Saturday, December 6, 2008

Shrunken heads

Late Night with David Letterman re-aired the 10-29-08 interview with Barack Obama last night. Toward the end of the show (6:40 on this video), Obama mentions his first visit to Chicago at the age of 10. He went to the Field Museum of Natural History and was fascinated--as most 10-year-old boys would be, he says--with the shrunken heads. Some of us remain fascinated, although the Field Museum has since taken those specimens off display. Jim Castner has written the definitive book on the trophies (better known as tsantsas) and a suspense novel with a shrunken head theme that I reviewed. Bill Jamieson is a collector, museum proprietor, and ethnologist, and offers a slideshow on his website. I've been in contact with Bill and Jim over the years, so I am going to ask if the tsantsa pictured (see credit) was in fact curated by the Field Museum and would have been seen by a boy Barack.

1 comment:

  1. That picture does look like the one that I saw as a child and whose negative I am in fact scanning as I write this.
    Dinosaurs, mummies & shrunken heads. Those are the things I'd always visit first before continuing my learning.
    Now the heads have been hidden. So far I have heard 2 or 3 different reasons and one none answer on their website. Wish they'd get their stories straight. More professional that way.
    August 2001 was when I found out "sensitivities" had trumped science. I was not able to show my son the shrunken heads. I was able to see the exhibit "Backyard Monsters", for an additional fee, of course. The Disneyfication of the Field Museum was underway.
    As long as this progressive mindset continues, the Field Museum, for me, will not be as great as it was or could be.


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