Thursday, February 4, 2010

Eugenia's Tribute

I'm enjoying the process of collecting materials for a tribute to Eugenia Shorrock, owner of The Reptile Zoo formerly of Alton Bay, New Hampshire. I feel a connection to Eugenia because, like me, she re-located to New Hampshire from Massachusetts and created an idiosyncratic retail business to reflect her passionate interests. We were pretty much the same age, too. I was 42 when I took to the hills. Eugenia was 44.

I have a couple of ideas so this tribute might evolve into two pieces. In one, I want to emphasize Eugenia's herpetological interests. I have a snake skin, a road kill that I found and skinned myself, which now has a purpose. An image of an old game board in the shape of a snake will also be incorporated, along with various images from old encyclopedias.

For the second piece, I'd like to assemble an Ethnographical Curio Cabinet based on Eugenia's collections of African and South American artifacts, particularly her infamous shrunken heads later acquired by Ripley's Believe It or Not! I've collected a number of wooden jewelry cabinets over the years. One of them will become "Eugenia's Curio Cabinet."

I must confess that I have had a strange fascination for these tribal trophies ever since I saw the shrunken head in the collection of the Peabody Museum (now the Peabody Essex Museum) in Salem, Massachusetts. Back then admission was free and I could walk to the museum from my grandmother's house just to view the shrunken head and the mummy hand.

These two c.1900 images are from Photographs from the Library of Congress American Memory collection Detroit Publishing Company, 1880-1920.

I just discovered an interesting blog called The Miss Rumphius Effect. One of the comments in a post about a children's book titled Behind the Museum Door: Poems to Celebrate the Wonders of Museums, is a poem by author Jane Yolen about shrunken heads: "I used to spend hours as a child - Gazing into the glassy eyes, - Contemplating the sewn-together lips." Sounds like she had a similar fascination!

And a blog called Evolving Complexity has information about a recent National Geographic Channel documentary on the search for the Amazon headshrinkers.


paula said...

i will be interested to see the end result of your 'hide'. wow. i'm impressed you skinned that road kill yourself!

AnitaNH said...

It's over a yard long. I need to scan the last two thirds of it. It self-adhered to a strip of foam board. The cats are extremely interested! It's been stored in one of my curio cabinets out of their reach.