Inside the Peabody Museum: June 2011

Wedding Couture, Chinese Style

wedding headdress, Yunnan, China

For June brides still looking for inspiration beyond Kate Middleton’s wedding ensemble, there’s this: a magnificent headdress made for a Minchia bride of southern China’s Yunnan province. Dressed from head to toe in embroidered cotton, the bride would have worn a brilliant magenta bridal coat and accessories with matching magenta accents. (See the complete wedding outfit here: search keyword “Minchia”). The headdress sports a cut-out metal ornament adorned with silk pom poms and glass beads. It would have been worn during the ceremony; afterward, the bride would have worn a different hat, equally elaborate.

The ensemble was collected in 1939 for the Peabody Museum by 19-year old Quentin Roosevelt, grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt. He was studying Asia at Harvard, and was asked to collect for a few museums, including the Peabody Museum and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Armed with a shopping list and $100 of Peabody funds, he travelled to Yunnan, collecting items among several cultures, including the Minchia. The Bai people, as the Minchia are now known, are a large minority group who have long lived in the Dali Baizu Autonomous Region of Yunnan, where the wedding ensemble was first collected.

Echoes of Colonial Harvard's Indian College Emerge Today

Harvard Yard Archaeology Project 2009Lost in a shipwreck in 1665, just days before his graduation, Joel Iacoomes never received his Harvard degree. Iacoomes was the son of a Wampanoag tribal leader and he studied at Harvard's Indian College along with another Wampanoag, Caleb Cheeshahteamuck.

Now, 346 years later, Harvard will award Iocoomes' degree posthumously, and it will be accepted on his behalf by the first Wampanoag to graduate Harvard since Cheeshahteamuck in 1665, Tiffany Smalley ('11).

Smalley was involved in the Harvard Yard archaeological dig that is the subject of the current exhibition, Digging Veritas: The Archaeology and History of the Indian College and Student Life at Colonial Harvard. The excavation resumes June 29, after a 1-year hiatus. (Come to the opening ceremony at 10 AM, outside Matthews Hall.)

"We're returning to the site of the 17th-century foundation we found in 2009," said Senior Curatorial Assistant Christina Hodge. "We want  to reveal more of what we believe is the Indian College." Peabody Museum faculty, staff, and student archaeologists will excavate during the summer and fall, hoping to add to the ongoing story of the Indian College.

For more on what the archaeologists found so far, see Inside the Peabody Museum: March 2011. Or stop by one of the planned "Results Days," when students, faculty, and staff will be on hand at the dig to show what they found. (Watch this space for the schedule.)

...And the Winner is...

 drum by Spencer McCarty

On April 25, Peabody Museum Facebook fans selected this Northwest Coast drum to go on display in the Lobby this month. Artist Spencer McCarty (Makah) created the painted hide drum in 1987 and named it "Serpents and Songs."

Drumbeats play a central role in Makah whale hunting ceremonies. Songs are used to ease paddling, to welcome whales to the village, and to praise returning hunters.

The drum is a tribute to the Makah people’s relationship to music and the sea. The image of the sea serpent, harpoon, and North Star honor the whaling tradition of McCarty's ancestors. The sea serpent, usually illustrated as part wolf and part whale, is often depicted in ceremonial dances and appears on the crest of the Makah Nation’s flag.

Spencer McCarty, whose Makah name Nuu>kWis>me>ya means “he who has feasting songs wherever he is,” is based in Neah Bay, Washington. He is also a carver and musician.  His depiction of the sea serpent, harpoon, and North Star honors the traditional hunting methods of his Makah ancestors.

This drum, as well as many other pieces of contemporary Native American art, was generously donated to the Peabody Museum by collector Anne Hiatt. It will remain on display through September 5.
 

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June 18

1-3 pm

Family Program

Family Fun Saturday Give Me Shelter

Free with Peabody Museum admission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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