Frederick W. and Nellie H. Stevens acquired these delicate brooches in China. Frederick Stevens, a graduate of the U-M law school, served as the representative of American bankers to the International Consortium for China from 1920 to 1923. Avid collectors, the Stevenses donated more than 1100 objects of 19th and early 20th century Chinese material culture to the Museum. Their collection is particularly rich in fine textiles (see Day 49) and jewelry, and it complements the raw materials and cloths in the Chinese Government Collection from the 1885 New Orleans Exposition. The brooches shown here are made of kingfisher feathers, silver, and glass or metal beads. Butterflies, dragonflies, and fish are all auspicious symbols, associated with love, prosperity, and good fortune. The name tian-tsui means “dotting with kingfishers,” and the demand for these iridescent blue feathers, mainly originating in Southeast Asia, had devastating effects on many kingfisher populations.
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.