Accepted Paper:

The Northwest Coast collection of Emma Shaw Colcleugh, c. 1884-1888  


Kaitlin McCormick (Brown University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses the collections of Emma Shaw Colcleugh as a window into the various social and cultural conditions encountered by collectors of Indigenous material culture in North America at the end of the nineteenth century, and how those conditions shaped the character of their collections.

Paper long abstract:

The private ethnographic collections of New England schoolteacher Emma Shaw Colcleugh (1846-1937) have been called the "jewel" of Brown University's Haffenreffer Museum. In the exhibition and catalogue Out of the North (1989), curators Barbara Hail and Kate C. Duncan showcased the 68 Cree, Anishinaabe, M├ętis and Tlicho works Colcleugh collected as invaluable pieces constituting the Haffenreffer's Subarctic collections. A tireless traveller and lecturer, Colcleugh made a number of trips to the Northwest in the late nineteenth century, and was a passenger on the Northern Pacific Railway's first journey to the Northwest Coast in 1884. Publications have raised the profile of Colcleugh's Subarctic collections (Hail and Duncan 1989; Hail 1991), but the 47 pieces that she collected on three separate trips to the Coast, while well-documented, are less understood.

Writing in the late 1980s, Hail and Duncan contributed to the development of novel conceptual frameworks for analysing colonial-era collections. Their analyses accounted for the gender, motivations and taste of collectors, collectors' relations with Indigenous makers in source communities, the social and cultural conditions of source communities and the character of the objects. In light of this ever-productive methodological and conceptual framework, this paper will introduce Colcleugh's Northwest Coast collection through a biographical lens. Unlike her women-oriented Subarctic collections, this one contains a higher proportion of male-oriented works. Why? This paper uses Colcleugh's Northwest Coast collection as a window into the different social and cultural circumstances encountered by private collectors of Indigenous material on their travels at the close of the nineteenth century.

Panel WIM-CHAT08
The enthusiastic amateur and cultures of collecting, or why settlers and their descendants take to unearthing First Nations artefacts