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Entries from October 2017

Collections Highlight E5608: Pair of Bracelets

By Emily Cain

Can you guess what these colorful bracelets are made of? They each have borders of small white beads, but most of what you’re seeing is porcupine quill embroidery! Porcupine quills are commonly used decoratively across North America. The quills are flattened and dyed, then folded and sewn to create colorful patterns like this one. You can learn more about traditional quillwork knowledge here, in the curriculum the Arctic Studies Center produced as part of the Sharing Knowledge Alaska program. These particular bracelets, which became part of our collection in 1868, were likely made by the Gwich’in people of Northern Alaska and Northwestern Canada. As you’ll learn from the curriculum, the Gwich’in word for quill is ch’oo.

See more incredible Circumpolar objects by exploring the Anthropology Collections Search online!

Collections Highlight E33187: Toy Bow Drill

By Emily Cain

Bow drills are a practical object; they allow the user to harness friction to drill holes or start fires. This “toy” version was collected by Edward Nelson at St. Michael in Norton Sound, Alaska, and came to the museum in 1878. It may have been used by children to practice motor skills, but it is also covered with etched and inlaid images! Click here to see more detailed photographs of the artwork, which includes walruses, people, and seafaring vessels. If you’re interested in tools like this one, try searching for more bow drills using the Anthropology Collections Search online. They come from all over the world, in a variety of styles and materials.

Collections Highlight E428706: Chief’s Coat

E428706By By Emily Cain & Haley Bryant

In recognition of our 20th collections highlight, we’d like to not only share yet another great object, but also give you a glimpse into our process at the Circumpolar Ethnology Imaging Project. Learn more about the project’s origins in our introductory post!

This beautiful coat, made of smoked moose hide with caribou hair embroidery, was made by Dixie Alexander, a Gwich’in woman and master artist from Fort Yukon, Alaska. Click here to explore more images of the incredible beadwork and colorful caribou hair embroidery, which are evocative of arctic flora and symbolic of various animal tracks.

From a practical perspective, doing photoshoots with clothing like this coat presents a challenge. Because of their size, age, and weight, they require extra time and extra hands. Thanks to the arrival of our new digital imaging intern, Daniel Kellam, we are now able to devote time to photographing parkas, robes, and blankets every single week. So if you’re a lover of fashion, keep an eye out for more incredible clothing pieces by checking back in on the blog or exploring the Anthropology collections online!

“Smithsonian Science How” Live Career Chat with Bill Fitzhugh

Bill career talkTeachers, introduce your students to a career in archaeology. Join us October 19 for a live online “Smithsonian Science How” text chat with Bill Fitzhugh about his job as an archaeologist studying culture and climate change in the Arctic. Learn more and register.

Date: October 19, 2017

Times: 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. EDT

Learn More and Register: http://qrius.si.edu/explore-science/chat/archaeologist-bill-fitzhugh  

Collection Highlight E45395: Mousetrap

Can you guess what this object is? It’s a mousetrap! It is hard to say exactly how it was used to catch mice since we can’t watch it in action, do you have any ideas? Have you ever seen any traps like this before? This trap was collected by Edward Nelson and accessioned by the museum in 1880. While it isn’t affiliated with any particular cultural group, it was collected near King Island in the Bering Strait and therefore is probably from the Inupiaq Inuit culture.

Explore more objects and images on our online database!