I am happy to note here that the Executive Board of the American Folklore Society has endorsed a proposal put forward by the Folklore and Museum Policy and Practice Working Group to establish a Folklore and Museums section within the society. The section came into existence as of the Executive Board’s November 2014 meeting in Santa Fe. I am very pleased to serve as the new section’s first convener and to invite everyone with an interest in the intersection of museum practice and folklore (/folklife/ethnology) to join the new section.
As noted in the call for members on the AFS website:
the Folklore and Museums Section exists to foster communication and cooperation among museum-oriented folklorists, to advance the contribution of folklore studies scholarship and practice in museum settings, and to articulate museum-oriented folklorists with other colleagues, institutions, and organizations in the museum sector. The section aims, whenever possible, to cooperate with other sections of the American Folklore Society and with peer-organizations in the field.
The public web home for the new section can be found online here: http://www.afsnet.org/?page=MuseumSection and the member’s group space is accessible to members who are logged into the AFS website.
While I am very eager for all interested colleagues to join AFS, I want to note that the AFS has a free “Section Only” membership category by which non-AFS members can sign-up with sections such as the new Folklore and Museums section. This might be of particular value to non-folklorists who wish to keep up with the section’s work. Information on the Sections Only “membership” is available on the Membership Categories page of the AFS website. There is no cost to join the Folklore and Museums section.
The Santa Fe meetings were a great gathering for museum-minded folklorists. I am optimistic that the new section can help make the 2015 meetings even richer for our corner of the field. Thanks to all who have contributed to the momentum behind the new section and to the growth of folklore and museums work.
CALL FOR PARTICIPATION
New members are invited to join the Digital Practices in History and Ethnography Interest Group (DPHE-IG) in the Research Data Alliance (RDA), an international initiative to facilitate the development of effective data practices, standards, and infrastructure in particular research areas, and across research areas–aiming to enhance capacity to archive, preserve, analyze, and share data, and for collaboration both within and across research communities.
RDA’s DPHE-IG works to advance data standards, practices and infrastructure for historical and ethnographic research, contributing to broader efforts in the digital humanities and social sciences. Bi-weekly calls move the work of the group forward. Many meetings are “project shares” during which someone leading a digital project describes their efforts and challenges. Some calls are with other RDA groups (such as the Provenance Interest Group), aiming to draw their expertise into our work in history and ethnography.
Our call-in meetings are on Tuesdays, 1:00 p.m. EST; see our schedule through May 2015, and let us know if you would like to share a project. Also see our annual report of activities, including a list of project shares thus far.
RDA holds two plenary meetings each year at which interests group can meet, and interact with other interest groups. The next plenary is in San Diego, California and will be held on March 9-11, 2015.
Please join the group (just below the calendar here) [its free] and pass on this information to others who may be interested. We would especially appreciate help reaching people outside Europe and North America.
Jason Baird Jackson (Indiana University), Mike Fortun (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), Kim Fortun (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), co-chairs
(Contact me if I can answer any questions that you might have about DPHE–Jason)
Call for Applications (Deadline Nov. 15)
Museums at the Crossroads: Local Knowledge, Global Encounters
A Summer Institute of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures and the School of Global and International Studies, Indiana University
Bloomington, Indiana, USA
May 14-21, 2015
The Indiana University Mathers Museum of World Cultures and School of Global and International Studies invite applications for up to eight Museum Partners who will take part in an innovative international workshop on the future of museums of culture and history.
Museums at the Crossroads, scheduled for May 14-21, 2015, in the beautiful college town of Bloomington, Indiana, combines keynote addresses, tours, charrettes, and social interactions. We seek applications from museum practitioners and theorists who wish to partner in conversation and creative practice with a group of invited keynote speakers and international museum fellows in a small, informal workshop setting. Successful applicants will receive eight nights of on-campus lodging and per diem support of $45 for eight days.
About Museums at the Crossroads
Museums at the Crossroads connects theory and practice, bridging institutional, regional, and national museum contexts in order to advance the global conversation around museums and generate a range of practical outcomes for its participants.
Workshop participants will include:
• 4 international fellows from innovative museums around the globe
• 8 museum partners drawn from museums and other institutions in the United States and abroad
• 12 Indiana University faculty, staff, and graduate students
• 4 keynote speakers, each addressing a broader social and cultural theme that we wish to explore in depth in museum contexts.
