The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology (Harvard University) is contributing more than 95,000 additional images of objects from their permanent collection to Artstor, bringing the total selection to approximately 143,000. The collection and its representation in Artstor, featuring African, Native North American, Pre-Columbian,  European, Oceanic, and Asian cultures is virtually encyclopedic. The current contribution further enhances a rich selection.

A sampling of a single artifact — the mask — across time and place illustrates the scope of the collection: from an Aztec stone effigy c. 1500 to its  Panamanian ceramic counterpart, a Tlingit copper version of the mid 1800s, and a Mohawk corn husk Spirit image worn in ritual dances. Likewise, the juxtaposition of similar objects underscores the aesthetic and spiritual differences between cultures: a Communication Artifact (a wooden bird) from Rwanda and a Pre-Columbian Gold bird-shaped ornament from Chiriqui, Panama. Nonetheless, form, function, and even materials appear to be all but replicated in two versions of a beaded collar, objects that are geographically and culturally disparate, one from the Masai in Kenya and the other from the Mojave of California.

The Peabody Museum is one of the oldest anthropological collections in the world. It was founded in 1866 through the efforts of the paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh (1831–1899) who encouraged his uncle, George Peabody (1795–1869), to donate the funds necessary to endow a museum to document the remains of early man in America.

With holdings of nearly 1.5 million objects, the Peabody Museum began with some fifty specimens, all of which fit into a single display case. The museum’s archaeological objects dominate the permanent collection, with particular strengths in North, Central, and South America. Though smaller in number, the ethnographic collections have established the museum’s reputation as a pre-eminent repository of anthropological objects relating to Native American, Pre-Columbian, African, Oceanic, and Asian cultural groups. There are also extensive archival collections that document the museum’s holdings and its history, as well as the development of anthropology as an academic discipline.

This collection provides an inclusive and broad resource on global cultures and art, notably of indigenous peoples, as well as Anthropology, Archaeology and Identity Studies.

View the collection in the Artstor Digital Library.

Learn more in the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology (Harvard University) page in Artstor.

The images from the Peabody Museum are being released as part of a thematic launch on material culture and Anthropology which also includes an extensive selection from the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia and a collection of African art and Aboriginal paintings from Australia from the Musée du quai Branly (Réunion des Musées Nationaux).