The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology is a museum that is affiliated with the Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was founded in the year 1866 and considered as the oldest and largest museums which focus on anthropologic materials. It is particularly strong in the New World ethnography and archaeology. The museum is home to over 1.5 million objects, 900 linear feet of documents, 2,000 maps and site plans, as well as 300,000 photographs. It is located at 11 Divinity Avenue, on the Harvard University campus.
The museum was a gift from George Peabody, a known native of South Danvers, Mass (now called Peabody). This man became a wealthy financier and was often considered as America’s first philanthropist. The said museum opened its very first exhibit comprised of a small number of prehistoric artifacts from Merrimack Valley in 1867. The building where the museum currently stands was built in 1876, expanded in 1888 and 1913.
The Peabody Museum is a steward to archaeological, ethnographic, osteologocal, as well as archival collections that came from different parts of the world. These cover millions of years of human cultural, social, and biological history. Though the museum is strongest in the cultures of the North and South America and the Pacific Islands, there are several important collections too from Africa, Europe and Asia.
- North America: The holdings from North America form more than a quarter of the whole collection. These artifacts are from every corner of the continent, covering 10,000 years, making the collection exceptional. It from the earliest excavations in the Northeast and the Mimbres collections from the Southwest, as well as the Grace Nicholson Collection of the California baskets.
- Central America: The collection is strongest in materials from the eastern Honduras, Nicaragua lower Central America, the Caribbean Islands, and Central Mexico. It also hosts the unprecedented collection of the Maya material culture, stone sculptures of Copan, the artifacts from the Sacred Cenote of Chichen Itza, 600 plaster casts of monuments and more.
- South America: The museum’s earliest accessions are collected by Louis Agassiz and his son Alexander, which form the backbone of the South American ethnographic collections. Some of the noteworthy collections are the 19th and 20th century featherwork headdresses and ornaments from Amazon, Andean textiles, and so much more.
- Asia. The holdings in this particular part of the museum are very fine indeed. These are one of the earliest collections of objects made and used by the Ainu, known as Japan’s indigenous people. The collection also features Japanese and Chinese ceramics and porcelains, colorful textiles, Siberian hide costumes and carved wooden items of their household, and more. There is also an extensive collection of excavated artifacts from Iran and Turkey.
- Africa: The Museum holds over 20,000 items in four different collections. The three main collections, mostly gathered from Liberia, Cameroon, and Uganda, include objects used in daily or ritual life. On the other hand, the 4th collection features 200 musical instruments, from drums to hand pianos and the like.
- Europe: Aside from the Paleolithic collections from France, there are materials from the Neolithic to Iron Age Europe, with the notable Duchess of Mecklenburg materials from Slovenia. The collection also includes a part of Gabriel de Mortillet’s collections, like the “Venus” figurin from the Grimaldi Cave in Italy.
Visit the Peabody Museum in Cambridge, MA today.