Museum unveils new display
By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Lebanon - posted Wed., May. 18, 2011
After the American Revolution, an increase in wealth and leisure time combined with a growing trend toward exploring nature to push American tourists in increasing numbers to destinations such as the Hudson River Valley, the Great Lakes region and Bar Harbor and Bangor, Maine. Native American tribes indigenous to these areas, such as the Penobscot and the Iroquois, adapted centuries-old art forms to suit the aesthetic tastes of these new Victorian visitors. These adapted art forms are the focus of a new exhibit at the Jonathan Trumbull Jr. House Museum: “Beads to Baskets: Art and Artifacts of the 19th century Eastern Native Americans.”
“Many of the tribes had been trading for thousands of years,” said Museum Director Candice Brashears. “It was natural for them to continue the tradition of trading with the tourists.” With the new population came new products, and European glass and metal beads began to find their way into native crafts alongside more traditional materials such as porcupine quills, bone and shells. “They adapted for the Europeans, but they still managed to keep their distinctive native American styles at the same time,” said Brashears.
Appearing for the opening of the new exhibit on May 14 were David Mathieson and his wife, Lynn Menard-Mathieson. They brought with them a number of artifacts and crafts representing Eastern Woodland native tribes. Their display, said Mathieson, represented the advent of the European into North America, and the influence that they and the native tribes had upon each other. “There’s a common misconception that the Europeans influenced the tribes,” said Mathieson. “It was an equal effect. They influenced one another.”
Representing the European influence upon the native tribes was an example of 19th century Eastern Woodland regalia on display. Mathieson pointed to a number of silver circles pinned to the linen blouse. “This is known as trade silver,” he said. “The Indians weren’t allowed to have money at first. They’d use these like money.”
Items from the “Beads to Baskets” exhibit at the Jonathan Trumbull Jr. House Museum are on loan from the collection of Charles and Barbara Adams from South Yarmouth, Mass. They will be on display until July 31. Museum hours are Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. According to Brashears, Charles and Barbara Adams are scheduled to appear at the museum to collect their items on July 31, around noon. At that time, they will discuss individual pieces with interested members of the public. Check the Lebanon Historical Society calendar, at www.historyoflebanon.org, closer to the date for more details.