Our keynote speakers are:
• Steven Lubar, Brown University (keynote on Today’s Museum: Innovation, Change, and Challenge)
• Michael F. Brown, School for Advanced Research (keynote on Cultural Crossroads: World Cultures in Transition)
• Stephan Fuchs, University of Virginia (keynote on Disciplinary Crossroads: The Evolving Sociology of Knowledge)
• Haidy Geismar, University College London (keynote on Artifactual Crossroads: Real Meets Virtual)
Museum Partners will be responsible for their own travel arrangements to and from Bloomington, Indiana, and are expected to participate actively in the full workshop and in associated follow-on activities. Prior to attending, each shall develop an institutional profile that includes an account of challenges your museum faces relative to the three “crossroads” (Cultural, Disciplinary, Artifactual) being explored in the workshop. Partners without a museum affiliation will be asked to prepare a comparable position paper on the themes.
How to Apply
To apply for a position as Museum Partner, please send a resume or curriculum vitae, as well as a cover letter expressing your interest, as a PDF email attachment to:
Sarah Hatcher, c/o email@example.com.
Review of applications will begin November 15, 2014, with applicants receiving notifications by December 15, 2014.
For additional detail on the scope and nature of Museums at the Crossroads, see the workshop précis, which is accessible online at: http://www.mathers.indiana.edu/crossroads.html.
Additional information about Indiana University Bloomington can be found at: http://iub.edu/.
Information on the Mathers Museum of World Cultures is available at: http://mathers.indiana.edu/.
Questions about the workshop can be addressed to the organizers at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paul E. Buchanan Award from the Vernacular Architecture Forum (Recognizes Great Not-Books and Not-Articles)
Award Committee Chair Nora Pat Small recently noted for me the Paul E. Buchanan Award from the Vernacular Architecture Forum (VAF). What is so cool about this award is that it recognizes outstanding work in vernacular architecture studies that takes one of many forms that are NOT books or articles. Check out the award information page and the list of past winners. Then send your nomination materials to Professor Small at Eastern Illinois University.
The Collaborative for Cultural Heritage Management and Policy (aka CHAMP) is a very active initiative at the at the University of Illinois. Led by anthropologist Helaine Silverman, it involves a huge number of Illinois faculty and organizes a wide range of conferences, talks, and projects. CHAMP has announced a busy series of lectures for October. Check out its website for more information on CHAMP’s activities. Here are the upcoming lectures.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 16
DAVENPORT HALL, room 109A
Food, heritage and intellectual property in Europe
Lecture by Dr. Erica Farmer (James Smithson Postdoctoral Fellow, Smithsonian Institution)
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 17
DAVENPORT HALL, room 109A
Negotiating the “increase and diffusion of knowledge”: Policy, practice, and values around cultural heritage at the Smithsonian Institution
Lecture by Dr. Erica Farmer (James Smithson Postdoctoral Fellow, Smithsonian Institution)
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 21
GSLIS 126 (501 E. Daniel)
Why UNESCO Matters: The Destruction of Cultural Heritage around the World
A panel presentation:
Lynne Dearborn (Architecture): The destruction of vernacular architecture
Laila Moustafa (LIS): The loss of Islamic manuscripts
Helaine Silverman (Anthropology): Looting the archaeological record
Kari Zobler (Anthropology): The devastation of Syria’s cultural heritage
Co-sponsored with the UNESCO Center for Global Citizenship
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 22
Lucy Ellis Lounge, first floor in FLB
Vikings in America? Swedes in the American Ethno-Racial Hierarchies in the 19th Century
Lecture by Dr. Dag Blanck (English Department, Stockholm University)
MONDAY, OCTOBER 28
Lincoln Hall room 1064
The Colonial Occupation of Piura: The Historical Archaeology of the First Spanish Settlement in Peru
Lecture by Dr. Fernando Vela (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)
What follows is a discussion of a higher education topic. Such concerns are not everyone’s interest, of course. (*boredom warning*)
The practice of peer-review is in the spotlight again with the trading of essays by Rebecca Schuman and Charles Green. I have broader reactions to the three essays in the chain (1, 2, 3) but I will try to keep them to myself. Here I want to limit myself to one specific response and I share it in the hope that—for my friends and students at least—I can provide a counter-narrative to one present in the works that I have flagged.
