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The Postal Museum

Did you know camels were used in the 1850s to deliver mail in the American Southwest?
We know that camels were used as beasts of burden in Australia, and even in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. However, as shown in this drawing, camels also were members of the U.S. Army's Camel Corps in the 1850s. Jefferson Davis, then Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce, started the program, using camels to deliver mail, along with supplies, in the American Southwest. The carrier service was short lived though; the camels were too cantankerous, and the rocky terrain injured their feet. Relieved of their duties, the surviving postal worker camels were soon sent to zoos. Reindeer were used to deliver mail in the North, with slightly better results.

National Museum of African Art

Ever seen how the Tuareg people of Eastern Africa saddled up their camels?
This particular camel saddle, made of wood, leather and metal, was used recently in the late 20th century, by the Tuareg of Niger. The word for saddle is térik, and these saddles are placed in front of the camel's hump on two to four saddlecloths, while the rider sits cross-legged with his feet on the camel's neck. This saddle, with its forked saddle horn and detailed leather decorations, is called a tamzak saddle. Most are made in Agadez, Niger, by blacksmiths. Wood is lashed together with rawhide and covered with colored leather and metal ornaments.

This modern light-colored camel bell is most likely from Somalia. It is made of wood and plant fiber and is a gift of Mrs. Duncan Emerick.

The darker bell, also made of wood and fiber, came from Ethiopia. Large wooden camel bells in the museum's collections are attributed to pastoralists in Somalia, Ethiopia and northern Kenya. Not just an economic necessity to these peoples, the camel is also a symbol of a nomadic way of life. In Somalia especially, camels—kept as milk animals or as beasts of burden#151;are the subject of extensive poetry. Although the bells' lack of embellishment suggests a practical purpose, the bells also seem to hold a sentimental value. One anonymous poem uses the phrase "...Like a she-male with a large bell."

Smithsonian Institution Libraries

Conrad Gessner's Historia Animalium from the 15th century tempered the often mythical and inaccurate statements about the Asian beasts and illustrated a bactrian rather accurately.
In the 15th century, an artist named Erhard Reuwich accompanied author Bernhard von Breydenbach on a journey from Germany to Jerusalem so that he could illustrate Breydenbach's book, Peregrinatio in Terram Sactam. Most of Reuwich's illustrations are panoramas of the cities they passed through, but there is also this almost whimsical hand-colored woodcut that features the exotic animals they encountered at their destination, such as crocodiles, giraffes, salamanders and a camel. A unicorn is included as well, and according to the plate's caption, "These animals are accurately drawn as we saw them in the holy land." Whether Reuwich actually saw a unicorn is questionable, as you can imagine. But it is likely that he did see the camel that is drawn most realistically here, equipped with saddle and bridle.

Pictured here is a woodcut of an Asian, or Bactrian, camel that was included in Conrad Gessner's Historia Animaliam, which he compiled in the mid-16th century. Gessner gathered information from a variety of sources: ancient and medieval books, folklore, and the often mythical and inaccurate reports of travelers, which Gessner tempered with his own direct observations whenever possible. In his book, Gessner also included a woodcut of the single-humped arabian, or dromedary, camel.

Le Dromadaire is a beautifully engraved illustration of a single-humped Arabian camel found in a book about the french royal (later national) natural-history collection, Histoire Naturelle, Générale et Particulière, put together by George Louis Leclerc, the count of Buffon, in the latter half of the 1700s. Buffon served as the head of the collections, and his book included hundreds of such engravings.

Le Chameau portrays the double-humped Bactrian camel. Although Buffon's text notes that the Bactrian camel is native to Turkey and what is now Uzbekistan, the artist has placed it in Egypt. It is shown with one of its humps temporarily depleted and drooping, an indication that the camel's reserves are used up.

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Artists like Louis Comfort Tiffany and Elijah Pierce included the camel in their painted works.
Here, camels carry the three wise men to the baby Jesus in this wood carving by self-taught artist Elijah Pierce (1892-1984). Pierce's imaginative use of oils, paper and glitter on carved wood expresses clearly the long shadows of night, the men's exhaustion from the long and tiring journey, and the dazzling light of the distant star. Pierce, a Southern African-American artist and preacher, is best known for his carved wooden panels inspired by Bible stories and fables.

Camels, loaded down with people and possessions, sit and stand placidly among the dusty crowds of a Tangier marketplace in an 1873 painting by Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933). No different from any other curious bohemian of his day, Tiffany traveled widely to exotic places and was greatly attracted to the colors and customs of the Orient, especially Morocco. The painting's lush details foreshadow the young artist's future fame for his opulent interiors, Art-Nouveau glass pieces and decorative objects.

National Museum of American History

Where else would you climb aboard a camel in the United States—but on a children's carousel ride?
Children have been climbing aboard delightful carousel animals since carousels, or merry-go-rounds, were first made in America in the late 1860s. Hand-carved from basswood in the 1880s by leading carousel maker Charles Dare in his New York Carousel Manufacturing Company, this camel is an "outside stander," unlike the jumping animals in the inner rings that move up and down. The camel's modest lines and simple detail are an excellent example of Dare's popular Country Fair style.

Camels are one of the most desired figures collected by carousel enthusiasts, along with pigs, lions and dogs.

The camel is part of the large collection of carousel animals, shop figures and weather vanes in the Eleanor and Mable Van Alstyne Collection of American Folk Art in the Division of Cultural History at NMAH, and was acquired in the 1960s.

National Air and Space Museum

Ever wonder how the Sopwith Camel got its name?
One of the most successful planes used by the British in World War I, the low-flying Camel got its name from the famous hump on its fuselage, which contributed to its round-shouldered appearance, accentuated by the fairing ahead of the plane's cockpit. However, it was so difficult to fly, that more men lost their lives learning how to fly it than in actual aerial combat. Rolled out in 1916 by the Sopwith Company, the Camel was the first British aeromachine of its class to have two Vickers guns attached as standard flight equipment.

Smithsonian National Zoo

Come visit Sake and Camille, a pair of camels who've been delighting zoogoers for years. Meet Brenda Morgan, their keeper.
I'll never forget the first time I ever laid eyes on Bactrian camels. The animals were exotic and immense, dark brown and shaggy, and loaded with an absurd amount of baggage. It was 1971, and I was with my father who was on a Peace Corps assignment in Afghanistan. There, in that austere landscape with the mountains of the Hindu Kush in the distance, these towering two-humped creatures were serving their keepers as they had since before the time of Marco Polo.

I didn't know then that I would one day count among my closest friends a pair of Bactrians, named Sake, a male, and Camille, a female. Both are 14 years old and were born at North American zoos. I have worked with Sake and Camille for about ten years, and during that time I have come to know them and they to know me. The camels can pick me, and a few of their other keepers, out of a crowd of hundreds of Sunday afternoon visitors. My fellow keeper, Ann Armstrong, taught Sake to come up to the fence and open his mouth so that we could show visitors his teeth. Camels have canines, which you would not expect in an herbivore. They are ruminants and will chew their cud like a cow. They produce copious amounts of saliva, but I have only once heard of our animals spitting on a person. It was a veterinarian whom Sake was not fond of having around, and he let him know about it.

For some reason Sake has this thing for pigeons. He doesn't hurt them, but when he has the chance, he gently corrals a pigeon in his stall, holds it down with his lips and then gives it a big sloppy lick, coating the poor bird with a load of sticky camel saliva. I like pigeons, so I rescue the slimy birds, too gooey to fly. I wash them in the sink, put them in a box to dry, then turn them loose. As far as I can tell this is just something weird Sake likes to do.

We camel keepers avoid going into the enclosure with the animals. Perhaps it is the way she was managed as a youngster, but Camille chases people from her enclosure, and trust me, it's best to avoid a chance encounter with 1,800 pounds of determined camel. Several years ago we had a tremendous ice storm that caused problems all around the region. More than an inch of glossy ice blanketed the entire Zoo. Cold weather is no problem for fur-insulated camels, but the slippery footing was another matter. Camille had gotten stuck at the bottom of the hill in the camel yard. Sake had managed to get up the ice-covered slope by turning and walking up back-end-first, a neat trick. But Camille would slip and fall whenever she tried to negotiate the slope. We were terrified that Camille would injure herself.

Desperate for some way to help Camille, I found an old pair of cleated golf shoes in a locker. With these spikes I slowly worked my way down the ice-covered hill, all the while feeling a bit apprehensive of what the territorial female camel might try to do. While keeping a watchful eye on the nervous Camille, I was able to surround her with hay that she could eat and use for bedding. The hay seemed to settle her down. As darkness approached, I looked around for something to lay down to improve traction on the ice. My eyes fell on a 40-gallon garbage can of camel dung. As a keeper I never thought I'd see the day when I would shovel manure back into an exhibit, but I did. The following morning Camille was able to get back up the hill and into the stalls, where she and Sake stayed until the ice melted.

To say Sake loves to eat would be an understatement. One look at that rotund belly of his rubbing both sides of a 40-inch doorway is proof this animal is motivated by food. When the commissary delivers bales of hay to the back gate of the exhibit, I move them by wheelbarrow to storage inside the camel barn. Sake's favorite is alfalfa hay, grown at the Zoo's Conservation Center near Front Royal, Virginia; and if a passing wheelbarrow stacked with alfalfa hay happens to catch Sake's attention, he'll snatch the 60-pound bale in his teeth as effortlessly as picking up a grape. In addition to the alfalfa, we feed grass hay, a pellet mix of grains, roughage and supplements; we give them tree limb browse, carrots and apples too. Sake eats lots of alfalfa, so he gets fewer pellets than Camille does, but Camille is reluctant to eat apples. I think it's because we used to hide wormer in apples, and she quickly figured out that we were messing with her food. Both animals love to eat fallen tree leaves, even dried brown ones. They relish these crunchy leaves like they were potato chips, and it certainly makes for less leaf raking inside the exhibit.

Our camels are oblivious to Washington's weather. They sleep outside on the coldest nights, and their remarkable coats insulate them from winter's chill. When I arrive on winter mornings, I sometimes find the pair asleep in their outdoor yard, having spent the night under the stars—the tops of their humps and the hair on the tops of their heads white with frost. They are so well insulated that the snow or ice will not melt on their backs. When they shed their coats in the spring, the tangled hair falls off in mats. Visitors have seen this tangled pile of hair on the ground in the camel yard and then chased down a keeper to report a dead animal in the exhibit. When you handle this soft hair, you have an immediate sensation of warmth. Its superb insulating ability prevents the loss of heat from your hands, and its effectiveness is instantly apparent.

After the camels shed in preparation for summer, tiny flies can drive a ton of camel indoors—even on a beautiful sunny day. When the flies are bad, the camels like to spend their time inside their darkened stalls, where fewer of the biting insects will pursue them. Of the two, Camille seems to be more susceptible to flies, which will often bite her forelegs until she bleeds. We use a citronella spray as a repellent. When these flies are feeding, I can sympathize with Camille, since they'll also bite a keeper in short pants. This past summer, late in the season, we experimented with releasing ant-size wasps that parasitize fly eggs. With the help of these wasps, both Camille and I had fewer fly bites on our legs, and next year we hope to get an early start with this biological method of fly control.

We will likely never have reproduction in our pair of camels. Camille has some medical problems that make breeding her unadvisable. She favors one leg, and as she has gotten older she has become a bit unsteady. Sake has always gotten around a little better. Perhaps nothing is more unusual to see, though, than a male camel in rut. Sake comes into rut in midwinter, and it's easy to tell by the odor. I don't know if the urine becomes stronger smelling or if there is simply more of it to smell. When in rut, Sake squats slightly, holding his moplike tail between his legs urinating on it until it is saturated. Next, he whips his tail up over his haunches, slapping it on his back with a smack, and droplets of pungent urine fly in all directions. His long hair gets soaked, and he seems to be acting supremely self-assured, looking down on the people and camels around him like a crown prince walking into a palace ball. He's back to his typical chowhound self in about five weeks.

Camels are usually the C word found in many children's alphabet picture books, and there have been times at the Zoo when I've seen a 2-year-old excitedly point out and identify a camel for a parent laboring behind a stroller. I like to tell the kids that you can remember that a Bactrian camel has two rounded humps just like the letter B, for Bactrian. And the dromedary camel has one rounded hump, like the letter D, for dromedary.

To make way for the American Prairie exhibit, Sake and Camille were moved to a nice paddock near the Small Mammal House. Their care was shifted to the keepers at the Lion House, and sadly I and my fellow primate and panda keepers no longer have the pleasure of working with the camels. But they still pick me out of the crowd and watch my every move.

