Wampum World at the Albany Institute

Rensselaerwyck Native American deed 1708

A portion of deed for land in Rensselaerwyck signed in 1708, from the Albany Institute's collection. The pictographic characters are the signatures of Native Americans.

A new multimedia exhibit called Wampum World opened at the Albany Institute this past weekend. In it artist Renee Ridgway looks at the role wampum played in this area during the 17th century as Native American and Dutch cultures met and interacted, and how some of those threads carry on today:

"Wampum World is about wampum, which is made from shell. Historically, it had manifold functions for Native Americans in various aspects of their societies and is still considered sacred today. In contrast, Dutch settlers, having recognized the value of wampum for Native Americans, used wampum in exchange with European goods in order to procure beaver pelts, as part of the seventeenth century trade triangle 'beaver, wampum, hoes.' Metal coinage was not readily available in the New World, therefore wampum served as currency. Wampum World visually elucidates this historical exchange system and present day usages of wampum from various perspectives."

We got a chance to see the exhibit this past Friday afternoon, and it includes a variety of different works and archival documents. Among those old docs are deeds for the transfer of land from Native Americans to the Dutch in this area -- for sections of Bethlehem or islands in the Hudson River near Albany or other similar plots.

Other items provides a peek into the local culture and economy of the time. We were struck by the fact that there was a wampum "mint" in the Albany poorhouse during the mid 17th century, and the residents there were required to produce wampum.

One of the recurring themes that emerges is how people interpret the idea of "value," which objects accumulate monetary or spiritual value based on culture, and the ways those items end up serving as currency of some sort.

Wampum World will be on display through June 18 at the Albany Institute. Ridgway has also built a website for the exhibit with video and other materials organized by topics and places.

The Albany Institute advertises on AOA.

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

What's All Over Albany?

All Over Albany is for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. In other words, it's for you. It's kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who can help you find out what's up. Oh, and our friends call us AOA.

Search

Recently on All Over Albany

Weekend Destination: Connecticut

Connecticut is the third smallest state in the country -- but still has plenty of things to see and do during a quick weekend trip.... (more)

A look at the 2019 Tanglewood schedule

Though winter just started, it's not too early to be thinking a little bit about summer. To that end, the 2019 Tanglewood schedule is out.... (more)

Morning Blend

It snowed About five inches in Albany as of Friday morning, according to the National Weather Service. There's another few inches of snow on the... (more)

Stuff to do this weekend

Cold gray autumn weeks can honestly suck sometimes. But weekends are fun. OK, so we're not much for haiku, but you know what we are... (more)

Line crossing

Slightly farther afield in Hudson: A group of people -- including two people in their 70s -- pleaded not guilty this week to painting unauthorized... (more)

Recent Comments

Very nice redesigns. I hope that area becomes more of a neighborhood rather than what it currently is - still an expressway that happens to have hotels and apartments along it. I'd love to see wide sidewalks and protected bike lanes from Crossgates all the way to Manning.

A few pics from AOA10

...has 7 comments, most recently from daleyplanit

Morning Blend for Nov 15

...has 1 comment, most recently from Herbert

Line crossing

...has 1 comment, most recently from ravioliollie

Thank you

...has 5 comments, most recently from TK

Icy, Snowy Apocalypse Watch (updated)

...has 3 comments, most recently from Lu