Drawing of open weave basket pattern from Volney Jones' field notebook

How do Indigenous peoples make baskets and mats using plants native to the Great Lakes region?

In 1933, Volney Jones, an ethnobotanist at the University of Michigan's Museum of Anthropology*, set out to answer this question by visiting Indigenous communities in Ontario and Michigan. Through interviews and observation, Jones learned how Anishinaabe basket makers prepared plants for weaving and the techniques they used to make these textiles. Jones took detailed notes and collected over 100 items for the Museum's growing ethnobotanical collection.  

Museum Anthropology students researching collections, 2020

More than 85 years later, University Michigan students in the Museum Anthropology course researched the items Jones collected and help create content for this website. By reconnecting these items with field notes and photos, we learned about the Anishinaabe families who Jones interviewed and the knowledge they shared with him.  

Although Volney Jones worried that many of the weaving traditions he observed in 1933 were not being passed on, much of this knowledge continues to be a vital part of Anishinaabe culture today. During conversations with Anishinaabe artists, the Museum Anthropology students learned about these living traditions and their continued importance. By researching the history of this collection and listening to Anishinaabe community members, students learned to see the museum objects through two lenses: ethnobotanical and Indigenous.

Understanding the history of museum collections and sharing this information with communities of origins is the foundation on which collaborations are built. It is my hope that this website will serve as a case study in the ongoing conversations about the complex relationships between items in museums and the communities from which they originated, both past and present.

Lisa C. Young (lcyoung@umich.edu)

*In 2012, the Museum changed its name to the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology (UMMAA).

To learn about the course and the exhibit that inspired this website, as well as the many people who contributed to it, click on the links below.

Sharing Knowledge

The goal of this website is to share the context and history of the items and information that Volney Jones collected during his 1933 Great Lakes Textile project.  The organization of the site allows you to explore the collection in several interconnected ways: