The creation and use of beads goes back thousands of years. Beads have been made out of many things. For example: stone, teeth, shells, pearls, copper, glass, and bone. Many used the local resources to find and make their beads, but trade networks provided a larger array of materials for people to use. The Science Museum of Minnesota has a large collection of artifacts that contain beadwork. The information and images below are selected items from our accessioned collections.


Catalogue #A2002:4:20 Martingale - Cultural Association: Crow. Two vertical red wool rectangular pieces connected together with a horizontal red wool rectangular piece, forming an “H” shape. Vertical pieces are forked at bottom, have hide backing, are trimmed with green wool and white picot beading, and are decorated with beadwork depicting white, green, red, blue, yellow, and orange geometric designs. Horizontal piece has hide backing, is trimmed with white picot beading, and is decorated with beadwork depicting white, blue, light blue, yellow, red, green and orange geometric designs. Hide thong ties are attached to three ends of the vertical pieces.


Catalogue #49-267 Hoop – Cultural Association: Blackfoot. Wooden hoop with two reattached pieces. Wood wrapped in brown cloth decorated with multicolor beading. Alternating beaded pink and yellow bands are located at equal intervals around the hoop. Attached at each band is a hide thong wrapped in white quills. The pink band thongs split into two pieces that are individually wrapped in red cloth with blue beadwork and a blue feather. The yellow band thongs split into three pieces that are individually wrapped in red cloth with pink beadwork and a yellow feather. Hide thong tied around hoop end. Hoop pieces held together with wire and tape.


Catalogue #49-312 Strap – Cultural Association: Assiniboine. Two strips of hide with beadwork on one side. Beadwork depicts white, red, blue, yellow, and pink diagonal stripes. The strips are connected at one end with a hide thong tie. At the opposite ends, one band has a metal buckle and the other has four holes cut into it.


Catalogue #61-16 Ornament – Cultural Association: Plains. Hide strap with quillwork and beadwork. Strap decorated with blue, white, red, and green geometric beadwork. Strap of hide with ends sewn together and strips of hide dangling from one edge. Hide strips wrapped in red, white, yellow, and purple quills and attached to each other at bottom with strings of blue beads. Bottom of strips decorated with metal cones with red feathers.


Catalogue #A79:4:62 Belt – Cultural Association: Dakota. Sash of loom-woven glass beadwork with orange background and geometric star design with small pattern in blue and light blue and larger pattern in blue, pink, light blue, red, and yellow. Long green and yellow wool yarn fringe at each end. Dates: 1860-1900


Catalogue #A79:4:189 Statue – Cultural Association: Ojibwe. Beaded cross, wood frame wrapped in glass beading. Cross has yellow background with red diamond pattern and red stripe near each tip. Rectangular base is pink around sides with yellow background and pink and red flowers at top. Dates: 1860–1900


Catalogue #61-1519A Basket – Cultural Association: Ojibwe. Birchbark circular with flat base, with multi-colored beaded exterior and blue rim. Loom-beaded handle with white, red, blue, and yellow diagonal stripes.


Catalogue #1-814 Cradleboard – Cultural Association: Gros Ventre. Hide with cloth interior lining, cloth skirt, and multicolor beadwork. Hide is beaded with green, white, red, and brass geometric designs on a blue background and is trimmed with red cloth. Cloth lining has white dot and circle patterns on a blue background. Cloth skirt has a blue, yellow, and white pattern. Added flap with green, white, red, blue, and brass geometric beadwork, red cloth trim, red cloth lining, and hide fringe is attached to back. Some pieces of hide fringe are decorated with blue, white, and clear beads and brass bells. Cover is open along two perpendicular edges, bottom edge has three hide thong tie closures.

Institute of Museum and Library Services

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services MA-30-13-0443

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