In 1932, the University of Michigan sent zoologist Walter Norman Koelz to the Himalayan Mountains of northern India to collect art objects for the Museum of Anthropology. Koelz spent two years in the region, trekking in the mountains during the summer and retreating to lowland cities when the snows made upland travel impossible. He collected in both areas, noting in a letter that, “the acquisition of good textiles is a slow process, more laborious even than the body exhausting trek in the mountains.” Fortunately for the museum and for the study of Kashmiri textiles, he built an impressive collection of 46 shawls that date from the 17th to the late 19th centuries and represent the breadth of shawl styles. This mid-19th century woven shawl is one of the most elaborate textiles in the collection. With its dozens of colors, fine weaving (75 threads/inch) and complex design, this shawl likely took a team of weavers more than a year to complete. At more than 9 feet long, it would have wrapped its wearer in luxurious comfort.
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.