Inside the Peabody Museum: July 2010
Listen to the Earliest Ethnographic Field Recordings
The Library of Congress has launched its electronic publication of The American Folklife Center: An Illustrated Guide. Among the music and spoken word recordings selected by the staff of the American Folklife Center is “Mr. Phonograph,” a Peabody Museum audio recording of Jesse Walter Fewkes (1850-1930) talking into an Edison cylinder recording machine in 1890. Fewkes’ historic ethnographic field recordings—the earliest extant—capture Passamaquoddy songs, tales, and vocabulary, sung and spoken by Noel Josephs and Peter Selmore, at Calais, Maine, in March 1890. So what does a wax cylinder recording sound like? For a closer listen, access the MP3 file.
Third Saturdays are now Family Saturdays at the Peabody Museum, starting July 17. What do anthropologists and archaeologists study? Join us for fun activities and get some answers! Head into the galleries to explore the Maya. Learn about their glyphs and murals, their use of chocolate, jade, and more. In the Discovery Room, enjoy hands-on artifacts from around the world and make your own take-home project. Don’t forget to check out the schedule of story times, available at the front desk. You’ll discover something new every time! Noon–4:00 pm. Free with Peabody Museum admission.
Yemi Habtegiorgis was only a high school junior when she started working at the Peabody Museum. For the last two summers, she has spent about 25 hours a week handling old labels that accompany museum objects—organizing, listing, and copying them—so they can be entered into the Museum’s electronic database and preserved in the archival records.
“It looks good on my resume,” says Habtegiorgis. “Colleges want to know you’re involved, and I don’t play any sports. I just like to watch! This definitely helped.” Habtegiorgis starts at U-Mass/Dartmouth this fall.
The project started with about ten file drawers of labels. “Now we’re down to one,” smiles Curatorial Associate Susan Haskell, one of two Museum staff who works closely with Habtegiorgis. “She copies about 90 percent of the labels, so the information can be stored archivally in our records and the originals thrown away. The remaining 10 percent is historically significant, so we keep those.”
Habtegiorgis won her coveted spot in the Peabody Museum’s Curatorial Department through Harvard’s Summer Youth Employment program. The program is for Cambridge and Boston high school students only; they’re recruited by the cities to work on campus. Habtegiorgis was a Cambridge Rindge and Latin student, who arrived from her native Ethiopia only eight years ago, speaking no English. She hopes to return as a family practitioner.
This graceful giant is a fine example of Margaret Tafoya’s Santa-Clara-Pueblo-style carved and polished ceramics. She is well known for her skill with exceptionally large vessels. According to the New York Times, Margaret Tafoya (“Corn Blossom” in her native Tewa language) was the matriarch of the prolific Santa Clara Pueblo potters, and her work is prized by both public and private collectors.
The vase with bear paw prints was generously donated to the Peabody Museum by Melville T. Hodder, Harvard Class of ‘60, and Elizabeth D. Hodder, Radcliffe Class of ’59, in honor of Mr. Hodder’s 50th reunion. The Hodders have collected southwestern rugs, blankets and pottery for about 30 years.
“We were impressed with how important the women are in preserving the current culture,” says Mel Hodder. “It’s amazing that anyone could start with a coil and end up with something so perfectly symmetrical and so perfectly fired. This pot was just one of the most beautiful pots around. You couldn’t make a pot like that--the way it was made--without being passionate.”
The vase will be on view through July.