Student Research | Aaron Stevens, Class of 2018

New research on the Museum’s holdings of Native American material has expanded over the last two years. Beginning with object-based research in the collection of artwork from the Northwest Coast conducted by Chris T. Green, Class of 2012 and McCrindle Intern during the 2016–2017 academic year, the collection has been made increasingly accessible to Princeton students for discovery and study, resulting in intriguing new directions in research. 

Aaron Stevens, Class of 2018, examining a naaxein (Chilkat) dance apron (PU 5257) as part of his senior thesis research into the Sheldon Jackson collection of Northwest coast material culture.This year, Aaron Stevens, Class of 2018, wrote his senior thesis on the Sheldon Jackson Northwest Coast collection, drawing from both archival and object-based sources. Rev. Sheldon Jackson, a Presbyterian missionary, built a sizable collection of Native American material culture, primarily collected in Alaska, which is stored at the Art Museum. In his thesis, "Collecting Alaska: Sheldon Jackson, Louis Shotridge, and the Pursuit of Northwest Coast Artifacts, 1879–1932," Aaron situates the Jackson collection within the complex context of cultural upheaval in Native communities during the late nineteenth century, as missionaries moved into Alaska. In addition, Aaron explored this topic through close, direct analysis of select objects and deep research into the Presbyterian missionary's documents and letters. He argues that much of the material culture at Princeton represents the work of students in mission schools and thus reveals fascinating relationships between Princeton collection objects and the famous sculptures they emulate or whose stories they present with distinct inflections.  

Further research and study into the Northwest Coast—and expanding into the Museum’s other collections of indigenous North American artwork, including large holdings in the American southwest—continue this summer and into the 2018–19 academic year with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation .