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Birch Bark Box

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Birch Bark Box





Brief Description

Round birch bark lidded box with dense white and brown quillwork; 8-pointed star on top, diamonds on side.


Round birch bark lidded box with dense white and brown quillwork; 8-pointed star on top, diamonds on side.

1. Form: This 5-inch diameter box is decorated with white and brown quills. In the center, they start as an 8-point asterisk, with points measuring just under an inch long. Around this, connecting at the points is an 8-point star. Each section of the star divided by the asterisk within is filled in with white quills in a crosshatch pattern. This design is continued as the star is surrounded by another larger 8-point star, again filled in with the crosshatched quills. The segments outside of this largest star (between the points) contain a triangle of quills going one way, underneath a triangle of quills going the opposite direction. This entire design is outlined by a circle of quills, then a ring of sweet grass. Sweet grass lines the top and bottom of the lid, as well as top and bottom of the base and the top lip of the base inside. It is held in place by black thread. The side contains a repeating pattern in 2 rows (one on the lid, one on the base). Nine vertical quills are bunched together in the middle, fastened by a horizontal quill, and spread out at the ends. Between each of these is a diamond of crosshatched quills. The inside of the box has a bark lining, to hide the ends of the quills.

2. Material and Color:
Birch bark - medium brown (R176 G117 B36) to (R112 G74 B0)
Sweet grass - faded yellow (inside has a greener tint) - (R235 G214 B186)
Cotton thread - black
Quills - gradiate from white to darker brown (R122 G91 B45)

3. Construction: The bark was cut and bent into a box. The black stitching around the edges helps hold the box together.

4. Decoration: Top and sides of the box are decorated with quillwork. All edges are wrapped with sweet grass.

5. Skill/Care: Excellent work. Box parts tightly fit, even without use of glue. The inside lining makes for a clean presentation

6. Condition: Very good condition, negligible wear, label on the bottom

Dimension 1

5" W

Dimension 2

5" D

Dimension 3

2.5" H


bark(birch) fiber(sweet grass) cotton quill(porcupine)


cut bent stitched


quillwork wrapped(fiber)


V GOOD lbl


Ostrom, Elinor -bequest


Ostrom, Elinor and Vincent

Accession Number


Old Number

MM249.008 CAC#B-16 OC#286








North America

Comments Object History

2012 INV: Campus Art Collection Room=Basement; 2014 CAT REV: Information from Elinor Ostrom/Carol Parks spreadsheet:
Ostrom # 286


This item is from the collections of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures.