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DAILY DISTRACTION

Wampanoag voices on Harvard’s Peabody Museum collection

Herring is "a symbol of spring, and our people’s New Year," says Phillip Wynne.
Herring is "a symbol of spring, and our people’s New Year," says Phillip Wynne.Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology Harvard University

Need something to occupy those stir-crazy kids other than TikTok? Try exploring some eye-opening virtual exhibits via the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University.

The museum currently has some 30 free online exhibits including “Listening to Wampanoag Voices: Beyond 1620.” With this year marking 400 years since the Wampanoag Nation first encountered English immigrants on the shores of Patuxet — now called Plymouth — the Museum asked members of the tribe to reflect on objects in its collection spanning four centuries.

That means “lending contemporary Wampanoag voices to objects that were made, held, worn, consumed and otherwise made useful by our ancestors, generations, if not centuries ago,” explains scholar and writer Paula Peters, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, on the exhibition’s website. “We are still here to acknowledge them, learn from them, talk about them, and give gratitude to the creator for them.”

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For example, visitors can hear Zoë Harris, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe who currently lives in Boston, discuss splint baskets. Or listen to Phillip Wynne, a traditional artist, educator, and historian from the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe of Cape Cod (Otter Clan), discuss dried and partly smoked herring made circa 1939: “Our ancestors set the rhythm of our very culture to these natural cycles,” Wynne says. “One of the most important cycles being that of the herring, a symbol of spring, and our people’s New Year.…In pre-colonial and colonial era, our ancestors would move everybody — elders, children, their whole lives — to the water to get this fish…”

Founded in 1866 by philanthropist George Peabody, the Peabody Museum is among the oldest archaeological and ethnographic museums in the world. They house some 1.2 million objects — from ancient Peruvian textiles to the only known surviving collection of objects acquired from Native American people during the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804–1806.

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LISTENING TO WAMPANOAG VOICES: BEYOND 1620

peabody.harvard.edu

Lauren Daley can be reached at ldaley33@gmail.com. She tweets @laurendaley1.


Lauren Daley can be reached at ldaley33@gmail.com. Follow her on Twiiter @laurendaley1.