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A Museum-Minded Guide to the 2014 American Folklore Society Meetings

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.

Contemporary International Basketmaking by Mary Butcher

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.

Mary Butcher’s website is here: http://www.marybutcher.net/
Her blog is here: http://marybutcher.wordpress.com/

Notes on an Eastern Cherokee Gathering Basket

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:

Eastern Cherokee Basket

Eastern Cherokee Basket, NMNH, Temporary Number WCS 322

Eastern Cherokee Gathering Basket

Eastern Cherokee Basket, NMNH, Temporary Number WCS 322

IMG_4760

Eastern Cherokee Basket, NMNH, Temporary Number WCS 322

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.

 

Pottery of the U.S. South: A Living Tradition

I am sharing here a press release from the Museum of International Folk Art. This exhibition has been organized by our friend Karen Duffy. It will be open at the time of the 2014 American Folklore Society meetings to be held in Santa Fe. MoIFA is a key partner of the MMWC on a range of joint projects. I am really looking forward to the show.

Pottery traditions from the South come alive in museum exhibiton

(Santa Fe, NM – June 16, 2014)-Pottery was crucial to agrarian life in the U.S. South, with useful forms such as pitchers, storage jars, jugs, and churns being most in demand for the day-to-day activities of a household and farm. Today, a century after that lifeway began to change, potters in the South continue to make vital wares that are distinctively Southern. The Museum of International Folk Art will celebrate this “living tradition” of American regional culture with the exhibition Pottery of the U.S. South: A Living Tradition, which opens on Friday, October 24, with a free public reception from 5:30 to 7:30 pm hosted by the Women’s Board of the Museum of New Mexico. The two-man folk orchestra Round Mountain will perform Southern-inspired music, including original compositions, at the opening reception.

The exhibition presents traditional stoneware from North Carolina and north Georgia, current works characterized by earthy local clays, salt and ash glazes, and surprising effects of wood firing.

“These are plain-spoken pots with a quiet beauty,” states guest curator Karen Duffy, a folklorist. “They have subtle ornamentation and an emphasis on form. The focus of the exhibition will be the potters themselves, above all their creativity and commitment to tradition.”

The South’s ceramic tradition has roots in England and Germany, and has long been enriched by ideas drawn from Asia and Africa. Accordingly, Southern pottery is shown to be a vibrant art through which potters engage with their region and the world. Mark Hewitt, a British-born potter who established his pottery enterprise in North Carolina in 1983, was attracted to the area by the Southern pottery tradition. In a 2012 interview with Ceramic Review, he stated: “I consider the existence of the older traditions liberating, not confining. If treated with imagination, they belong in our world now, living alongside the avant garde. The past and present complement each other; one does not cancel the other out, both can be made new.”

The exhibition presents several of the pottery families that regularly renew this tradition in clay, transmitting knowledge to novice potters along lines of kinship. The Owen/Owens family, associated with the renowned Jugtown Pottery in Seagrove, NC, is one such family that is presented. Also featured are pottery-making operations, such as Hewitt’s, in which learning occurs through apprenticeship to skilled masters.

While the exhibition focuses on living artists, including a younger generation of potters inspired by Southern tradition, it also includes some nineteenth-century practitioners whose work attests to the time-depth of the regional style. More than forty artists are represented in the exhibition, including Vernon Owens, Ben Owen III, and Sid Luck in the Seagrove area; Burlon Craig and Kim Ellington in North Carolina’s Catawba Valley; and members of the Meaders, Hewell, and Ferguson families in north Georgia.

Public Contact Number: 505-476-1200 or visit the museum website http:///www.internationalfolkart.org

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The Museum of International Folk Art is a division of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs.

Museum exhibitions and programs supported by donors to the Museum of New Mexico Foundation and its Director’s Leadership Fund, Exhibitions Development Fund, and Fund for Museum Education.

Reflections and Reports on Open Access Published in the New Issue of Cultural Anthropology (@culanth)

The new, May 2014 issue of Cultural Anthropology is out now. It is the second issue of the journal to be made freely available online, which means anyone with internet access can read it. (Hurray.) In support of the journal’s commitment to understanding and pursuing open access approaches to scholarly communication, the new issue has a dedicated section of peer-reviewed contributions focused on open access in the journal publishing realm.

I am happy be one of the contributors to this section. Ryan Anderson and I revised and updated an earlier interview on open access that we did together. We calibrated the new version to contemporary circumstances, included specific discussions of the Cultural Anthropology case, and sketched a critical anthropology of contemporary scholarly communications practices. It was exciting not only to revise the interview but to improve it on the basis of appreciated peer-review. We think of the piece as an experiment in genre too, as the interview was a textual co-construction in which we revised and altered each others’ words with the goal of creating the most useful resource that we could. It began as a true interview, but did not end there. (In this, its inspiration was an earlier Cultural Anthropology piece on open access “Cultural Anthropology of/in Circulation.”) The interview’s primary function among the other pieces is as an introduction to open access practices. We hope that it is useful in this role. We appreciate everyone who has already expressed kind appreciation for the piece.