In defending herself against Green’s criticisms of her earlier Slate essay “Revise and Resubmit” Schuman describes it as a “roast.” Ok. As a folklorist, I was trained to cultivate a particular affection for satirical and counter-hegemonic genres. They do important work. In sharing my own experience here, I do not wish to deny the experience of the “about 100” colleagues who shared their peer-review horror experiences with Schuman. I am no trying to criticize anyone. I sympathize with Schuman’s self-appointed task and with those who find her account of a failed peer-review system familiar.
But I also sympathize with Green. As a “roast” built of “hyperbole” and “dark humor” (self-characterizations in her second essay) Schuman’s account is a caricature (my characterization) and thus trades in “stereotypes” (Green’s characterization). With only my experience to go on (but I have a good bit), I would simply like to offer a counter image of peer-review.
I have experienced peer-review of the sort that Green and Schuman are talking about (and there are other forms too) as a scholarly author and as a editor of three scholarly journals: Museum Anthropology (2005-2009), Journal of Folklore Research (2012-2013), and Museum Anthropology Review (2007-present). As an editor, I have solicited peer-reviews of scholarly articles for a continuous decade. As an author, I have been receiving them for more than two decades. As a peer-reviewer, I have been writing them for 15 years.
Maybe I am lucky. I know that I am privileged in many ways, but I have never received (as an editor or an author) one example of the kind of destructive peer-review report around which Schuman’s initial account is built. Am I denying that they exist? Absolutely not. What I am doing is stressing—for emerging authors who might be confused by the exaggerated account that she presents—that her story is not the only story. At the very least, authors submitting work to one of the three journals that I have been involved in editing are very unlikely to receive anything other than a constructive (moderately constructive sometimes, very constructive sometimes) assessment of their work. (If I were to receive a hurtful or pointless peer-review report, my job is to filter or discard it. In actual practice, my role is to frame and constructively contextualize the real life reports that actually do come in.)
Why am I bothering to write this on a day in which I have other things I should be doing? The peer-reviewers who have helped me make my work better and to get it published appropriately have freely given of themselves on my behalf and I want to thank them and to make clear that I do not see them represented in Schuman’s roast. As an editor, I am constantly asking very busy people to give their time and expertise for the benefit of colleagues, often strangers. Many say no because they honestly can’t fit one more thing into professional lives that are sometimes (in my world, increasingly) impossible. Some say no because they are free-riders who take from a system to which they are unwilling to give. A great many say yes and they say yes not to be the monsters lurking in Schuman’s essay, but because the wish to give back to a field that they love and that has given them a great deal. As an editor, one of my jobs is to honor and thank them for their generosity. I do so again here.
I work in relatively humble fields—folklore studies, Native American and Indigenous studies, and cultural anthropology. These fields also have a deeper than typical understanding of gift economies and of community building practices* and I find that most scholars working within them to be unusually generous and, more often than not, community-minded. I cannot speak of the cultures of macroeconomics, cell biology or German literature studies. I count myself fortunate in many ways, including in my choice of scholarly communities. In my own little world, extra helpings of support and healthy peer-review attention is doled out on those struggling to get their careers underway under difficult circumstances.
This post may seem a product of the pollyanna principle. I think that I have earned a place among critics of contemporary scholarly communication practices.** I believe that we should be experimenting with peer-review reform (see, for example, the positive ideas that Shuman concludes her first essay with) and pursuing a diversity of alternatives. I support those colleagues who are studying—seriously studying—scholarly communications practices, including peer-review. I believe, as I have written and said too many times, that we have tremendous needs to, and opportunities to, reform the way that scholarship is conducted and communicated. On some level I am sympathetic with Schuman’s roast and I am definitely sympathetic to those for whom peer-review has been horrible without ever being uplifting.
But I also want my students to know, as Green is suggesting, that extremes aren’t norms. Or, if what Schuman is describing actually ARE norms somewhere, they are (almost certainly) not norms in my fields. To my students I offer tempered hope. To my peer-reviewing colleagues, I say thanks.
* People bring musical instruments to my national meeting because jam sessions are a longstanding norm there. Countless other humane practices are woven through them–breakfasts that pair new students with senior scholars, receptions for first time attendees, for international attendees, a memorial exhibition for remembrance of deceased friends/colleagues, etc. The scholarly life (which is not the same thing as higher education) is a mess, but it is not an absolute and complete l mess.
** See this and writings cited therein.
Cross-posted from AFS News.
