Three objects all associated with the spiritual realm of the Quileute were used by the native medicine men. Photo courtesy of the National Musuem of the American Indian.
Items replicated from the Twilight films, include: an Olivella shell necklace, a paddle necklace, a drum and a dream catcher that Jacob gives to Bella. Photo courtesy of the National Museum of the American Indian.
I know many of you have seen either one of the three Twilight Saga films or are at least familiar with the seires. But, did you know that there is a Smithsonian connection, between the film and the history of an entire culture?
Quileute Werewolves as depicted in the Twilight movies aren’t all phony. There is some basis of truth. The National Museum of the American Indian investigates further the rich history and culture of the original Quileute people and their relation to the wolves.
In the exhibition, “Behind the Scenes: The Real Story of the Quileute Wolves”, the artwork includes wooden whaling harpooning tools, wolf headdresses, replicas of props as seen in the Twilight films and other objects of the like. The Quileute ancestors were renowned whalers, craftsmen, and huntsmen. Along with their vast hunting and gathering skills, the Quileute people place high value on their ritual life. The rituals are a means of communication to the spirits. Through singing, chanting and dancing, the Quileute people carry-on the rituals of their ancestors. The exhibition highlights the five societies: the Wolf, Fisherman’s, Hunter’s, Whale Hunter’s, and Weatherman’s societies. In each society, the Quileute call to the spirits of their specialty, usually led by the leader of the society. These Legacies and traditions have been passed on through generations of the Quileute and are still regularly practiced today.
Let’s clear up the popular misconception often given to the Quileute people (thanks to Twilight):
Fact vs. Fiction
Is the setting in the movie, la Push, a real setting known in the Quileute region? Yes. Off of the shores of the Pacific Ocean, lies La Push, Washington. La Push is home to the Quileute tribes, that have occupied the area for thousands of years.
Do the real Quileute people have any connection to the supernatural wolf, the werewolf? No, there is no connection to werewolves. But, Quileute beliefs do point to ideas of supernatural creatures. The wolf society was known to derive from wolves, and the Quileute among this society were known to have wolf instincts. From their ancestors they could inherit these instincts, including an indefinite loyalty to their people and an ability to detect intruders.
I walked away from this exhibit with more knowledge on the Quileute people than I could ever obtain from pop culture. If you’re curious for yourself, it’s not too late to check out this exhibition at the American Indian Museum.
The show is currently on view and continues to run till May 9, 2012. Here are links for more info on the show and insight to the Quileute culture:
Rightnow, there are a lot of photography-based exhibits in the gallerys around town as well as right here in the Smithsonian Museums. Here's a quick run-down of some of what you can see:
American History Museum:
Gift of the Artist: Photographers as Donors - November 18, 2011 - February 29, 2012 - The Archives Center features items from the museum's archival collection that document America's history and its diverse cultures and features works by 15 contemporary documentary photographers who have donated their own works to the Archive Center. Selected by curator David Haberstich, the images reveal the diversity of themes, subjects, styles, and techniques found in the Archives Center's photographic collection.
The Black List: Photographs by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders - October 28, 2011 - April 22, 2012 - This photographic exhibition features portraits of prominent African Americans of various professions, disciplines, and backgrounds hopeing to redefine the meaning of being “blacklisted” and includes 50 prominent African Americans providing insight on the struggles, triumphs, and joys of life in the United States. These portraits are both pictorial and verbal, representing some of the most dynamic and inspiring personalities in the fields of politics, music, business, civil activism, literature, the arts, and athletics.
Alexander Gardner - October 10, 2014 - March 1, 2015- Perhaps the most progressive photographer of the Civil War era; he was influential not only in advancing photographic portraiture beyond traditional compositional conventions, but also in realizing photography’s power as a documentary tool. His most famous work is the “cracked-plate” portrait of President Abraham Lincoln taken 150 years ago on February 5, 1865.
Jessie Cohen: An Eye for Animals - October 27, 2011 - December 31, 2012 - This exhibition features the photography of long-time Zoo photographer Jessie Cohen and inaugurates the Jessie Cohen Photography Gallery in the Zoo's Visitor Center.
Corcoran Gallery of Art:
Tim Hetherington: Sleeping Soldiers - photographs taken by the late photographer while embedded with the Second Platoon of Battle Company of the U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade while defending Restrepo, a post located in the Korengal Valley in eastern Afghanistan. A video piece accompanies this exhibit that blends footage of daytime conflict with still images of sleeping soldiers.
· The Evolving Universe - October 21, 2011 - July 7, 2013- Through full-color images from high-powered terrestrial and orbiting telescopes, take a mind-bending journey from present-day Earth to the far reaches of space and the distant past — back to the beginning of the universe.
· More Than Meets the Eye - July 23, 2011 - November 4, 2012 - This photography exhibition features over 80 images to demonstrate how museum scientists use their super-powered vision to observe, document, and analyze the natural world and global cultures.
· X-Ray Vision: Fish Inside Out - February 4, 2012 - August 5, 2012 - Striking x-radiographs of the museum's world-leading collection of fish specimens are used to explore how scientists understand evolutionary development by studying fish skeletons, fin spines, teeth, and other physical structures. Created using the latest digital x-ray technology.
· The Beautiful Time: Photography by Sammy Baloji- January 7, 2012- januray 6, 2013 - Congolese photograoher and videographer Sammy Baloji explores the "beautiful time" when the labor of hardworking Congolese built a flourishing copper mining industry in what is now the Katanga region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
If you can't make it to the exhibits in person, explore photography virtually using the Smithsonian Photography Initiative, which features online exhibitions, an events calendar, and an image search from the Smithsonian Institution's nineteen museums and galleries, nine research centers, and the National Zoo.
Also, don't forget about the photography courses offered by the Smithsonian Resident Associates' Studio Arts department. If you're looking for a springtime class, a new session starts up in April.