Collections: Third Mesa Beans (2014)

Written by Jayk Wood on behalf of the Third Mesa Beans team

The differences between talking about a collection and actually getting to see and touch it are remarkable.  When we first sat down to examine the collections from Third Mesa, there was a clear, unspoken sense of respect for the items in front of us.  Not only did they represent the toils and livelihood of people; they were collected nearly 80 years ago.  The sheer breadth of the collection was also astounding.  There were seeds of a multiplicity of beans, gourds, and melons-all matched in quantity at the Museum of Northern Arizona.  Our wonder was deepened further when we decided to smell some of the collections.  It’s an incredibly visceral experience, smelling an 80 year old melon that still smells sweet and fresh.

Dried Muskmelon from Third Mesa

Dried Muskmelon from Third Mesa

All of this made us start thinking about the process of collecting all of these seeds and rinds.  It must have been both labor intensive for the collectors, and conflicting for the families selling their seeds– their livelihood.  We are excited to take the next step in our project and analyze the field notes and interviews to gain a better understanding of the circumstances in which these seeds were collected.