Folklorists with an interest in museums are feeling quite excited about the upcoming American Folklore Society annual meeting in Santa Fe, New Mexico (November 5-8, 2014). The home to many world-class museums, Santa Fe is always a favorite with museum lovers, whether they are enthusiastic avocational visitors or veteran museum workers. This year, Santa Fe’s wonderful museums compete for our attention with an AFS meeting program that is unusually broad and deep in its engagement with museums as rich sites for collaboration, education, and community empowerment as well as for ethnographic, historical, and comparative research. If your plans are not yet finalized, please consider joining us in Santa Fe.
For those with museum interests, there are too many wonderful panels and presentations to enumerate all of them here. Many material culture panels—covering everything from food ways to architecture—appear throughout the program and will certainly attract the attention of museum-minded folklorists. The same can be said for public folklore programming and other themes of perennial concern. Here I highlight a selection of promising events of likely interest to those eager to learn more about the intersection of folklore studies and museum practices. This account though is just a selection drawn from the larger program and I know that much wonderful work of museum-interest is not flagged here. The Santa Fe program will provide a near infinite number of options for all of us.
Before the meetings even officially open, an abundance of museum-relevant offerings on Wednesday will get us in the mood for a jam-packed program. While the rich set of tour choices have understandably attracted many in the museums crowd, some museum folklorists have understandably been drawn to the “Experiments in Exhibition Workshop” that has been organized by Carrie Hertz and Suzanne Seriff at the Museum of International Folk Art. This innovative hands-on gathering has been sponsored by the Museum of International Folk Art, the AFS Folklore and Museum Policy and Practice Working Group, the Folklore and Education Section, and Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education.
The Experiments in Exhibition Workshop is only one of a number of special events connected to our hosts at the Museum of International Folk Art. Kicking off the meeting’s panel sessions on Thursday morning, is a double session on “Pottery of the US South” that will offer a diversity of viewpoints on a topic that is the focus of the museum’s special exhibition of the same name. Those attending the exhibition’s opening later on Thursday may wish to attend one or both of these companion panels [01-01, 02-01].
Also in the first time slot on Thursday is Dress, Culture, and Identity: Museum Collections and Outreach, which has been sponsored by the Folklore and Education Section [01-04]. For those with museum interests, difficult choices or shuttling between rooms will be a welcome challenge throughout the meetings.
Running alongside the second pottery panel in the second slot on Thursday is the first of a series of museum-focused panels organized by the Folklore and Museum Policy and Practice Working Group. Leading off the working group’s series is a forum in which group members will update the membership on its work and solicit questions, concerns, and contributions from the field in anticipation of a final working group white paper and a range of spin off publications—all of which will aim to strengthen understanding of, and opportunities in, museum-based folklore studies [02-04]. The series of panels organized by the working group all aim to facilitate the sharing of innovative case studies and hard won experience throughout, and beyond, the field. Please join the conversation.
After lunch on Thursday, a second working group event will be held—a diamond session on “Current Digital Projects in Ethnographic Museum Contexts” [03-04]. This panel runs concurrently with “Folk Art, Folk Craft I”, which also includes presentations of special relevance to those with museum interests [03-17].
A highpoint of the conference will happen on Thursday evening, from 5:00 to 7:30 p.m. This is when the “Open House on Museum Hill” will be held. All of the Museum of International Folk Art and Museum of Indian Arts and Culture galleries and gift shops will be open and attendees will have the unique opportunity of seeing a performance by the Cibecue Creek Apache Crown Dancers. Check your program for details on other musical and exhibition offerings, as well as shuttle information. There are many great choices lined up and we will also be able to indulge in diverse fare with food trucks providing local and international foods for purchase.
Among the many museum scholars attending AFS for the first time is Aaron Glass of the Bard Graduate Center. On Thursday evening, following the events on Museum Hill, Glass will be screening “In the Land of the Head Hunters: A Newly Restored Version of Edward S. Curtis’s 1914 Silent Film Made with the Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwakiutl) of British Columbia.” This special event should have wide appeal to all who have heard of Curtis’ famous work or who have interests in archives, Native American culture, community collaboration, or visual methods and productions.
Museum-focused panels begin again on Friday with “Movement Creates Museum: Activist Beginnings of Historic Sites of Conscience” [04-01], which runs concurrently with “Archives, Museums, Collections I” [04-08]. These two panels are followed by another museums working group event: “At the Crossroads of Museums and the Marketplace” [05-03].
After lunch on Friday, hard choices continue with “Archives, Museums, and Collections II” [06-03] running concurrently with another panel with much museum content—the diamond session “People and Things: Material Culture Research at the Crossroads” [06-05].
