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Anth 250 Home Exhibit Blog

Pomeroy Carving Fork

Posted: December 11th, 2017 by jryan11

Originating from a set of other ivory handled Will & Finck utensils in the late 1800’s, this fork is monogrammed with the initials of its previous owner, John Norton Pomeroy. Pomeroy was an accomplished politician and Burlington native, born in 1792, as well as a graduate of the University of Vermont in 1809.

According to American social rules, it was important that the lady of the house not only have an enticing array of food, but also the correct matching cutlery. In the case of a dinner party, both the host and the hostess often took on roles in which the hostess served as her counterpart handled the carving and ensuring the guests’ entertainment.

The Ding Vessel; how it relates to Gathering

Posted: December 9th, 2017 by hparry

Now we wanted to give you a look into the thought process that went into the curation of the exhibit. The class has created a flow and space for this exhibit, that we think will inspire thought into how domestic artifacts can transform a house into a home.

One of the spaces that we concluded was a universal area of the house that fell into the Public sector: Gathering

Gathering for a communal activity involves a combination of preparing and entertaining. The sharing of cultural norms, traditions, or religions helps transform a conventional space in a house into something filled with cultural significance. A normal room can become a stage, place of prayer, or gallery simply by the action of gathering. Why do you gather in your “home”?

For this section, we wanted to feature an object that you wouldn’t initially think of when looking at gathering.

The Ding Vessel:

Ancient bronze Chinese dings served as vessels for cooking, storage, and ritual offerings to the gods or ancestors. The bowls grew in size and importance, eventually becoming significant symbols of power during the Shang Dynasty. Only royals and nobles could possess ding vessels, and regulations existed that strictly enforced the size and number of containers that elites were allowed to own: the emperor could have nine, dukes and barons seven, high officials five, and scholars three. Possession of a special set of nine large dings legitimized the right to rule, and were thought to have been passed on from ruling dynasty to ruling dynasty.

This is an interview conducted with design group member Ariadne Argyros.

  •      Why did you choose this object?

o   Originally I chose the ding vessel because it caught my eye. It’s a beautifully ornate piece with a design that I hadn’t really seen before. Additionally, there was a small amount of information on the label so I knew that it was quite old, and I’m very intrigued by ancient artifacts.

  •      How was the research progression for this object?

o   The research for this object was easier compared to the research that I had to do for my other objects because I started with key bits of information (the vessel’s name, country of origin, and period of creation). It was my job to find specific details and create a useable catalog sheet and some possible labels that would fit into our exhibit and other future ones as well. I found that there was a lot more to the vessel than originally meets the eye.

  •      Did you find a new appreciation for the object after extensively researching it?

o   Definitely. I thought that the container was an unusually decorated type of cooking vessel, but after I did the research I was really impressed by the skill that it took to make these vessels, and by the importance of these dings in ancient China.

  •      What was most surprising/most interesting fact about the object?

o   These vessels originated as plain cooking pots, hence the tripod shape. I was surprised and very pleased to learn that through the years the bowls grew in size and importance, eventually becoming significant symbols of power during the Shang Dynasty. Only royals and nobles could own ding vessels, and regulations existed that strictly enforced the size and number of containers that elites were allowed to possess: the emperor could have nine, dukes and barons seven, high officials five, and scholars three. Possession of a special set of nine large dings legitimized the right to rule, and were thought to have been passed on from ruling dynasty to ruling dynasty.

How does this object fit into the greater theme of gathering?

o   The ding vessel is an object of power that was meant to be seen by people outside the home. It is an artifact that legitimized emperors and became part of an ancient tradition of worship and ritual. Ding vessels were meant to be seen and used in communal activities, which is why it fits so well in the gathering area of the exhibit.

  •      What brought you to the gathering category?

o   Specifically relates to object: Originally the ding vessel was being considered for the preparing area because of its origins as a cooking vessel, and then it was going to be placed on the mantle. Neither of those places, however, accurately represented the significance of the vessel and what it meant to its people, so our group thought it would be more appropriate if it were placed in the gathering section next to other power objects so that its story would resonate more deeply with its viewers.

o   Gathering category in general: We struggled with naming this area because it is a place where many different activities take place depending on when and where you are. We decided that this area displays objects of relaxation, socialization, and the worship of culturally and/or religiously significant objects. In the end, the inclusive word ‘gathering’ just made sense.

  •      What is your vision for this section, and how would you like to portray this to the public?

o   I hope that people will look at the section and see a grouping of objects that come together to showcase a non-Western specific area of gathering, which encompasses comfort, socialization, and appreciation of sacred, but not necessarily religious, objects. I hope that museum-goers will see all of this and come out questioning their own preconceived notions of a gathering space, as well leave with a new appreciation of other cultures and how they create(d) home.

