On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America
On This Ground: Being and Belonging in America explores how art can help us understand what it means to belong to family, community, and this place we now call America. Bringing two extraordinary collections of Native American and American art together for the first time in our institution's history, this long-term installation celebrates artistic achievements across time, space, and worldviews.
Located in the Nancy and George Putnam Gallery and Barbara Weld Putnam Gallery, the 250 artworks on display span in time from 10,000 years ago to the present, and demonstrate a range of voices, modes of expression, cultures, and media including: sculpture, paintings, textiles and costumes, furniture, decorative arts, works on paper, installations, video, and a re-envisioned period room.
The gallery also includes original documents and objects from the Salem witch trials, one of the most iconic dramas in American history. Between May 1692 and March 1693, the court sentenced 25 innocent people in the Salem region to death. The Peabody Essex Museum holds the world’s largest collection of Salem witch trials materials, including some 500 original documents which are on deposit from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
The new installation will be responsive to these urgent times by giving our public an opportunity to grapple with the links, continuities, and disjunctions of our complex histories in America in order to shape a more connected and empathetic present and future. By rethinking America’s histories, visitors are asked to consider how we might envision a better future together.
ABOVE IMAGE: Alan Michelson (Mohawk), Hanödaga:yas (Town Destroyer), 2018. HD video, bonded stone Houdon replica bust, antique surveyor’s tripod and artificial turf. Sound performed by members of Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. Dimensions variable. Museum purchase, by exchange. 2019.38.1. © Alan Michelson. Courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum.
Points of view
Lead sponsorship provided by
Additional generous support provided by
We gratefully acknowledge the Ellen and Stephen Hoffman Endowment for the Native American Art Department and the Mellon Foundation for their support of the Native American Fellowship Program.
Thank you to the following individuals that have generously contributed to the reinstallation: Howard and Wendy Hodgson, Mr. and Mrs. Ulf B. Heide, Christopher Hyland and Constantino Castellano, Jonathan B. Loring, Katrina Carye and Burt Adelman and Lydia Rogers.
About The Henry Luce Foundation
The Henry Luce Foundation seeks to enrich public discourse by promoting innovative scholarship, cultivating new leaders, and fostering international understanding. Established in 1936 by Henry R. Luce, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time, Inc., the Luce Foundation advances its mission through grantmaking and leadership programs in the fields of Asia, higher education, religion and theology, art, and public policy.
A leader in art funding since 1982, the Luce Foundation's American Art Program supports innovative museum projects nationwide that advance the role of visual arts of the United States in an open and equitable society, and the potential of museums to serve as forums for art-centered conversations that celebrate creativity, explore difference, and seek common ground. The Foundation aims to empower museums and arts organizations to reconsider accepted histories, foreground the voices and experiences of underrepresented artists and cultures, and welcome diverse collaborators and communities into dialogue.
About The Terra Foundation for American Art
The Terra Foundation for American Art supports individuals, organizations, and communities to advance expansive understandings of American art. Established in 1978 and headquartered in Chicago, with an office in Paris, the Terra Foundation is committed to fostering cross-cultural dialogues on American art locally, nationally, and internationally, through its grant program, collection, and initiatives.
About The Mellon Foundation
The Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive.