Did you know that the grey squirrel boasts the distinction of being North Carolina’s official state mammal? Yes, those pesky critters, which thwart the efforts of even the best gardeners with their perpetual digging, have been honored by the state legislature for their attributes of courage and thrift. Squirrels’ scatter-hoarding activities help replenish wooded areas and their plentiful population has long provided sustenance for North Carolina’s people. Traditional Brunswick stew recipes, for instance, called for squirrel meat. Squirrels also hold places in many of North Carolina’s cultural heritage collections—as taxidermed specimens, as decorative motifs, and as local curiosities. Duke University Archives collection contains this image of a grey squirrel, which staff in the 1930s enjoyed watching from their office windows and named “Pee Wee.”
Squirrel shapes decorated early Moravian and other pottery styles. This Moravian bottle from the Old Salem Museum and Gardens collection is one example, likely dating to the 1830s, in the “Art in Clay” traveling exhibit. According to pottery inventories, squirrel bottles were the most popular figural bottle shape produced at Salem during the early 19th century.
The Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual in Cherokee preserves this Catawba-style pottery effigy bowl with a squirrel-shaped handle. Cherokee potter Rebecca Youngbird created this blackware oil lamp sometime during her productive years (1934-1979).
During the final weekend in May (this weekend) the town of Brevard hosts a festival dedicated to a special type of local squirrel. White squirrels, not native to North Carolina, have been thriving in the state’s mountains since 1951, when a pet pair that a Brevard family received from a Florida friend escaped into the woods. Today white squirrels make up more than a quarter of the Brevard-area squirrel population. The Highlands Nature Center collection contains a taxidermed white squirrel specimen, mounted on a chestnut tree that died in the 1935 blight.
Does your institution’s collection represent these state or local symbols?
Posted on May 25, 2012, in collections access, museums, public programs and tagged Art in Clay, Brevard White Squirrel Festival, Brunswick stew, Duke University Archives, Highlands Nature Center, Moravian Pottery, NC state mammal, Old Salem Museum and Gardens, Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Rebecca Youngbird. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.