There's an artificial mountain at the back of the new camel yard. It in no way compares to the grandeur of the Hindu Kush. But, when I stand along the railing with a crowd of zoogoers, and Sake and Camille come and find me in the crowd, I feel like I share in a long history of generations of camel keepers like those I saw in Afghanistan.

Smithsonian National Zoo

It was around 2500 b.c. that people began to use camels as beasts of burden. Meet Melinda Zeder and learn more.
Pioneer settlers in Australia were not the first to use camels to cross vast wastelands. In fact, more than 4,000 years ago, people in two different parts of the Middle East began a partnership with these desert-adapted animals that reshaped the course of human history.

Around 2500 B.C., in the far eastern reaches of present-day Iran, people began using the two-humped Bactrian camel as a beast of burden to carry both themselves and their goods. At about the same time, tribal peoples of the Arabian Peninsula, who had hunted the native one-humped dromedaries for thousands of years, began to use these animals in similar ways. It is probably no coincidence that when archaeologists found evidence for camel domestication in these two distant places, they also found evidence of a flourishing trade network that linked the Indus Valley civilization with Mesopotamian city-states clustered along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers of today's Iraq.

Some of the trade between these two powerful civilizations took a seaward route across the Indian Ocean. However, there were still large stretches of arid land that separated these two centers from Indian Ocean ports. There was also an overland route that linked these people, but it crossed the formidable salt deserts of the high Iranian plateau.

And this is where the camels came in. Camels are able to convert thorny desert shrubs and salty plants into highly nutritious food. They need little water for themselves, and they can carry large loads of people, goods and extra water. These abilities opened up barren lands that had once served as barriers to travel. Nomadic tribes that had previously eked out a modest living in these harsh areas now became major forces in both commerce and warfare throughout the Middle East.

Indeed, the rapid spread of Islam out of the Arabian Peninsula and across the large swath of territory from North Africa to Indonesia can be attributed at least in part to the use of these surefooted desert animals by early adherents of the teachings of Muhammad.

Nest Of 4 Baskets

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.
From card: "1 [basket exchanged] Trocadero [Museum, France] July 1885. 1 [basket exchanged] Salem, May [18]86. One basket Illus.: Hndbk. N. Amer. Ind., Vol. 7, Northwest Coast, Fig. 11 right, pg. 249." Handbook caption describes this object as a "Plain close-twined basket with grown-dyed bands on the natural buff background, a characteristic Haida basketry decoration. height 41 cm." As of 2012, only one basket with this number has been located in the collections.

One basket is on loan to the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, from 2010 through 2022.

Source of the information below: Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center Alaska Native Collections: Sharing Knowledge website, by Aron Crowell, entry on basket lent to Anchorage Museum http://alaska.si.edu/record.asp?id=183, retrieved 5-19-2012: Basket, Haida. Raspberries, salmonberries, currants, blueberries, huckleberries, and salalberries ripen during summer in southeast Alaska and Haida Gwaii. Haida artist Delores Churchill identified this large spruce-root basket as a collection vessel into which berry pickers emptied their loads. The dark bands are a traditional Haida design, woven from roots dyed with hemlock and iron soaked in urine. Extracts from Elders' discussions of the basket in 2005 (see web page cited above for the full entries): Delores Churchill: This one is definitely Haida. If you could see that they started here [vertical line on outside], and as I said they go counterclockwise, so it would be going around in that direction. Some of these baskets when— Suzie Jones: You moved clockwise though when you did that though so- Delores Churchill: That's because we hold it upside down. Clarence Jackson: Oh, start it from the bottom. Delores Churchill: Right. And we're going counterclockwise. . . . I'm going to turn it on its side, because I want to look at the bottom. There was one woman and her descendants still do that, Charles Edenshaw's wife's family. And you could see all the way that they added every five or six rows, and that way they went from finer to coarser, and they didn’t have to keep adding. Her family did it that way, so it kind of signifies some of those families, because they did it in that way. Delores Churchill: And these baskets, when I was a child, we used this sized baskets. And we had small ones that we picked [berries] with. Everybody picked with the smaller ones [about a six inch diameter]. . . . You didnt carry this, but there was a small one you carried on your back. And you had a smaller one [in hands] and then you took from the front one to put in the back [over the shoulder]. And when I was a child . . . when we collected berries, we put the skunk cabbage leaves on the bottom, because it acted like wax paper and that way it caught the juice too. We didn’t want the juice to drip down our back, but we also saved the juice to use when putting the berries away. But I noticed some of the children in the Haskell Institute-some of the Haida children that went from Hydaburg and Kassan to some of these schools-they had these as their suitcases. You could see the children arriving, and there’s a picture of them and their baskets are lined up in the back where they kept it. When I was a child they were still using these kinds of baskets. . . . Delores Churchill: Another thing that we did, we did go harvest spruce roots with our Elders. And it was really interesting because we would go to Toe Hill to harvest razor clams commercially, then we would walk to the area where we would harvest the spruce roots. But when we harvested, the elders they didn't allow us to do it. Just the elders gathered the spruce roots. But when they were ready to quit-it was really interesting-they sang a song. They were all scattered around, and the first one that started the song would go down and start the fire for the spruce root-the cooking of the spruce root, because they would put it in the fire. Then the next group would sing, and they would be the ones that would help get the kindling, the beach wood. And it would go clear around. And when it reached the last ones, then they all went down the beach then and started the cooking. And we did it the same way as the Tlingit. We put it [cooked root] through a stick that was forked and took the outer skin off right at that time. The Haidas really worked on it right away. But Tlingits stored it when they got that far. When they cooked it, they would bundle it up and put it away. But the Haidas didn't do that. They'd immediately start splitting and continue to split it until it was down to where it was workable. And I don't know if the Tlingits did it earlier, but from what Jennie told me, they never worked on it. We gave her some that we had harvested, and she just put it away, so I think that was a common Tlingit [practice] because they had so many things happening right at that time. "Delores Churchill: This is quite typical of the Haida weaving where you have the black bands. And I don't know if they have any meaning or not, except that in Klukwan-what they told me, when they were feasting with the Mother Basket-low caste people would get the bottom just up to there [first horizontal line from bottom]. High class people as you go higher, then the chiefs got the ones that were full. So I don’t know if that’s why the lines were on there, because they didn't know in the village anymore. But when we were looking at the Mother Basket, and I saw the lines on the Mother Basket, I asked Mrs. Willard. I said, "Why do you have the lines on the Mother basket?" And she said that was the reason that different caste people got different amounts of goods from when they were having a feast.

Delores Churchill: But this is beautifully made. I know that we all admire real fine baskets, but this is so even, the weaving, the roots. Everything is so even. Every time we see baskets in a museum, I’m always pushed back to kindergarten, because these are so even and so nice. And you'll notice that the inside is the shiny part, because that's the water resistant part. And now when you see people weaving, that part will be on the bottom, because they're not made for use. And one of the things that people don't understand is that they all thought we wove really tight. But I watched Ida Kadashaan. When she's weaving, she takes her bear tooth, her grizzly bear tooth, rub, rub, rub. And that rubbing spreads the fibers. So you can weave it as tight as you can, but the rubbing also spreads the fibers so it's water resistant. Suzi Jones: What’s used to make the color? Delores Churchill: That's iron oxide, and that's why it's fading already. It fades pretty fast. They would use hemlock and iron oxide on the black. But this kind of a basket was used in Klukwan too, because there are many in many different collections that I've seen that look just like this. That's why I had to turn it around again to look at the beginning when she mentioned that, because I have seen some at the Field Museum that I thought were Haida. But the Klukwan people used them with the lines on them too, and same top and so you have to really watch these baskets. Because if they're red, I always look, because most of the time the Klukwan liked to use the red. And I don't know if they had easier access to red and we didn't for the early ones." [From discussion with Delores Churchill (Haida), Peter Jack, Sr. (Tlingit), Clarence Jackson, Sr. (Tlingit), Anna Katzeek (Tlingit), George Ramos (Tlingit), and Donald Gregory (Tlingit) and Rosita Worl (Tlingit) of the Sealaska Heritage Institute at the National Museum of Natural History and National Museum of the American Indian, 4/18/2005-4/22/2005. Also participating: Aron Crowell and Bill Fitzhugh (NMNH) and Suzi Jones (AMHA).]

Bark Cloth

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.
LARGE SHEET OF FAIRLY COARSE, WHITE, UNDECORATED BARK CLOTH. THE CLOTH HAS A WIDE PARALLEL LINE WATERMARK. HAS ORIGINAL PEALE TAG. EXAMINED AND SAMPLED BY KENNETH P. EMORY, BISHOP MUSEUM, JUNE 1941. EMORY NOTED THAT IT WAS DOUBTFUL THAT THIS PIECE WAS SAMOAN, SINCE IT SEEMED TOO COARSE.

FROM CARD: "2959-69. CAT.# 2968, ORIG.# 1044. TAPA, LARGE SHEET OF PLAIN WHITE. HAWAII?* *WATER MARKED. SAMPLES TAKEN BY K.P. EMORY 6/24/41."

FROM SECOND CARD 2968: "TAPA. LARGE SHEET, PLAIN WHITE, WATER MARKED. SAMPLE TAKEN BY K. P. EMERY-. MARKED SAMOA, PROBABLY HAWAII - K. EMORY, 6/24/41."

Identified as not typical Samoan by Regina Meredith of American Samoa, siapo (tapa) maker, artist, and teacher, 7-11-2013.

Large rectangular piece of plain (beige colored) tapa, suspected to be made from breadfruit (per Adrienne Kaeppler, Curator for Oceania Ethnology). Tapa is not decorated in any way with no discernible difference between top side or back side. It is stiff to the touch and this is believed to be due to the breadfruit fiber used to make it.

People and Landscapes: Kenya at the Folklife Festival

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
Kenyan wood carvers work on a decorative piece for over a door.
Kenyan wood carvers work on a decorative piece for over a door.
Photo by Josh Eli Cogan, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution

As preparations for the 2014 Folklife Festival begin, participants from all over Kenya are getting ready to make the journey to Washington, D.C., to share their rich culture and national heritage.

The Kenya: Mambo Poa program will provide an opportunity for the public to learn about human origins, adornment arts such as henna and braiding, and living and working with wildlife directly from the rangers who experience it daily. Festival visitors will also be able to run with Olympians, dig for fossils, dance to the rhythmic sound of Kenyan music, and interact with various artisans working with beads, wood, clay, stone, and even food!

This dynamic and vibrant culture is directly influenced by Kenya’s diverse landscapes of golden savannahs, snow-capped mountains, vast deserts, and the glittering coast. Individuals will be representing how communities interact with their unique landscapes and backgrounds, whether they are from urban, pastoral, or coastal communities.

Ocean Sole craftsmen with one of their creations.
Ocean Sole craftsmen with one of their creations.
Photo by Josh Eli Cogan, Ralph Rinzler Folk Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution

Harmony and Sustainability

The craftsmen of Ocean Sole are creative and resourceful sculptors who transform flip-flops washed up upon their shores into beautiful sculptures bursting with color. Not only do they create these amazing pieces of art from refuse, they also donate a portion of the proceeds from sales to the Ocean Sole Foundation, which encourages marine conservation awareness, recycling, and sustainability.

Farther inland in the semi-arid grassland, a few artists are also using waste materials to make masterpieces. Kitengela Glass has been described as a “magical oasis” bathed in the glow of sunlight through the pieces of glass adorning structures, sculptures, mosaic pathways, jewelry, and home ware.

A house decorated with shards of recycled glass.
A house decorated with shards of recycled glass.
Photo by Josh Eli Cogan, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution

Individuals from Kitengela use recycled glass, scrap metal, and wastepaper to construct their works. Nothing is wasted, and even the smallest shards are reused in sun-catchers, mosaics, or melted into spun beads.

Saving the environment does not only require us to reuse and recycle, but to protect the animals and landscapes as well. Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa and is surrounded by Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.

Despite its large size, people are concerned about environmental issues such as the growth of an invasive hyacinth species that depletes the water of oxygen and raises toxicity levels for both fish and people. Basket weavers from Zingira Nyanza Community Crafts near Lake Victoria have begun using fibers from the water hyacinth to create their baskets. They also coordinate the efforts of local artisans from all tribes living in the Kisumu area to produce recycled and locally sourced handicraft products. In this way, they are making a difference, both in the environment and their communities.

