Kidder’s Pecos Proposal

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

This blog represents the tenth entry in a blog series – Peabody 25 – that will delve into the history of the Peabody Museum through objects in our collection.  A new post will be out with each newsletter, so keep your eyes peeled of the Peabody 25 tag!

One fascinating document in the Peabody Museum archives is a 15-page, hand-written proposal drafted by Alfred V. Kidder and addressed to the Trustees of Phillips Academy, which outlines his plan for archaeological exploration of Pecos Pueblo in New Mexico.

Kidder’s proposal, dated February 9, 1915, represents a critical moment in the history of the Peabody and the broader history of American archaeology.

At the local level, Kidder’s proposal and ultimate investigation, was the result of a power struggle for the future of the Peabody, then known as the Phillips Academy Department of Archaeology. After less than a decade of operation, curator Warren K. Moorehead, and honorary director Charles Peabody, formulated a plan for a serious expansion of the department. Sharing space with a basement grill and student clubs, coupled with burgeoning artifact collections fueled their interest in an expansion. Moorehead also complained that the light and airy rooms left little space to mount exhibitions. He visited other museums, and envisioned a series of grand galleries. Architect Guy Lowell was contracted to revisit his original creation, a relatively modest 15,000 square foot building, and drafted plans that were submitted to Academy principal Alfred B. Stearns and the board. Stearns and the trustees, however, did not see the need for a larger archaeology museum and worked to derail the plan. Hotly opposed by Moorehead, a committee of experts was empaneled and charged with charting a new direction for the young institution. Marla Taylor, in her blog post, details some of the personalities involved and their ultimate recommendations. The focus, it seems, was to be on research, at the expense of teaching. Committee members Roland Dixon, a distinguished Harvard professor, and eminent Phillips Academy alumnus Hiram Bingham III, suggested that newly minted PhD Alfred V. Kidder was the perfect person to lead this research. Kidder had already considerable experience in the Southwest, including early work as a Harvard student with Edgar Lee Hewett, doyen of southwestern archaeology.

Image of archaeologists Neil M. Judd, Warren Moorehead, and Alfred Vincent Kidder at the Etowah site near Cartersville, Georgia, March 1927.
Archaeologist Neil M. Judd (left) with Warren Moorehead and Alfred Vincent Kidder (right) at the Etowah site near Cartersville, Georgia, March 1927.

Kidder’s proposal begins with a short description of Pecos Pueblo in New Mexico based on limited previous observations and Spanish descriptions and then moves to considerations of how to select a site for study. On page four he notes that “there are always two points of view: the scientific and the practical.” Regarding the first he provides an overview of Southwestern archaeology, noting the presence in the area of diverse, yet seemingly related cultures, and the need to order these chronologically. Here he makes a comparison to the Old World, noting that, “for example: the succession of the stone and metal ages in Europe,” as well as sequences in Minoan and Egyptian art, had already been worked out (page 6). Kidder goes on to say, “all these great discoveries, which have so profoundly influenced not only anthropological, but also general philosophical thought, have rested for their final proof on stratification.”

Image of Alfred Kidder with beads from Pecos Pueblo.
Alfred Vincent Kidder with beads from Pecos Pueblo, June 8, 1929.

Stratification, of course, is the cornerstone of Kidder’s work in the Southwest. He goes on to mention the general lack of American sites with stratified or stacked layers, and a few recent exceptions, including his own observations in Utah and those of Nels Nelson in Galisteo, New Mexico. Specific to Pecos, Kidder says that this site promises a potentially longer occupation than other candidates in the Southwest; he elaborates in stating, “my reason for thinking so is that the Pecos ridge and its fan-shaped rubbish heads show fragments of seven distinct pottery types, one of which, the Black-and-white, is the oldest style at present recognized in the whole Plateau area (page 8).”

On page 10 Kidder turns to practical considerations. Proximity to the train station in Rowe, New Mexico, stores in the town of Pecos, and Santa Fe amenities are offered as major considerations. Kidder notes the costs of shipping materials in and out of more remote sites (Mesa Verde, $0.50 per hundred pounds to Navajo Mountain at $1.75). Procuring labor was also a consideration. Here Kidder notes that the American Indian residents of Santa Clara and San Ildefonso pueblos have experience in excavation and are careful workers. A consideration of possible rates follows.

