Inside the Peabody Museum: June 2013

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Summer Solstice: Night at the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture

Talk with Photographer Stephen Dupont 

Focus on the Australian Collection

Coming up at the Peabody

Summer Solstice: Night at the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture

summer solstice

Free admission to the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture, including the Peabody Museum, Friday, June 21, 2013 from 5:00 to 9:00 pm.

Celebrate the longest day of the year with live music, ice cream, hands-on activities, and free admission to all four of the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture (HMSC): the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments (CHSI), the Harvard Museum of Natural History, and the Harvard Semitic Museum.

Join outdoor festivities on the new Plaza located between the Harvard Science Center and Sanders Theatre/Memorial Hall at One Oxford Street in Cambridge:

  • See traditional Aztec dances performed by La Piñata youth, as they celebrate the Solstice with indigenous, folkloric, Latin American music and dance
  • Watch and dance with the Red Herring Morris as they perform seasonal English ritual dances and erect a Solstice May pole 
  • Be part of a human sundial and tell time by your own shadow
  • Test a Viking sunstone—learn how the Vikings navigated even on a cloudy day using polarizing crystals
  • Enjoy rare public access to the roof deck observatory of the Harvard Science Center for solar–telescope viewing of the fading sun on its longest day—and enjoy a unique vista of the Cambridge and the Boston skyline

All HMSC museums will offer free admission and extended hours until 9 pm. See the new exhibition Time and Time Again at the CHSI; the newly renovated Earth & Planetary Sciences exhibition at the Harvard Museum of Natural History; Stephen Dupont photographs of Papua New Guinea at the Peabody Museum, or a recreated ancient Israelite house at the Semitic Museum.

Summer Solstice 2013 is free and open to the public. Drop by before or after dinner in Harvard Square, or bring a picnic and stay 'til sunset. In case of rain, the event will move inside the Harvard Science Center.

Parking/Directions: Free event parking in the 52 Oxford Street Garage, Cambridge.
The Plaza (located near Sanders Theatre) is a 6-minute walk through Harvard Yard from the Harvard Square Red Line T stop. 617-495-3045

About the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture
The Harvard Museums of Science & Culture (HMSC) is a new consortium that includes the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, the Harvard Museum of Natural History, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, and the Harvard Semitic Museum. HMSC’s mission is to foster curiosity and a spirit of discovery in visitors of all ages, enhancing public understanding of and appreciation for the natural world, science and human cultures. The museums present exhibitions, events and educational programs for students, teachers, and the general public. Last year the HMSC museums together welcomed more than 220,000 visitors from across Massachusetts, and from all 50 US states and 129 countries.

Talk with Photographer Stephen Dupont

untitled 3 sing sing series at mt. hagen by stephen dupont

Untitled #3 Sing-Sing series at Mt. Hagen Show by Stephen Dupont.

Join the Peabody Museum’s 2010 Robert Gardner Photography Fellow, Stephen Dupont in the free webinar (online seminar) "Photographic Moments: Past, Present, and Future in Papua New Guinea" on Thursday, June 27 from 9:00 to 10:00 am EDT.

Australian photographer Stephen Dupont will be the featured guest in a lively discussion of his latest book and current Peabody Museum exhibition documenting social change in Papua New Guinea. View images, listen to an informal interview by a curator, add your own comments, and explore the history of photography expeditions in New Guinea. The conversation will build on your ideas and questions, hosted by Peabody Museum Curator of Visual Anthropology Ilisa Barbash.

The webinar requires only an internet connection and pre-registration.

The Peabody Museum exhibition Stephen Dupont: Papua New Guinea Portraits and Diaries runs through September 2.

Focus on the Australian Collection

louise hamby at work
 non-returning boomerang
 food tray

Top to bottom: Louise Hamby studies Australian materials at the Peabody; non-returning boomerang PM 30-54-70/D3454; food tray PM 32-68-70/D4031.

The Peabody Museum has one of the most significant collections of Aboriginal objects outside of Australia, and it is getting some well-deserved attention. Over 1,000 items represent diverse Aboriginal peoples from Australia's Northern Territory. Most were collected between World Wars I and II. This material legacy is gaining new vitality through a partnership between the Peabody Museum and the Harvard University Australian Studies Committee to bring expert Indigenous Australia Research Fellows (IARF) to the museum. Fellows will refresh museum understandings, glean new insights, and forge connections among the Peabody, source communities, and global networks of Australian scholars. The first IARF scholar, Dr. Louise Hamby, recently completed a month-long research visit in the innovative program. Focusing on collections from Australia’s Northern Territory, she was both moved and motivated by what she found.