The unique exchange between craftsmanship and the landscape is tangible in the physical manifestation of Kenyan art. Potters create functional works of art from clay and soil, woodcarvers produce ornate doorways from ordinary slabs of wood, and stone carvers reveal life out of a single block of stone. These objects may have functional and economic values, but it is the cultural worth that makes them priceless.

During the 2014 Folklife Festival, craftspeople from multiple communities will come together on the National Mall to jointly show the beauty of Kenya and its people in their landscape, craft, and cultural diversity. Make sure to experience the colorful glow of Kitengela Glass and the variety of art pieces made by Kenyan artisans through their innovative use of natural materials.

Kelsey Heublein spent this past spring as a web production intern with the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. She is a graduating senior at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she specializes in cultural anthropology.

Stunning 'Field of Light' Surrounds Iconic Australian Rock

Smithsonian Magazine

If you visit Australia's iconic Uluru rock after dusk in the next few months, you'll see the iconic sandstone formation surrounded by a stunning "field of lights." The nighttime art installation, which is on view until March 31, 2018, is the work of Bruce Munro, reports Jim Byers of National Geographic, a British artist who has long used light to create large works that sparkle and shimmer around the world.

"Field of Lights," which was installed in Australia’s Northern Territory last March, is a homecoming of sorts for the project. In 1992, Munro first came up with the idea while traveling through central Australia to see the Unesco world heritage site. Moved by the "energy, heat and brightness of the desert landscape" he started to sketch out an idea for a field of lit flowers arrayed in the empty expanse, he explained on his website.

“I wanted to create an illuminated field of stems that, like the dormant seed in a dry desert, would burst into bloom at dusk with gentle rhythms of light under a blazing blanket of stars," he said.

Bruce Munro looks over his installation (Mark Pickthall / Voyages)

More than a decade later, Munro created the first forms of "Field of Light" in his backyard in Wiltshire, England. The installation then traveled to the United Kingdom and North America, evolving based on the physical landscape of each location. Fittingly, last March, the largest and most remote staging of "Field of Light" yet arrived in Australia, according to the Guardian.

The year-long installation near Uluru features more than 50,000 delicate glass stems topped with frosted glass spheres that coat acres of the desert floor, with lights inside them coming to life as the Sun sets.

"Field of Light" with Uluru in the background (Mark Pickthall / Voyages)

To take in the view, all visitors need to do is walk on designated paths where they can observe the different colors and shapes of the lights up close.

More than just a beautiful piece of work, the installation is also environmentally friendly, Byers of National Geographic notes. The whole show runs on solar power, and the 236 miles of optical fiber that illuminate it will be recycled after the display ends in March.

Uluru is considered sacred ground for the Aboriginal Anangu people and Munru had continued conversations with locals during the installation process. For their part, they have given the project their own nickname, "Tili Wiru Tjuta Nyakutjaku," which in the Pitjantjatjara language means "looking at lots of beautiful lights."

Womanology 12

National Museum of African Art
Oil painting depicting the upper body of a woman in red dress and white hat with red ribbon looking through binoculars off to her left, surrounded by and abstract background of blue and black brushstrokes.

Remembering collector Teodoro Vidal, who preserved Puerto Rican history and culture in the national collection

National Museum of American History

The first job I had at the museum was working with a collection of more than 3,000 objects from Puerto Rico, all collected by Teodoro Vidal. The longtime collector and dedicated amateur historian passed away on January 17, 2016, at the age of 92. 

Group of small wooden carved figures, some with painted details.

Vidal's collection—musical instruments, food preparation items, textiles, lace, religious objects, and carnival costumes and masks spanning the 17th century through the 20th century—is a testament to cultural traditions and the power of the object to tell stories. As an amateur historian, he had an interest in collecting the everyday and the sacred. Maps, prints, and photographs document the land and people of the island. Religious figures and iconography document the wide range of religious and cultural communities of Puerto Rico. As an amateur folklorist, he collected tools and examples of the work people do every day: making fishing nets, masks, and jewelry, and working in agriculture.

When I first saw the more than 600 santo figures, carved religious objects used in homes and churches, all arranged in our cabinets behind the scenes, I was impressed by how important it is to collect the history of everyday experiences. Today I think back to the first time I saw his collection of carnival masks, and I remember the reverence with which he talked about the makers and mixed-cultural tradition of carnival. And I look back at the musical instruments, intricately carved and painted tiple, güiros, and plena drums, instruments that helped shape a national identity, drawing from African and European influences, fusing and impacting music globally.

Small guitar or ukulele-like instrument

A former curator and mentor to me, Marvette Pérez, who passed away in 2013, was instrumental in bringing the Vidal collection to museum. Pérez, also from Puerto Rico, and Vidal committed themselves to tell the story of Puerto Rican history. The Vidal collection has truly been an invaluable foundation for the Smithsonian's efforts to document the Latino experience. Parts of his collection can also be found at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Vidal's collection and related research has been showcased in countless museum exhibitions around the world, educating and inspiring millions of visitors.

A man and woman sit on a couch. The man holds a notebook and watches as the woman manipulates long fibers to create a hat.

Vidal took on the role of public historian with grace and humility. A true embodiment of the gentleman scholar, he wrote many publications on santo carvers, artists, mask makers, and cultural traditions that inform scholarship across disciplines. His research and collecting efforts were highlighted in the museum's 1998 exhibit A Collector's Vision of Puerto Rico; La Visión de un Coleccionista showcasing the culture and identity of the island. The lasting impact Vidal and his collection has had on research at the museum, within the Latino community, and on the nation has left a legacy that cannot be matched.

L. Stephen Velasquez is a curator in the Division of Home and Community Life.

Posted Date: 
Tuesday, January 19, 2016 - 13:00
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Voodoo Guitar "Marie" made by Don Moser with debris from Hurricane Katrina

National Museum of African American History and Culture
The Voodoo Guitar (.1) used by Don Moser of Swampkat. The 6-string electric guitar is wooden with metal-plated head and body. A plaque on the head features text that reads [KATRINA - AUG - 29- 2005]. Metal letters are adhered along one side and the bottom of the head, following the curve [NEW ORLEANS / VOODOO]. Multiple "windows" were built into the guitar head. Contents include objects such as a voodoo doll and rhinestone fleur de lis brooch. At the center of the head, a figurine is attached atop the strings. It is shaped like a cross. Its top half is black, while the bottom is white and covered with multi-colored beads. Brown hair-like fibers extend out of the top and two arms. A handwritten letter (.2) on white paper with rough, burned edges is attached under the strings. It visually blocks part of the head and reads [DEAR KEVIN, / THANKS FOR ALL THE HARD WORK YOU AND / YOUR TEAM HAS PUT INTO THE VOODOO GUITAR / PROJECT. / I'VE ENJOYED EVERY MIN. OF THE JOURNEY. / THIS IS THE VOODOO GUITAR. PLEASE TAKE / EXTRA CARE OF HER, I GROWN QUITE FOND OF HER! / THE GUITAR IS SET UP AND PLAYS GREAT, SHE SOUNDS / LIKE THE DEVIL MOVING FURNITURE! / BLESSINGS / DON]. The back of the neck is light-colored wood, and the back of the head is dark wood. A gold-colored metal plaque situated at the base of the neck features engraved text that reads [KATRINA / YOU THOUGHT / YOU COULD KEEP / THE OL BIG EASY / DOWN BUT WE / STILL HEAR OUR / BRASS BANDS / BLOWIN OH WHAT/ A BEAUTIFUL / SOUND]. A clear plastic cylinder is attached to the underside of the head. It has a metal top & bottom and contains a fuzzy object.

Blanket

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.
WOOLEN BLANKET SUPPOSEDLY WOVEN OF MOUNTAIN GOAT WOOL AND DOG HAIR. THE DESIGN IS COMPOSED OF BANDS OF ZIGZAG DESIGNS AND STRIPES IN YELLOW, WHITE, BLUE, GREEN, RED, WITH AN INSERTED AREA OF BROAD RED, YELLOW AND WHITE STRIPES WITH VERTICAL LINES ON EITHER SIDE. THE BLANKET IS FRINGED ON THREE SIDES. SMITHSONIAN ANNUAL REPORT, 1928, PG. 639, PL. 9-C. REMOVED FROM PERMANENT EXHIBIT IN THE NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN HALL, NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY. EXHIBITED MAGNIFICENT VOYAGERS, NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY, 1985-86.

Jane Walsh identifies this textile as Peale # 312, which is described (as is Peale # 313) in the U.S. Exploring Expedition Peale catalogue as a blanket made of wool of the Rocky mountain sheep, by the natives of Puget sound, NW Coast of America. Illus. Pl. 1, p. 41 and Fig. 28, p. 46 of Salish Weaving by Paula Gustafson, Univ. of Washington Press, 1980. Described on p. 125, cat. entry 82, of Gustafson as "Fibres: Mountain goat hair and vegetable fibers. Colour: Natural white, black, dark brown, red, yellow and blue. Weave: Twine." Also described on p. 47 of Gustafson: "... displays horizontal panels, but is composed of fifteen major and eighteen minor partitions. One of the major components takes up about a third of the weaving and is itself composed of three sections with horizontal bars across the centre section and the two end portions, displaying a vertical zigzag and bar motif. ... (It) is fringed only on three sides. There is no border pattern." Gustafson also notes that blanket exhibits fading colors due to exposure to light, probably while on exhibit. Illus. Fig. 10.13, p. 240 in Brotherton, Barbara. 2008. S'abadeb = The gifts : Pacific Coast Salish arts and artists. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum in association with University of Washington Press. Figure caption: "In her study of Salish weaving, Paula Gustafson categorizes robes by their designs as being classic, colonial or hybrid. This robe fell within the classic category because of its emphasis on geometric patterns arranged in vertical bands. These robes were created between 1778 and 1850, when the indigenous traditions were not influenced by imported motifs and materials (Gustafson 1980: 37.) ... (T)his example consists of fifteen major and eighteen minor design units composed in vertical and horizontal sections. It is tightly twined without a border pattern and is fringed on three sides."

Reference: Solazzo, C., S. Heald, M.W. Ballard, D.A. Ashford, P.T. DePriest, R.J. Koestler, and M. Collins. 2011. Proteomics and Coast Salish blankets: A tale of shaggy dogs? Antiquity 85: 1418-1432. http://antiquity.ac.uk/ant/085/ant0851418.htm . Identified there as a Classic (1778 - 1850) blanket - weft/fringe Mountain goat hair; warp Salish wool or woolly dog hair.

FROM CARD: "CAPE. MADE OF DOG AND GOAT HAIR. REFER: SMITH. I. A.R. 1928, PG. 639, PL. 9-C. ILLUS.: THE SPIRIT SINGS. CATALOGUE, GLENBOW-ALBERTA INST., 1987, #N104, P.155. ILLUS.: FIG. 21, P.18 IN A GUIDE TO WEFT TWINING BY DAVID W. FRASER. PHILADELPHIA: UNIVERSITY OF PENN. PRESS, 1989."

X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) testing was conducted on this textile in 2017. Arsenic was detected. The testing suggests this textile was treated with pesticides that contained arsenic. The testing indicates there are high levels of arsenic (over 10,000 ppm). Mercury was also detected. The testing suggests this textile was treated with pesticides that contained mercury. The testing indicates there are medium (300-1,000 ppm) to high levels of mercury. See Anthropology Conservation Lab records for the full report. This object should be handled with gloves. See the Department of Anthropology "Statement on Potential Hazards (Inherent and Acquired) Associated with Collection Objects" for more detailed handling guidelines.

Illus. Fig. 31, p. 89, and Fig. 39, p. 99 (detail), in Tepper, Leslie Heymann, Janice George, and Willard Joseph. 2017. Salish Blankets: robes of protection and transformation, symbols of wealth.

Feather Cape

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.
FROM T NUMBER CARD: "NO. 66. WAMWAMI (OR WAMAMI)? [sic, presumably Wanganui] NEW ZEALAND. COLLECTOR/DONOR CAPT. WILSON (OR WIKNO)? SMALL - VARIEGATED FROM KAHU HURA [sic, more probably this should be kura, not hura]. INCLUDES PEACOCK FEATHERS. FOUND IN COLLECTIONS WITH NO NUMBER." Formerly on exhibit in NMNH Exhibit Hall 8, Case 48, "Maori Life Group." (Exhibit dismantled in 2004)

Based on old original tags with artifacts, ET9350, ET11446 and ET12245 appear to be from the same collection. It seems, though these tags are faded and fragmentary, that they say Wanganui on them, as well as identifying the pieces. It appears that ET105 is from this same collection as well, though it has no old tag with it. The information on the T number card, including the number 66, seems to be quoting from the now missing tag. The tag for ET12245 appears to be written on/over a visiting card printed with a name R W Woon. There was a Richard Watson Woon (1834 - 1888) who was a Native Interpreter and Clerk to the Bench and Resident Magistrate in Wanganui, New Zealand in the 1800's. The handwriting on these tags matches Woon's handwriting in letters in the collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, N.Z.

