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Posts from the ‘Southern Plains’ Category

People Make Collections: Anthropologist Michael Davis (1942-2012)

Museum collections are made by people who gather together the things that other people make. Earlier this week I was looking at a group of objects in the William C. Sturtevant Collection that were gathered together and documented by then-University of Oklahoma doctoral student Michael Davis. This is an exceptional collection of German silver jewelry made in the 1960s by an impressive number of Native American artists working on the Southern Plains.

After his OU studies, Michael Davis went on to become a Professor of Anthropology at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. I wanted to congratulate him on the quality of the collection that he made and the exceptional way in which he documented it. Thinking about getting in touch, I discovered sadly that he passed away a few months ago. An obituary appears in the Kirksville Daily Express and is available online.

One reason that we make museum collections is to preserve something of the past for the sake of the future. I hope that Professor Davis, as well as the artists whom he documented, would be pleased to know that their work is being appreciated by those who have come along after them.

A German silver roach spreader by Pawnee smith Julius Ceasar (1910-1982) collected for the National Museum of Natural History by Michael Davis (1942-2012) and found as part of the William C. Sturtevant Collection, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History.

Tweezers!

I encountered a large number of objects in my work with the William C. Sturtevant Collection today. An important sub-set of the objects that I looked at today was a collection of “German silver” (a.k.a. nickel silver) jewelry made by a diversity of native silversmiths from central and western Oklahoma. These works were made during the 1960s and sold a trading posts in western Oklahoma.

Alongside earrings, finger rings, bracelets, broaches, buttons, stickpins, scarf slides and other items worn for adornment are nice two examples of an interesting–but not-widely known form–men’s tweezers, used for plucking hair from one’s beard. These stamped German silver tweezers from Western Oklahoma are beautiful. Older native men that I have known in Eastern Oklahoma would use tight commercial springs to achieve the same goal.

Much more can and needs to be said about the objects, the artists, the materials, the contexts of use, the contexts of sale, collecting, etc., but here is a glimpse at these two tweezers. (I still have a lot of data organizing to do before tomorrow.)

The first example (below) was made by the Kiowa smith Murray Tonepahote. It is WCS 599 in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. (All photographs by me.)

Tweezers by Murray Tonepahote (Kiowa)

Tweezers by Murray Tonepahote (Kiowa)

A side view will help make sense of the object for those who have not seen such tweezers previously.

Side View of Tweezers by Murray Tonepahote (Kiowa)

Side View of Tweezers by Murray Tonepahote (Kiowa)

(BTW: Murray Tonepahote’s work as an artist is a subject taken up in the scholarship of his granddaughter, Dr. Jenny Tone-Pah-Hote, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina.)

A second example (below) of such tweezers in the Sturtevant collection is by a Cheyenne (?) artist named Bushyhead. I will see fuller documentation for these objects tomorrow and can learn then which member of the Bushyhead family was the maker of this object–my guess is that it was made by Henry Bushyhead. This object is WCS T343, PGS-1.

Bushyhead Tweezer

Tweezers by Bushhead

As noted above (for contingent reasons) I have not yet seen the documentation that accompanies these objects. Needless to say there is much more to say about these two objects. If I have made any errors here, I will correct them a.s.a.p.

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