Inside the Peabody Museum: April 2014

SIGN UP to get Inside the Peabody Museum every month

New Penobscot Exhibition Opens April 12

Masks Bring Japanese Folk Tale to Life

Coming up at the Peabody


 The Legacy of Penobscot Canoes

Birch bark canoes: "the most complex and intricate product of native genius in the north."  Penobscot birch bark canoe. PM 29-33-10

New Penobscot Exhibition Opens April 12

Native American birchbark canoes have often been described as one of the greatest inventions in human history and were copied by Euroamerican fur traders and sportsmen. Since the 17th century, the evolution of these traditional canoes has been propelled by both Indians and non-Indians. The Legacy of Penobscot Canoes: A View from the River reveals the enduring importance of rivers and canoes in Penobscot tribal life and the relationships between the tribe and non-Indians. This new installation features a rarely seen full-size bark canoe purchased from Penobscot Indian Francis Sebattis in 1912.

Peabody Museum co-curators Castle McLaughlin and Patricia Capone consulted with Steve Cayard, a master builder of traditional birchbark canoes, to share the history and construction of the watercraft. They created a multifaceted picture of the Penobscot's close ties to the river as log drivers, craftsmen, trappers, guides, present-day stewards, and environmental stakeholders. With miniature canoe models and video of traditional canoe construction, the exhibition explores both the preservation of canoe culture and its current revival among the Wabanaki people, including the Penobscot. The exhibition also includes early stone tools owned by Henry David Thoreau, who described the Penobscot and their canoes in The Maine Woods.

The Legacy of Penobscot Canoes: A View from the River opens to the public Saturday, April 12 at 9:00 AM. It will remain on view through April 30, 2016.

The related exhibition at the adjacent Harvard Museum of Natural History, Thoreau's Maine Woods: A Journey in Photographs with Scot Miller commemorates the 150th anniversary of the publication of Henry David Thoreau’s The Maine Woods. Exquisite prints by Scot Miller, who traversed Maine for years, retracing the footsteps of New England’s native son, accompany original text from Thoreau's essay collection. Thoreau's Maine Woods runs through September 1, 2014, and admission to the Peabody Museum includes admission to the Harvard Museum of Natural History.


Cat Mountain with Behind the Mask TheatreMasks Bring Japanese Folk Tale to Life

People warn, “No one has ever returned from Cat Mountain!” But Sho, a young servant girl journeys to the faraway mountain to find her lost cat and her own freedom.

Eric Bornstein of Behind the Mask Theatre will be performing Cat Mountain for families, followed by mask-making workshops at the Peabody Museum Sunday, April 27. Bornstein is a Somerville-based actor and master maskmaker who has created dramatic masks for Boston stages and the city's First Night grand procession. His enthusiasm for masks is contagious. "The wildcat mask is my own design based on the shishi (lion) mask," he says. "It's finished with 23-carat gold leaf, and it's a pretty mask. I also wear the storyteller's mask, which is inspired by the Okina or Sacred Visitor mask of Japanese noh drama. As the Okina I am the storyteller/narrator. I also appear in the story as the fortune teller/wiseman and in those roles I serve as Sho's guardian spirit. "

Bornstein notes that Japanese audiences would recognize key elements in Cat Mountain. "They would understand that a fox, badger, or a cat can capriciously assume human form and bestow gifts or punishments, so you have to be kind to them, be kind to all things as they all have spirits. And they would also understand that mountains are places of ghosts and demons, a testing ground," he continued. "You often see tales of warriors or wise men go up the mountain to battle demons or doubts, and they come back mad or transformed. So Sho's journey is a hero's journey. She's transformed from a frightened lonely girl to someone who knows she's loved, and that gives her power."

ld understand that a fox, badger, or a cat can capriciously assume human form and bestow gifts or punishments, so you have to be kind to them, be kind to all things as they all have spirits. And they would also understand that mountains are places of ghosts and demons, a testing ground," he continued. "You often see tales of warriors or wise men go up the mountain to battle demons or doubts, and they come back mad or transformed. So Sho's journey is a hero's journey. She's transformed from a frightened lonely girl to someone who knows she's loved, and that give

Image courtesy Behind the Mask Theatre


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


Saturday, April 12, 9:00 am

New Exhibition: The Legacy of Penobscot Canoes: A View from the River


Sunday, April 27,1:00 pm

Performance and Family Workshop: Cat Mountain: Presented by Behind the Mask Theatre


Tuesday, April 29,6:00 pm

Hallam L. Movius, Jr.  Public Lecture and Reception: "Between the Caves: Landscape Archaeology of the Paleolithic in the French Central Pyrenees"

Margaret W. Conkey, Professor Emerita, Department of Archaeology, University of California, Berkeley

Archaeology Now lecture series


Wednesday, April 30, 6:00 pm

Public Lecture:"Worldly Worlding: Curating the Imaginal Fields of Science and Art"

Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Artistic Director, dOCUMENTA(13)
Presented by Harvard Museums’ Seminar on Innovative Curatorial Practice