There are many great pieces in the open access section (see list below). I am only now reading the other articles in the issue. Charles’ Briggs’s “Dear Dr. Freud” is compelling.

A key thing about the way that the Society for Cultural Anthropology is doing its journal and website is that the site is a rich hub for content both in support of the journal and extending well beyond it. Articles are often richly supplemented with interviews, images, and media and there are also opinion pieces, shorter works, photo galleries and much additional content. While Chris Kelty is present in the open access section of the journal, I want to call attention to his even newer opinion piece, which was published today. In it, he makes a strong case for the adoption of Creative Commons licenses for Cultural Anthropology going forward. I share his views.

There is lots to read in the new issue. Here are the open access pieces.

I really like the Glossary. It allowed me to get a definition of FUD into the pages of Cultural Anthropology! (Learning the term was the only good thing about the PRISM fiasco, an episode that seems so long ago now.)

The issue is receiving a good bit of discussion on Twitter but, as so often happens, there will probably be only a tiny amount of commenting on the journal site–even though there is great infrastructure in place to allow for it. I invite everyone to prove me wrong. Be brave and leave a comment on any of the papers.

Thank you to @culanth editors Anne Allison and Charles Piot for their hard work and for including the piece that Ryan and I did. Thanks as well to @culanth Managing Editor Tim Elfenbein for his hard work on the issue.

Hostile Workplaces

Bad workplaces in broader social context is a theme in my social reading today.

I very much recommend reading Paige West’s essay “That person at your office.” (via @subliminaries c/o @professorisin)

I also recommend a piece that I read a while back that is back in the news because the labor leader at the center of the story was apparently fired today. The story is by Sarah Kendzior and it is called “The Minimum Wage Worker Strikes Back.” (via @sarahkendzior)

Cool News Briefs

Many graduate and undergraduate students received keen awards at today’s Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology Picnic. Congratulations everyone!

A couple of Fridays ago, all of the practicum students at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures made PechaKucha style (Ignite style, AFS Diamond style, etc.) presentations on the work that they have been doing throughout the museum. It was simply amazing! So inspiring. So well done. So impactful. This was our first semester hosting such an evening. The event will return in the fall. Learn more about MMWC practicum here: http://www.indiana.edu/~mathers/museumprac.html

Back in April, Art at IU featured the latest news from the MMWC Ostrom Project. The focus is on the exhibit Ojibwe Public Art, Ostrom Private Lives. Check it out http://viewpoints.iu.edu/art-at-iu/2014/04/14/ojibwe-art-collected-by-ostroms-on-display-now-at-mathers-museum/

One of that exhibition’s Co-Curators, School of Education Ph.D. student Sarah Clark has just launched a scholarly blog along with Dr. Adrea Lawrence of the University of Montana. The site is Education’s Histories. Its great. Check it out: http://www.educationshistories.org

I have not been able to keep up with all the good news from student rites of passage. Here is a catchup.

Teri Klassen is now Dr. Teri Klassen, after her successful Ph.D. dissertation defense. Her dissertation is titled: Quiltmaking and Social Order in the Tennessee Delta in the Middle 20th Century

Melissa Strickland and Meredith McGriff have earned their M.A. degrees in folklore.

Kelley Totten and Darlynn Dietrich have completed their Ph.D. qualifying exams and are now officially at work on their dissertations.

Sarah Gordon has her dissertation defense schedule for next week! Jon Kay has his scheduled for the first day of the fall semester!

Dr. Gabrielle Berlinger will return to Bloomington to join Dr. Klassen in this week’s graduate commencement ceremonies.

This is just a small sample of all the good stuff going on.

Update: I just saw that Dr. Candessa Tehee defended her dissertation today! So great.

Open Access at Indiana University Bloomington

Richard Poynder doesn’t miss a thing.

As reflected in Richard’s tweet and the Indiana Daily Student story that he pointed to, I–in my role as the chair of the Bloomington Faculty Council Library Committee–reported to the full council on Tuesday (April 29, 2014), summarizing the committee’s work deliberating during AY2013-2014 on two special charges relating to scholarly communications policy on Indiana University’s flagship Bloomington campus. This issues are complicated and understanding of them among faculty members remains low, motivating me to prepare formal remarks outlining the work of the committee and some of the contexts that motivated it. I also prepared a summary for circulation to the faculty via the regular reporting undertaken by the Council’s secretary. For those beyond Bloomington with an interest in the matter, I can report here a couple of points not raised in the IDS story. I will also present below my submitted summary text.

