20 Oct 2023 10 Mar 2024


at the Musée McCord Stewart, Montreal, Canada

Shell beads from North America known as wampum are more than just a raw material transformed into beads. Polished, strung and woven, exchanged and gifted, coveted and imitated, they are a valuable witness to a chapter in the history of former colonised territory New France in the 17th and 18th centuries.

About the exhibition

Wampum, tubular shell beads from the Atlantic coast, are deeply embedded in Native American societies from Northeastern North America. Originally used as an ornament or symbol of prestige, shell beads came to have a range of other functions in the 17th and 18th centuries, within the context of relations between Indigenous nations and European colonies who settled in this vast territory, spanning from the south of current Quebec to the present-day state of South Carolina. Through the ways it was used, wampum represents a meaningful chapter of Native American, North-American and European history. It also provides a valuable point of entry to understand the societies that evolved at the time of New France (1600-1763), through exchanges, alliances and confrontations between Native Americans, French and English.

The exhibition sheds a light on all aspects of wampum: a coveted raw material, made into beads and other objects like diplomatic belts, bearer of oral histories, trade resource, sign of power and prestige, and votive object. Today, wampum still plays a fundamental role among Native American nations, notably the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), the Huron-Wendat and the Abenaki.


    • Jonathan Lainey, Curator, Indigenous Cultures, McCord Museum, Montreal (Québec)


    • Paz Núñez-Regueiro, Head of the Americas Heritage Unit at musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac, Paris
    • Nikolaus Stolle, Visiting scholar for the CRoyAN project, musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac, Paris
    • Michael Galban, Curator, Seneca Art & Culture Center, Ganondagan State Historic Site, Victor (New York State)


    Scientific Committee

    • Nicole O’Bomsawin, Former Director of the Abenaki Museum, Odanak (Québec)
    • Leandro Varison, Head of Research, Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac
  • Place:  Musée McCord Stewart, Montréal, Canada
  • TimeSlots:
    From Friday 20 October 2023 to Sunday 10 March 2024

    Timeslot public :   All publics
  • Public:   All publics
  • Categorie : Touring exhibitions