  •   How are you attempting to make this a relatable group for the visitors while still maintaining an exhibit that’s relatable to a local audience while still encompassing a wide breadth of cultures?

o   Our group has strived to include a layout and a spread objects that are familiar, but with a twist to make visitors think about what home means to different people. We have explanatory labels, a color scheme and layout that is meant to set the scene, and some interactive, educational tools to nudge visitors in the right direction. The concept of home is familiar to everyone in some way or another, so these objects together create the right mix of familiar and foreign to be relatable and educational.

  •   What was the most difficult part of the design process in terms of the objects, and how did you come to the conclusion of 4 distinct groupings?

o   I would say that figuring out the layout and where objects should go was the most difficult part. These things are key to a successful exhibit; each artifact has its own history and story to tell, so putting them in the right places is paramount for their stories to hit home.

o   All the activities that take place in the four areas are ones that are essential to the making of a home. Everyone has a place to cook, eat, sleep, and come together. Of course, not all of these activities always take place in a singular area or even inside, but home isn’t always about a physical condensed space. Many people live in houses, but it’s about what people do in those areas, why they do these things, and whom they do these things for and with that evokes the feeling of home.



Samoan Sleeping Mat Feature

Posted: December 9th, 2017 by hparry

We wanted to give you a look into the thought process that went into the curation of the exhibit. The class has created a flow and space for this exhibit, that we think will inspire thought into how domestic artifacts can transform a house into a home.

One of the spaces that we concluded was a universal area of the house that fell into the Privet sector: Resting

Resting and relaxing are uniquely domestic experiences. “Home” is a space where we can safely lie our head after a long day. How we rest and relax in our houses informs our individualization of the “home”. The objects used to make these privatized spaces personal, reflects one’s cultural traditions and offers insight into how a culture perceives of their private spaces within the “home.” How do you rest and relax at home? How is your experience both similar and different from some of the stories of the objects below?


We wanted to give you insight from a member of the design team to provide you with information on the object from the resting section of the exhibit and help contextualize how the idea of resting as a whole can be seen cross-culturally.

This is an interview with group member Alex Crowell!

The object she curated was the Samoan sleeping mat

The Samoan Mat above resembles the home in not only its utilization, but its image and representation. The diagonal lines cutting across the squares signify coconut leaves, as coconuts which were essential in providing nutrition, fibers, instruments of cooking, and elements of the hearth. Red, black, and white carry significant cultural context in Samoan culture: white(pa’epa’e) and black (uliuli) literal translation of “light” and “dark”, are the base of multiple colors and descriptions in the Samoan language. Red, (mumu), is synonymous with fire, associated with blood, and often symbolizes courage, a value strongly upheld throughout Samoan history.


What was going through your head when choosing objects?

At first, I was surprised by its size. For a sleeping mat, I was assuming something larger but quickly realized that was an opinion formed in judgment. I thought aesthetically it was simplistic in nature, comparative to other objects in the room and one I had chosen previously belonging to China and Southern Asian aesthetic influences (notorious in their style and patterns). Furthermore, I had seen images and depictions of Polynesian fabrics before, so was surprised by the lack of vibrancy in this one. I knew, based on these observations, it had to have been older, and less culturally significant as other textile counterparts.

How was the research progression for this object?

I was fortunate enough to have had some background on the object, and where to look since we discussed it earlier in class the day I chose it. At first, I began looking into Samoan Mats through academic sources. Learning more about the cultural significance of the object seemed the most important place to begin research. It opened multiple leads that allowed me to look further into the cultural implications tied with the object: the ways in which the women past and present created the mats, the technical terms, and the symbolism behind the process of making the mats. Additionally, museums in other locations around the country hold similar artifacts, made with the same process as the Samoan Mat I curated, showing distinctly similar patterns.

What types of sources did you utilize in order to learn more about the object?

I used websites from other museums, those celebrating Polynesian culture and the making of fala moenga, and articles uploaded to public academic sources that were primarily ethnographic in nature.

One absolutely insane finding came out of an article in the Journal of Polynesian Studies of New Zealand. The Samoan Mats are created in a similar fashion to that of other Polynesian states. Thus, when looking at mats that compared to the object I was curating, mats belonging to the Maui in New Zealand, and other surrounding areas led to prominent findings, such as an ethnographic observation conducted in the early 20th century that was a comparative analysis of the utilitarian use the mats had between the Maui people and the Samoans of the time. I was incredibly fortunate to find this paper, for it established a primary source on the production, and utilization of the mats that was vital in understanding the cultural implications extending beyond the mats physical use.


What was most surprising/most interesting fact about the object?

How it was used in a communal sense. The fala moenga was an individuals mat, and was treasured as an individualistic object; however, it was used frequently and was multipurpose. For example, one’s fala moenga was brought to community meetings or gatherings, carrying home with you wherever you go. It symbolized wealth, and how one sits on the fala moenga is an indicator of cultural reformity, and was important to the public perception. To show one’s bare feet towards another individual was considered an immense offense, thus the soles of the feet should be turned at all times.


How does this object fit into the greater theme of resting?

