Category Archives: Museum

Arctic Bow Drill

Close-up of hunting scene on bow drill.

Getting a Handle on the Past: An Arctic Bow Drill Object Analysis and Report for Anthropology of Museums by Ally Mitchem After several years at two different colleges, I’m good at research. I can find my way around online journals like a pro. You have an object in museum collections you’d like to know more about? Great, […]

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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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Beauty Is Pain: A New Look at the Toiletry Kits from Ur

Examples for toiletry kits found on the internet: 1) 1-200AD, Rhineland, Roman Athlete’s kit 2) 400-700 AD, Oxfordshire, Anglo-Saxon toiletry kit  3) 800-1169AD, Ireland, Model of a Viking toiletry set 4) Our modern day version of a similar kit

Toiletry kits have been found around the ancient world from the Indus Valley to Britain, and range in time from the 3rd millennium BCE to the modern day, albeit in varied forms.  Nearly every publication that mentions these artifacts acknowledges that we do not know how they were used, but most interpret them as dealing […]

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Iñupiaq Smoking and Siberian Reindeer

"Portrait of Su-Ku-Uk in Native Dress and Holding Pipe MAR 1894." William Dinwiddle, Glass Negatives of Indians, collected by the Bureau of American Ethnology. BAE GN 03099A 06510000, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

This semester, my students in Museum Anthropology conducted close examinations of objects from Arctic locales in the collections of the Penn Museum. During our object analysis of this walrus tusk ivory Iñupiaq pipe (item# 39-10-1) in the Collections Study Room, I was intrigued by the idea that it was used for smoking opium, given the absurdly small hole 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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Alaska Harpoon Rest

Figure 1: Alaskan Harpoon Rest from the Sledge Island Van Valin Collection. Photo with permission from the University of Pennsylvania Museum

Alaska Harpoon Rest: Supported by Bears, Whales, and Chains Object Analysis and Report for Anthropology of Museums by Enika Selby This Iñupiaq (also called Eskimo or Inuit) harpoon rest (Museum Object Number: NA4796) came to the Penn Museum from Sledge Island, Alaska, a tiny island off the Western coast. It is hand carved from walrus ivory, […]

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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 scapulimancy, a technique for divining future prospects in hunting and travel […]

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Get to know Dr. Elin Danien: 2015 Volunteer of the Year

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At this year’s Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon I was lucky enough to present the award for Volunteer of the Year to Dr. Elin Danien. It’s always hard to choose just one volunteer to specially highlight, but Elin has always been a standout. In her 40 years of working and volunteering at the Penn Museum she has […]

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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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