University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Category: Collection


Lady Franklyn’s Quilled Mi’kmaq Box

By: Margaret Bruchac

In 1912, the Penn Museum purchased a birch bark box (object number NA 3851) decorated with intricate quillwork from British collector and antiquities dealer William Ockleford Oldman. During the late 1800s to the early 1900s, Oldman sold thousands of ethnographic materials to private collectors and museums (including the British Museum and Museum of the American […]


Investigating a Pipe Tomahawk

By: Margaret Bruchac

How does a tomahawk, as an object typically associated with violence, come to be connected to a smoking pipe used in rituals and ceremonies associated with peace? Who devised the idea of welding these different objects together to bring pipe tomahawks into being, and what are the cultural significances surrounding their presence? File these queries […]


Moose Hair Embroidered Birchbark Trays: French, Native, or Both

By: Margaret Bruchac

The intricate detailing on these birchbark trays was the first thing that caught my eye. It is difficult to fathom the amount of labor and intensive effort it takes to embroider such complex designs into a thin piece of wood. As seen in the images below, these three trays differ in shape, size, and content, […]


The Salmon Basket & Cannery Label

By: Margaret Bruchac

This salmon basket from the land of the Tlingit and Yakutat people is a useful piece of art, woven from spruce root, grass, and maidenhair fern in a twined fashion, and originally made to carry lightweight materials. It shows minimal evidence of wear. In size and shape and weaving patterns, it closely resembles other baskets […]


Flight into the Museum Archives

Dinner at Descalvados

By: Julianna Whalen

“This will confirm your assignment as Flight Operator to the NC146M, which is being chartered by the Matto Grosso Expedition for service in the interior of Brasil [sic] for a period of at least four months. Its base will be Desclavados [sic, Descalvados], Matto Grosso, which is about one thousand miles from Rio de Janeiro.” […]


Robert H. Lamborn: An Atypical Collector in 19th Century Philadelphia

By: Sarah Linn

By Sheridan Small, Penn Museum Fellow 2017-2018 Although I never had a chance to meet Robert Henry Lamborn, I feel like we have become close friends. I have studied him over the past seven months through my research for my senior honors thesis in Anthropology as a Penn Museum Fellow. I have spent hours in […]


A Vision of Color: Contextualizing a Peyote Rattle in Time and Space

By: Margaret Bruchac

Object Analysis by Margaret Bruchac and Sheridan Small During the era of American westward expansion, many Native American peoples were forced from their ancestral lands and confined to reservations. The Winnebago people, for example, went through several territorial dislocations as a result of three major cession treaties with the fledgling United States. They were removed […]


Butterfly Maiden Katsina: What Makes an Object Beautiful?

By: Margaret Bruchac

Object Analysis by Anastasia Hutnick Some Native objects can inspire awe in non-Native viewers, much in the way that one might respond to a fine work of art without knowing the cultural background of the imagery. The most intriguing objects (in my professor’s opinion) are those that “remind us of what came before” and that […]


Living Tradition: The Penobscot Root Club

By: Margaret Bruchac

Object Analysis by Malkia Okech Two Penobscot root clubs collected by A. H. Gottschall (object # 97-84-2123 and 97-84-2124) came to the Penn Museum from the Academy of Natural Sciences in 1936. Adorned with intricate carving and paint, root clubs are a long-standing tradition of the Penobscot tribe located in Maine.[1] Although we know nothing […]


Visualizing Native People in Philadelphia’s Museums: Public Views and Student Reviews

By: Margaret Bruchac

Material representations of Indigenous history in public museums do more than merely present the past. Exhibitions are always incomplete and idiosyncratic, revealing only a small window into the social worlds of diverse human communities. Museums create, in essence, staged assemblages: compositions of objects, documents, portraits, and other material things that have been filtered through an […]


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