See pp. 615 - 617 in Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute Volume 9, 1876; link to p. 617 here: http://rsnz.natlib.govt.nz/image/rsnz_09/rsnz_09_02_0749_0617_ac_01.html . On 16 September 1876, Dr. James Hector gave an account of his travels to a meeting of the Wellington Philosophical Society, including information on the New Zealand exhibits at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia: "He mentioned the objects which appeared to attract most attention, and referred particularly to the exhibition of Feather Furs by Mr. Liardet, a magnificent series of Photographs by Mr. Deveril, Messrs. Burton Bros., and others, and a fine collection of Maori exhibits forwarded by Mr. Richard Woon, R.M., of Wanganui." On p. 223 of the book Norton, Frank H., and Frank Leslie. 1877. Frank Leslie's historical register of the United States Centennial Exposition, 1876. Embellished with nearly eight hundred illustrations drawn expressly for this work by the most eminent artists in America. Including illustrations and descriptions of all previous International exhibitions. New York: Frank Leslie's Pub. House, there is a description of the New Zealand section at the Centennial Exposition, including descriptions of Maori artifacts displayed there: "There are also ... flax mats, ornamented with red feathers of the kaka, or mounted parrot; others interwoven with feathers of the native wood-pigeon, one in particular intended as a gift to the President of the United States ... ."

ET105 is a flax and feather cape or cloak, with wide bottom border, and narrow side borders, of taniko (geometric patterning) of black-dyed and natural muka (flax fiber). See the list of the collection made by Richard Watson Woon for display at the New Zealand exhibit of the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia; see list on p. 335 of Great Britain. Executive commission, Philadelphia exhibition, 1876. 1876. Official catalogue of the British section, Part I. London: Printed by G.E. Eyre and W. Spottiswoode, for Her Majesty's stationery office, http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015067183486;view=1up;seq=345 . Presuming ET105 is indeed from Woon, despite an apparent mismatch of original numbers, this object appears to be the one listed as: "38. [original owner] Captain Wirihana Puna. - Kakahu Kura, ornamented flax and feather mat; intended as a gift to the President of the United States." [Ulysses S. Grant was the President in 1876.] Kakahu kura, also called Kahu kura, are cloaks woven with the feathers of of the New Zealand kaka (Nestor meridionalis), a native parrot.

James Hector of the (New Zealand) Colonial Museum and Geological Survey was the Representative Commissioner for the New Zealand exhibits at the Philadelphia Centennial. In addition to material sent from New Zealand, these exhibits also included some artifacts borrowed from the Smithsonian through Joseph Henry. A group of Maori artifacts provided by Richard Watson Woon were a subset of the New Zealand Centennial exhibit. Hector, while in the U.S. in 1876, also visited Washington, DC and Spencer Baird. Though Woon indicated that the majority of the Maori exhibits should return to New Zealand, two artifacts were designated as gifts for the President of the United States, and a few other pieces also were not returned to New Zealand. The objects intended as presidential gifts, ET12245 and ET105, and also at least two other pieces, ET9350 and ET11446, all became part of the Smithsonian collections, under Accession No. 5733, though the Department of Anthropology never seems to have assigned catalogue numbers to them. The Archives at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa has correspondence in their files from Woon related to the Centennial exhibition artifacts; see in particular MU000177/001/0160. The Te Papa archives also has a letter, MU000177/001/0002/0001, dated July 8, 1876, from Spencer Baird to James Hector, thanking Hector for transferring objects that had been displayed at the Centennial to the Smithsonian U.S. National Museum. See also New Zealand. 1858. Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives of New Zealand. Auckland [N.Z.]: Printed for the House of Representatives by W.C. Wilson at the Printing Office; Report of Royal Commission Appointed To Secure The Representation Of New Zealand, Philadelphia Centennial International Exhibition of 1876. https://books.google.com/books?id=cSxAAQAAMAAJ&lpg=RA4-PA49&dq=motumotu%20flax%20new%20zealand&pg=RA5-PA1#v=onepage&q=motumotu%20flax%20new%20zealand&f=false .

Bamboo Steps Up

Smithsonian Magazine

When producer Lesley Chilcott accepted the Oscar in 2007 for best documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," it was perhaps fitting that she was wearing a dress made from bamboo. Yes, bamboo.

"Bamboo is not what we in the United States have imagined it to be," says Jackie Heinricher, owner of Boo-Shoot Gardens, a nursery in Mount Vernon, 60 miles north of Seattle. In 1880 Thomas Edison may have used a carbonized bamboo filament in the first light bulb—still burning in the Smithsonian—but for years bamboo was denigrated as the "poor man's timber," relegated to cheap lawn furniture and chintzy restaurant décor.

Today, influenced by its availability, low cost, versatility and eco-friendly credentials, the Western world is taking a fresh look at bamboo. You might say that bamboo has had a career change. "It has become the material of choice for fashions, flooring, skateboards, bicycles and buildings."

Not bad accomplishments for grass. Because that's what bamboo is: giant grass, a member of the Poaceae family. With over 1,000 species, bamboo ranges from feathery ground covers to tall timbers over 100 feet. It has two root systems. Runners stretch exuberantly-- and make the home gardener crazy. Clumpers spread more slowly. It grows in temperate and tropical climates, and can be found at sea level and on mountaintops 13,000 feet high. Bamboo is self-sustaining. Its extensive root system sends up new shoots annually, so it doesn't need to be replanted.

Bamboo is also the fastest growing plant on the planet. (Giant kelp comes in second.) One waist-high bamboo plant grew 42 inches in 24 hours. So instead of taking centuries to mature, like hardwood trees, bamboo reaches a useful height in three to five years. Bamboo can also be harvested selectively and manually, without leaving denuded swathes of land behind. (Most of the exported bamboo comes from forests in China with India a distant second.)

Its short growth cycle and sustainability are why architects and environmentalists are looking at bamboo as a replacement for timber. "Bamboo has the same utility as hardwood," says Daniel Smith, president of San Francisco-based Smith & Fong Plyboo, producers of bamboo flooring, plywood and paneling, "and costs about the same as grade A red oak." Some are using bamboo for more than flooring. Colombian architect Simon Velez recently created the largest bamboo structure ever built: the Nomadic Museum in Mexico City.

Bamboo's environmental report card keeps getting A's. It can be grown without chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Its net-like root system prevents erosion on steep surfaces and makes a bamboo grove a safe haven in an earthquake. It can detoxify wastewater, thanks to its high nitrogen consumption. It sequesters four times as much carbon as hardwood trees, and generates up to 35 percent more oxygen.

A bamboo cargo bike made in Ghana by California bike builder Craig Calfee and Ghanaians. (Craig Calfee)

All these "green" qualities are causing people to jump on the bamboo bandwagon, but there are some caveats. While bamboo itself may be "green," many of the methods used to take the raw material from grove to marketplace are not. Cloth from bamboo is soft as silk and more absorbent than cotton, but the fibers are made in a rayon-like process that uses chemicals and solvents. Formaldehyde is used in the making of plywood. "People say they want bamboo flooring in their whole house," says Nancy Moore Bess, Arts & Crafts Coordinator of the American Bamboo Society and herself an artist who works with bamboo. "Not all bamboo floors are the same. Consumers should check that the product is made responsibly." And shipping the raw material from Asia to the U.S. adds to global warming.

"But we don't have to do that," says Boo-Shoots' Heinricher. "We could actually be farming it ourselves." Propagation from seed is not viable because bamboo flowers only once every 60 to 100 years. For eight years, Heinricher and her partner, Randy Burr, have been perfecting a method of tissue culture that produces reliable plants in large quantities. It takes about a month for the tiny sliver of bamboo placed in a nutrient soup to become dozens of plants. To date her clients have been nurseries but "we're getting some interest from Asia," she says.

Given that bamboo is native to every continent except Europe and Antarctica, groups like the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) are looking for ways to use bamboo to create sustainable economies on a local level. Californian bike-builder Craig Calfee has already started a project. Last year Calfee, with support from the Earth Institute at Columbia University, initiated the Bamboo Bike Project. In March he returned from a second visit to Ghana where he helped Ghanaians build the first fully functional bamboo bike made in Africa by Africans. The hope is that eventually villagers will be able to sell these bikes to each other and even to tourists. "People want some economic benefit from bamboo so they won't have to illegally cut bigger trees to sell to the lumber market, Calfee says. Villagers were also impressed with the strength of the bike: a rider was able to deliver two 110 pound bags of cement to a man building a house.

"Bamboo is the most egalitarian crop around," says Adam Turtle, co-owner of Tennessee-based Earth Advocates Research Farm. Asian cultures have incorporated bamboo into their daily lives for millennia. "Most traditional bamboo working communities have a huge range of bamboo products, from the knife to cut a baby's umbilical cord, to the stretcher that carries him when he passes on," says Rebecca Reubens, coordinator of INBAR's Global Marketing Initiative.

Will bamboo become such an integral part of Western culture? "Bamboo is not a trend; it is here to stay," says Plyboo's Smith. "It's going to continue to affect every aspect of a wide range of people's lives."

Vermont - Landmarks and Points of Interest

Smithsonian Magazine

Bennington Battle Monument (Old Bennington)
The tallest structure in Vermont commemorates the Battle of Bennington, a battle that led to the turning point in the Revolutionary War. In the late summer of 1777, the Continental Army beat a hasty retreat toward Bennington. British and Hessians pursued but were badly in need of supplies.

The colonists, carrying what is believed to be the first American flag into battle, defeated them before they could reach the supply depot at Bennington. The British were forced to proceed to Saratoga without the supplies, where they met a stunning defeat that turned the tide of the Revolutionary War. Today, visitors may ride an elevator to the top of the Bennington Monument for panoramic views of the valleys and rolling hills of Vermont, Massachusetts and New York. Open daily, mid-April through October 31.

Chimney Point State Historic Site (Addison)
For more than 7,500 years, the shoreline known as Chimney Point has been a strategic settlement for peoples occupying the Champlain Valley. Native tribes camped here as they hunted and fished their way up and down the waterway, and it became an important stop for traders. In the early 1730s, the French settled the area with grand visions of expanding the territory of New France. Near the end of the French and Indian War, French settlers torched and fled the site. The only things standing where charred chimneys, which inspired the Point’s name. Chimney Point’s 18th-century tavern now houses an interpretative exhibit titled "People of the New Dawn and the People of New France." Open late May through mid-October, Wednesday through Sunday.

Covered Bridges
More than any other state, Vermont is known for its covered bridges. A total of 106 bridges remain, the roofs and walls continuing to protect the wooden trusses from rot and decay.

The Hubbardton Battlefield (Hubbardton)
The Battle of Hubbardton was the only battle of the American Revolution which took place entirely on Vermont soil. Constructed in 1970, the Visitors Reception Center houses a museum. An interpretive exhibit with period artifacts places the battle in its Revolutionary War context. A three-dimensional fiber optic map details the various phases of the Battle. A diorama of the Battle, constructed by Vermont artist Paul V. Winters, is on display. This fine creative work shows the Battle of Hubbardton in its furious early stages. Open late May through mid-October, Wednesday through Sunday.

Old Constitution House (Windsor)
Less than a year after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, another new Republic was taking shape. Delegates from the newly independent Republic of Vermont gathered at the tavern in Windsor to draft a constitution. Called the "Birthplace of Vermont," the restored Old Constitution House looks as it did more than 200 years ago. Open late May through mid-October, Wednesday through Sunday.

President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site (Plymouth Notch)
Unique in American history, Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as President by his father, a local notary public, at his boyhood home on August 3, 1923, following the death of Warren Harding. Today, the homestead remains exactly as it was the night Coolidge took office. Open daily late May through mid-October.

President Chester A. Arthur State Historic Site (Fairfield)
In 1881, Vermonter Chester Alan Arthur was sworn in as the nation’s 21st president. The son of an impoverished Baptist minister, Arthur was born in a small temporary parsonage. A visit to the reconstructed homestead offers a pictorial portrayal of Arthur’s life and political career. Open late May through mid-October, Wednesday through Sunday.

