River Foundation of Peoria, Ill. to improve the intellectual and physical control of the institute’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 email@example.com or 978 749 4493.
We are delighted to share this recent acquisition, a contemporary painted vessel made by Jason Garcia. Garcia (Okuu Pin) is a talented ceramic artist from Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico known for his mix of traditional materials and methods with pop culture. This piece explores the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 through the media of traditionally built pottery and painting in the style of comic books or graphic novels.
Here Garcia illustrates a dynamic struggle between Tewa religious leader Po’Pay and Spanish soldiers. Po’Pay, from Ohkay Owingeh (also called San Juan Pueblo), is depicted in the style of a comic book superhero. He rose to prominence in 1675 after his imprisonment at the hands of the Spanish colonial government. After his release he planned the successful ouster of the Spanish from New Mexico, carefully orchestrating the insurgency across diverse linguistic, geographic, and cultural lines. The Spanish returned in 1692, but Po’Pay and the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 remain significant, though little-known in American history. We work with several Phillips Academy instructors in history and social science to introduce their students to the Pueblo Revolt, which some scholars have suggested provided a template for the American Revolution some one-hundred years later.
Annie Greco just joined the Peabody team as our new Inventory Specialist. She comes to us fresh from the University of Massachusetts Boston graduate program in archaeology and experience as a field archaeologist in New England. Annie is already using her knowledge of New England tool typologies and excellent research skills to make a dent in the reboxing project!
Annie’s position is generously funded by Barbara and Les Callahan. Les is Phillips Academy Class of 1968 and Barbara is a member of the Peabody Advisory Committee; both have been active advocates and supporters of our mission.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 978 749 4493.
The Peabody oral history project began last year, a little by chance. I recognized the name of a family friend, retired Brandeis Anthropology professor Robert (Bob) Hunt, in some of our archival records from the Scotty MacNeish era. Peabody director Ryan Wheeler suggested I reach out to Bob and ask about his memories of MacNeish. I did, and Bob eventually came up from Cambridge to carry out the oral history in April 2017. Curator of collections Marla Taylor and I had an hour-long conversation with him, which was recorded and transcribed and is now part of our archives (and available for anyone who is interested). As it turns out, Bob and his first wife Eva Hunt met MacNeish in Mexico in the 1960s – they were doing archival research in Mexico City, and fieldwork among the Cuicatec, a small Mexican-Indian group located between the Tehuacán Valley and the Valley of Oaxaca. They crossed paths with MacNeish and his crew in the city of Tehuacán and became friends. Eva also wrote a chapter on irrigation for Volume Four of the Tehuacán publications.
It was fascinating to hear about MacNeish from someone who had known him personally and who could describe and contextualize his personality, fieldwork and scholarship. I had just spent several months processing MacNeish’s papers and welcomed the opportunity to learn something new about this person who was very familiar to me, but in a two-dimensional, removed in time sort of way. Now that I have done several oral histories, I recognize this wondrous quality while conducting them of time being suspended, of the past and present merging, as individuals and situations are evoked and memories are transmitted anew. As an archivist who usually works with static records, experiencing the living, human dimension of archives through these conversations has been very meaningful.
After the interview with Bob Hunt, Ryan suggested a few other people with whom he thought it would be great to do oral histories. Anticipating that some of them would be at the Society for American Archaeology conference in Washington, D.C. in April, Ryan proposed I attend too. I then arranged ahead of time to meet and carry out the interviews with Ted Stoddard, associated with the Peabody in the late 1940s-early 1950s, and with Dick Drennan, a curator at the Peabody in the 1970s. Their stories were wonderful to listen to: Ted described carrying out fieldwork in Maine for the Peabody as an undergraduate and then graduate student at Harvard, his memories of the Peabody director and curator team Doug Byers and Fred Johnson, and how he went on to pursue a career outside of archaeology. Dick talked about carrying out fieldwork in Mexico, teaching the archaeology class to Phillips Academy students and carrying out excavations at the Andover town dump, other memories of the Peabody at the time, and how the position fit into his overall career. I am still finalizing those transcripts but they will soon be available for anyone interested to consult.
I hope the oral history project will continue over the years to come!
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 institute’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 email@example.com 978 749 4493.