University of Rhode Island Libraries
Small, colorful, and made to be used – beads
are as old as the human race. All over the world, people have used and
continue to use beads for counting, for remembrance, for good luck, for
ornament, for meditation, for courting, for communication, for currency.
Beads survive when other artifacts and clues about our past disappear. Trade
beads still fuel discovery, exploration, expansion, and exploitation. Beads
can tell stories about our development, culture, beliefs, history, economy,
art, relationships, and feelings.
When you hold a bead in your hand, look at it
closely. Go beyond its color, shape, and size. Think about who made it and
why; where it came from and how; who might want it; and how they might use
it. Because the stories really aren’t about beads - they are about people.
Discover some of these stories here.
There is so much to this subject. Not
surprisingly, the URI Library has an extensive collection of books on beads,
covering a wide variety of topics — from
decorative to commercial, from anthropology to art. Journal articles - in
either electronic full text or print format — will
have more information. Finally, there are bead societies and bead museums
with excellent web sites. This bibliography is just the start.
GT2250 .D83 1987
Dubin, Lois Sherr. The History of beads: from 30,000 B.C. to the present.
New York: H.N. Adams, 1987.
- One of the most comprehensive books on the subject. Beautiful
photographs and a fold-out timeline.
GN433.5 .B43 1998
Sciama, Lidia D. and Eicher, Joanne B. Beads and beadmakers: gender,
material culture, and meaning. Oxford (England), New York: Berg, 1998.
- Fascinating accounts of the past and present work of women in
beadmaking, as well as the importance and uses of beads from all over the
NK3650 .D7 1998
Drewal, Henry J. and Mason, J. Beads, body, and soul: art and light in
the Yoruba Universe. Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural
- Beautifully illustrated volume traces the history of beads through
1,000 years of use by the Yoruba people.
E98 .I4 O56 1996
van Dongen, Alexander. One man's trash is another man's treasure.
Rotterdam: Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, 1998.
- Essays on trade between Europe and the New World. Beads were important
trade items, but did they really buy Manhattan?
E99 C815 O75 2001
Arnold, Jeanne E. (ed.) The origins of a Pacific Coast Chiefdom: the
Chumash of the Channel Islands. Salt Lake City: University of Utah
- Reports of research on the Chumash people, the earliest settlers of
TT860 .T393 1999.
Taylor, Enid. Decorative beaded purses. Lewes, East Sussex: Guild of
Master Craftsmen Publications, 1999.
- Directions and patterns for creating beaded amulet purses.
E99 .A86 S57 1995.
Simeone, William. Rifles, blankets, and beads:identity, history, and the
northern Athapaskan potlatch. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press,
- Examination of the culture and customs of the Northern Athapaskan
E99 .N3 M683 2003.
Moore, Ellen K. Navajo beadwork: architectures of light. Tucson:
University of Arizona Press, 2003.
- Examination of modern interpretations of traditional Navajo beadwork.
Search for journal articles in
- Academic Search Premier
- Art Abstracts
- ABI/INFORM Trade & Industry and ABI/INFORM
- Historical Abstracts
- ISI Web of Science - Arts and Humanities
- Project Muse
- Science Direct - Arts & Humanities
Suggested search terms: beads; beadwork;
beads-prayer; beads-religious; beads-history; beads-manufacturing;
beads-trade. Also check the individual database's subject guides or
thesaurus for additional search terms.
Websites from bead museums and bead societies
can also be good sources of information. No endorsement is intended or
implied for any commercial components of these websites.
Bead Site @ http://www.thebeadsite.com
Now a read-only reference site but still has a wealth of information.
Center for Bead Research materials are now located at:
Bead Museum , Glendale, AZ. @http://www.thebeadmuseum.com
Includes information about past and current exhibits, lecture notes.
Museum, Washington, D.C. @http://www.beadmuseumdc.org
Information from past and current exhibits.
Student, Graduate School of Library and Information Studies