Underwater Historic Preserves (Lake Champlain)
Not all history happens on land. Lake Champlain, one of the nation’s most historic waterways, contains countless shipwrecks dating back to the 1700s. These wrecks include military, commercial and private vessels—each providing a direct connection to the past. Today, the state maintains five underwater historic sites for scuba divers—the Horse Ferry, the Phoenix, the Coal Barge, the General Butler and the Diamond Island Stone Boat. Each preserve is marked by yellow buoys with guidelines providing safe and easy access to the wrecks.

Under the 1975 Vermont Historic Preservation Act, all underwater historic sites beneath state waters belong in public trust to the people of the State of Vermont. The state's responsibility is to protect, wisely manage and interpret this public heritage. Establishing a preserve is one way to accomplish these goals by making it easy for divers to safely locate historic wreck sites, by protecting the wrecks from accidental anchor damage, and by helping you to understand the life and history of each wreck.

Mat Cape

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.
FROM LOGBOOK: MAT ORNAMENTED WITH PIGEON FEATHERS.

This seems to be a cape or cloak. Based on old original tags with artifacts, ET9350, ET11446 and ET12245 appear to be from the same collection. It seems, though these tags are faded and fragmentary, that they say Wanganui on them, as well as identifying the pieces. It appears that ET105 is from this same collection as well. The tag for ET12245 appears to be written on/over a visiting card printed with a name R W Woon. There was a Richard Watson Woon (1834 - 1888) who was a Native Interpreter and Clerk to the Bench and Resident Magistrate in Wanganui, New Zealand in the 1800's. The handwriting on these tags matches Woon's handwriting in letters in the collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, N.Z. ET12245 was exhibited as the shoulder cape in 1895 on the mannequin of a Maori man (Cat. # E175254) that was modeled for the Atlanta Exposition (Cotton States Exposition). See old photo negative # 8959 for mannequin wearing this artifact. This mannequin/display was later exhibited at the Smithsonian, and in a reconfigured form. See Smithsonian Institution Annual Report for the year 1920, Pl. 79, after p. 652, which shows mannequin E175254 in an exhibit case wearing different clothing. This cape ET12245 is visible hanging behind the mannequin in the back upper part of the exhibit case. This photo is negative # 30296.

See pp. 615 - 617 in Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute Volume 9, 1876; link to p. 617 here: http://rsnz.natlib.govt.nz/image/rsnz_09/rsnz_09_02_0749_0617_ac_01.html . On 16 September 1876, Dr. James Hector gave an account of his travels to a meeting of the Wellington Philosophical Society, including information on the New Zealand exhibits at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia: "He mentioned the objects which appeared to attract most attention, and referred particularly to the exhibition of Feather Furs by Mr. Liardet, a magnificent series of Photographs by Mr. Deveril, Messrs. Burton Bros., and others, and a fine collection of Maori exhibits forwarded by Mr. Richard Woon, R.M., of Wanganui." On p. 223 of the book Norton, Frank H., and Frank Leslie. 1877. Frank Leslie's historical register of the United States Centennial Exposition, 1876. Embellished with nearly eight hundred illustrations drawn expressly for this work by the most eminent artists in America. Including illustrations and descriptions of all previous International exhibitions. New York: Frank Leslie's Pub. House, there is a description of the New Zealand section at the Centennial Exposition, including descriptions of Maori artifacts displayed there: "There are also ... flax mats, ornamented with red feathers of the kaka, or mounted parrot; others interwoven with feathers of the native wood-pigeon, one in particular intended as a gift to the President of the United States ... ."

Original tag with artifact, which is partially legible, is written on/over the business card of R. W. Woon (Richard Watson Woon), and is in his hand. It appears to say, as far as can be deciphered: "No. 39 For President, Owner Reneti Tapa, [?] mat, ornamented with pigeon feathers; No. 39 Wanganui New Zealand, A gift to the President [?] America. RW Woon R[?]" Comparing the information on the artifact's original handwritten tag against the list of the collection made by Richard Watson Woon for display at the New Zealand exhibit of the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia; see list on p. 335 of Great Britain. Executive commission, Philadelphia exhibition, 1876. 1876. Official catalogue of the British section, Part I. London: Printed by G.E. Eyre and W. Spottiswoode, for Her Majesty's stationery office, http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015067183486;view=1up;seq=345 , and despite an apparent mismatch of original numbers, this object appears to be the one listed as: "35. [original owner] Reneti Tapa. - Flax mat, interwoven with Feathers of the native wood pigeon, called Waitahuparai; intended as a gift to the President of the United States." [Ulysses S. Grant was the President in 1876.] Feather cape or cloak. Design of feather section includes white bands on side and top borders; dark horizontal band below white border band, and main body of alternating vertical white and dark bands. Outside feather section is a wide bottom border, and narrow side borders, of taniko (geometric patterning) of black-dyed and natural muka (flax fiber).

James Hector of the (New Zealand) Colonial Museum and Geological Survey was the Representative Commissioner for the New Zealand exhibits at the Philadelphia Centennial. In addition to material sent from New Zealand, these exhibits also included some artifacts borrowed from the Smithsonian through Joseph Henry. A group of Maori artifacts provided by Richard Watson Woon were a subset of the New Zealand Centennial exhibit. Hector, while in the U.S. in 1876, also visited Washington, DC and Spencer Baird. Though Woon indicated that the majority of the Maori exhibits should return to New Zealand, two artifacts were designated as gifts for the President of the United States, and a few other pieces also were not returned to New Zealand. The objects intended as presidential gifts, ET12245 and ET105, and also at least two other pieces, ET9350 and ET11446, all became part of the Smithsonian collections, under Accession No. 5733, though the Department of Anthropology never seems to have assigned catalogue numbers to them. The Archives at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa has correspondence in their files from Woon related to the Centennial exhibition artifacts; see in particular MU000177/001/0160. The Te Papa archives also has a letter, MU000177/001/0002/0001, dated July 8, 1876, from Spencer Baird to James Hector, thanking Hector for transferring objects that had been displayed at the Centennial to the Smithsonian U.S. National Museum. See also New Zealand. 1858. Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives of New Zealand. Auckland [N.Z.]: Printed for the House of Representatives by W.C. Wilson at the Printing Office; Report of Royal Commission Appointed To Secure The Representation Of New Zealand, Philadelphia Centennial International Exhibition of 1876. https://books.google.com/books?id=cSxAAQAAMAAJ&lpg=RA4-PA49&dq=motumotu%20flax%20new%20zealand&pg=RA5-PA1#v=onepage&q=motumotu%20flax%20new%20zealand&f=false .

Male figure

National Museum of African Art
Male figure with upraised proper right arm, proper left hand on his hip and a circular mirrored medicine pack on the stomach and arm. The eyes are inset with glass and there are red and white lines under the eyes down the cheeks. Attachments include wood, crescent shaped slit gong, iron gong, antelope horn, cylindrical bark box and a ceramic gunpowder flask with seed pod instead of top.

Scientists Study ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ in Hopes of Finding How Vermeer Painted His Masterpiece

Smithsonian Magazine

It is one of the most iconic paintings of all time: a young woman looking over her shoulder, her mouth ever-so-slightly agape, with a large pearl dangling from her ear. Since 1881, Johannes Vermeer’s masterpiece has been on display at The Hague’s Mauritshuis museum. A star attraction,  "Girl with a Pearl Earring" is rarely removed from public view. But as Nina Siegal reports for the New York Times, the work​ has been taken down for a period of brief but intensive study, in the hopes of learning more about how Vermeer painted his masterpiece.

A team of experts from both Europe and the United States have converged at the Mauritshuis to examine "Girl with a Pearl Earring"​ using an array of non-invasive technologies, among them “fiber optic reflectance spectroscopy, macro X-ray powder diffraction and optical coherence tomography,” according to Siegal. The project, titled “The Girl in the Spotlight,” began on February 26 and ends March 11. Abbie Vandivere, head researcher and paintings conservator at the Mauritshuis, tells Siegal that the team will be working day and night to study the painting as much as possible during the tight time frame.

During the two week period, visitors will not be able to view "Girl with a Pearl Earring"​ in its regular display space. But during the interim period, the Canon company Océ has created a 3D reproduction of the painting as a temporary stand-in. The Mauritshuis is also inviting visitors to watch the researchers at work. “The Girl in the Spotlight” project is being carried out in the museum’s Golden Room, a chamber decked out with 18th-century décor, and the entire process will be on view behind glass partitions.

Vandivere has also been providing further information about the project on a Mauritshuis blog. In one of these blog posts, she explains that experts have many unanswered questions about "Girl with a Pearl Earring"​: What materials did Vermeer use to create the paintings? What techniques did he employ? What can we learn about the layers beneath the surface of the work? None of Vermeer’s drawings survive to the present day, and very little is known about his education and his workshop. With the help of advanced technologies, researchers are hoping to unpack the mysteries that continue to surround the artist’s famed 17th-century painting.

"Girl with a Pearl Earring"​ was last examined—and restored—in 1994, when researchers took small samples from the painting. Imaging techniques have advanced considerably since then, allowing experts to gain a wealth of knowledge about "Girl with a Pearl Earring" without scraping away a single sample of paint.

“We won’t be touching the painting itself but we will be giving it a full bodyscan, going over texture, gloss, color and transparency millimeter by millimeter,” archaeological materials expert Joris Dik tells the Dutch publication Volksrant, according to Dutch News.

Once "Girl with a Pearl Earring"​ is back on display on March 12, the research team will analyze the data and, they hope, uncover some of the enigmatic painting’s enduring secrets.

Oral history interview with David Ellsworth, 2007 July 16

Archives of American Art
Sound recording: 5 sound files (2 hr., 41 min.) : digital, wav An interview of David Ellsworth conducted 2007 July 16, by Josephine Shea, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, at Ellsworth's home, in Quakertown, Pennsylvania.
Ellsworth speaks of living and growing up in Iowa for the first fourteen years of his life; moving to Boulder, Colorado when his father became the director of libraries; being the youngest of two boys; his parents meeting at Oberlin College; his early interest and skill in leatherwork and woodwork as a child; spending time with the family at their cabin up in the mountains in Colorado; his experiences with music, vocals, and woodshop in junior high; attending a preparatory high school that had a very strong art program; singing in the Army for the Army Air Defense Command; traveling around with the band; being sent to the headquarters of United States Army of Europe in Heidelberg as a speed typist; studying and learning German while abroad; getting admitted into the architecture department at Washington University in St. Louis; flunking out after three semesters; going to New York City to follow a love interest as well as to study art; attending The New School for Social Research; moving back to the Midwest due of the heavy toll of city life; enrolling in the sculpture department at the University of Colorado and receiving both a bachelor of fine arts and a master of fine arts; his first independent show at Metropolitan State College in Denver, Colorado; working as a designer for a stainless steel food services equipment company called Green Brothers; working at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass, Colorado; opening up a private studio in Boulder; partaking in various craft shows; working with the Belles Artes Gallery in New York City and Santa Fe, the Del Mano Gallery in Los Angeles, The Hand and the Spirit Gallery in Scottsdale which became Materia Gallery, the Gargoyle Gallery in Aspen; and the Cooper-Lynn Gallery in New York City; working as a teacher at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg; his experiences working with resin; his past experiences working with various kinds of wood; his past divorce; the influence of Native American and Southwest architecture and landscape on his work; the lack of reviews on woodturners and woodturning exhibitions; the difficulty of writing about craft art because of the lack of language; turning down commission work because of the limitations it imposes on the artist or creator; the direction in which he believes the craft of woodturning is going; woodturning as predominantly a hobby for retirees seeking to satisfy a need for creative energy; woodturning as a male-dominated craft; the surprisingly large number of well-known men in the fiber field today; designing and making his own line of tools; creating tutorial videos; holding woodturning classes at his home studio; his working process and how it has changed over time; how he and his wife Wendy ended up in Quakertown, Pennsylvania; and how he came up with his various series and how each developed. Ellsworth also recalls Ed Moulthroup, Melvin and Mark Lindquist, JoAnn Rapp; Steven Hogbin, Lois Moran, James Prestini, Irving Lipton, Albert LeCoff, Rick Mastelli, Clay Foster, Michelle Holzapfel, Mark Sfirri, Virginia Dodson, Betty Scarpino, Bonnie Klein, Arthur and Jane Mason, Fleur and Charlie Bressler, Giles Gibson, and others.

