Objects travel from Museum to Classroom
HISTORY was brought to life for students of Native American Studies at Canterbury Christ Church University when Giles Guthrie, the collections manager at Maidstone Museum, brought selected objects from the expansive Native North American Brenchley collection and gave an accompanying talk. Led by Native American lecturer Sam Hitchmough, an excellent turnout showed student’s passion for seeing and learning about historical artefacts. Diverse objects included Haida pipes, moccasins, tobacco pouches and Northwest Coast ceremonial masks. In the informative lecture, aided by a visual powerpoint, Giles outlined Brenchley’s travels from his time in the Pacific Islands to sledging across Russia, and focused mainly on his North American travel.
Excerpts were read from Jules Remy’s account A Journey to the Great-Salt-Lake giving an insight to the arduous journey Mr Brenchley and Mr Remy undertook to pursue a passion of collecting. Bizarre and humorous stories were included; from the time Brenchley fell down a volcano and recovered by climbing out unscathed, to the time he was shot in the neck with an arrow, having to travel a mile or so to safety before extracting the weapon – once again relatively unhurt! Such stories depicted Brenchley as a fascinating explorer! Brenchley’s travels were not all fun and games, however, as serious issues regarding how he came to acquire a tribal woman’s hair and repatriation were discussed. It was noted throughout the lecture that Maidstone Museum are in talks with tribes in North America over particular objects that could possibly be attributed to certain tribes and given back to their owners.
After the presentation, students were allowed to look among and touch, with latex gloves, some of the objects that were brought along. The especially rare and fragile masks could not be handled and this was likely to be the last time they would be brought out of the museum for show. It was very exciting to observe the objects closely and see the intricate designs and objects. Students were amazed by the objects and discussed with Giles and Sam and between themselves the uses of the objects and the meanings behind the detailing and motifs on pipes, masks and pouches.