Melbourne to Maine

28 July, 2009

Wabanaki leggings, MV X8931
Pair of Wabanaki leggings from River St John, New Brunswick, Canada. From the S.D.S. Huyghue Collection of 1879, Museum Victoria.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

Museum Victoria often receives requests from other institutions wanting to study, access or borrow objects from the collection. Loans involve a lot of work and coordination with conservation, security and transport concerns, but the opportunity to share MV collection objects with an international community is worth the effort.

A recent loan from the Indigenous Cultures Collection to the Maine State Museum highlights a historical character with ties to both Canada and Victoria. The objects in question, a pair of leggings made by people native to the St John River area in New Brunswick, Canada, are on display in the exhibition Uncommon Threads: Wabanaki Textiles, Clothing and Costumes at the Maine State Museum until May 2010.

Museum archives record that the leggings were donated in 1879 by Samuel Douglas Smith Huyghue. Huyghue was a Canadian-born artist and writer who arrived in Australia in 1852, becoming a government clerk in Ballarat during the Gold Rush. He subsequently wrote an account of a major event in Victorian history – the 1854 Eureka Uprising – and his art portraying the uprising is held by the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery.

Huyghue was an outspoken advocate for the rights of the native tribes of his birthplace. His 1847 novel Argimou: A legend of the Micmac (published under the pseudonym Eugene) is concerned about the fate of the Micmac people as the Europeans forced indigenous people to assimilate and conform with colonial society.

The Wabanaki (meaning ‘people of the dawn’) comprise four Indian tribes from Maine and New Brunswick: Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy and Penoboscot. These people had a particularly strong tradition of textile art, including weaving, embroidery, and applique on their clothing and ceremonial costumes. The leggings donated by Huyghue are made from leather and feature intricate embroidery using dyed porcupine quills, plus a fringe of moose hair tufts.

They are exhibited in the Uncommon Threads exhibition alongside other textiles of incredible rarity and beauty, including fragments from 4,000-year-old archaeological sites and decorated ceremonial costumes worn by chiefs in the 1700s and 1800s. From the Maine State Museum, the exhibition will travel to other museums in USA and Canada.

Comments (1)

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Heidi Huyghue Blake 25 September, 2014 05:40
This is very interesting to me because I am a Huyghue, and I'm doing everything in my power to visit Melbourne from October 11-22,2014. Would anyone sponsor three Huyghues to visit? I, of course, will bring my birth certificate confirming my heritage, and Huyghue is a very uncommon name so all of us are definitely related. Please let me know as soon as you can since it's already September 24, 2014. Thank you!!
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