A further museums working group event kicks off Saturday morning: “At the Crossroads of Museums and Communities” [07-01]. This event is followed by “At the Crossroads of Folklore and Museum Education” [08-05], which has been sponsored by the Folklore and Education Section.
In the conference’s final time slot for presentations, museum-relevant papers appear in “The Crossroads Are Owned: Folklore Institutions and the Negotiation of Public and Personal Tradition” [09-07], which runs concurrently with the final event of the museums working group series. It is: “Museums and Intangible Heritage: Connecting the Tangible with the Intangible” [09-16] as well as a panel discussion grounded in the work of the Museum of International Folk Art’s Gallery of Conscience initiative: “Community Crossroads: Integrating Folk Art, Media, and Youth to Impact HIV/AIDS Advocacy” [09-03].
Among the special features of the Santa Fe meetings will be the presence of many first-time attendees who are museum colleagues from China and the United States. Their attendance follows from the work of the joint China Folklore Society-American Folklore Society project focused on folklore and intangible cultural heritage (ICH). The current, second phase of this Luce Foundation-funded effort is focused on museums and ICH policies in both countries. For those interested in learning more about the current “Intangible Cultural Heritage and Ethnographic Museum Practice” project as well as the broader “China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project” can find details on the AFS website.
As suggested above, this year’s museums-rich program has also attracted first-time attendees and guests from neighboring fields sharing our museum interests, including cultural anthropology and Native American studies. I would like to encourage all AFS regulars to welcome and connect with these many new AFS meeting participants. As always, AFS will also attract many students. This year will provide them with an unusually rich opportunity to learn about museum-based folklore practice and to engage with colleagues, projects, institutions, and ideas in the wider museum field.
Thanks to all who have worked hard to assemble such a rich set of events and scholarly presentations for the Santa Fe meetings.
I mentioned in my previous post purchasing a number of basketry books in route to catching up on neglected topic of longstanding interest. Among those in my recent haul is Contemporary International Basketmaking by Mary Butcher, with contributions by Laurel Reuter and many artists contributing to the 1999-2000 UK exhibition for which this book was the catalog (London: Mary Holberton Publishers with the Crafts Council, 1999). I have not read it cover-to-cover yet, but I can note here that it is a fine publication–well produced and image/object rich. Along with a long essay on the past and present of international basketmaking and a collection of overviews of basketry techniques, the Artists’ Voices section is particularly compelling. It is useful as a research document because it presents individual artists’ answers to a range of fixed and compelling questions. While asked here of basketmakers active on the contemporary craft/studio craft/critical craft ends of the basketmaking spectrum, these questions (or a parallel set) could similarly be asked of basketmakers working less individualistically within particular vernacular/local/historical basketry “traditions.”
In the latest issue of Museum Anthropology Review, I published a review of Basketry: Making Human Nature. Readers of that review will notice that I gave special attention and praise to the long essay therein on East Anglia basketry written by Mary Butcher. It was wonderful and now I find that she is also the scholar-maker-curator behind the older catalogue being discussed here. It has been a pleasure to learn from, and engage her fine work as a basket scholar.
For me, new light was just cast on a basket in the William C. Sturtevant Collection in the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. In the mail, I just received a slew of basketry books. This is a topic on which I need to get caught up for a number of interconnected purposes, including for the analysis and publication of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures basketry collections (especially the Eastern Cherokee baskets, which will be the focus of an exhibition that I will co-curate).
Among the used books that I just received is Baskets and Basket Makers in Southern Appalachia by John Rice Irwin (Exton, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 1982). In a chapter devoted to “The Indian Influence on Southern Appalachian Mountain Baskets” the author describes a relatively unfamiliar (to me, at this stage, at least) basket form on the basis of an example believed (to the author, at least) to be Cherokee and collected in Buncombe County, NC (p. 157). The basket discussed by Irwin is similarly shaped and similarly sized to a basket that I studied a few summers ago in the Sturtevant collection at NMNH. The splint basket that Sturtevant collected among the Eastern Cherokee is pictured here:
It shares the same, flat on one side, curved on the other, shape as the basket pictured by Irwin. In a photo on p. 157, Irwin photographed a older boy holding the basket under his right arm, thereby illustrating how the shape of both baskets facilitates the collecting of berries, nuts, etc. with both hands. Prior to getting direct information from a Cherokee consultant who has made or used such a basket, this (that is, Irwin’s) is a much better account of this shape and its use that I had been speculating about.