Bead Society of Great Britain

We are delighted that the ‘Bead Society of Great Britain’ has published an article about one of our museum objects in the latest edition of its Journal!

The object is a wonderful Native American beaded shirt that we hold in our Ethnographic collections. A specialist researcher came to view the garment in August 2018 and he has now written a fascinating piece about the shirt, which has added detail to our knowledge about the garment and its origins.

shirt 1

The shirt is made from antelope hide. It dates from about 1885 and is probably associated with one of the Plains people groups who settled in one of two reservations in northern Montana, United States, in the late nineteenth century. The shoulders and arms of the shirt have been stitched with panels of brightly coloured beads. These beaded designs include ‘feather and bar’ motifs, stylised hands and four-branch crosses – all of which were common Plains people motifs. The hand motifs are thought to represent the wearer’s coups (military honours) in battle. In traditional Plains culture, a man would earn respect by touching the enemy with his bare hands rather than with a weapon such as a lance.

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