Kidder spends the remaining pages, 12 through 15, on a plan of work. He notes the need to create a plan of the site and thoroughly inspect it, to begin training men who would become supervisors in subsequent years, and the initial expenditures on storage buildings, camera, and scientific equipment. Kidder also writes about the need to understand the ownership of the land and to enter into an agreement with the owners to avoid any future misunderstandings. The final page is dedicated to a budget for the first year’s work, and totaled $3,000. The figures, which include cost for tools, camera and darkroom supplies, a horse and wagon, expenses, and contingency funds, didn’t include Kidder’s salary.

Image of artist Stuart Travis's Pecos Pueblo diorama, built in 1940.
Diorama of Pecos Pueblo created by artist Stuart Travis, 1940.

Things moved pretty quickly. Kidder was offered a post as field director of the archaeological expedition, his proposed budget approved, and a salary of $2,000 was agreed upon on February 11, 1915. Kidder began his field session a few months later on May 15, and what was first approved as a three-year program was ultimately extended to 1929 when he joined the staff of the Carnegie Institution of Washington DC. After returning from the field, arrangements were made for Kidder to have space at Harvard, where we continued a close association for the rest of his career. Douglas Givens, in his excellent 1992 book Alfred Vincent Kidder and the Development of Americanist Archaeology notes that “although Nelson, Kroeber, Spier, and Kidder were each working with stratigraphy about the same time in the Southwest, it was Kidder who combined features of Nelson’s method with Kroeber and Spier’s work into a workable dating approach.” According to Givens, “Kidder was the first southwestern archaeologist to make use of the stratigraphic method on a large scale.” Kidder’s technique allowed him to investigate both chronology and broader cultural changes within the Pecos site.

Image of page 15 from Alfred Kidder's Pecos Pueblo proposal--the budget, which totaled $3,000.
Kidder’s proposed first year budget for the Pecos Project totaled $3,000. It was approved by Phillips Academy within days of being submitted.

Kidder built on the work of his first season at Pecos, ultimately employing a multidisciplinary approach that involved work in ethnography and physical anthropology to inform his archaeological observations. Much of the results of the project were published jointly by the Phillips Academy Department of Archaeology and the Yale University Press as the Papers of the Southwestern Expedition, including Kidder’s own 1924 Introduction to the Study of Southwestern Archaeology with a Preliminary Account of the Excavation at Pecos, which is still in print. Archaeologist Ben Rouse writes in the introduction to the 1962 edition that this was “the first detailed synthesis of the archaeology of any part of the New World and, as such, set the pattern for much subsequent work in other areas.”

Image of students from Phillips Academy and the Pueblo of Jemez on the Pecos Pathways trip help restore the Spanish church ruins at Pecos National Historical Park.
Students from Phillips Academy and the Pueblo of Jemez on the Pecos Pathways trip help restore the Spanish church ruins at Pecos National Historical Park.

Kidder’s Pecos project cast a long shadow on the Peabody Museum. Kidder’s rigorous program of scientific research was continued by Douglas Byers and Frederick Johnson, museum personnel from the 1930s through the late 1960s. Like Kidder, Byers and Johnson employed a multidisciplinary approach to studies of culture history, often working closely with scientists in other disciplines. Together they developed a Pecos exhibition in conjunction with artist Stuart Travis, including a diorama of the site that is still popular today. They also traded Pecos collections with other institutions, acquiring archaeological and ethnographic specimens from sites in Labrador to Upper Paleolithic France. Archaeologist Richard “Scotty” MacNeish, ultimately director of the Peabody in the 1970s and early 1980s, had known and admired Kidder for some time, and collaborated with Byers and Johnson on major multidisciplinary undertakings in Mexico and Peru. There’s another side to Kidder’s Pecos project as well. Kidder’s excavations targeted those slope deposits described in his research proposal, where he also expected to find human burials. Matthew Liebmann and Christopher Toya note in their foreword to the 2010 volume Pecos Pueblo Revisited: The Biological and Social Context, that Kidder had excavated the remains of 1,922 people during his dig, not to mention an astonishing number of funerary and sacred objects. These people and their belongings were repatriated to the Pueblo of Jemez, descendants of Pecos, in 1999 and reburied at Pecos National Historical Park. Consultation with the Pueblo of Jemez by the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology and the Harvard Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology led to long lasting collaboration, including the Pecos Pathways exchange program for high school students.