While the members of the Committee were divided on the desirability of continued efforts toward a Bloomington open access policy of the sort now in place at the University of California, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Trinity University, the University of Kansas, Oberlin College, Rollins College, Duke University, the University of Hawaii-Manoa, the University of North Texas, Lafayette College, Emory University, Princeton University, Bucknell University, Oregon State University, Utah State University, Rice University, Wellesley College, Amherst College, the College of Wooster, Rutgers, Drake University, Georgia Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, Bryn Mawr College, Connecticut College, and other institutions around the world, the Executive Committee of the Bloomington Faculty Council has announced that the matter will remain on the Council’s agenda in AY2014-2015. The Library Committee of the Indianapolis Faculty Council at IUPUI has recommended such a policy to its full campus council and the leadership groups on both campus intend to pursue educational and policy setting efforts around open access at the level of the university as a whole under the auspices of the University Faculty Council. Those watching open access policy work in Bloomington then should know that discussions on the issues are not concluded, despite the majority report of the Library Committee.

Those who know me and my commitments on these issues should know that I continue to believe what I have said that I believe on them and that my obligations as chair of the Library Committee were distinct from my commitments as a publisher, scholar, and public interest advocate.

The Summary

For AY2013-2014, the Bloomington Faculty Council (BFC) Library Committee was charged with deliberating on two specific issues [in addition to its standing obligations]. The BFC Executive Committee asked it to weigh a permanent change in committee charge to encompass work monitoring and formulating policy on scholarly publishing and scholarly communications issues. The committee was also asked to weigh options and to recommend (or not recommend) a specific proactive campus open access policy that could be considered and acted upon (after suitable campus consultation) by the Council. In response to the question of recommending a change in the committee’s standing charge, the committee recommended not making this change, instead recommending a mechanism by which the BFC Executive Committee would partner with the Provost in staffing the Faculty Advisory Committee of the Office of Scholarly Publishing. In response to the question of a normative open access policy for members of the Bloomington faculty, the committee recommended not pursuing such a policy, despite the growth of such policies at peer institutions. The committee’s motivations for adopting these positions are complex and different committee members arrived at different positions for varied reasons. Central to the recommendation to not expand or change the committee charge was concern that the committee as already inadequately addressing its ambitious existing charge, something than an expanded charge on a different set of issues would not ameliorate. Factors motivating member reservations about a campus open access policy defy categorization and are sometimes contradictory. A highly abstract summation of them is concern that such a policy could have various unintended negative consequences either as an outgrowth of achieving the stated goals of such a policy or in failing to do so.

Coda

My work as a member of the Bloomington Faculty Council ends officially at the end of the university fiscal year, but is effectively concluded now. I appreciated the opportunity to serve on, and learn as a member of, the Council. I have served as a member of the Library Committee on several occasions, including as its chair on multiple occasions. I am thankful for that opportunity. Outside of these roles in the years ahead, I look forward to new work advocating for progressive scholarly communications policies at Indiana University.

Scholarly Communication Postdoctoral Fellowship at UC Davis

Circulated on behalf of a colleague…

A new UC Davis initiative on “Innovating the Communication in Scholarship” (http://icis.ucdavis.edu/) is hiring a 2 year postdoctoral fellow, starting July 1, 2014. This is a cross-disciplinary project to study the future of academic publishing, involving faculty from the Center for Science and Innovation Studies, the Library, the Genome Center, and the School of Law (with additional collaborators in Computer Science, English, Philosophy, and the Graduate School of Management). Research topics include open access models, peer review, new forms of quality metrics, data publication, use of social media, and new forms of academic misconduct.

The successful candidate will conduct research, collaborate on or lead organization of conferences, workshops, participate in pedagogical activities, and assist in grant writing. A Ph.D. or equivalent degree is required in Science and Technology Studies, Library and Information Sciences, Communication, Law, Science, or Literature. Other disciplines will be considered depending on the specific focus of the candidate’s research and other experience. Qualified applicants will have experience working successfully in teams and managing multi-year projects. He or she will possess excellent written and oral communication and administrative skills.

We encourage applicants from historically under-represented groups, as well as individuals who can contribute to the diversity and excellence of the academic community through their research, teaching, and/or service.

Salary is based on experience and qualifications according to UC Davis guidelines.

To apply: E-mail a PDF file containing your CV, short description of your research experience relevant to this position, and contact details for three references to Mario Biagioli (mbiagioli@ucdavis.edu), MacKenzie Smith (macsmith@ucdavis.edu), Jonathan Eisen (jaeisen@ucdavis.edu).

Applications are due by April 15, 2014.

Check Out the New Anthropod Podcast on Open Access

I really enjoyed listening to the new Anthropod podcast on open access in anthropology. Focusing on the move of Cultural Anthropology to an open access model, hosts Bascom Guffin and Jonah S Rubin have done a great job with the podcast. I urge everyone to check out their well produced conversations with Sean Dowdy (of Hau), Alex Golub (of Savage Minds and many OA discussions), Brad Weiss (past SCA President), and Timothy Elfenbein (Cultural Anthropology Managing Editor).

Find it in context here: http://www.culanth.org/fieldsights/492-8-can-scholarship-be-free-to-read-cultural-anthropology-goes-open-access

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