A talk was given by Dr. Margaret Bruchac on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016 at Historic Northampton, 46 Bridge Street, Northampton, MA, entitled “The Wampum Trail: Restorative Research in Native American Collections”
The “Wampum Trail” research project examines the use of northeastern Native American quahog and whelk shell beads for adornment, ritual, and diplomacy. During the early 1600s, wampum beads were widely used in trading exchanges throughout the Connecticut River Valley, but wampum’s significance was more than merely monetary. Native artisans used distinctive weaving techniques (with sinew, leather, and hemp), bead selections (including glass, stone, and other anomalous beads), and patterns (both abstract and figurative) to construct belts that recorded important material and diplomatic relationships.
By re-visiting archival sources and analyzing the construction of beads and belts in museum collections, Dr. Bruchac has recovered many previously overlooked material details. She also consults with present-day Native American wampum-keepers to develop effective strategies for recovering other hidden Native American object histories in museum collections. For more information, see her research blog, “On the Wampum Trail,” and her articles on the Penn Museum Blog, “Beyond the Gallery Walls.”
Dr. Margaret M. Bruchac is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Associate Professor of Cultural Heritage, and Coordinator of Native American and Indigenous Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. From 2003-2010, she served as the Five College Repatriation Research Liaison, and from 1998-2010, she served as a Trustee of Historic Northampton. Her publications include “Native Presence in Nonotuck and Northampton,” in A Place Called Paradise: Culture and Community in Northampton, Massachusetts, 1654-2004 (Kerry Buckley, ed., University of Massachusetts Press 2004), and “Lost and Found: NAGPRA, Scattered Relics and Restorative Methodologies” (Museum Anthropology 2010).