Unknown maker, Chilkat Tlingit
Collected by George T. Emmons ca. 1880s
American Museum of Natural History 19/814

This unfinished raven rattle was collected by George T. Emmons, who organized his original AMNH catalogue taxonomically by grouping numerous exemplars of the same type. Its back is highly suggestive of the classic tableau: a reclining human figure with its protruding tongue caught in a bird’s beak. The presence of the canonical form—even on an unfinished object—demonstrates how collectors and curators helped produce the idealized categories for such rattles by favoring objects that appeared prototypical. In later years, particularly during the Jesup Expedition, collectors purposefully obtained and commissioned both complete and unfinished objects to serve as educational tools to illustrate modes of production and ethnographic findings (see models and basket-maker photograph nearby). But Native people also played an active role in Euro-American collecting and, by extension, in canon formation. Kwakwaka’wakw artist Beau Dick suggests that this rattle is not particularly well started. It may have been an apprenticeship object, given up willingly by the Tlingit because it was not going to be suitable for ritual use in the community—thereby enacting a transfer from one culture’s pedagogical context to another’s.

Tags for Interactive Tag Cloud: models, multiples