Female figure with child

National Museum of African Art
Kneeling female wood figure on base with proper left leg up, and proper right hand on pot, proper left hand on smaller seated figure with crossed arms. Figure is covered in white pigmentation with black hair, painted scarification, facial details, pot and base sides. Figure's eyes are inlaid with mirror glass and the face has open mouth showing teeth.

How a Chicago Heiress Trained Homicide Detectives With an Unusual Tool: Dollhouses

Smithsonian Magazine

Frances Glessner Lee (1878-1962) was a millionaire heiress and Chicago society dame with a very unusual hobby for a woman raised according to the strictest standards of nineteenth century domestic life: investigating murder. And she did this through a most unexpected medium: dollhouse-like dioramas. Glessner Lee grew up home-schooled and well-protected in the fortress-like Glessner House, designed by renown American architect H.H. Richardson, but she was introduced to the fields of homicide investigation and forensic science by her brother's friend, George Magrath, who later became a medical examiner and professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School. Instantly captivated by the nascent pursuit, she became one of its most influential advocates. In 1936, she endowed the Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard and made subsequent gifts to establish chaired professorships and seminars in homicide investigation. But that’s not all.

As architect and educator Laura J. Miller notes in the excellent essay “Denatured Domesticity: An account of femininity and physiognomy in the interiors of Frances Glessner Lee,” Glessner Lee, rather than using her well cultivated domestic skills to throw lavish parties for debutantes, tycoons, and other society types, subverted the notions typically enforced upon a woman of her standing by hosting elaborate dinners for investigators who would share with her, in sometimes gory detail, the intricacies of their profession. Glessner Lee oversaw every detail of these dinners herself, down to the menu and floral arrangements. She could probably tell you which wine goes best with discussion about a strangled corpse found in a bathroom. But the matronly Glessner Lee -- who may have been the inspiration for Angela Lansbury’s character in "Murder She Wrote"– wanted to do more to help train investigators. She wanted to create a new tool for them.

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In her conversations with police officers, scholars and scientists, she came to understand that through careful observation and evaluation of a crime scene, evidence can reveal what transpired within that space. The physical traces of a crime, the clues, the vestiges of a transgressive moment, have a limited lifespan, however, and can be lost or accidentally corrupted. If a crime scene were properly studied, the truth would ultimately be revealed.

To help her investigator friends learn to assess evidence and apply deductive reasoning,  to help them “find the truth in a nutshell,” Frances Glessner Lee created what she called “The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death,”  a series of lovingly crafted dioramas at the scale of one inch to one foot, each one a fully furnished picturesque scene of domesticity with one glaringly subversive element: a dead body.

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These miniature crime scenes were representations of actual cases, assembled through police reports and court records to depict the crime as it happened and the scene as it was discovered. They were pure objective recreations. The design of each dollhouse, however, was Glessner Lee’s own invention and revealed her own predilections and biases formed while growing up in a palatial, meticulously appointed home. She makes certain assumptions about taste and lifestyle of low-income families, and her dioramas of their apartments are garishly decorated with, as Miller notes, “nostalgic,” and “often tawdry” furnishings.

Investigators had to learn how to search a room and identify important evidence to construct speculative narratives that would explain the crime and identify the criminal.  Glessner Lee’s models helped them develop and practice specific methods –geometric search patterns or zones, for example– to complete an analysis of a crime scene. “The forensic investigator,” Miller writes, “takes on the tedious task of sorting through the detritus of domestic life gone awry….the investigator claims a specific identity and an agenda: to interrogate a space and its objects through meticulous visual analysis.”

For example, the above Nutshell Study depicts a strangled woman found on the floor of her bathroom. No signs of forced entry. Close observation of the diorama reveals small threads hanging from the door that match the fibers found in the wound around the dead woman's neck. That, along with witness reports, allows one to deduce that woman in question used the stool to hang herself from the bathroom door.

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In 1945 the Nutshell Studies were donated to the Department of Legal Medicine  for use in teaching seminars and when that department was dissolved in 1966 they were transferred to the Maryland Medical Examiner’s Office, where they are on view to the public and are, in fact, still used to teach forensic investigation. But Glessner Lee’s influence continues outside the world of forensics. Artists like Ilona Gaynor, Abigail Goldman and Randy Hage have taken on projects that seem inspired by her deadly dioramas. But my favorite of these dollhouses is also the one that draws most directly from the Nutshell Studies: Speakeasy Dollhouse.

(original image)

When artist and author Cynthia von Buhler learned about the mysterious circumstances surrounding her grandfather’s 1935 murder, she was inspired by Glessner Lee to create her own handmade dollhouses to try and make sense of it. She designed and built small-scale depictions of scenes from her family history--her grandfather’s speakeasy, a hospital room, and an apartment--and hand-made dolls to play all the parts in her family drama. Like Glessner Lee, she reconstructed her models from interviews, photos, police records, autopsy reports and other official and familial documents - anything and everything she could get her hands on. The hope was that seeing these spaces and literally reconstructing the events might reveal new aspects of the story.

(original image)

Von Buhler then took things one step further by actually welcoming people into her dollhouse. In 2011, she recreated her models at human scale in a speakeasy-themed bar in New York, hiring actors to play the parts of the “dolls” in a fully immersive theater experience that unfolds around visitors, each of whom is assigned a small role to play. The show, Speakeasy Dollhouse, is an absolutely incredible experience. The more seriously you take your assignment, the deeper you get into von Buhler’s family mystery. When I attended, my friend fell in with a detective while I got a job as a gangster’s chauffeur. We each saw different parts of the story and heard different perspectives on events; occasionally we’d meet at the bar to compare notes. Like Glessner Lee’s detectives-in-training, we tried to make sense of everything we saw and every piece of evidence we found in the dollhouse. By the end of the night, we cracked the case (and drank a fair share of "bootlegged" hooch). Or maybe we just wrote our own. Like Von Buhler, like Glessner Lee, and like any detective, we filled in the story’s gaps with ideas and possibilities colored by our own tastes and influences, designing our own logical narrative. For a short while, we got to play in an imaginary world and create our own story. After all, isn’t that what a dollhouse is for?

Connecting Global Communities: Reflections from a Presenter

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
Kiley Guyton Acosta in front of the 2011 Smithsonian Folklife Festival Colombia program sign and the Washington Monument.

After having seen, heard, touched, tasted, talked, felt, danced, lived and breathed the 2011 Smithsonian Folklife Festival for two weeks, it is nearly impossible to articulate in words how profoundly this unique event has impacted me.

Through my eyes, our program Colombia: The Nature of Culture not only generated a cultural conversation between the marvelous Colombian participants and the public, but it became the forum for an extraordinary trans-national, intra-cultural exchange yielding countless connections and discoveries, where valuable new discourses took root outside the theoretical confines of academia among people of all walks of life, right on the National Mall in the sweltering summer heat and humidity of Washington DC.

The experience of working as a presenter for the musical group Chirimía la Contundencia as well as artisans and tradition-bearers of the Pacific Rainforest ecosystem was both challenging and inspiring. The velocity of the spontaneous exchanges between the participants and the public kept me on my toes. I quickly realized that in my capacity as translator and cultural interpreter, I had to listen well and remain totally present in all aspects of the interaction in order to maintain the authenticity and integrity of the individual voices of the participants, while also ensuring that commentary from the public was accurately communicated. My brain felt inundated and exhausted from the intense dialogues and Spanish-English translations during the first two days of the festival, but by the end of week one, facilitating had become second nature as I was energized by the constant activity.

Like my fellow presenters, I witnessed fascinating interchanges as a cultural intermediary. Consequently, the Folklife Festival has inspired me to reflect on the tremendous significance of valorizing past and contemporary cultural production in myriad forms. After observing these dynamics in a real-time interactive setting, I have come to understand cultural production as vital to the preservation of tradition and identity.

Moreover, I have gained newfound insight into the potential cultural products hold to unite globally dispersed populations through mutual understanding and appreciation. Examples from the festival provided me with tangible points of reference as I continue to contemplate organizer and writer Suzanne Pharr’s  idea that "it is through the creation of art and culture that the spirit is fed and kept alive and our common humanity is expressed and exposed."

Click on the image below to enlarge and view the gallery.

I loved looking out from my corner of the Al son que me toquen stage at the packed dance floor, where every day exuberant crowds danced in unison to Zully and Leonor’s choreographies, enlivened by the contagious rhythms of La Contundencia. My enjoyment culminated in the band’s impromptu collaboration with the R&B group The Monitors on the last day of the festival. With Dan Sheehey effortlessly facilitating the unrehearsed workshop-style performance in Spanish and English, these musicians shared their instruments and listened attentively to one another as a novel musical sound was born. The natural fusion delighted the audience, moving everyone out of their seats. I felt proud and honored to share in a moment that truly illustrated the universal language of music. Rare are these instances in life when we experience pure joy collectively, among total strangers.

I also found it remarkable how Xiomara’s traditional hair-braiding demonstration drew interest and admiration from an incredibly diverse public, many of them familiar with similar hairstyling and cornrowing techniques despite geographic, cultural and linguistic disparities. For nearly three hours, I watched festival goers watch Xiomara as she methodically reproduced her award-winning design La chirimía chocoana; a hairstyle inspired by the traditional chirimía band of El Choco that featured braided sculptures of the five major musical wind and percussion instruments.

In particular, African-American women in the audience nodded their heads in agreement and understanding as Xiomara answered a constant flow of questions about her hair-braiding process and the materials she uses. The familiarity of her craft fostered a sense of camaraderie that traversed linguistic borders, and by the end of the demonstration several observers had personally invited Xiomara to visit renowned local hair-braiding salons in the D.C. area to exchange styling techniques and ideas. I recognized many of the same faces days later at her second staged demonstration, and by the end of the festival she had gained a fan base!

Click on the image below to enlarge and view the gallery.

The encounter between the alabao singers from El Choco and the Peace Corps program’s Garifuna participants from Guatemala and Honduras represented another exceptional moment that exemplifies Pharr’s idea. When the Garifuna women saw the alabao performance area set up to emulate a traditional wake in the home with decorative sheets, an altar, a coffin with candles on both sides and images of the saints, they recognized the set-up as nearly identical to their own practices in their respective communities.

They spoke of similarities with respect to funeral rites, festivities and the Catholic tradition of the novena. One visitor observing the interaction commented that the haunting alabaos, sung a capella, were reminiscent of African-American Negro spirituals and certain gospel songs she sings at her church. Cruz Neyla and Fulvia responded that the alabao postures and vocal expressions are rooted in Africa and that for African slaves in Colombia, song was the medium through which they expressed deep sorrow, pain, loss and joy. It was all they had.

The matriarch of the Garifuna collective added that irrespective of nationality, people of African descent share a cultural and historic legacy that continues to inflect contemporary marginalization in Latin America and the United States. Therefore we must use culture and art as a means of preserving oral tradition, combating discrimination and instilling youth with positive conceptualizations of black identity.

Later that afternoon, I thought deeply about how similar folkways and shared African diasporic ancestry had bridged geographic divides among these women so that the chocoanas  and the Garifuna immediately interacted like family, albeit at a formally arranged meeting in a prescribed setting. Yet the natural exchange that took place felt epic and extraordinary. It dawned on me that never before had I participated in a conversation of this nature outside the walls of academia, nor had I ever talked among South American, Central American and North American women exclusively about the historic denigration of Afro-descended populations throughout the Americas. Under different circumstances, this discussion might have been uncomfortable, or it might never have taken place.  However on that day, everyone conversed freely and appeared to derive solidarity from discussing how identity and pride might be re-inscribed through cultural expression.

The festival’s talented participants moved me in many ways, but one particular experience will remain forever etched in my memory. Late one afternoon, a visitor and her young son approached the altar area in the Pacific ecosystem. The area was nearly deserted as the other participants were involved in presentations elsewhere and only Cruz Neyla and I remained.

The visitor inquired about traditional funeral rites in El Choco, and although she was exhausted and hoarse from singing all day, Cruz Neyla obliged the woman and her little boy by quietly singing an alabao.  I had heard a full repertoire of alabaos by that point of the festival and was already familiar with many of the lyrics and melodies.

However, performing alone now, with only the three of us huddled in a semicircle around her, Cruz Neyla quietly sang one simple, melancholy refrain of an alabao that was unfamiliar to me. She then stopped abruptly and did not continue.