Summer collaboration with Salem State University

more excavating
Excavating at RNH

Contributed by Lindsay Randall

The Peabody Museum once again partnered with Dr. Bethany Jay, professor of history at Salem State University, to run the graduate summer institute class, Preserving the Past: Using Archaeology to Teach History.

The week long class focuses on how archaeology can be used in middle and high school classrooms as a way to talk about minorities who are often left out of the historical record.  Each day was focused on a different minority group such as Native Americans, women, enslaved people, and free blacks.

Each day gives students background content to ground them in the topic, a tour of a historic or other site, and hands-on lesson plans. This year’s lesson plans included the Peabody’s “Maps and Dreams,” which utilizes Native American petroglyphs as well as a map in Phillips Andover’s Knafel Map Collection and “Little Spots Allow’d Them,” which focuses on the archaeology of the Royall House and Slave Quarters. They also were able to see the mock excavation activity about Katherine Nanny Naylor which the Commonwealth Museum hosts as part of their Archaeology of the Big Dig.

The last day is always the highlight of the class. Dr. Nate Hamilton of University of Southern Maine generously lenthis time and expertise to the class, allowing the students to participate in a real excavation at the Rebecca Nurse Homestead in Danvers MA.

Also this summer, Dr. Brad Austin of Salem State University brought his class Teaching Difficult Topics: Native American History to the Peabody. The class spent the day working with the Peabody’s History 300 lessons “alterNATIVE uses” and “Trail Where They Cried.”

In “alterNATIVE uses” students examine both a stone and metal projectile point to better understand how iron and trade affect both Native and European communities during the 1600 and 1700s. Each student was given a replica stone and metal projectile point along with the lesson plan.

Brad Austin's class working on analyzing points in the 'alterNATIVE uses' lesson
Brad Austin’s class working on analyzing points in the ‘alterNATIVE uses’ lesson

In the “Trail Where They Cried” the students learned how to make the complex history of Cherokee Removal more accessible to students through a Choose Your Own Adventure style activity.

Both activities were a big hit and the students have asked to use more of the Peabody’s teaching resources.

The Peabody Collaborates with the Robbins Museum on NAGPRA Inventory

Contributed by Lindsay Randall

Robbins Museum
Robbins Museum

On Monday July 17 the Peabody staff joined volunteers at the Robbins Museum of Archaeology in Middleboro, MA to help with an ongoing collections inventory project. The Robbins Museum is an all-volunteer organization that is currently working on their NAGPRA obligations and repatriation. In addition to Ryan, Marla, Samantha, and Lindsay, others who came out to help were professional archaeologists with ties to the Robbins Museum along with Jim Peters, Massachusetts Commissioner of Indian Affairs and Mashpee Wampanoag tribal member who is also part of the Wampanoag Repatriation Confederacy.

The Robbins and Peabody museums are working together on the repatriation of related collections from the Mansion Inn site, split between the two institutions. The site, located in Wayland MA, was excavated by J. Alfred Mansfield and Leslie Longworth, members of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society (the parent institution of the Robbins Museum) in 1959; Doug Byers and Fred Johnson of the Peabody also became involved with the site at that time. For that reason, both institutions have collections and have decided to work together as the process moves forward.

Throughout the day everyone worked diligently in an effort to create a streamlined checklist that will assist with the transfer of custody of the human remains and associated funerary objects. It was a very eventful and fun day and we look forward to working with the Robbins Museum again on the process!

Warren Moorehead complains about a special advisory committee in a letter to the Headmaster.

Report from the Advisory Committee on Archaeology, 1914

This blog represents the ninth entry in a blog series – Peabody 25 – that will delve into the history of the Peabody Museum through objects in our collection.  A new post will be out with each newsletter, so keep your eyes peeled of the Peabody 25 tag!

Bureaucracy and oversight committees are not modern phenomena.  In the earliest years of the Peabody, contemporaneously known as the Department of Archaeology, the work done was overseen by a subcommittee of the Trustees of Phillips Academy. However, the Trustees recognized the limitations of their own knowledge in the world of archaeology and appointed a Special Advisory Committee on Archaeology in 1914.

