Old museums with large collections often find mysteries in their storerooms. This miniature boat is one. Mr. Harry M. Smith loaned it to the Museum in 1945, along with other objects. It was assigned a temporary tracking number. Smith probably loaned the object for an exhibition on the people of the Pacific, which was held that year in the Museums Building. We don’t know why Mr. Smith didn’t retrieve or donate the boat at the end of the exhibit. Miniature boats such as this one are common in ethnographic collections from the 19th and early 20th centuries. They are often impressively accurate portrayals of their full-size models. Our Museum has miniature boats from several regions, including North America, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. Along with being part of local material culture traditions, boat models were likely part of early “tourist art” and were especially desirable to early explorers, military officers, and colonial administrators.
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.