The arrival of COVID in March 2020 brought abrupt changes to the Peabody. Suddenly, we were working from home. We also canceled our volunteer program, and stopped hosting researchers, classes and work duty students. Gradually, a few staff started coming back in to the museum to continue (and finish!) the important collections inventory and rehousing project. To keep safe, we each had a floor to ourselves.
Vaccinations meant the return of our remaining staff and last summer we had volunteers and researchers back. This year’s fall term saw a return to nearly normal with classes and work duty students returning.
The return of students has been the single greatest change since we pulled back at the start of the pandemic. The building is periodically alive with the sounds of students again. Apparently, a place where students could gather and learn about archaeology were two of the conditions purportedly laid out by Robert S. Peabody when he founded the institution (source: Glory, Trouble, and Renaissance at the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology, page 4). In addition to our regular collections work, there is much more bustle as we pull items for classes and prepare for work duty students.
This year we have welcomed 16 work duty students back into the fold at the Peabody. They are currently engaged in several important projects, including revisiting items from the earliest stage of the inventory project. The students are adding a greater degree of detail to their descriptions, documenting additional notes and rehousing items per our updated standards. Others are learning how to write condition reports for the items pulled from collections for class lessons. Finally, work duty students have uploaded to our database nearly two-thousand slides from Copeland Marks’s travels that were digitized during our work-from-home phase.
We appreciate the help we receive from Andover students and are grateful that circumstances and planning have allowed them to return to us at the Peabody.
After I’ve spent nearly two years (minus five months of remote work) working to complete the inventory of the Peabody collection, we are so close to finishing! It has been a long process which wouldn’t have been possible without one thing: podcasts.
During those long hours cataloguing in the Peabody, it can get very quiet—and sometimes slightly creepy when you’re working alone in the basement of an old building which tends to make strange noises. Enter: podcasts, which not only help to pass the time but drown out any creepy noises or the sounds of disembodied footsteps coming from upstairs.
I had never listened to a podcast before working here, but now I can definitively say I am a podcast aficionado! I’ve spent the last two years listening to a wide variety of podcasts from beginning to end—some of which had six years’ worth of episodes to catch up on. I’d now like to share them with you in case anyone is in need of hundreds (possibly thousands, but I don’t want to do that math) of hours of listening material.
As a disclaimer, some of these podcasts do use explicit language so I have written an (E) next to each title which indicates that the podcast does use explicit language.
This podcast tells some of the darker stories from American history, from little known tales like the rainmaker who flooded San Diego to the only successful coup d’états to date. You’ll definitely learn some interesting stories that didn’t make it into our history books as kids.
Hosts Scott and Forrest investigate all things mysterious in this (sometimes very long) podcast. From strange disappearances to ghost stories to UFOs to Bigfoot and all things in between, they do incredibly deep dives to investigate evidence for and against these curious tales. The Peabody’s own Warren Moorehead was even mentioned in an episode exploring the legends of giants (if you haven’t already, check out the blog post I wrote about it). Two of my favorite topics they’ve covered are the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and the Dyatlov Pass incident.
This interview show features inanimate objects as guests, who tell their life stories and what it’s like to live like them. One of my favorite episodes is Lillian, a Song and Chioke, who was a grain of sand in his first episode, before being transformed into a pane of glass for his second episode.
This 12-episode immersive podcast series follows the investigation of Ryan Bailey, who is accidentally thrust into the secret world of mythical faeries. Join her as she unearths more of their secrets and the agency that is supposedly charged with protecting them.
In this weekly podcast, host Jonathan Van Ness (one of the hosts of TV show Queer Eye) sits down with an expert to talk about anything and everything he is curious about. Topics include politics, animals, social justice, history, and pretty much anything else you could think of. My favorite episodes are the ones where he explores the ancient histories of the Mediterranean, Egypt, China, and Mesoamerica. He has also done two very interesting episodes titled “How has the U.S. disrupted Native American food sources?” and “How are contemporary Native Americans thriving?”. With such a broad range of topics, there’s something for everyone and Jonathan’s hilarious quips and dynamic personality make it so fun to listen to.
This podcast tells the most entertaining and enraging stories from Greek and Roman mythology, told casually, sarcastically, and from a contemporary lens. Host Liv focuses on not only the wild things the Gods did, but also the rampant mistreatment of the women present in these stories. She also has very interesting conversations with authors and classicists to talk about their perceptions of the myths. Some of my favorite episodes are the series on Cupid and Psyche and the Medusa episodes.
In this bi-weekly podcast, host Aaron tells true-life scary stories. In these dark historical tales, he explores mysterious creatures, tragic events, and unusual happenings. Due to the success of the podcast, it was actually adapted into several books and a TV series!
From serial killers to disappearances, hosts John and Daryn break down these cases while Matt the Bartender mixes up drinks, making a heavy subject a little more palatable with their sense of humor. Unfortunately this podcast is no longer making new episodes, however there’s four years of weekly episodes for your listening pleasure!
