The Box

Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America

A new symbolic exhibition that links the UK and USA will be on display at The Box when it re-opens on 18 May.

‘Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America’ is centred on the creation of a newly crafted wampum belt. It will remain on display until 11 July, alongside rarely seen historic wampum belts on loan from the British Museum and Saffron Walden Museum.


Wampum is indigenous, sacred and symbolic. Made from the purple and white shells of the quahog and whelk, the beads carry the history, culture and name of the Wampanoag people of Massachusetts, whose ancestors met the passengers of the Mayflower in 1620 and ensured their survival.


The exhibition brings these key pieces of history together with contemporary images and films. It is the first-ever wampum exhibition to be staged in the UK and forms a key part of the Mayflower 400 commemorations involving the UK, USA, Netherlands and Wampanoag Nation.


The new wampum belt has been created by over 100 Wampanoag craftspeople of different ages and backgrounds. Featuring over 5,000 hand-crafted wampum beads, it’s an authentic replication of the wampum belts that were made during the 1600s and shows the people of all the Wampanoag villages and clans, hand-in-hand, engaging in a round dance.

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Additionally, the exhibition includes a 55-minute documentary that is significant to the Wampanoag. Exclusively shown at The Box, it shows how they have reclaimed their ancestral language after generations of suppression. Images of the Wampanoag and the story of their lives today will also be on display alongside three specially commissioned films exploring the history, creative process and cultural significance of wampum.

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‘Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America’ is presented by The Box, Plymouth in partnership with SmokeSygnals, Massachusetts, and supported by Arts Council England as part of Mayflower 400.  It forms part of The Box’s 2021 reopening programme and will be displayed in the gallery next to The Box’s major ‘Mayflower 400: Legend and Legacy’ exhibition, which tells a shared transatlantic history.


Visitors to The Box from 18 May will also be able to see the beautiful installation and fused glass window in St Luke’s church by Portuguese artist Leonor Antunes, as well as works by Brazilian artist Alexandre da Cunha and The Box’s amazing permanent galleries filled with objects from the city’s collections.

Tickets can be booked now via

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The Box,

Tavistock Place,





t:  01752 304774