Preserving native American culture

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Lebanon - posted Tue., Aug. 2, 2011
Charles Adams describes a birch bark basket, part of a personal collection owned by Charles and his wife, Barbara, that was on loan to the museum in Lebanon. Photo by Melanie Savage.
Charles Adams describes a birch bark basket, part of a personal collection owned by Charles and his wife, Barbara, that was on loan to the museum in Lebanon. Photo by Melanie Savage.

Charles Adams said that he first became interested in native American artifacts as a teen. “I was fortunate when I was in high school to have a major archaeological dig nearby,” said Adams. “I was fortunate to find four of the oldest pieces on that site.” Those finds led to a lifelong interest in native American arts, and a large private collection of artifacts.

In early May, Charles and Barbara Adams provided a number of items from their collection to the Jonathan Trumbull, Jr. House Museum. The display, entitled “Beads to Baskets,” focused on the influence of European tourists upon native tribes from northern New England. On July 31, the couple appeared at the museum to pack up the display. As they packed, they talked about the various artifacts and answered questions from interested museum visitors.

Charles and Barbara Adams, who both grew up in Massachusetts, currently reside in South Yarmouth. Reflecting on that high school dig, Charles recalled noting that native American artifacts and culture weren’t being given much attention at the time. “I guess that set me off on collecting,” he said. “It bothered me that the heritage wasn’t being preserved.” Eventually gaining employment in the insurance industry, Charles spent available cash on acquiring artifacts. “I was never a smoker,” he said. “Instead of spending money on cigarettes, if I saw something I could afford, I would buy it.”

For 11 years, the couple has also been going into schools near their Massachusetts home to share native American culture and artifacts with local school children. “I think it’s important to teach the younger generation,” said Charles.

Spending time in Maine, Charles and Barbara Adams developed a special interest in the Penobscot tribe. One of the first items pulled from the display case was a club carved into the root of a birch tree. “The birch tree is the most important wood overall” in native arts, said Charles. Asked if the clubs were used as weapons, he said they were, “in the beginning. And they were used as ceremonial items, too.”

Hours for the Jonathan Trumbull, Jr. House Museum are Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. For upcoming events, check the Lebanon Historical Society calendar, at www.historyoflebanon.org.

 


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