Museum Minute: Porcupine Hair Brushes

Jan 17, 2020

Porcupine Hair Brushes
Credit Plains Indian Museum

Museums don’t only collect unique objects. Sometimes everyday objects are just as valuable. This is true for the Plains Indian Museum. For Hunter Old Elk, the museum’s curatorial assistant, those are some of her favorite objects in the collection.

“I tend to really like utilitarian objects that are made for everyday use may that be personal care, clothing, or footwear,” said Old Elk.

To Old Elk, one of the best examples is hair brushes that are made from the hide of porcupines. The Plains Indian Collection has porcupine hair brushes from at least 10 different tribes. Old Elk said this shows how personal care transcends all cultures and distances. The hide is wrapped around a piece of wood to create the brush.

“The hide itself has a soft barb at the end but it doesn't include the sharp quills that you see in every day. [It’s] the guard hair between the quills that you don't normally see. They are underneath like stiff hairs that are like bristles but not as damaging,” described Old Elk.