This podcast features the stories of some of the most fascinating nobles and royals in history. Host Dana tells tales of tyrants, ill-fated love affairs, family drama, bad decisions, murder, and so much more. My favorite episode is titled “From Poland with Love” about noblewoman turned World War II spy, Krystyna Skarbek, but all of the episodes are incredibly interesting and paint a different picture of some royals than what you may have learned growing up.
In this weekly podcast, hosts Sara and Danny break down crimes of all kinds—murders, disappearances, cults, scams, and conspiracies—with a healthy dose of humor. My favorite episodes are the ones exploring cults, especially lesser-known cults, such as the Yellow Deli Cult and the Love Has Won Cult.
Hosts Katie and Nathan tell the stories of queens (and sometimes mistresses and other noblewomen) from history, from the well-known like Mary, Queen of Scots, to the lesser-known like Ranavalona. Their stories trace these women’s lives from birth to death, through tragedy and triumph, despite the unfortunate lack of information that was kept about some of these women. As a disclaimer, the first few episodes are actually very hard to listen to because of poor audio quality (they were still figuring things out!), so maybe skip ahead a few episodes if it bothers you. Some of the most interesting episodes in my opinion are on Sayyida Al Hurra, Boudica, and Victoria Woodhull.
In this true crime podcast, hosts John and Daryn (previously from Martinis and Murder) have rebranded and are back to tell more stories of disturbing crimes that leave us shaken, complete with their drinks and sense of humor.
Host Kate takes listeners on a time-travelling journey through history, one era at a time. She explores what life would have been like for women during these times, both the famous ones and the obscure. If you’ve ever wondered what ancient Romans ate for breakfast, what a day in the life of a Civil War nurse was like, or what the beauty routine of an ancient Egyptian was, then this is the podcast for you! I just finished all the episodes and am absolutely obsessed with it. I only wish there were more episodes for me to listen to!
In this immersive podcast experience set in a creepy old library, host Miranda Merrick and her dear friend Mr. Darling tell stories of the shadowy, mysterious, and macabre. From bog bodies to ancient books and curses, and from poison to demons, this podcast is perfect for anyone looking for something a little spooky.
In this eight-part series, host Anne travels to her hometown of Springfield, Missouri to follow up on an unsolved crime. On June 7, 1992, Sherrill Levitt, her daughter Suzie Streeter, and Suzie’s friend Stacy McCall all disappeared from Sherrill’s home, seemingly without a trace. Nearly thirty years later, there are still no answers for the women’s families. Follow Anne as she traces the stories of these women and how their disappearance changed this small town in the Ozarks forever.
This story-based podcast explores a new unexplained mystery each week, taking listeners on a journey through the strange and often eerie. Through bizarre tales of time-slips, mysterious disappearances, unexplained deaths, dabblings in the occult, and so much more, host Richard examines the nature of reality and the human condition. Some of the most interesting episodes in my opinion are “The Last Flight” about the disappearance of Frederick Valentich, and “When the Snow Melts” about the Dyatlov Pass incident (Astonishing Legends also did a deep dive on both of these topics in their podcast).
The Vanished (generally not explicit but some episodes do include explicit language)
This true crime podcast covers the stories of missing persons, generally lesser-known ones who may not have gotten much attention in the media. Going beyond conventional news reports, host Marissa dives into the story of each missing person, including interviews with family members, friends, and law enforcement. This podcast can be very sad to listen to but, like the host, I believe it’s important to keep the stories of these people alive so that hopefully one day their family can get closure.
Hosts Mike and Sarah reconsider past events or people that have been miscast or misrepresented in the public imagination and/or by the media, all with some sarcasm and a great sense of humor. This show has really changed my perception of so many things I thought I knew, from maligned women of the ‘90s to stranger danger. I love all of the episodes so it is very hard to pick any favorites, however some of the most interesting are “Human Trafficking”, “Tonya Harding”, “Political Correctness”, and the series on Princess Diana. I think this is probably my favorite podcast out of all I’ve listened to so I highly recommend it!
I hope that in sharing all of these with you, you can find something new and interesting to listen to and perhaps will learn some new things!
Nearly $345 million dollars is spent on chocolate for Valentine’s Day each year – that’s about 58 million pounds of chocolate! Holy cacao! Chocolate candy plays such a significant role for this romantic holiday, but did you ever think those very boxes would be used to store artifacts? Currently, I am cataloguing and rehousing artifacts from Tamaulipas, Mexico – a collection from Richard “Scotty” MacNeish’s 1948-1949 Tamaulipas Project. About halfway through the collection I found a sweet surprise – an old chocolate box from Cambridge, MA!
