Mashantucket Pequot Museum Library and Archives Blog

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Explore Inuit Art

This winter, the Mashantucket Gallery hosts an exhibit of Inuit art from the Heard Museum, Arctic Spirit (December 27 – February 28), which showcases traditional and contemporary art by the indigenous peoples of the Far North. Visitors are encouraged to learn more about this topic through the Museum’s Research Library. We highly recommend the following select titles from our collection.

Arctic spirit: Inuit art from the Albrecht Collection at the Heard Museum / Ingo Hessel. (Research Library – Stacks E 99 .E7 H43 2006)
This handsomely illustrated catalog is a perfect complement to the exhibition of the same name. Visitors will find especially enlightening the artists’ interviews printed within.

Inuit art: an introduction / by Ingo Hessel; photography by Dieter Hessel; with a foreword by George Swinton. (Reading Room- Browsing Collection REF E 99 .E7 H493 1998)
Here is an excellent primer on the various arts of Inuit culture. Touching on sculpture, carving, textile weaving and the graphic arts (drawing, printmaking, and painting), this amply illustrated book provides an overview for those new to the subject. Attention is given to the historical development of these arts and their relation to the broader Inuit culture.

The Inuit imagination: Arctic myth and sculpture / Harold Seidelman & James Turner. (Reading Room – Browsing Collection E 99 .E7 S45 1994)
Combining images of contemporary Inuit sculpture with traditional stories and songs, the author’s demonstrate how closely the art and mythology of the North are interrelated.

Nuvisavik: the place where we weave / edited by Maria Von Finckenstein. (Reading Room – Browsing Collection REF NK 8998 .U66 N88 2002)
A documentation of the exhibit of the same name, this catalog is an informative and visually attractive showcase for the work of the Pangnirtung Tapestry Studio of Baffin Island. The exhibit was produced by the Canadian Museum of Civilization, which was the first touring exhibition of Inuit weaving. Full color images are complemented by a collection of essays which help place the works within their cultural context.

Eskimo masks: art and ceremony / Dorothy Jean Ray; photographs by Alfred A. Blaker. (Research Library – Stacks: E 99 .E7 R28 1967)
Written in 1967, this well researched work presented the topic of Eskimo masks as a comparatively under-represented area of study in Native Alaskan arts. A wide range of diversity is revealed within this single art form: from tiny finger masks to nearly full-body coverings; from realistic portraits to fantasy visions. The authors endeavor to show these mask as an integral part of Eskimo ceremonialism.

Songs in stone [videorecording]: an arctic journey home / Triad Film Productions; directed by John Houston; produced by Peter d’Entremont; written by John Houston and Geoff LeBoutillier. (Video Cabinets VID E 99 .E7 S663 1999)
Shot principally on Baffin Island in the wilds of the Canadian Arctic, this film pays tribute to the sculptors and printmakers of Cape Dorset, providing a sensitive and detailed look at their work.

For even more resources, a bibliography of library materials on Inuit art has been created and is available in the Research Library. The Libraries and Archives are free and open to the public during Museum hours. Contact the Research Library for more information about our resources, 860-396-6897.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Question & Answer: Wampum

An occasional feature, where we post some of the interesting email questions we receive.

Question: I am trying to find out how to make wampum. I have collected the necessary shells and would now like to find a book, article, or some other source to guide me through the process. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Answer: Thanks for contacting us. First I recommend looking at our Wampum Bibliography . The material listed there will give you some background on the history and cultural uses of wampum.

The best source we have on wampum beadmaking is found in:
Orchard, William C. Beads and Beadwork of the American Indians. Museum of the American Indian Heye Foundation. New York. 1975.

This text is also available online as part of the Universal Library Project hosted at Internet Archive:

See the chapter on titled Wampum which includes not only a discussion of the tools used and illustrations of the bead making process, but also valuable historical and cultural information.

As far as the process for belt weaving, a great description of the process can be found on pp.51-55 of:

Morgan, Lewis Henry and Herbert Marshall Lloyd. League of the Ho-dé-no-sau-nee Or Iroquois. Dodd, Mead and Company, 1901.

Available online from Google Books:
The most common width was 3 fingers or the width of 7 beads, the length ranging from 2 to 6 feet. In belt-making, which is a simple process, eight strands or cords of bark thread are first twisted from filaments of slippery elm, of the requisite length and size; after which they are passed through a strip of deerskin to separate them at equal distances from each other in parallel lines. A splint is then sprung in the form of a bow, to which each end of the several strings is secured, and by which all of them are held in tension, like warp threads in a weaving machine. Seven beads, these making the intended width of the belts, are then run upon a thread by means of a needle, and are passed under the cords at right angles, so as to bring one bead lengthwise between each cord and the one next in position. The thread is then passed back along the upper side of the cords, and again through each of the beads; so that each bead is held firmly in its place by means of the two threads, one passing under and one over the cords. This process is continued until the belt reaches its intended length, when the ends of the cords are tied, the end of the belt covered and afterwards trimmed with ribbons. In ancient times both the cords and the threads were of sinew.
Email your questions to: reference [at]