The special committee was tasked with assessing mundane logistical needs of the Department as well as providing direction and feedback on proposed research.  Composed of five prominent anthropologists; Franz Boas, William Henry Holmes, Roland Dixon, Hiram Bingham, and Frederic Ward Putnam, the committee made the following suggestions:

  1. Install a synoptic exhibit, strictly limited in size and scope, of the life of man from geological time to the beginnings of history
  2. Limit public lectures to no more than 4 each year
  3. End formal classes in archaeology for the students at Phillips Academy and instead encourage individual students as their interests dictate
  4. The work of ‘research’ should include two separate divisions; one to investigate large definite problems of archaeology, and the other to aid competent archaeologists in the execution of such of their plans
  5. Appoint a small permanent advisory committee of experts of easy access, whose duty it shall be to report to the Trustees upon all plans for exploration, organization of study collections, museum research, and publication.

These recommendations were received with mixed feelings by curator Warren K. Moorehead.  He appreciated many of the committee’s suggestions, but strongly objected to the creation of a permanent oversight committee.  Convinced that they would meddle in his research plans and enmesh him in red tape, Moorehead clearly expressed his displeasure:

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Warren Moorehead complains about a special advisory committee in a letter to the Headmaster.
Warren Moorehead complains about a special advisory committee in a letter to the Headmaster.

 

 

However, the committee composed of Dixon and Bingham, existed for several years.  They limited Moorehead to his ongoing work in Maine and simultaneously decided to embark on an expedition in the Southwest.  This decision directly led to the appointment of Alfred V. Kidder as the Director of Southwest Explorations and his seminal work at Pecos Pueblo, New Mexico.

A storage bay with a mixture of drawers and boxes

Oak River Foundation continues support of Peabody collections

Contributed by Marla Taylor

In 2016, the Peabody Museum received a generous 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.

The grant was spread across two years and initially supported the work of an archivist to whip the Peabody’s 100+ years of archives into shape.  With that funding, Irene Gates was able to share archival collection records online and process over 140 linear feet of material.  She also created three finding aids to the material belonging to prominent directors of the Peabody’s past.

The second year of funding is designated to supporting the work of a temporary inventory specialist – Rachel Manning.  Rachel will be spending her time inventorying drawers of artifacts and rehousing them into archival boxes as part of our larger collections storage project.  While she only began her work in early August, Rachael has already been making steady progress.

Rachel inventories a drawer from Massachusetts.
Rachel inventories a drawer from Massachusetts.

And we are pleased to announce that the Oak River Foundation has stepped up again and provided additional funding for Irene to return and spend another year in the Peabody archives!  This second year will facilitate processing the remaining 150 linear feet of material as well as addressing the photographic and map collections.

Our deepest appreciation goes to the Oak River Foundation for their continued generosity and support of the Peabody’s goal 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.

More to Xi’an than terracotta warriors

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

In June 2017 I had the opportunity to visit China in preparation for a potential student trip—part of the Phillips Academy Learning in the World program. My traveling companions included Anne Martin-Montgomery and Jingya Ma, who aided in developing the itinerary, which delves into China’s ancient past. With a dizzying number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites (52 on the list, with even more proposed sites), our goal was to create a student travel experience that blends adventure, archaeology, and learning.

One destination was Xi’an in Shaanxi Province. Xi’an boasts lots of historical and archaeological sites, most notably the mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang. The mausoleum is best known for Emperor Qin’s terracotta army, which doesn’t disappoint. Pictures don’t do it justice and it is fun to look at the sea of soldiers lined up, ready to march up ramps and out the false doors. The site—located in Bingmayong outside of Xi’an, was mobbed with visitors, all ready to pose for a selfie with some of the emperor’s immortal warriors. Xi’an, however, includes other ancient sites, which can be found in other suburbs like Bànpō.

Bànpō Neolithic Village is tucked into a neighborhood of this Xi’an suburb. It was found in the 1950s during construction for an industrial site, and if you peek over the fence today you will see a factory complex, including a billiard table manufactory.

Image of interior, Banpo excavation hall, with features like the moat and postholes from structures.
Interior of Banpo excavation hall–the moat is in the foreground, posthole outlines of structures can be seen as well.

Bànpō was the oldest site on our itinerary, dating to the Neolithic Yangshao culture, with occupation going back to 6,500 years ago. Like Emperor Qin’s mausoleum, the excavation site is covered by a fairly substantial structure, so visitors can observe the outlines of houses, the moat, burials, and in place features. Exhibit halls showcase artifacts from the site, along with dioramas of Yangshao life. Markings on the early pottery from the site have suggested to some precursors to the writing systems known from the Bronze Age.

