Inside the Peabody Museum: November 2011

It's Here! Day of the Dead/Día de Muertos

Day of the Dead 2011 invitation

Bring your camera and get ready for some photo ops at this year's Day of the Dead/Día de Muertos Fiesta (Wednesday night) and Family Event (Saturday afternoon). The annual holiday honors deceased loved ones and is observed in many Latin American countries.

This year, the Peabody's Fiesta will feature two new altars, music, and a staging area for festive photo ops. (Or stage your own!) Fiesta-goers will be encouraged to post photos on the Peabody's Facebook wall  and on Twitter (with the hashtag #pmdia);  photos will be projected in the galleries for all to enjoy.

Even if you missed the chance to get Fiesta tickets (sorry, they go fast!), there's still a way to get into the Fiesta, the Museum's most popular event of the year. Peabody Museum members need only present their membership card to enter. Members gain free admission to all six Harvard museums, invitations to all Peabody exhibitions and special events, a 10% discount in all Harvard museum gift shops, plus discounts on family and adult programs, and more. Memberships start at $25, and new members will be able to pick up their new membership cards at the Fiesta.

The Family Event on Saturday, November 5 is open to all with Museum admission. The popular sugar skull workshop is an extra $5 per skull. The Family Event also features Dancing Chickens, Aztec chocolate, take-home crafts, our new altars, and more opportunities to take memorable photos.

Day of the Dead altars remain on display throughout the month, and the holiday comes to life again for families in the Third Saturday program (November 19).

For more background on Day of the Dead, visit the Peabody YouTube Channel to see videos on the essential elements of a Day of the Dead altar, an interview with the artist who created the Museum's permanent Day of the Dead altar, and latest video, the Aztec story of Xolotl, the dog who survived the underworld.

The Fiesta is sponsored by the Peabody Museum, The Consulate General of Mexico, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, Angela's Cafe, Casa Romero, Jose's,  Nomad, Sol Azteca Restaurants, and Tu y Yo.

New Exhibition: Shooting for Peace: Youth Behind the Lens

Jazmin teaching by Ximena Vargas

"Jazmin teaching," by Ximena Vargas. Image courtesy DCP.

Over the last fifty years social scientists and photographers have sought to put cameras in the hands of people who have traditionally been in front of the camera’s lens. This photographic exhibition highlights two recent photography projects involving children, who are among the most profoundly affected victims of war, poverty, and forced migration. Frequently left out of important family decision-making, children are often unable to communicate about their lives and rendered almost powerless.

For the past ten years the two sister organizations featured in this exhibition — Shooting Cameras for Peace (or DCP) in Bogotá, Colombia and The AjA Project in San Diego — have been teaching photography to young people displaced by war and poverty. Most of these students had never before used a camera. They learned to make basic pinhole cameras, mirror self-portraits, hand-painted photographs, and photo-letters. Among their most empowering experiences were the large-scale outdoor public exhibitions of their photographs.

Shooting for Peace: Youth Behind the Lens, curated by Alex Fattal, Harvard graduate student in social anthropology and DCP co-founder, explores these student projects, from their inception to their exhibition, showing not only how photography can be a form of creative expression but also how it can transform a young refugee’s sense of self, and his or her role in a family, community, and beyond.

The exhibition opens Thursday, November 17 at 5 PM with a free public reception until 7 PM.

Special feature: watch a 3-D model of the exhibition, used by the Exhibitions Department and the curators to test the placement of large photographic wall murals. 

Rare Kayak: Watch the Conservators at Work

For the first time, Peabody Museum visitors will be able to see conservators at work in a specially prepared gallery space.

America's only known Alutiiq warrior kayak is the centerpiece of a new conservation effort.  Peabody Museum curators and conservators will be collaborating with Alaska’s Alutiiq Museum and Alfred Naumoff, the last traditionally trained Kodiak Alutiiq kayak maker, in the study and conservation of the collections over the next two years.

In 2003, while visiting the Peabody, tribal members Sven Haakanson of the Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository and Ronnie Lind, Alutiiq elder, recognized a watercraft in the rafters of the Peabody Museum as the world's only remaining warrior kayak of their culture. Its bifurcated bow identified it as Alutiiq; human hair detailing and possible bear-skin construction indicated a boat fabricated for a warrior, based on Alutiiq oral history.

“Much of what we know about kayak-making and kayak-centered lifeways is disappearing from living memory,” said David Pilbeam, Howells Director of the Peabody Museum. “It’s very important to conserve and study the kayaks and the Alutiiq collections. We’re excited to share that process with the Alutiiq Museum and the public.”

Conservators plan to work in the gallery and be available to answer questions beginning Wednesday, October 26 from 2 to 5 PM, and thereafter on Mondays from 9 to 5 PM, and Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 2 to 5 PM. "We'll start by taking detailed photographs for documentation," says Conservator T. Rose Holdcraft. "This is an opportunity for visitors to ask about the kayaks, our equipment, tools, techniques, or whatever they're curious about. We'll be in a public interactive space, and people will be able to see and ask questions about our collaborative conservation effort as it happens."

In February 2011, the Peabody and Alutiiq museums received a grant from the Save America’s Treasures Program for over 100 Alutiiq items in the Peabody collections including four kayaks, several model kayaks such as the one shown above, kayaking accessories, skin-constructed collections, and related media. Each item is among the oldest and rarest of its type in existence. The kayaks are not simply rare types of watercraft; they are rare ethnographic treasures from one of the United States' least-known Native peoples. The kayaks and related objects, some over 140 years old, evoke an era of complex ocean-going travel, trade, and warfare among Alaska Native cultures.

“The Alutiiq Museum is honored to collaborate with the Peabody Museum on this project,” said Sven Haakanson, executive director of the Alutiiq Museum. “We look forward to working and sharing what we learn from the Warrior’s kayak. The knowledge we gain from this exchange will not only help the Alutiiq people learn, but allow us to share and maintain a disappearing tradition of kayaking on Kodiak Island.”

Save America’s Treasures is a federal grant program made in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Save America’s Treasures’ private partner, the National Trust for Historic Preservation.


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Did you miss lectures in the Trash Talk: Anthropology of Waste series? You can listen to them here or download them to your mobile device through iTunes U. Look for Harvard's Peabody Museum lectures. More will be posted throughout the year.


September 8-November 10


1-4 pm

Extended! Archaeological Excavation

Harvard Yard Archaeology Project

Free in front of Matthews Hall, Harvard Yard (weather permitting)

November 2

5-8 pm


Fiesta Day of the Dead/Día de Muertos

The Peabody’s annual extravaganza!

Sold out; tickets required (except for Peabody members!).

November 5

12-4 pm


Family Program

Day of the Dead Family Festival

Free with Peabody Museum admission. Sugar skull workshop: $5 per skull.


November 10

5:30 pm

Lecture & Book Signing

The Copan Sculpture Museum: Ancient Maya Artistry in Stucco and Stone
Barbara Fash, Director, Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions, Peabody Museum

November 17

5-7 pm

Exhibition Opening and Reception

Shooting for Peace: Youth Behind the Lens

November 19

12-4 pm

Family Program

Family Fun Saturday Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos Discovery Room

Free with Peabody Museum admission.

November 21

5:30 pm

Just Added! Lecture

"Animals and Humans in Old Norse Archaeology and Religion"

Kristina Jennbert, Archaeology Professor, Lund University, Sweden