These two hats were made for officials in the state administrative bureaucracy of the Chinese Qing Dynasty (1644–1912). They are part of the Museum’s collection of materials displayed by the Chinese imperial government at the 1884–1885 New Orleans Exposition. Civil and military officials would have worn these hats on ceremonial occasions. The buttons on top symbolize the wearer’s rank in the administrative hierarchy. Nine official ranks were recognized. The red coral-colored button marked the second rank, and the brass button identified the wearer as being of low rank. If authorized by the emperor, an official could further adorn his hat with a peacock feather. Thus these hats were reminders of state power as well as an indication of the wearer’s status. The fringe on top of these hats was once a bright red, which has faded over time. Objects from the Chinese Government Collection occupied an entire floor of the University’s first dedicated museum building, which opened on State Street in 1881. Today these items are kept in climate-controlled conditions. This is the only (largely) intact early Chinese World’s Fair collection in existence.
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.