Suddenly I felt a knot in my throat rise and swell as a wave of emotion swept over me and I became inundated in profound sorrow. For the first time in my life I began to cry, inexplicably, and despite my shock and confusion I could not stop crying for a long time thereafter. I noticed that Cruz Neyla’s eyes also glistened, and both the woman and her son wiped tears away. All I could manage to utter was “That was such a sad song.” “I know,” whispered Cruz Neyla. “That’s why I don’t like to sing it.”

Later, she explained to me that her mama had passed on only months earlier, and this was the alabao she sang as she held her dying mother in her arms. I doubt I’ll ever manage to fully convey what I felt as she sang that day, softly, heartbreakingly, but with conviction. I was still unaware of the personal significance the lyrics held for her, but through those verses Cruz Neyla transmitted her grief so acutely that it felt like my own in that instant. I once heard that the potency of artistic expression is measured by the ability of the artist to successfully provoke his or her own personal emotional state in the spectator through the creative medium.

The poignancy of being moved to tears by some indescribable quality of her expression and tone helped me grasp the transcendental power of tradition bearers such as Cruz Neyla. They command their craft as true artists and play a vital role in communicating the spectrum of human emotions, thereby maintaining the social and spiritual wellbeing of their communities.

I began the Folklife Festival with the expectation that through our program, visitors would learn about Colombia’s rich cultural heritage and appreciate how culture interacts with the natural environment. In the end, I understood the outcome of this event as far more complex and multi-dimensional.

Through meaningful interactions and sensorial learning experiences, the festival presented Colombia in a way that allowed us all to see aspects of ourselves in others, and vice versa. In other words, it encouraged everyone to focus on our common humanity as opposed to national differences, thus promoting cultural continuity across time and space and creating manifold, far-reaching possibilities for global communities to come together, and for lifelong friendships to develop.

Click on the image below to enlarge and view the gallery.

Kiley Guyton Acosta is a doctoral candidate in Caribbean and Brazilian Literature at the University of New Mexico with concentrations in Afro-Cuban and Dominican Diaspora women’s writing. An advocate of local and trans-national cultural arts programs, she seeks novel and innovative ways of integrating scholarship, teaching and activism to explore cultural products as vital resources for preserving cultural heritage and exploring identity. Kiley was a member of the curatorial team for the 2011 Smithsonian Folklife Festival’ s Colombia program and also works as a liaison for the Afro-Latino Archives Project.

Early Microscopes Revealed a New World of Tiny Living Things

Smithsonian Magazine

Antoni van Leeuwenhoek had what some might consider an unusual hobby for a Dutch cloth merchant in the 17th century: making simple but exquisite microscopes.

His hometown of Delft in the Netherlands was experiencing a golden age of prosperity and cultural growth. The Dutch had recently won their independence from Spain, and the nation was rapidly becoming one of the wealthiest in the world, with a powerful navy and thriving international trade through the Dutch-East India Company. The newly wealthy became patrons of artists such as Rembrandt and Vermeer, and, freed from the constraints of Catholic Spain, scholars began to look at the natural world in a scientific way.

At the time, microscopes didn’t look anything like the ones now found in laboratories and classrooms, and they weren’t used much for science. Van Leeuwenhoek and other merchants used handheld microscopes to check their wares for flaws. But with time and money for leisure pursuits, van Leeuwenhoek began tinkering with these microscopes. And in the 1670s, he turned his devices to living things—and opened up a new world. He became the first person to observe the inner workings of the body on a microscopic level, seeing bacteria, sperm and even blood cells flowing through capillaries.

His microscopes, each smaller than the average thumb, “had a huge impact, and yet they look astonishingly simple,” says Marvin Bolt, curator of science and technology at the Corning Museum of Glass, where a rare van Leeuwenhoek microscope, on loan from the Museum Boerhaave in Leiden, Netherlands, is on display as part of an exhibition about the instruments.

Lenses—curved pieces of glass that can focus light to create magnified images of objects—had been made in Europe and used for correcting vision since the 14th century. In the 16th century, Dutch lens makers began using high-quality Venetian glass to create lenses that produced clearer, sharper images than any before. Soon, someone used such a lens to create a simple microscope that could magnify objects. Then, a maker paired convex and concave lenses together, in an approach similar to how telescopes were made, creating the first compound microscope. By 1625, the term “microscope” had been born, appearing in a book by Italian scholars Francesco Stelluti and Federico Cesi, who had used the instrument to study honeybees.

Robert Hooke, an English scholar, also employed simple and compound microscopes to observe many aspects of the natural world, including fleas, plants and fungi. His Micrographia, the first popular science book, published in 1665, featured detailed engravings of flora and fauna as observed under microscopes with magnifications of roughly 20 times. Hooke also described how to make a simple microscope—inspiring van Leeuwenhoek and others.

But van Leeuwenhoek took the burgeoning technology to new extremes, achieving higher magnifications than ever before: up to 300 times or so. He sandwiched a carefully crafted glass ball lens between the holes in two metal plates, which were riveted together. He then mounted the specimen on one side, on a needle that could be adjusted with the help of screws. The glass lenses were key, and van Leeuwenhoek used a few different techniques to craft his—and guarded his secrets closely.

In a compound microscope, like one found in a science lab today, a lens close to the object collects light to magnify the image, and then another lens in the eyepiece magnifies that image a second time. But the images in early compound microscopes were distorted. With a simple microscope, a single lens does all the work, and the specimen, lens and viewer’s eye are all very close together. In van Leeuwenhoek’s tiny contraption, the specimen was situated just millimeters away from the lens, producing a clear, sharp image for the viewer.

“As you increased the power, compound microscopes at the time were inferior to a good, simple lens instrument,” says Raymond Giordano, a historic microscope collector and dealer, and author of The Discoverer’s Lens: A Photographic History of the Simple Microscope, 1680-1880

Image by Image courtesy of Museum Boerhaave. A compound microscope with multiple objectives (1890-1910) (original image)

Image by Image courtesy of Museum Boerhaave. This simple microscope is one of the few made by van Leeuwenhoek that still exist. (original image)

Image by Image courtesy of Museum Boerhaave. A compound microscope with rotating slide tray (1831-1850) (original image)

Image by Image courtesy of Museum Boerhaave. A drum microscope (1750-1755) (original image)

Image by Image courtesy of Museum Boerhaave. A simple microscope with multiple lenses (1774) (original image)

Van Leeuwenhoek examined samples he took from his own mouth and from water glasses and found them teeming with what he called “animalcules.” “When these animalcula or living Atoms did move, they put forth two little horns, continually moving themselves,” he wrote in the first scientific journal, Philosophical Transactions, after observing a sample of rainwater in 1675.

“Robert Hooke was looking at parts of animals that were already known,” says Bolt. “Then van Leeuwenhoek went deeper, to see, on a cellular level, things no one had ever seen before, such as muscle fibers, sperm and bacteria. He really blazed a trail.”

It was so difficult to bring a specimen into focus on his tiny instruments that van Leeuwenhoek usually made a microscope for each new specimen, some 500 devices in total, though only about a dozen originals are known to exist today. He gave away some and many were auctioned after his death, landing in various countries. Ultimately, though, it’s likely many were lost or melted down.

Van Leeuwenhoek’s findings were crucial to the scientific revolution and the development of the scientific method. But, like Galileo with the telescope, it would be almost 200 years before scientists such as Louis Pasteur would pick up where van Leeuwenhoek left off.

“Van Leeuwenhoek and his contemporaries were figuring out that they could discover things about the natural world not by reasoning, not by debating, but by actually observing and then confirming someone else’s observations,” says Bolt. “The priority of discovery was a new concept, as was replicability of scientific findings and objectivity.”

The simple microscope played an important role in science all the way up to the 19th century. Such microscopes “were long thought of as something only naturalists used,” Giordano recalls, noting that Charles Darwin used a simple microscope that he designed himself, but, in fact, all scientists of the time used them.

The 19th century brought major improvements to microscopes, including achromatic lenses, which allowed viewers to see color accurately for the first time. There were also new ways to illuminate specimens and control light, and the bases of compound microscopes became more stable. Finally, in the late 1800s, German chemists Otto Schott, Carl Zeiss and Ernst Abbe began scientifically engineering glass specifically for microscopes. By the late 1800s, microscopes were showing up in high schools.

Today, microscopes are more available than ever. The Internet is full of DIY tutorials for making a microscope by combining an iPhone camera with an inexpensive laser pointer lens. And last year, Stanford University introduced the Foldscope, a paper “print-and-fold” simple microscope that scholars believe could revolutionize global public health, science education and field-based citizen science. “It’s the logical conclusion to the history of microscopes, as instruments of knowledge,” says Bolt, “to get them from a few hands into many people’s hands.”

Revealing the Invisible: The History of Glass and the Microscope” is on view through March 19, 2017, at the Corning Museum of Glass in New York.

Will the Real Juan Valdez Please Stand Up?

Smithsonian Magazine

Strolling past the colorful shops in the colonial town of Salento, in the heart of Colombia’s eje cafetero, or Coffee Triangle—the country’s main coffee-growing region—I’m struck by its intrinsic beauty. Both sides of the narrow street are lined with one- and two-story whitewashed structures, some with balconies and most with doors and window sills saturated in deep red, oranges and blues. A young mother and baby occupy a bench in front of one of the local trinket shops. Across the road, a teenage couple walks arm in arm by a café selling potato-stuffed rellenas and chorizo.

But there is one person I spot that really gets my heart pumping. Leaning in the doorway of Bar Quindio is a familiar mustachioed face, his hands tucked into his pockets and a wide-brimmed hat shielding his eyes. He smiles upon seeing us, and then continues gazing off into the distance. Is it him? Can it really be? Before I get the chance to speak, our tour guide Alex confirms my suspicions. “Look!,” he says. “It’s Juan Valdez!”

For more than 50 years, the fictional Juan Valdez has been the brand symbol of the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia (Fedecafé), representing the coffee beans of more than 500,000 cafeteros, or coffee farmers, who grow and harvest their beans entirely within the country. He’s also a national folk hero, and along with international music star Shakira, one of the most recognizable figures worldwide to come out of the developing country. Valdez, who’s been appearing in print and TV advertisements for decades, wears the traditional dress of an arriero, or mule driver, a way of life that remains common throughout Colombia’s Coffee Triangle. Along with a straw hat and a striped poncho tossed over his shoulder, his ensemble includes sandals made of fique, a natural plant fiber, and a leather apron called a tapapinche tied around his waist. His mule, Conchita, is always by his side, carrying sacks of harvested coffee slung over his back. In television commercials over the years, Valdez has been seen hand-picking coffee cherries, appearing in kitchen pantries and walking around supermarkets with Conchita in tow. Today, there’s even a chain of Juan Valdez coffeehouses throughout Colombia and elsewhere, including Mexico, Spain, Costa Rica and the United States.

“There’s very little difference between Juan Valdez and Elvis, as both have transcended coffee and music to become cultural icons of their respective countries,” says Doug Towne, editor at the Society of Commercial Archeology (SCA), an organization that helps preserve, document and celebrate the 20th-century commercial landscape. But Valdez is dissimilar to say, the Jolly Green Giant or the Cracker Jack Sailor. More than a marketing tool, he represents a very real and vital percentage of Colombian society. “Juan Valdez has become the embodiment of Colombia,” says Towne. “Kind of like if the American flag, baseball and apple pie could be personified in a single U.S. citizen.”

Colombia is the world’s third-largest coffee producer and the biggest producer of Arabica coffee, considered a high-quality bean for its intense flavor. In 2009, the country produced 8.1 million 132-pound sacks of coffee, and nearly 30 percent of all rural areas in Colombia depend on the crop to survive. Ninety-five percent of all coffee growers in the country are small producers and most all of them belong to Fedecafé, founded in 1927 in part to help protect the local interests. With so much of Colombian culture invested in the coffee bean, it only makes sense that Valdez and his impersonator draw so much attention.

