State Museum Acquires Unique Collection of Abenaki Native American Materials

brown baskets

The Museum recently acquired a unique collection of 20th century Abenaki Native American materials. The collection was donated by Rodney Johnson of Rochester, NY. Rodney wanted to find a permanent home for the collection that had been handed down through four generations of his family - he chose the State Museum as a place where he can share his family's legacy.

The collection - which includes baskets, basket-making tools, birch bark and other wooden items - represents the objects once made by Rodney's great-grandparents, Norman and Angeline Sarah (Totoson) Johnson, and his great-uncle George Johnson during the early to mid-1900s.

As early as the mid-19th century, it was common for Native American families to sell baskets and other hand-made items as souvenirs to tourists at well-known vacation destinations. The Johnson family was among a group of Native American artisans who settled in Lake George, NY where they operated a small store selling baskets, canoes, and other items.

The Johnson family collection, which also includes a cradleboard donated by Rodney's great-grandmother in 1909, is the largest and best-documented collection of Abenaki material culture ever acquired by the State Museum.