Museum Minute: Dating Objects

Dec 13, 2019

Credit Plains Indian Museum

Beads were one of the main products traded between Native Americans and Europeans. For museum curators and historians, the presence of beads on objects helps place an approximate time frame of when it was created.

Hunter Old Elk, the curatorial assistant of the Plains Indian Museum, said the color of the beads is a first step. Pink and blue beads were colors sought out by the Plains people. She said a Nakota tribe man’s hide shirt exemplifies the use of pink.

“When an artist creates a piece, they will often buy and or procure as much of that same color as possible at one time,” said Old Elk. “Because beads come in to batches, so when you run out of color it’s difficult to match the same color that you started with.”

Old Elk said it shows the artistry and technique of the artist who created the shirt because they were able to use a certain hue of pink.

“There are historians that can date the time that these colors are being used on the Plains to the pieces specifically based off of the batch shade.”

However, Old Elk said there are other ways to date the color of beads.

“It’s also in the technique. There’s certain materials that will help date the object