Inside the Peabody Museum: February 2015

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This Spring: Maya Civilization, Human Evolution, Warrior Moves, and More

Calling All Sixth Graders

George Washington and the Hawaiian Helmet of Feathers

New Exhibition: Finding Our Way 

Origins of Maya CivilizationThis Spring: Maya Civilization, Human Evolution, Warrior Moves, and More

Spring at the Peabody features public talks, live music to accompany drawing in the galleries, and martial arts demonstrations. See all upcoming Harvard Museum of Science & Culture programs, including the Peabody Museum's.

On Thursday, February 19, two archaeologists will talk about their team's discovery of what is considered to be the earliest ceremonial complex in the Maya lowlands. The Gordon R. Willey Lecture, "The Origins of Maya Civilization: New Insights from Ceibal," is the third in a series of Maya programs presented in collaboration with the Museum of Science, Boston. 

Three talks will focus on human evolution. First, the Hallam L. Movius, Jr. Lecture will explore the behaviors that contributed to the competitive advantage of modern humans and the demise of Neanderthals. The Movius lecture will be on March 12, immediately followed by a reception. Later in the spring, guest speakers will address the role of evolution in warfare, and what fossil teeth can reveal about the differences between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens

On April 12, inspired by the Arts of War: Artistry in Weapons across Cultures exhibition, Harvard student athletes will demonstrate martial arts. Families may drop in for the demonstrations, practice some moves, and learn the ways of warriors. Invited athletes will represent taekwondo, archery, capoeira, kendo, fencing, Shotokan karate, aikido, and wushu.  And on May 1, during Harvard's Arts First event, the galleries will be  the site of the eclectic and internationally flavored music of the Dudley World Music Ensemble. VIsitors will be invited simply enjoy the live music or draw with art materials provided by the museum.

Foragers to Farmers pilot programCalling All Sixth Graders  

During one week in January, all Cambridge public school 6th graders visited the Peabody Museum and the Harvard Museum of Natural History (HMNH) to become hands-on "archaeologists" and "paleontologists." At the Peabody Museum, student "archaeologists" compared skulls of wild and domesticated animals, ground grain in stone mortars, tied fishing nets, and cut leather with stone tools in an effort to understand life during the Neolithic period. At HMNH, student “paleontologists” explored seven specially prepared activity stations throughout the museum, recording information gathered from exhibits, rocks, and fossils in “Mission Plan Notebooks."

The museums--which are physically connected--partnered with local educators to develop two programs especially for the 6th grade to align with their science and history curricula. About 300 students and chaperones learned about Foragers and Farmers during the Neolithic period at the Peabody and completed a Mission to the Past to describe the Cambrian, Triassic and Pleistocene periods in New England at HMNH. Classes spent about an hour in each museum engaging in hands‐on activities integrated with the Cambridge Public Schools curriculum, all as part of a pilot program.

"Collaborations like this are a great opportunity for teachers to tell us what they are trying to do in the classroom," said Peabody Museum Education Manager Polly Hubbard. "We develop hands-on ways ways that museum expertise and collections can  help kids understand and remember that essential content. Our museum now has  a new way to use the galleries and the teachers have some curricular support to connect the paleolithic period to the rise of cities in Mesopotamia. It was a good challenge for us all."

Hubbard headed the development team of teachers from Cambridge and Lexington with staff from the museum's  Zooarchaeology Lab. At HMNH, Education Specialist Arielle Ascrizzi developed Mission to the Past in collaboration with the Cambridge Science Department.

The combined field trip took several months to develop. In December, school staff received personal visits from Ascrizzi and Hubbard to describe the programs and logistics for the day. Schools also received a Peabody‐developed teaching kit--an excavation in a box--plus three lesson plans to use before visiting. Peter Burns, Richard Meadow, Deyne Meadow and graduate student Bastien Varoutsikos donated or created artifacts for student exploration or vetted the kits for accuracy. Museum Director Jeff Quilter contributed corrections and helpful photographs for the Foragers teaching tour. 

The Foragers pilot program continued with a visit from one more middle school in Lexington. "The next step is to evaluate the program and tweak it as needed," said Polly Hubbard. "We have high hopes that it will become a popular part of the Peabody field trip portfolio." 

Read the Cambridge Chronicle article, Cambridge Students Visit Prehistoric Times.


Hawaiian Crested Helmet, Before 1841 AD, Oahu or Maui, Hawaiian Islands. PM 99-12-70/53559George Washington and the Hawaiian Helmet of Feathers

This extravagantly feathered helmet made a historic trip from Hawaii to Boston, and was later gifted to George Washington. Watch Arts of War curator Stephen LeBlanc explain the helmet's significance, and its journey halfway around the globe into the hands of the first American president.



Save the Date: Finding Our Way Exhibition to Open

Tiny and not-so-tiny ship models from the Peabody will be among the elaborate maps, stuffed animals, and nautical instruments in the upcoming Finding Our Way: Exploring Human Navigation exhibition at the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments 

See what's coming up in the Calendar of Events.