Janie Luster, Houma basket weaver
Janie Verret Luster, a basket weaver from the United Houma Tribe of Louisiana, was visiting Boston recently when she realized there might be a Houma basket in the Peabody's collection. Seeing the basket was important to Luster because the last Houma baskets were woven in the 1940s. "We were the only tribe to make this basket in the United States," she said, and the art of making them was lost. With the help of curator Richard Conn of the Denver Art Museum, and after years of research, frustrating attempts, and some prayer, Luster began weaving palmetto Houma baskets in 1992, and passing the knowledge to others in the community. "We’re fortunate. A lot of time when you lose something it’s gone forever," she said. "We’re able to get this basket style going again." In 2011 Northwestern University's Louisiana Folklife Center inducted Luster into their Hall of Master Folk Artists for her basket weaving.
Luster wanted a closer look at the Peabody's basket, 55-4-10/34866, to examine its closed weave. When museum staff arranged for her to examine the basket, she said, "I cried like a baby holding the basket for the first time, it was like holding a newborn baby for the first time." Now Luster has offered to donate one of her own baskets to the museum, saying "we have a connection now, a 'forever' connection with y'all."