Author:Gabriella Wellington (Carleton University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper employs the iconography of an eighteenth-century European portrait as a means of nuancing established ethnohistorical understandings of the economic, sociopolitical, and cultural complexities permeating colonial-Indigenous interactions in pre-Revolutionary North America.
Paper long abstract:
Taking an eighteenth-century Anishinaabe black-dyed hide pouch from the Great Lakes as its point of departure, this paper explores the complexities permeating colonial-Indigenous interactions in pre-Revolutionary North America, a geotemporal sphere that Richard White has seminally defined as 'the middle ground.' Employing objects of material culture, portraiture, and archival documents as primary sources, this paper employs a combination of art-historical, museological, and ethnohistorical methodological approaches to investigate the typology, function, provenance, and shifting cultural, social, and political contexts of the Caldwell pouch, as well as the various cultural mediations it has undergone from the time that Lieutenant John Caldwell collected it in the 1770s to the moment it entered the collection of Canada's then National Museum of Man (now Canadian Museum of History) in 1973. Central to this paper is a full-length portrait of Lieutenant John Caldwell, which portrays its sitter modelling his collection of Native North American finery. It is on the basis of a multifaceted formal and cultural analysis of this portrait, now in the King's Regiment Collection at the Museum of Liverpool, that I propose a new set of critical terms through which Caldwell's collecting activities are to be most accurately understood.
Art as Ethnography/Ethnography as Art