Skip to content

Pot Holders, Or William C. Sturtevant Collections Research, Day 1

I am in Washington at the start of a period of research studying the collection of objects gathered over much of the career of Smithsonian anthropologist William C. Sturtevant (1927-2007). (For background on W.C.S., see this biographical sketch that I posted to the Museum Anthropology weblog and this Washington Post obituary by WP staff writer Louie Estrada.)

While Dr. Sturtevant was long associated with the Smithsonian, his individual research collection grew and grew over the course of his career and was not accessioned into the holdings of the National Museum of Natural History until after his death in 2007. My work with the objects is an extension of the Southeastern Native American Collections Project (SNACP), but it also aims to assist the museum in the work of organizing and cataloging the Sturtevant Collection.

Today was mainly a get organized day, but I can share a glimpse of the objects that was looking at.

Dr. Sturteveant worked throughout his career on issues in Florida Seminole ethnography, linguistics, ethnology, and ethnohistory. He was always particularly interested in material culture and he went to considerable lengths to document the rich visual and material culture of the Seminole people living in my home state. (I first met Dr. Sturtevant while still an undergraduate when he attended a conference on Seminole folk art not far from my family home.)

It will take a very long time to sort out the details, but I began (metaphorically) unraveling the threads of his collection and its history with initial study of eight relatively simple objects–patchwork decorated pot holders made for sale to non-Seminole tourists by Seminole women during in the 1980s. In addition to their aesthetic richness and visual interest, such objects speak to the complex ways that the Seminole people have adapted to life in one of the most complex corners of North America. The Seminole engagement with tourism began in the early 20th century, it continued through the period represented by these pot holders, and it continues up to the present-era, in which the Seminole Tribe of Florida is the force behind a myriad of tourist destinations, including the global Hard Rock cafe and casino enterprise.

For four of the eight pot holders that I looked at today, I already know the name of the artist. A few of the as-yet artist-unidentified objects are pictured below. All objects are from the collections of the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History. I especially thank the department’s staff for hosting my research visit. Photographs shown here are my own quick and simple iPhone snapshots. (Better photographs can come later.)

Sturtevant Collection T162

Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole

(Above) Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole, Sturtevant Collection T162, Department of Anthropology, National Musuem of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. Photograph by Jason Baird Jackson

Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole

Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole

(Above) Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole, Sturtevant Collection T111A, Department of Anthropology, National Musuem of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. Photograph by Jason Baird Jackson

Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole

Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole

(Above) Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole, Sturtevant Collection T111B, Department of Anthropology, National Musuem of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. Photograph by Jason Baird Jackson

Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole

Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole

(Above) Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole, Sturtevant Collection T111C, Department of Anthropology, National Musuem of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. Photograph by Jason Baird Jackson

I have a lot of data management work to accomplish before tomorrow, but I could not resist sharing this glimpse.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,505 other followers

%d bloggers like this: