Dr. Wilbert B. Hinsdale donated this birch bark box with sweet grass binding and porcupine quill decorations to the Museum in 1936 in honor of his late wife Estella. Mrs. Hinsdale had purchased the box in Peshawbestown, Michigan, from the woman who made it. Unfortunately, the artist’s name was not recorded, but it is known that the box was made before 1926. In a 2014 interview for the National Endowment for the Arts, noted quill artist Yvonne Walker Keshick stated that, historically, quill boxes were meant to store seeds, medicines, and food items and were often decorated with images relating to their contents. The strawberry decorations on the lid may have been based on an earlier design used on boxes that stored dried berries. Known as ode’ imin in Anishinaabemowin, the strawberry is one of the four sacred foods in Anishinaabe culture.
In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.