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Looking for 10,000 Kwentos: Field Museum Seeks Help Uncovering Filipino History

By Marielle Shaw in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 16, 2014 6:15PM

Photo credit: Ross Images

If the Field Museum were just judged on its massive collections, then that alone would make its world-class status. If the Field Museum were viewed solely for historical value, its place in Chicago and US history would be unmistakable.

But things don’t just sit and collect dust in the Field. Whether it’s saving endangered sharks from the soup bowl or recreating the wonders of the World’s Fair, the Field is at the forefront. And they’re doing it again with a special project aimed at uncovering and celebrating Filipino culture.

If you've ever entertained Indiana Jones-esque dreams, 10,0000 Kwentos will be a particularly exciting project to you. Chicago is home to 10,000 artifacts from the Philippines, and they’re looking for help telling the stories, or kwentos, behind each item.

The collection comes from a 1907-1910 expedition to the Philippines to gather artifacts. The expedition was funded by a Chicago industrialist named Robert Fowler Cumming, and headed up by anthropologists and scientists Fay-Cooper Cole; Cummings’ wife, Mabel; Stephen Chapman Simms; and William Jones. The collection has been in storage, and many of the items have undetermined provenance and unclear uses. Some of the artifacts in the collection, though, were also donated by soldiers from the Philippine-American War.

The project came about in 2010 when Dr. John Terrell, the Regenstein Curator of Pacific Anthropology at the Field Museum, started talking to Chicago’s Filipino community about co-curating, directly involving the community in the discovery and definition process.

Visitors to the site are asked to view the photos of the artifacts and comment on them with details about what an object is and what its use was. The hope for the project is to use the artifacts from the collection for the benefit of everyone.

The Field Museum and Chicago’s Filipino community are reaching out to any and all who might have insight into these pieces. If that’s you, grab your hat, dust off your keyboard and get to work uncovering the past. If it’s not, check out 10,000 Kwentos project anyway and watch anthropology in action.