Writing artefact biographies: interpreting changing procurement, production, and consumption strategies of copper use in the Pacific Northwest.
The objective of this project is to study the impacts and ramifications of cultural contact amongst and between the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest and European settlers and traders. This project explores these aims by focusing on the traditional narrative of copper artefacts, a class of First Nations material culture that holds deeply embedded meanings and histories. By focusing on the artefact biography of these objects and exploring changing individual procurement, production, and consumption strategies through the colonial period, shifts in perceptions of value, power, and object agency can be revealed.
The artefact biography framework goes beyond sequences of production and consumption, providing a way to explore the diverse and changing lives of objects through time. For example, production, exchange, ownership, and use may all have effected the way in which artefacts were used and understood. Furthermore, an object’s meaning and value can be built up, manipulated and transformed throughout its life as it changes hands, is physically altered, or comes to be used or displayed in new contexts. Thus these objects are defined by their contexts, and can be viewed as an analogy for the choices and actions taken by those who employed them (Appadurai 1986; Kopytoff 1986; Gosden and Marshall 1999; Jones 2002).
Ultimately this study will form the basis of a synthesis seeking to understand the changing role of this material culture within Northwest Coast communities subsequent to European contact, highlighting the intricate relationships developed between colliding cultures.