Dr. Hamby is an expert on Aboriginal fiber arts and the material culture of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. She works closely with both people and things, combining Aboriginal and anthropological understandings of museum objects. Her work is about “making links, making those connections” to produce a “meaningful product.” Dr. Hamby lectures at Australia National University in the Museums and Collections Graduate Program. Among her many exhibitions is Women with Clever Hands, a touring exhibition of fiber work from the women of Arnhem Land (past and present). Its next stop is the University of Queensland's Anthropology Museum in August 2013, where it will include items from that museum’s permanent collection.

Dr. Hamby reports that the Peabody’s collection is little known in Australia, despite ties to influential anthropologists of the pre-World War II era. One of these men was W. Lloyd Warner, who attended graduate school at Harvard’s Anthropology Department in the 1920s and 1930s. Warner is of special interest to Dr. Hamby because of his iconic work in Arnhem Land. She finds his collection illuminating. It is well documented, includes both beautiful and mundane objects (all made with masterful skill), and reflects life during an era of colonial transformation.

“I’ve been looking at Warner’s collections all around the world,” said Dr. Hamby during her research at the Peabody. “The collection is all from the same place and same time, and that’s what makes it special. This is an ideal opportunity to do a bit more intense work with not only Warner but the Northern Territory.”

Warner’s is the most significant collection within the Peabody's Australian collection, but there are other collectors whose early work shaped anthropological understandings of Aboriginal Australian people (D.S. Davidson, Joseph Birdsell, and Norman Tindale, for example). Such collections are important to present-day Aboriginal communities, offering an important resource for education and revitalization. Dr. Hamby believes that “you need people with memory of those who made these objects” to share their knowledge. When she speaks with Aboriginal people about collections like the Peabody’s, they speak of caretaking, shared memory, and passing skills and knowledge to their children. The trip from Australia to America is a difficult one, so Dr. Hamby is an ambassador, driven to connect collections with communities through her work.

In November 2010, she accompanied Dr. Joseph Gumbula to the Peabody to explore the Australian collection. Dr. Gumbula is a Yolngu elder and an authority on the material culture of Arnhem Land. "Joe coming here was a really fantastic thing because he was actually seeing the objects with his own eyes," enthused Dr. Hamby. "What I’m doing is to actually try to get some feedback from the community back to the museum. It’s going to happen here faster than other places, because we actually brought Joe here."

The Peabody’s IARF program also offers Dr. Hamby the luxury of time to delve deeply. “It's a good opportunity to contextualize what is here," she said, "and an opportunity perhaps to link some of your collections with the other collections from the same people and same expeditions” which are dispersed in museums across the globe. “The possibility of linking these objects up so they can talk to each other again would be a fantastic thing to happen, whether it’s virtual or perhaps real in the future.” She speaks enthusiastically, for example, of a project to co-develop a smart phone application with Dr. Gumbula, so that people in home communities have easy virtual access to things made by their ancestors. She believes the IARF program will raise the profile of the Peabody’s collection, so that more people in Australia will know about these important objects.

Engraved shell pendants, hafted axes, boomerangs, and baskets are animated in dialogue with each other on museum shelves. The IARF program helps the Peabody Museum to become a better steward, connecting us not only with scholars, but also with descendant communities. Through such work, we are seeing our Australian collections again for the first time. We’ll be sharing reports from future IARF scholars here--two more are expected next year--and more information about our Australian collections can be found on the Peabody’s Collections Online website.
—Christina Hodge, Coordinator, Academic Partnerships

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


Anytime   Did you miss any lectures? You can listen to them here or download them to your mobile device through iTunes U. Look for Harvard's Peabody Museum lectures.

June 6

7:00 pm


Public Lecture

Chimpanzee Futures in a Crowded World: Lessons from Western Uganda

Richard Wrangham, Ruth B. Moore Prof. of Biological Anthropology, Harvard University and Elizabeth Ross, Co-Master of Currier House

Co-sponsored by Harvard Museum of Natural History

Harvard Museum of Natural History, 26 Oxford St.

June 21

5:00-9:00 pm

Special Evening Event

Summer Solstice: Night at the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture

(Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, Harvard Museum of Natural History, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, and the Harvard Semitic Museum)

June 27

9:00-10:00 am EDT


Photographic Moments: Past, Present, and Future in Papua New Guinea

Join Australian photographer Stephen Dupont in a lively discussion of his latest book and Peabody Museum exhibition documenting social change in Papua New Guinea.  Requires only an internet connection and pre-registration.

July 20

Noon-4:00 pm

Drop-in Family Event

Mural Madness

August 17

Noon-4:00 pm

Drop-in Family Event

Chocolate Treasure