In August 1986, a box was discovered in the basement of a dormitory at Williams College. In it were 64 objects—rocks, weapons, footwear, and objects we have yet to identify—collected a century and a half earlier for the Williams College Lyceum of Natural History, a student-run museum on campus from 1835–1908. Among the objects was a Hawaiian kupeʻe niho ʻīlio, or ankle adornment made of dog teeth.
The kupeʻe inspired an exhibition that surfaces two intertwined histories of Williams students in the nineteenth century: that of the Lyceum and its collecting practices, and that of the complex, underknown, and controversial relationship between Williams College and the kingdom of Hawaiʻi. Drawing on campus collections in the college archives, the biology department, and the museum, the exhibition offers a meditation on how practices of collecting and display have been wielded to impose intellectual, moral, or spiritual order upon the world. It poses questions not only about the lives of objects, but also about histories lying latent at Williams.
Research assistance and content development by Nālamakū Ahsing ’21, and research assistance by Thomas Price MA ’17. Exhibition design by David Gürçay-Morris, Associate Professor of Theatre. Audio editing by Patrick Gray Jr. Graphic Design by Jen Rork, A special thank you to Lisa Conathan, Head of Special Collections at Williams College, Sarah Currie of the Williamstown Historical Museum, to Frank Jackson, and to Nathan Ahern, Chief Preparator, Adi Nachman, Exhibitions and Programs Manager, and Nina Pelaez, Assistant Curator of Public Programs and Interpretation.
The exhibition includes generous loans from the Williamstown Historical Museum, Williams College Archives and Special Collections, and the Biology Department.