North Carolina Baskets Aren’t Just for Easter

Baskets are a craft form with deep roots in North Carolina.  Because of their light sensitivity and fragility, these artifacts often require special care. The North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources preserves a wide-ranging basket collection, representing various materials, functions, and cultural groups.

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The Cherokee tribe in the western part of the state made baskets primarily of rivercane but also of white oak and honeysuckle. With a variety of patterns and dyes, these crafts comprise North Carolina’s most intricate and persistent artistic basketry tradition.

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Some baskets contained agricultural goods or other food products. Farmers often used split oak baskets for gathering cotton or displaying tobacco leaves. The cotton basket came from a Rowan County platation and dates to the mid-19th century. The tobacco basket was used in Dunn during the first half of the 20th century.

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Leon Berry, an African-American who lived in Mecklenburg, made this basket fish trap in the 1970s. 

Other baskets served more domestic purposes. One basket in the collection was used for holding a baby; another carried dead bodies. Waste baskets and laundry baskets had more mundane functions. A pine needle sewing basket, made by Loretta Oxendine–a member of the Lumbee tribe, reflects the use of local materials and lowland traditions of the Southern Coastal Plain.

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Sudduth's Carolina Snowflake

During the twentieth century, baskets took on new industrial functions and artistic forms. From 1927 to 1995 Murfreesboro, NC was home to Riverside Manufacturing Co., “The World’s Largest Basket Factory.” Farms, canning companies, and A&P Grocery stores were primary clients. (For more information on this past industry, see pages 3-4 of a recent online issue of the Murfreesboro Historical Association’s newsletter.) A 2008 recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award, Billie Ruth Sudduth, uses basketry techniques to create fine art, including Christmas ornaments that have adorned the White House Christmas tree.

What types of baskets are in your institution’s collection? Have you taken special measures to preserve them or make them accessible?

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About collectionsconversations

This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on April 3, 2012, in collections access, collections care, museums and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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