Image by Larry Luxner. Salento is the heart of Colombia’s eje cafetero, or Coffee Triangle—the country’s main coffee-growing region. (original image)

Image by Larry Luxner. Marco Fidel Torres has been portraying Juan Valdez in Colombia’s Coffee Triangle for nearly a decade. (original image)

Image by Larry Luxner. In 2009, the country produced 8.1 million 132-pound sacks of coffee, and nearly 30 percent of all rural areas in Colombia depend on the crop to survive. (original image)

Image by Larry Luxner. In Salento, both sides of the narrow street are lined with one- and two-story whitewashed structures, some with balconies and most with doors and window sills saturated in deep red, oranges and blues. (original image)

Image by Larry Luxner. With so much of Colombian culture invested in the coffee bean, it only makes sense that Juan Valdez and his impersonator draw so much attention. (original image)

Image by Larry Luxner. There’s even a chain of Juan Valdez coffeehouses throughout Colombia and elsewhere, including Mexico, Spain, Costa Rica and the United States. (original image)

Back in Salento, however, Alex lets my travel companions and me in on a little secret: That’s not really Juan Valdez—the real-life farmer whom Fedecafé has chosen to represent the fictional character—standing before us, but a man posing as him. An impersonator’s impersonator, if you will. According to Alex, Marco Fidel Torres has been portraying Juan Valdez in Colombia’s Coffee Triangle for nearly a decade. He and Torres first met about six years ago at Quindio’s Parque Nacional del Café, a national coffee theme park devoted to the history of Colombia’s coffee culture and production. The park employed Torres, an arriero by trade, to demonstrate how to pack, wrangle and travel with mules. But rather than expressing interest in Torres’ work, many of Alex’s clients (then a free-agent tour guide, Alex now works solely for a specialized tour company) were more eager to have their pictures taken with him, a real-life “Juan Valdez.”

And they weren’t the first. “Fidel has always been an arriero,” says Alex. “It’s a family tradition passed down for generations. And in Salento, where he lives, tourists were always asking for photos with him because of his dress and his similarities to Valdez. He eventually realized he could make some money playing the role.” Today, Torres earns a good portion of his income posing for photos as Juan Valdez in and around Salento. On weekends he continues demonstrating his arriero skills, now at the region’s Los Nevados National Natural Park.

But not every mule driver or coffee farmer can be Juan Valdez—in this case, the man who’s been interviewed, evaluated, tested, vetted and eventually hired to represent Colombia’s coffee culture and product throughout Colombia and at markets and events worldwide. New York City-based ad agency Doyle Dane Bernbach (also known for coming up with Quaker Oats’ Little Mikey) first created Juan Valdez for Fedecafé in 1959, designing an image to accurately represent the bulk of small coffee farmers who make up the federation.

Strangely it was a Cuban-American actor, José F. Duval, who initially portrayed him. Duval held the position until 1969, when Carlos Sánchez, a coffee farmer and artist from Colombia’s northwestern department of Antioquia, took over the reins. It’s Sánchez’s bright eyes and jovial smile that most westerners are familiar with, though not his voice; that belonged to Norman Rose, a Pennsylvania-born actor who passed away in 2004. Sánchez kept the title of Juan Valdez title until 2006, when he retired to Medellín. Anticipating his departure, Fedecafé began looking for a new Juan Valdez in 2004, embarking on an intensive two-year search for the right Colombian man. From an initial pool of more than 380,000 applicants (including Torres, who didn’t make it past the in-person interview because of his age, which Rodriguez estimates to be somewhere near 70), they selected 30 finalists, who were then put through a grueling series of advertising sessions, psychological exams, behavior and personality tests and interviews with journalists.

In the end, the honor went to Carlos Castañeda, a 44-year-old coffee grower and married father of three from the town of Andes, Antioquia, about 80 miles outside of Medellín. With his family values and rugged good looks, Castañeda is the ideal Valdez, young enough to appeal to a new generation of coffee drinkers and to provide longevity to the role. Appearing on his official website, Castañeda sports the same white hat, dark moustache and button-down shirt as his predecessors, though with one big difference: he carries a cell phone in his leather satchel.

While Castañeda is busy making the international rounds as both a coffee spokesman and national representative, arrieros like Torres are holding down the fort back home. And being a local Juan Valdez does have its perks. Along with all the makings of Colombia’s cult hero—a genuine smile and a distinctive air, not to mention a mule companion—Torres can come and go as he pleases. The day after meeting Torres in Salento, Alex accompanies my companions and me to the El Edén International Airport in La Tebaida for our flight into Bogotá. A couple hours early, we sit down together for a beer in the terminal’s small food court. There, leaning against a wall is a mounted, poster-sized photo of Torres. “I told you,” says Alex, beaming. “My friend is famous around here.”

Women love him. Children adore him. And he’s a legend from Salento to at least San Francisco, where his framed photo occupies a prominent spot on my mantle.

A Musical Review: Instruments of the Folklife Festival

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

With dozens of musicians and dancers from two countries, the Festival boasted a wide variety of musical instruments in its performances. From traditional drums and cymbals to fiddles made with bicycle parts, here’s a roundup of some of the most noteworthy.

Morin khuur (horsehead fiddle)

Ih Tsetsn member Jirigala playing the morin khuur.
Ih Tsetsn member Jirigala playing the morin khuur.
Photo by J.B. Weilepp, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution

Origin stories for the Mongolian horsehead fiddle tell of a herder who, grieving over the death of his beloved horse, carved its likeness into the scroll of a new musical instrument. Three of the musicians from the Ih Tsetsn Inner Mongolian Ensemble are virtuosos on the morin khuur, which was originally made out of horse hide, wood, and over two hundred twined horse hairs. Ih Tsetsn’s instruments now feature modern adaptations such as electronic pickups, but the two-string fiddle still plays the same range of complex solo and ensemble melodies, whinnies, and nature sounds it did hundreds of years ago.

Qobuz

Alatenggaridi with a bass qobuz. Photo by and courtesy of Flickr user Elvert Barnes
Alatenggaridi with a bass qobuz.
Photo by and courtesy of Flickr user Elvert Barnes

This traditional three-stringed plucked lute of the grasslands is another instrument not usually found on the National Mall. Ih Tsetsn musicians Dabuxilatu and Alatenggaridi have made personal adjustments to their instruments, such as adding a fourth string. The pairing of a bass and an alto version gives depth to the group’s complex harmonies.

Orutu

George Achieng' Odero of Kenge Kenge with his orutu and a brilliant smile.
George Achieng' Odero of Kenge Kenge with his orutu and a brilliant smile.
Photo by Madeleine Yoder

Like the horsehead fiddle, the East African orutu has become a melding of ancient and modern. Strings that were once sisal fibers are now made out of bicycle brake cables, but the head of the hand-carved wooden resonator is still the stretched skin of a monitor lizard. “We make the instruments ourselves, so from the beginning to the end you get the sound you want,” says Kenge Kenge band member George Achieng’ Odero. When Madeleine asked George what his favorite thing about the orutu was, he responded, “It’s easy to play!” So easy, in fact, that they were able to teach some Festival visitors—two women who had once been violin players—a few notes. George remarked, “It is important for us to share and teach others because the orutu is important to us, and sharing with them will increase that appreciation for this cultural instrument.”

Watch Kenge Kenge on the Ngoma Stage in one of their exuberant performances:

Lusheng

Mo Ming, a lusheng maker and player, plays a more modern lusheng while Miao dancers sit and listen.
Mo Ming, a lusheng maker and player, plays a more modern lusheng while Miao dancers sit and listen.
Photo by Brian Barger, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution

The lusheng is a bamboo pipe and reed instrument that comes from the Miao people of Guizhou Province, China. Known as a “talking instrument,” it is similar to other instruments around the world that use different pitches, sounds, and rhythms to convey words and meaning. For the lusheng, different melodies and phrases represent words in the Miao language. The lusheng is played in various instances, such as courtship, rituals for ancestors, celebrations, and funerals. The lusheng was played by two of the male Miao participants at the Festival, and even one woman, though it is not traditionally played by female musicians.

Luo and Maasai Horns

Masaai horn player and dancers.
Masaai horn player and dancers.
Photo by Bea Ugolini, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Inmstitution

The animals of the Kenyan grasslands are an integral part of the sound, dances, and instruments of Kenyan music. Various ethnic groups use various horns in their music, which can come from buffalo or antelope horns, elephant tusks, or a combination of animal parts. The Luo version that Kenge Kenge employs is called oporo.

Kalimba

Charles Odero Odemson, better known as Makadem, jams on the kalimba.
Charles Odero Odemson, better known as Makadem, jams on the kalimba.
Photo by Rachel Winslow, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution

Kenyan benga performer Makadem could be occasionally found plucking this instrument in the downtime between concerts. It is also known in other parts of Africa as an mbira, or more generally as a lamellophone or thumb piano. Fifteen metal-plated keys and a row of resonators produce a plinking, buzzing sound similar to a metallic violin pluck.

Pipa

Pipa virtuoso Wu Man with her instrument.
Pipa virtuoso Wu Man with her instrument.
Photo by KC Commander

The pipa is a four-stringed plucked lute from China. While the pipa is perhaps the most iconic traditional instrument in China today, its origins likely trace back to Central Asia. Today, the pipa is mostly played by women in China. Wu Man, a pipa virtuoso and featured Smithsonian Folkways Recordings artist, presented an evening concert at the 2014 Folklife Festival with two other female musicians, Yang Yi on the zheng (a large plucked dulcimer) and Haruka Fujii on percussion.

Obokano and Nyatiti

Nyatiti player Suzanna Owiyo at the Karibuni Workshops stage.
Nyatiti player Suzanna Owiyo at the Karibuni Workshops stage.
Photo by by Madeleine Yoder

The obokano and nyatiti are similar instruments that originated in western Kenya. While the obokano comes from the Abagusii tribe of the Kiisi highlands, the nyatiti arose from the music of the Luo people. Though made from the same materials, they have a slightly different sound; for both, soft wood covered with cowhide serves as the resonator to eight plucked strings. Ontiri Bikundo, an obokano player, says, “The obokana is inherited. So like me, I just wake up one morning and start playing the obokano.” Things were very different for nyatiti player Suzanna Owiyo, who is one of the first women in Kenya to perform on the instrument traditionally played only by men. As Suzanna explained the tuning system of the nyatiti during one session, Ontiri chimed in that their tuning systems were the same. Suzanna remarked, “You can play with any group in the world if you have the right key.” (For more on that session, see “Groundbreaking Women of the Folklife Festival: ‘That Was Then, This Is Now'”.)

Here is another Kenyan participant, Job Ouko Seda, performing on the nyatiti in The Watering Hole.

Meg Boeni is a media intern for the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage who studies journalism and Spanish at Boston University. She feels privileged to have been a part of the Festival and met some of these outstanding international musicians—especially the Mongolians, who taught her how to dance.

Madeleine Yoder is the social media intern at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and a music and sociology student at Goshen College in Indiana. She would like to thank you for following along with her blog posts as she has explored the Smithsonian, the Folklife Festival, and D.C. for the first time on her own.

Piece Of Tapa

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.
FROM CARD: "INVENTORIED 1975."

Originally catalogued as just Polynesian, but it has been stored/attributed as Hawaiian.

Material of the object comes from the inner bark of the paper mulberry (broussonetia papyrifera). After the inner bark was removed from the plant, and left to soak in water, it would have been beaten by a wooden mallet on an anvil, to become a sheet of kapa. Each of the five sheets has different beater marks which suggests that each sheet was beaten with a different patterned beater. The top sheet has a beater pattern of asymmetrical diamonds, each with a circle in the middle. The second sheet has beater patterns with alternating wavy and straight horizontal lines, with vertical lines as a backdrop. The third sheet has alternating horizontal and vertical lines. The beater marks of the fourth sheet also has alternating horizontal and vertical lines, however they are much more defined on the fourth sheet. The same pattern appears on the fifth sheet, however it has a faded appearance and is difficult to see. The sheets are also dyed different colors. The first sheet is a maroon-reddish color, the second sheet is plain, the third sheet is a greyish-black and the fourth and fifth sheets are plain. The sheets also appear to have been cut along the vertical edges, as they are crisp, however the horizontal edges do not have the same crispness and appear more worn-like. These five sheets were then sewn together with a twinned piece of kapa, twisted in the 's' direction. The second sheet was folded along the top edge of the first sheet and the fourth and fifth sheets were folded in the opposite direction along the sewn edge. This may have been to give the sewn edge more strength, by being bulked out by the folded edges. Adrienne Kaeppler, Curator for Oceania Ethnology, has verified the tapa is from Hawaii. The first sheet appears to have yellow stains. These resemble the same yellow stains on a Samoan tapa (E13732), which in July 2013 was identified by Community Scholar and American Samoan tapa artist Regina Meredith as the decayed remnants of the outer bark of the paper mulberry plant. Several long black hairs were also found within the sheets of the tapa. These may have been hairs from the maker or one of the users of the tapa. However, aside from storage creases the fibers of the tapa are in good condition and very strong, which suggests that this tapa may have never been used.
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