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Ruth Holmes Whitehead.

Halifax, Nova Scotia Museum, c1982.
230pp, cloth, $18.50.
ISBN 0-919680-224.

Grades 10 and up.
Reviewed by Eve Williams.

Volume 10 Number 4.
1982 November.

Tucked away in every museum in Atlantic Canada you will find examples of faded and slightly shabby quillwork. Here, in one definitive volume, is the history and technique of the craft. Ruth Holmes has impeccable credentials. She is curatorial assistant in history at the Nova Scotia Museum, where she produced the travelling exhibition on Micmac culture, "Elitekey," and was consultant-in-chief for "Mi 'kmaq," a CBC special on Micmac life in 1400 A.D.

Micmac Quillwork parallels the rise and fall and renaissance of the Micmacs. Before the Europeans came, skin clothes were proudly decorated with both quillwork and birchwork. The Europeans brought not only alcoholism and tuberculosis but cloth garments. Quillwork was eagerly traded for cloth, alcohol, and iron goods and lost its functional and traditional role in Micmac society.

Europe remained a good market through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and trade was brisk. The commercial dyes of the 1860s replaced the natural dyes of spruce, maple, and hazel, and many other plants. The Victorian era with its love of knick-knacks passed, and quillwork declined. Since the seventies, the Nova Scotia Micmac Arts and Crafts Development is again encouraging the craft.

Whitehead's book is generously illustrated. She seldom discusses a point in the text without illustrating it with several clear photographs. Glossy white paper, easy-to-read type, and concise text add to the appeal. Even the end papers are in a quillweave chevron pattern reflecting the theme of the book, which is aimed at the interested lay person. It will, however, probably be ignored by most students because of its esoteric subject matter. But if your community or school has a keen interest in the study of Canadian Indians, this will be a good supplementary resource. It has an appendix and bibliography but no index.

Eve Williams, MacNaughton H. S., Moncton, NB.
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