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Collectors

Arthur Speyer Sr

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Cooper, Dr. John

Primary Collector

The Roman Catholic priest, Father John Montgomery Cooper, was an ethnologist whose speciality was American Indians; he did fieldwork in eastern James Bay in the 1930s. In 1934, Cooper created the department of anthropology at the Catholic University to provide missionaries-in-training with a background in anthropology. In so doing, the Catholic University became one of a handful of American universities to offer courses in anthropology. A portion of Cooper’s fieldwork in the early 1930s examined native religious expression. Two items reflecting Cooper’s interest are the two bear’s bibs on display in the Virtual Museum. Also in the 1930s, Regina Flannery, one of Cooper’s students, became the first female student to work with the James Bay Cree.

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Ewbank, Mrs

Primary Collector

Nothing is known about Mrs. Ewbank other than that there exists a strong Ewbank family connection with Oxford University. The wristbands displayed in the Virtual Museum were donated to Oxford University’s Pitt Rivers Museum by Miss Elinor Ewbank, daughter of the collector. Under the direction of Professor Dorothy Garrod, the first female professor at Oxford University, Miss Elinor Ewbank participated in an archaeological excavation at the Mount Carmel Caves site in 1929.

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George Heye

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Hotz, Herr (Mr.)

Secondary Collector

Herr Hotz collected all his ethnographic materials from European sources and then exhibited them in a public school in Zurich, Switzerland.

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Renouf, Ernest

Primary Collector

A Jersey man, Renouf apprenticed with the Hudson’s Bay Company at Moose Factory in 1910; he retired in 1931. Beginning at Waswanipi in 1911, most of his years in service were spent on the east side of James Bay. His work history consists of a little time at Nemaska and Fort George in 1914, the years 1914-1915 at Whapmagoostui (formerly Great Whale River), followed by a spell at Attawapiskat until he enlisted in 1917 for World War I. Two years later he was posted to Fort George, where he was employed as a writer. By 1920 he had been promoted to postmaster. While at Fort George, Renouf married Edith C. Johnstone, daughter of John Johnstone, an HBC employee of mixed ancestry.

Most of the items on display in the Virtual Collection from Renouf were collected in 1915 while Renouf was still at Whapmagoostui, home to both an Inuit and Cree population. In July of the previous year he had written to Edward Sapir at the National Museum of Man (now the Canadian Museum of Civilization [CMC]) from Whapmagoostui. Renouf collected relatively little Cree material, although his letter to Sapir included a long list of available “Indian” objects: beaded shot pouches; wooden ladles and spoons; rolls of bark and bark baskets; toboggans, shovels and various kinds of snowshoes; paddles and bark canoes; a cradle; a soapstone pipe; mittens and moccasins; rabbit-skin blankets; and garters, leggings and bags, all beaded. The CMC purchased some things; more material, however, was sent to the Museum of Mankind (British Museum). The latter is on display in the Virtual Collection.

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Sam Waller

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Skinner, Alanson

Primary Collector

Alanson Skinner, ethnologist, writer and lecturer, was born in 1885 and died tragically in a car accident in 1925, less than a month shy of his 40th birthday. He was on a collecting trip for the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, among the Sioux Indians in North Dakota, at the time of his death. Educated at Columbia and Harvard universities, Skinner was a staff member of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) until 1915, when he joined the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation (MAI). In 1920, he became the curator of anthropology at the Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee, remaining there until 1924, at which point he returned to the MAI.

Best known as an ethnologist, Skinner also wrote about archaeology, producing a great number of articles and books on several sites and native groups in New York state. While at the AMNH he undertook two collecting expeditions in the James Bay area. In 1908, he visited Cree settlements on the east coast of the bay, collecting materials and information and taking photographs. The following year he collected along the west coast of the bay. The items selected for the Virtual Collection were collected during the 1908 trip.

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Speck, Frank Goldsmith

Primary Collector

A sickly child, the anthropologist Frank G. Speck was sent to the country by his parents to restore his health. There he was placed in the care of a Native American widow who taught him her language - Mohegan - and inspired in him a life-long interest in aboriginal people.1 He worked among at least 14 different Eastern Woodlands Indian groups recording stories, collecting material culture and observing rituals. Interested in artistic expression, he also analysed decorative aspects of the material culture of eastern and northern Algonquian peoples. Speck’s first ethnographic work among the Montagnais began at Lac Saint-Jean, Quebec in the summer of 1908 and continued until at least 1935. It was here he collected the objects from Mistissini that are displayed in the Virtual Collection.

During his many seasons of fieldwork Speck made ethnographic collections for numerous museums. His collecting practises in the subarctic were unorthodox: While much of Speck’s work was based on a long residence in the community he was interested in, Richard White collected materials from the Barren Grounds Naskapi for Speck, who never visited that area. Speck didn’t visit the Mistissini area either. Rather, working out of his hotel room, he collected objects and information from people from the Mistissini area when they came to Lac Saint-Jean in the summer to trade. It is no secret that Speck also commissioned native people to make many of the artifacts he subsequently purchased.

In Speck’s defence, several factors worked in his favour, the most significant being his ability to speak several Algonquian languages. He also loved fieldwork. His linguistic ability combined with a facility to quickly establish a rapport with informants allowed Speck to elicit information often withheld from non-native researchers, a situation which offset his questionable collecting practises.

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William Stiles

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