Treasures of Travel Cincinnatians Collect the World
Photography by Wes Battoclette
The archives at Cincinnati Museum Center are jam-packed with artifacts that tell stories about people, places and adventures relevant to Greater Cincinnati.
Many of these items haven’t seen the light of day in a long time, so the museum works to change that through the annual installments of the Treasures exhibits. The latest – Treasures of Travel – highlights artifacts that show off Cincinnati’s history through the tales of residents who ventured into the world, seeing wondrous sights and collecting a wide variety of cultural and historical artifacts to bring home. Treasures of Travel, which opens Feb. 19 and runs through June, will feature items that offer many different perspectives and insights into cultures from all over the world.
One of the biggest tales to tell in the exhibit is the story of the Fleischmann family, who built a luxury yacht named The Camargo in the 1930s and travelled the world for several years. The family hired famous photographer Amos Burg to accompany them and document the trip. “Because of Amos Burg, the Fleischmann family travels are extremely well documented,” says Bob Genheimer, curator of archaeology at Cincinnati Museum Center. “He kept a daily diary, we have letters that the family sent while they were travelling and there are plenty of photos.”
Perhaps one of the more amazing stories about the Fleischmann family’s excursion is the tale of how they helped in the rescue of several castaways found on an island in the Pacific. “The castaways were stuck on the island for six months, and they’d run out of food,” says Genheimer. “The Fleischmanns found them and enlisted the aid of the U.S. Navy at Panama City. The Navy sent out ships and saved the castaways. We have newsreel footage of this, and footage the family shot.”
Many other stories are featured as well, such as missionary families, Peace Corp members and soldiers who brought back trinkets and artifacts. Among the items displayed in the exhibit are gorgeous headdresses from Brazil, crafted from parrot and macaw feathers, which have never been on exhibit before. Many of them are six feet long and are completely handcrafted. “We’ll also have examples of the birds these feathers came from on display, to give a context,” says Genheimer.
Exquisitely preserved Hopi kachina dolls from the Pueblo Indians are also displayed. The dolls were integral to native culture, playing many parts in rituals and ceremonies, with each doll representing an important figure in the tribe.
“We don’t exhibit many of the older kachinas we have in our archives, out of respect to the significance to the tribes. These are newer, but still rare to see,” says Genheimer.
Three different tapa cloth tapestries can also be seen. The fabric is handmade in the Pacific islands out of tree bark, then dyed and painted with different traditional dyes. “The tapas are all hand-drawn, and they show several different images with different points of perspective,” says Genheimer.
Featured on one tapas is the image of a crocodile biting the arm of a stick-figure man. This imagery is also reflected in several house posts brought back from the Pacific islands, where many men and women were carved out of solid wood and depicted engaging in a multitude of activities, from carrying baskets to being bitten by a crocodile.
“Crocodiles were an ever-persistent danger to people in the Pacific islands,” says Genheimer. “People spent a lot of time fishing, and in the water, so they were always a concern to safety. We try to make these connections between items to tell a story.”
The Treasures of Travel exhibit is the perfect exhibit for people with wanderlust of their own, or those who are simply curious about a wide variety of cultures. The exhibit is extensive, and doesn’t even scratch the surface of the treasures tucked away in the archives of Cincinnati Museum Center. Each item tells a distinct story of the culture it came from, and of the Cincinnatian who acquired it. This is certainly not one to miss.
The Cincinnati Museum Center is located at 1301 Western Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45203. You can reach them at 513.287.7000, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website at www.cincymuseum.org.