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In MOA’s Drawers: Chinese Snuff Bottles

Designed to accommodate an impressive magnitude of objects, the drawers in MOA’s Multiversity Galleries are home to some of the smallest, earliest, and certainly most underrated, objects in the Museum’s collections. Housing more than 9,000 objects from around the world for public view, the Multiversity Galleries invite visitors to take a deep dive into collections that would typically be stored behind the scenes due to constraints on exhibition spaces.

Versatile in their ability to safely display a wide range of materials from across the globe, these state-of-the-art drawers are where curation and conservation come together. With a gentle tug on the long metal handles the drawers roll open, revealing cultural belongings from past and present to explore.

The Multiversity Galleries drawers make space for thousands of objects, so it can be easy to feel overwhelmed trying to see them all in one visit. If you’re not sure where to begin in exploring the myriad of works on display, seek out these exquisite snuff bottles.

Chinese snuff bottles, maker unrecorded

Designed to carry ground tobacco, these ornate vessels reveal the high status of this dry good in 18th-century China. Peaking in popularity with elites in the Qing Dynasty, these airtight bottles had stoppers to prevent the tobacco from spoiling in humid Asian climates. This offered an improvement over the European counterparts, which weren’t “up to snuff” with their flat-hinged tops. The cylindrical design made it easier to carry by hand and in pockets, so you could strut your snuff with ease.

Find me: Case 83, Drawer 1.

MOA Collection: N1.395a-b,N1.401a-b,N1.382a-c. Photos by Jessica Bushey and Rebecca Pasch.