Category Archives: Exhibits

The Speck Connection: Recovering Histories of Indigenous Objects

Frank Speck in his office in College Hall, University of Pennsylvania, c. 1930.

Frank Gouldsmith Speck (1881–1950), acknowledged as one of the most prolific anthropologists of the early 20th century, served as chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania for nearly four decades (1913–1949). He conducted ground-breaking ethnographic research, working closely with Indigenous informants from a wide range of communities (Cherokee, Haudenosaunee, Mohegan, Nanticoke, […]

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Greenland Inuit Doll

Eskimo (Inuit) doll from Arsuk, Greenland. Photo by Margaret Bruchac with permission of the Penn Museum. Museum Object Number: 37-14-7.

The Lady in Furs Object Analysis and Report for Anthropology of Museums by Monica Fenton This Inuit (Eskimo) doll, accessioned in 1937 (37-14-7), is one of seventeen objects from Greenland donated by Samuel C. Ingraham. The collection, consisting mostly of footwear, also includes a model kayak with a human figurine and miniature harpoon. The doll came from […]

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Ladies in Fur, Traveling through Time

Eskimo (Inuit) doll from Arsuk, Greenland. Photo by Margaret Bruchac with permission of the Penn Museum. Museum Object Number: 37-14-7.

The Penn Museum holds a variety of dolls from Arctic environs, including those collected by William Van Valin, George Byron Gordon, Captain George Comer, and the Peary Relief Expedition. Most of the items classified as “dolls” are small wooden figures; only a few represent realistic renditions of Arctic clothing. This Inuit (Eskimo) doll from Greenland (object […]

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Inuit Kamik from Greenland

Elizabth Peng and Karen Thomson, Curatorial Assistant at the Penn Museum, examine the lining of these Eskimo (Inuit) boots.

Fashion: Fur, Flowers, and Flannel Object Analysis and Report for Anthropology of Museums by Elizabeth Peng The clothes that we put on our bodies are rarely simple: they are imbued with cultural and aesthetic purposes that cannot be easily disconnected from the materials from which they are constructed. A myriad of factors come together to create the […]

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Potato Stamps and Ash Splints

Figure 3: Coiled ash splints from River Desert, Quebec. Photo courtesy of the Penn Museum.

Potato Stamps and Ash Splints: A Narrative of Process and Exchange Object Analysis for Anthropology of Museums by Elizabeth Peng Mrs. Michel Buckshot (whose personal name was Mackosi’kew, also spelled Meshkosikwe, meaning “Beaver Meadow Woman”) was well known as an Algonquin herbalist and artisan who made a variety of traditional crafts. These included puzzle pouches, […]

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Arctic Dance House Model

Kuskokwim umiak identified as “Happy Traveler Canoe.” Photo by Margaret Bruchac, with permission of Penn Museum. Museum Object Number NA1521.

Kuskokwim Dance House Object Analysis and Report for Anthropology of Museums by Michele Belluomini This Inuit (Eskimo) Model Dance House (object #NA1522) in the Penn Museum’s Arctic collections drew my attention because it seemed very mysterious, but also like something I “knew.” The more I studied it, the more I realized that much more was going on […]

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Cree Coat

Quillwork-embellished leather coat collected by George Byron Gordon. Photo by Margaret Bruchac, with permission of the Penn Museum.. Museum Object  Number: NA3635.

Quillwork-Embellished “Cree” Coat Object Analysis for Anthropology of Museums by Pauline Saribas This delicately adorned fringed Cree coat (item #NA3635) was procured from the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1915 by George Byron Gordon, who was then the Director of the Penn Museum. Sewn out of three pieces of elk hide, it is embroidered with porcupine quills in […]

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Iñupiaq Pipe

Examining the Eskimo (Iñupiaq) pipe. Photo by Margaret Bruchac with permission of the Penn Museum.

Searching for Stories: Patiently Listening to an Iñupiaq Pipe Object Analysis and Report for Anthropology of Museums by Sarah Parkinson As a student intern in the American Section of the Penn Museum, part of my job involves inventorying accessioned objects. When I first started, I was curious about every object I handled. During the first few days, […]

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Mackosi’kwe’s Baskets: Marking Relationships

Fig. 4. Mackosi’kwe (Mrs. Michel Buckshot,. Photo taken by Frank Speck. Mss. Ms. Coll. 126, Image 1-2-b. American Philsophical Society Digital Collections.

On August 1, 1938, before leaving the Maniwaki reserve in Quebec, Canada, anthropologist Frank G. Speck paid a visit to his old friends, Michel Buckshot and his wife Angelique, better known as Mackosi’kwe (also spelled Meshkosikwe, meaning “Beaver Meadow Woman”). Mackosi’kwe was skilled in pyroscapulimancy, a technique for divining future prospects in hunting and travel […]

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Deep Description and Reflexivity: Methods for Recovering Object Histories

Enika Selby in the Penn Museum Archives, examining photos of Inuit women in fur garments. Photo by Margaret Bruchac.

This semester, students in my Anthropology of Museums class learned new methods for analyzing objects in museum collections by using both “deep description” and “object reflexivity.” Students were trained to combine material analysis, ethnographic data, archival research, and critical scholarship to identify and document object histories. They also gained practice in examining methods of construction, curation, and […]

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Native American Voices at the Penn Museum