Students curate Native American history exhibit with focus on Hamilton area

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Local Legacies

Gillian Weaver ’14 (second from left) and Lilyan Jones ’13 (far right), discuss objects in their “Local Legacies” exhibition at the Hamilton Public Library. (Photo by Gabriela Bezerra ’13)

In order to curate a new exhibit of local Native American objects at the Hamilton Library, Colgate students Gillian Weaver ‘14 and Lilyan Jones ‘13, sorted through thousands of artifacts in the university’s Longyear Museum of Anthropology.

The result of their semester-long exploration of the Longyear collection is “Local Legacies: A look at the Material Culture of Indigenous Peoples in the Hamilton, N.Y. Area.”

“We have things that go from 10,000 BC to the present,” said Jones, a double major in sociology/anthropology and Native American studies.

Archaeological and contemporary objects curated by Weaver and Jones reveal a local history of Native Americans from long before European contact, with early stone tools, to contemporary Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) culture today.

Jones, who came to Colgate from the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation, near Buffalo N.Y., has a special connection to at least one of the collection’s objects — a statue, titled “Indian with Fan” was made by her father, Peter B. Jones, an Onodaga artist.

Weaver who is from Milwaukee, Wis., said the library exhibit is unique in that all of the objects are from Hamilton and surrounding townships. Assembling the exhibit was a hands-on experience that gave Jones and Weaver an appreciation of the painstaking detail that is required for museum curatorial work.

“I guess we thought it shouldn’t be so difficult, but there are always small little problems that you have to correct. Curating the exhibit gave us a better understanding of how it’s not just finding objects, it’s writing text, figuring out how to hang things and display them, and making signage,” Weaver said.

Jordan Kerber, professor of anthropology and Native American studies, said Weaver and Jones chose objects from the Longyear that would best teach about local Native Americans in the past and present.

“The Longyear collection is, I would say, the best and most comprehensive collection of Iroquois materials, especially Oneida, in the region,” Kerber said. “It has been tremendous, not just as a resource for the community, but for Colgate students. Every course I teach at Colgate includes some aspect of that collection.”

The exhibition is sponsored by the Hamilton Historical Commission and Colgate’s Native American Studies Program, and will remain open for viewing through the summer at 13 Broad Street, according to Joan Prindle, commission chairman.

“It’s a perfect fit for the students, and it helps us out,” Prindle said.