At the rear of the museum property are the remains of the Bànpō Matriarchal Clan Village, which apparently offered a living history interpretation of Neolithic life. This has been replaced with a newer area that showcases Neolithic activities on the weekend, including thatching your hut, fire making, and other early technology and skills.

Marxist ideology has heavily influenced the interpretation of Bànpō, emphasizing that this was a matriarchal culture. This is not surprising, since in Marxist thought matriarchal clan based society was a hallmark of early stages in a unilinear social evolution that moved inevitably toward patriarchal family based society. These ideas have been largely abandoned today, though the site is replete with signage that emphasizes this interpretation.

Image of Peabody director Ryan Wheeler with reconstructions of Banpo woman and man.
Ryan Wheeler with Banpo woman and man.

A cute 2015 graphic novel style guide book tells the story of the site and the Yangshao culture. The matriarchal focus is still there (one of the main characters is Bànpō girl), but there is lots of accessible info on foodways, pottery making techniques, and the layout of the village.

We are looking forward to visiting Bànpō again and catching some of the Neolithic lifeways demonstrations. Interactive and hands on activities have become the norm in US museums, but we encountered few such programs in China.

Summer time = Research time

The collections team remains busy at the Peabody during the summer time, following an already packed school year. Instead of working with PA students, we spend much of our time working to catalog the collections and hosting outside researchers.

The summer has started off strong with one of the Linda S. Cordell Memorial Research Award recipients , John Andrew Campbell.  John is documenting artifacts from the period of first contact between Native Americans and European settlers along the maritime region of eastern Canada and northern New England.  ”What does that mean?,“ you may ask.

Basically, John is identifying copper, glass beads, and glazed ceramic artifacts that were found intermingled with traditional native tools and artifacts.  The first appearance of these ”foreign” materials indicates that contact between the cultures had been made.  Their use and modification by tribes is the direct result of trade with the European settlers and can be revealing of those early interactions.

The Peabody is John’s first stop for collections research as he begins to build data for his dissertation work at Memorial University in Newfoundland.  He will be visiting for most of June and documenting hundreds of items.

The rest of the summer is chock full of research appointments and we are happy to share our collections to contribute to the field of archaeology!

Dapper Digging

Contributed by Lindsay Randall

This blog represents the eighth entry in a blog series – Peabody 25 – that will delve into the history of the Peabody Museum through objects in our collection.  A new post will be out with each newsletter, so keep your eyes peeled of the Peabody 25 tag!

Excavations at the Etowah Mound site in Georgia have revealed a great deal about the Mississippian culture. Based on the archaeological materials found at the site, it is likely that during its occupation about 1,100 to 500 years ago,  it was one of the most significant and influential cities in southeastern North America. A hallmark of the Mississippian culture, is the linkage through economics, politics, and other societal influences of large villages, such as Etowah, with smaller communities that surround it.

Due to its historical prominence, the Etowah Mound site is considered an important archaeological site in the United States.

The site has three large platform mounds in addition to a plaza and smaller mounds. The largest of the mounds towered over the landscape, reaching the height of a six-story building.  The mounds were used in a variety of ways: platforms that supported buildings, ceremonial sites, as well as burial locations for elite members of the society.

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Images of some of the Etowah mounds from the Peabody collections

In 1925 the Trustees of Phillips Academy sponsored the first systematic excavation under the direction of Warren K. Moorehead. This three year investigation occurred during a transitional time in the history of archaeology when excavators were moving away from an antiquarian focus on objects and developing more scientifically rigorous methods.  Moorehead’s interest in Etowah may have been a reaction to Alfred V. Kidder’s stratigraphic excavations at Pecos Pueblo in New Mexico, where new ideas about chronology and multidisciplinary work were tested.

Despite new methodologies and practices in archaeological investigations, many excavations were still carried out in ways that would make any archaeologist today cringe.  The importance of stratigraphy was still not fully understood or appreciated by all archaeologists, including Moorehead, when the Etowah excavations were being undertaken. Modern attempts to sort out and understand Moorehead’s excavations have proved challenging. In their 1996 book Shell Gorgets: Styles of the Late Prehistoric and Protohistoric Southeast archaeologists Jeffrey Brain and Philip Phillips lament Moorehead’s lack of precision, poor recordkeeping, and disregard for context and stratigraphy. Perhaps it’s best that Moorehead announced in 1930 that he had decided “to abandon further field operations and concentrate on a study of type distributions in the United States during the next six years.”

