On December 12th, I represented the Ohio Historical Society at the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) Benefit Gala celebrating the 40th anniversary of UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention. The event was held at the Cosmos Club in WashingtonD.C. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, was the guest of honor at the gala. In her remarks, she said that “we have come together to celebrate one of the most positive and visionary ideas that emerged in the last century. Cultural heritage is a source of energy that provides a foundation of wisdom and knowledge upon which to build a better future; a source that also provides income and jobs to local communities today.” I was there with Bret Ruby, Archaeologist and Chief of Resource Management at Hopewell Culture National Historical Park and Elizabeth Bartley of the University of Cincinnatis Center for the Electronic Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeological Sites (CERHAS). We are part of a team putting together the nomination of the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List and our attendance at the gala was an opportunity to not just support ICOMOS, but also to meet with a variety of folks that can help us move the nomination forward. On the following day, I took advantage of the opportunity afforded by my trip to D.C. to visit the National Museum of the American Indians (NMAI) Collections Resources Center (CRC). I had met Thomas Evans, a Collections Specialist at the NMAI, a year or two before when he came to the Ohio Historical Society to view our collections. Once I knew Id be attending the ICOMOS Gala, I contacted him to see if it would be possible for me to look at the Ohio material in the NMAI collections. Even though it was a last minute request, Tom rearranged his schedule to accommodate my visit and even invited me to the CRCs office Christmas party!
It was an amazing morning as Tom shared drawer after drawer of remarkable artifacts not currently on display at the NMAI museum. Many of the artifacts were familiar because we have similar examples from many of the same sites in the OHS collections. Some were famous masterpieces, such as the Meigs County Adena tablet.
I am enormously grateful to Tom for the gift of his time as well as the insights on many of the artifacts that he shared with me. It is one thing to read about artifacts or to view pictures of them in books. It is quite another to experience them in person in the company of someone who has an intimate knowledge of the collection and who shares your passion for understanding the ancient people who originally held these precious things in their hands.
One goal of this visit was to identify artifacts that we might consider borrowing for possible future exhibits here at OHS. And, as I thought, the NMAI has a wealth of material that we could use to help tell the stories of Ohio’s ancient Native American cultures. I look forward to someday being able to share some of these amazing artifacts with visitors to the OHS museum.