In the Inventory and Rehousing Project, it is common to come across artifacts stored in their original housing material from archaeological recovery in the field. Many of these materials are unique and there is always something new to find! Examples of some of these materials can be found here in an earlier article by Peabody Director, Ryan Wheeler. Like Forrest Gump would say about life being a box of chocolates (pun intended here), the same goes for the Peabody collection – you never know what you’re going to get!
Alongside the chocolate box, I also found a holiday gift box and a greeting card box with artifact information and excavation notes written on the outside cover. The chocolate box was the most intriguing to me, because the product and box were from Massachusetts. Upon looking up the company name on the box, “Handspun Chocolate Co, Cambridge, MA,” I came across Boston’s rich history of chocolate production.
New England candy was king of the American confectionary industry from colonial times through to the 1950s. In 1764, two men from Dorchester, MA named John Hannon and Dr. James Baker began importing cacao beans into the United States and producing chocolate in Dorchester Lower Mills. These two men were the chocolate meisters of Revolutionary America and are known today as the oldest producers of chocolate in the United States. In 1779, John Hannon had traveled to the West Indies and never returned. As a result, Dr. James Baker became the “King of Cocoa” with the Baker Chocolate Company.
As sugar refineries began to pop up throughout New England, the candy industry reached a new height with Oliver R. Chase’s machine invention of a chalk-like candy, known today as Necco wafers. White chocolate was later created by Frederick Herbert of Hebert Candies in Shrewsbury, MA. Another local creation occurred in 1930 at the Toll House Inn in Whiteman, MA. An accidental invention, Ruth Wakefield added cut up pieces of a semisweet, chocolate bar, in hopes of melting the chocolate into the dough of her baked cookies. The chocolate kept its shape and just like that – the chocolate chip cookie was born! (Fun Fact: The chocolate chip cookie is the official cookie of the State of Massachusetts.) Nestle began selling chocolate chips in 1939.
By the 1940s, candy companies began consolidating into two large companies – Daggett Chocolates and New England Confectionary Company (NECCO). The latter still survives today, but is no longer locally owned. As of 2018, NECCO was the oldest operating candy company, celebrating 153 years of their most popular “sweethearts” candy. However, by July 2018, the company closed and announced their plans to sell everything to the Spangler Candy Company in the fall. Spangler Candy produces Dum Dum lollipops, Necco Wafers, and Circus Peanuts. In 2019, Spangler announced it would not be producing conversation hearts, as there was not enough time to meet the demand of sweethearts for Valentine’s Day. Typically it took NECCO 11 months to produce 8 billion sweethearts just to be sold for 6 weeks out of the year for Valentine’s Day. Although they were gone for 2019, the sweethearts are back for Valentine’s Day 2020! They are in limited supply at select retailers and – believe it or not – many are missing their signature sayings due to equipment printing problems!
The Daggett Chocolate Company is the lesser known of the two candy companies. Fred L. Daggett began his business in 1892 with several factories located around the city of Boston. Daggett later concentrated his production plant in Cambridge in 1925. Daggett Chocolates produced more than 40 brands of chocolate as well as strawberry fillings for their chocolates. The company also made an impact in the soda and ice cream industries, supplying syrups and crushed fruit to manufacturers. As a result, ice cream and candy were connected and Boston became the first place to mix candy into ice cream.
Looking back at the chocolate box I had found in the Peabody collection, I had searched the company name and found that the company was bought out by Daggett Chocolates along with 30 other small chocolate companies by the 1950s.
The sugar industry reached its peak in the 1950s. By this time, the Boston metro area boasted over 140 confectionaries and factories, with the main street of Cambridge, MA as the epicenter for production – known as “Confectioners Row.” Some of our favorite candy treats including Necco wafers and sweethearts, Sugar Daddies, Charleston Chews, and Junior Mints were produced on this very street. For over a century, the smell of chocolate could be found along the streets of Boston. Chocolate was in the air – literally.
After the 1950s, the candy industry in Boston took a turn. As more candy companies such as Hershey’s, Nestle, and Mars took to the world stage, smaller brands were left behind. The box chocolate dynasty was reaching an end as candy bars began to take over store shelves. The candy epicenter soon waned and Confectioner’s Row became an ordinary main street. Box chocolate giant, Schrafft’s also closed in Charlestown, MA (that’s right, the building you can see from I-93 entering Boston, bearing the Schrafft’s name in red along with a clock tower, was in fact an old chocolate factory.)
Although Boston is no longer candy land today, you can still find candy makers throughout New England sharing their old-fashioned homemade treats and iconic candy classics. One candy store still in operation today is the Spindler Confections shop in North Cambridge, MA. This shop continues to hand make all of their candy and chocolate on site. They even have a candy museum! Check it out here! As for my sweet find in the Peabody collection – how could a box of chocolates send me down a rabbit hole of Boston’s sweet-toothed past? I was surprised that a simple (and chocolate-less), chocolate box could do so much.
To explore more chocolate history click here, here, and here! Enjoy your sweet finds!