As we reviewed Moorehead’s photographs of the 1925-1928 excavations at Etowah, we were often incredulous about the images of a tractor bulldozing a mound or workers (dressed in 3 piece suits no less!) hacking away at the side of a large mound. We understand today that a great deal of contextual information was lost using these clumsy techniques.

Although these images affect our sensibilities, it cannot be denied that they are also important. These photographs help to document just how much the field of archaeology has changed and grown in the past 100 years. What started out as a gentlemen’s pastime has transformed into a profession associated with state-of-the art scientific techniques and theories that allow investigation of “hidden histories.” We understand that in another hundred years the images of our pristine and scientifically driven investigations might too cause heartburn in those archaeologists looking back on our work!

The site is now a Georgia state park and is designated as a National Historic Landmark (1964) and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (1966)

Steeped in Archaeology

Contributed by Lindsay Randall

On Monday May 22nd students and teachers from Brookwood School came to the Peabody Museum to kick off their “Steep Week.” During Steep Week, students immerse themselves in an intensive program related to an area of interest, in this case archaeology.

When the students arrived they were very proud to announce that archaeologists “DON’T DIG DINOSAURS!” Clearly their two teachers (one of whom is a trained archaeologist) had worked VERY hard to prep them for their visit to the Peabody, as well as for the rest of the week’s activities.

The students began by learning how to “read” modern trash to make a biography about an individual based solely on the objects that the person had thrown away. The clean trash that the students looked through was mine that I had split into three different bags related to different activities that I do: kayaking and running, cooking, quilting and reading. The group that had the container with an old Doritos bag declared that their person (me!) was a guy who was either “failing at adulting” or “had student loans” – very interesting assumptions they were making!!!  They were then shocked to learn that the person who had the Doritos was also the same person who had run a half marathon and made quilts. This allowed us to have a great conversation about assumptions that we make and how that can impact our understanding and interpretation of the past.

The next two activities were mock excavations of a prehistoric site as well as a historic one.  Both helped the students prepare for the real archaeological dig that they were going to conduct on their school property later in the week, particularly the historic example, since they had already been looking at old maps of the school’s property to see what they could learn about it before putting a shovel into the ground.

 

The rain mostly held off for the group and we were able to conclude the day with a fierce atlatl competition!

IMG_0131
A little rain could not sop us from our atlatl competition.

“Our introduction to Archaeology at the Peabody Museum at Phillips Academy, Andover successfully prepared our students to investigate archaeological problems at a high level by concentrating on the conceptual basis of archaeological thought and filtering it through readily understandable, local examples. Our students enjoyed themselves while having their minds opened to a different way of investigatory thought that they relied on heavily to ask questions and achieve understanding.” – Mike Wise, Brookwood teacher

 

 

 

Bushels of Baskets

Though the Peabody is small by museum standards we are mighty, especially when it comes to our baskets.  With close to 400 baskets, the Peabody collection covers all major geographical regions and tribal communities of North America, and spans over 200 years.  Baskets from notable artists like Molly Neptune Parker (Maine) and Clara Darden (Louisiana) help to support and curate these artists’ work, and are examples of continued and evolving traditions within Native communities.

One of my first large projects at the Peabody was to completely catalog, inventory, and rehouse this great collection.  The purpose of this was twofold:

First, it was important to consolidate our records regarding these baskets.  Museums are full of information, and it’s usually in five different places! By gathering what we know, and putting it all in one place, we not only gain better control over this knowledge, but we make it more accessible to museum staff, researchers, and students.  The convenience of this newfound accessibility encourages more use in the classroom and more research by professionals, giving these baskets the attention they deserve.

Secondly, by revamping the basket organization and rehousing, we are better able to care for these objects and their specific needs.  Although baskets aren’t usually as fragile as most people fear, they still require some TLC.  By creating storage mounts that are custom designed to each basket, we are able to provide more support to the object, especially when it is being moved and shifted around during handling.  Within our ethnographic storage, space is at a premium, so another byproduct of the rehousing was the space it opened up.  We were able to clear seven shelves!

basket elf
Basket Elf in natural habitat

Happy baskets, happy collection staff.

 

To see previous work done with the baskets by Catherine Hunter, check out these previous blogs!

Language of Baskets

Baskets Explored