While it has a communal aspect to it, the fala moenga is purposeful in its use by the individual. Utilitarian purposes lie towards the individual no matter its connotations. The “resting” section of the exhibit familiarizes visitors with the more privatized concept of resting associated with home: senses of comfort, stability, and an internal solidarity that can be attributed across most cultures.

What brought you to the resting category?

I think it’s really valuable to the exhibit. Resting is a privatized affair, one that makes being at home the most comforting. It’s vulnerable, and unique, even depending on the individual. The fala moenga was individualistic in nature, but the object I curated itself held a personalized value to it that was unique to that specific person during 1890 Samoa. Thus the layers of agency each object holds in the exhibit, especially in the resting category, draw me to the section the most.

What is your vision for this section, and how would you like to portray this to the public?

My hope is that it will show how personalized and specific resting is, yet also how it’s intentions are the same no matter which culture one adheres to. My hope is to illustrate this notion to visitors, for them to feel that familiarity when looking at the resting section that they associate with the act while challenging their preconceived notions as to what implications are attributed to resting.

I want to portray this by creating displays in which visitors can associate with the objects, while also providing juxtaposition with how comfort appears differently depending on the individual and community. To do this, we are emphasizing the Zulu Headrest by having a bed made from a wooden plank propped in the far right corner.

How are you attempting to make this a relatable group for the visitors while still maintaining an exhibit that’s relatable to a local audience while still encompassing a wide breadth of cultures?

This aspect has proven the most difficult part of exhibit designing, so I will answer both this question and the next question here. Making an exhibit that is relatable to the visitor, adheres to the cultural properties associated with the objects, and challenges Western notions associated with the concept of “Home”. We constructed a familiarity in our categorization, one that we strongly believe adheres to multiple cultures, including Western. Concentrating on the most basic physical acts, wherein aspects of culture are born such as “Eating”, “Preparing”, “Resting”, and “Gathering”, we gave breath to a foundation for the exhibit. Separating these objects into categories, falling under the assumptions of public or privatized spaces, was an imperative part of the process, creating additional layers for visitors to gage a sense of relation with the focal of our exhibit. More importantly, our placement of objects into groups, while mainly utilitarian in some regards, also supported aspects of different values to the culture behind the object. We found it was imperative to have objects placed in different sections in order to juxtapose any Western implications that would be imposed by visitors, ex: a Ding Vessel from early China, utilized for cooking, but resembling wealth and status that caters to the classification of an icon more than a tool for cooking.


Ganesh Oil Lamp featured in ‘House to Home’

Posted: December 5th, 2017 by Sam Desrochers

The Ganesh, hailing from Nepal, holds high cultural significance within traditional lamp festivals. Used to hold and burn fuel, usually yak butter, the light emitted is thought to be divine by those who worship it. This object will be placed in the ‘Gathering’ section of the exhibit as worshipers are brought together through the ceremony. Intended for objects of  relaxation, socialization, and the worship of culturally and/or religiously significant objects, the ganesh will find a home within this display.

Progress so far!

Posted: November 27th, 2017 by Sam Desrochers

Recently in class we have discussed some interesting takes to the exhibit design, and made great leaps towards a completed project. A few great ideas have surfaced surrounding the design of our space. Currently, we have a layout where the left-side of the space resembles eating, the rear resembles sleep, the right resembling preparation, and the front encompassing entertainment. Some great ideas about additional objects have also come into play including a half dining set, a bench, and even a sofa!


For the future of this blog, we are attempting to convey a new outlook on objects by examining them through the eyes of the curator. We will be diving into the research behind understanding the cultural context of each object, research methods, and where each curator sees their object within the display.


This week we are meeting in class to prepare for our upcoming proposal to the Fleming Museum regarding our final exhibit. We have made great progress and we will have a final layout for the exhibit, as well as a cohesive plan for the future, stay tuned!

Hello! Welcome to the Museum Anthropology exhibit blog!

Posted: November 15th, 2017 by Sam Desrochers

For the first post, we just want to lay out a few future objectives for the course blog as well as a brief overview of progress so far. First of all, this blog is aimed at exploring the processes in which the class, on a group and individual basis, progress through the curation and collective exhibition of our objects. Through working with museum professionals, including members of the Fleming Museum team, the course aims to further explore how in which objects are incorporated into museum spaces and the way in which the space of the museum has the ability to transform these ‘everyday’ objects into culturally significant entities, as well as creating a stimulating and meaningful museum experience for visitors. Thus far, the class has gone through a good chunk of the collection and research phase of our individual ‘domestic objects’ from various cultural backgrounds. Now the priority is focused on the collaboration between students and the individual groups with the goal to create a cohesive and meaningful exhibition in relation to ‘home-making’ and the ways in which we make the spaces that we (as humans) inhabit the spaces we call: ‘ours’.

 **If anyone in the class would like to volunteer their own research processes and interesting insights or challenges that their objects have offered please lets us (the PR Group) know**


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