The Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology will mark its 150th anniversary year by opening All the World Is Here: Harvard’s Peabody Museum and the Invention of American Anthropology. Unveiled within a beautifully restored 4th floor gallery, this new exhibition will feature an astonishing array of over 600 objects from Asia, Oceania, and the Americas, many on display for the very first time. Together they will be woven into a compelling narrative tracing the early history of the museum’s collections and the birth of American anthropology as envisioned and shaped by the museum’s second director Frederic W. Putnam.
Visitors will enter the world of a late 19th-century museum and be transported into the midst of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition where Putnam and the Peabody presented their anthropological vision and collections to a wider world. (The 1893 Chicago Exposition will be familiar to readers of the best-selling novel The Devil in the White City.) All the World Is Here will display remarkable and historically significant items including the dog sledge of Arctic explorer Admiral Robert Peary, exotic materials traded and collected by 18th-century Boston ship captains, and stunning archaeological works of art excavated from Ohio’s Turner Mounds.
The exhibition will also juxtapose older museum practices with contemporary approaches to collection and exhibit development. Modern day practices such as 3D scanning, modeling ancient Maya monuments, close collaborations with indigenous peoples to conserve Native American cultural heritage, and a display reflecting Hopewell beliefs drawn from research among the culture’s descendant communities, will all be included in the exhibition. In a series of videos, historians, anthropologists, and scientists will explain how views of race have evolved since the museum’s early days. The exhibition will mark both accomplishments and obstacles in the progress toward understanding world cultures.