Curated by the students of Anthropology 250 (UVM’s Museum Anthropology seminar course) who researched objects from the Fleming Museum’s permanent collections, this exhibition examines metal as a material and how it has been decorated, shaped, and utilized across cultures. Recent work by archaeologists, scientists and historians who study the 8,000 year history of metalworking suggest that many cultures discovered the secrets of metallurgy independently at different points in time, although individual metalworking traditions have also been shaped by trade and other crosscultural contact. Examples in brass, silver, and copper show how metal in its purest forms and in various combinations has been used across time and in diverse cultures to create objects that were prized for their beauty and durability.

The examples in this exhibit present an eclectic sampling of how the unique characteristics of metal provided a medium for the expression of cultural meaning, aesthetic preferences and the needs of the people who crafted and used them.  Ranging from a brass arm cuff from Nigeria to the iron-spiked flax hatchel from eighteenth-century Vermont, the use of metal to produce objects with distinct culture values becomes an interesting lens through which to view the items in this gallery. As you explore the online version of this exhibit, consider how decorative traditions, the demands of metal as a creative medium, and cultural expectations contribute to each of these objects as they were once used, and as they can be viewed today.


Curated by the UVM Museum Anthropology Class, Spring 2010