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Randall House - Wolfville Historical Society


Accession number: CC.339
Category: container
Object type: Quillwork
Date: 1875 – 1910
Materials: Wood
Measurements: 16.5 cm L x 12 cm W x 11.5 cm H
Culture: Mi'kmaq
Narrative: Before glass beads were introduced to Native society, porcupine quills were one of the primary methods of embellishment. The use of quills to decorate and accent containers, clothing and other objects was done by certain women skilled in the art form. It is unclear how old quill working is but according to tradition it was taught to select women by the Great Spirits. Men were responsible for gathering the quills. The animal could be eaten and was a regular staple in some groups' diets. The quality and the size of the quills depends on which part of the body they come from. The largest and roughest come from the tail, followed by the back. Thin and shorter quills come from the neck while the finest come from the underside or belly.
Description: Rectangular box with lid. The box is made of wood 3mm thick; two-thirds of its height is covered with two tiers made of two bands of birch bark 3.25cm wide, wound closely and vertically with medium brown coloured spruce root 2mm wide; on each side of the box is a design with interwoven white quills in a horizontal zigzag pattern. The box is lined with floral wallpaper. The lid top is made of bark covered on the outside with porcupine quills - white, medium brown and dark brown -arranged diagonally in seven rows - a half chevron design; sides of lid are a 3cm band of birch bark wound around vertically and closely with medium brown coloured spruce root 2mm wide; a cross design on all sides is made of interwoven white quills. Gold paint has been used on the top portion of the box which is covered by the lid when closed.

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