Today I had the privilege of beginning work as Director of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. I will surely write about the work of the museum extensively in the months ahead. Here I just want to thank the museum’s staff for welcoming me and thank the Indiana University administration for giving me this exceptional opportunity to do the work that I love.
I could single out countless museum objects, collections, colleagues, goals, or aspirations to write about here, but I will use this post to acknowledge the long and important service of my predecessor Geoffrey W. Conrad. The Mathers Museum celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and Geoff led the museum for nearly 30 of those years. The museum accomplished a tremendous amount over those three decades and it is exciting to have a chance to collaborate in building upon the solid foundation that Geoff and the staff built over the span of his long and distinguished career leading the museum.
A perfect example of how scholarly research in folklore and anthropology can be made accessible and interesting for a wider audience is the Artisan Ancestors podcast produced and hosted by my friend and colleague Jon Kay. (Jon is, among other roles, the Director of Traditional Arts Indiana.) If you have not yet encountered the Artisan Ancestors show, I urge you to check it out. As Jon describes it, the focus of the show is on strategies for “researching creative lives and handmade things.” Jon does interviews with people involved in such work with the goals of encouraging and guiding newcomers to such studies and of expanding the horizons of those already deeply involved. Long adept in the skills of the public folklorist, Jon has mastered the podcast genre. He is a great interviewer and he knows how to do in interview with the needs of his audience and the requirements of the medium in mind. The production values are high but it is clear that he has worked out a system that gets good results without endless, expensive work.
In his newest episode (#26) Jon interviews Dr. Candace Greene, another friend and the Director of the Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology (SIMA). The interview explores the purposes and goals of SIMA in a way that not only introduces this training program (for which I was a faculty member this past summer) but also encourages deeper understanding of the broader value of museum collections for research in social and cultural history. It is a great interview and listening to it will illustrate not only the value of the SIMA effort but also suggest the value of podcasting initiatives such as Artisan Ancestors. Kudos to Jon and Candace for their great job with this episode.
Happy New Year! With the new year comes the season in which thoughts turn towards summer plans. A great summer program for graduate students interested in material culture studies is the Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology (SIMA). Held at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History and funded by the [U.S.] National Science Foundation, this is a month-long intensive course focused on promoting “broader and more effective use of museum collections in anthropological research by providing a supplement to university training.”
“Working intensively each summer with 12-14 students interested in museum research, the institute:  introduces students to the scope of collections and their potential as data,  provides training in appropriate methods to collect and analyze museum data,  makes participants aware of a range of theoretical issues relating to collections, [and 4] positions students to apply their knowledge within their home university.”
Graduate students in anthropology and neighboring fields (including folklore studies) can find full information and application instructions on the SIMA website. As noted there: “The program covers students’ room, board, and tuition. Housing is provided at a local university and a small stipend will be provided for food and other local expenses. Participants are individually responsible for the cost of travel to and from Washington, DC. This is an intensive residential program and the participants are expected to devote full time to the training. Preparatory readings are assigned to ensure that students arrive with comparable background knowledge.”
This is a great program and a great opportunity. Please consider applying.
There are a number of museum directorships of relevance to anthropology and folklore studies open right now. The University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown University and the Museum of Anthropology at Northern Illinois University are among them. Most relevant to me, because the museum is so central to my graduate teaching and my collections research, is the Mathers Museum of World Cultures at Indiana University. I especially hope that a large group of strong candidates apply for the Mathers Museum position. It will be exciting to see where each of these institutions head when they welcome their new leaders.
White City Streets continues to report from the field in Tel Aviv where the multifaceted protests continue to unfold. Anthropologi.info offers a rich post remixing these reports with news accounts and additional reflections.
An exciting development in the Open Folklore project is the inclusion of the AFS Ethnographic Thesaurus within the Open Folklore portal. This great advance was announced on the AFS website and at the Open Folklore portal. The ET is a valuable resource for folklore studies, ethnomusicology, cultural anthropology, and other ethnographic disciplines. Thanks to everyone at AFS, LoC, and IU who worked to make this next phase of both projects possible.
Ethnobotany Research and Applications is an important gold open access journal in the field of ethnobotany. It is now in the midst of publishing its 8th volume. I am pleased to note that my friend and collaborator Daniel C. Swan has just published a paper in this journal. “The North American Lotus (Nelumbo lutea Willd Pers.) – Sacred Food of the Osage People” draws upon his long-term research with Osage people in present-day Oklahoma and grows out of his studies of both Osage cultural performance and expressive culture and his interest in plant use in Native North America. The paper also reflects Dan’s commitment to open access publishing. It has been a good month for him in this connection, as earlier this month another paper of his appeared in Museum Anthropology Review, this one on the decorated boxes made and used by members of the Native American Church.
Congratulations Dan! Congratulations too to all those countless folks who would like to read such papers but who usually cannot afford to access them.
The Connexions project headquartered at Rice University is great. I tried it out as a book publishing platform last year by editing into existence a book composed of Frank G. Speck’s essays on Oklahoma and Indian Territories originally published in The Southern Workman. Speck was a anthropologist and folklorist who visited the twin territories just before statehood. The essays are really interesting for a lot of reasons that I try to describe in my introduction to the volume. Today I am just noting that Connexions has added EPUB format to the range of ways that you can freely read and use (and remix) Connexions content. This means that the little Speck book can be read using a e-reader on fancy phones and other mobile devices. Connexions also serves up content in free PDF files and free dynamic webpages. Any work can be purchased as a print on demand book too. If you do not know about Connexions, you really should check it out.
Soon after returning from the AFS meeting, I was fortunate to be a participant in an conference at IU organized by Joëlle Bahloul and Raymond J. DeMallie. The symposium was called After 100: The Legacy of Claude Lévi-Strauss’ Work in 21st Century Arts and Humanities and it brought a large and diverse group of scholars to our campus to talk about the ramifications of Claude Lévi-Strauss’ scholarship. I enjoyed meeting some colleagues for the first time and reconnecting with some others. I also enjoyed returning to interests that I have had throughout the career. I appreciated being included and having the chance to host one of the panels. My thanks go to the organizers and all of the participants.
The Göttingen Interdisciplinary Research Group on Cultural Property is happy to announce the publication of an edited volume on the constitution of cultural property:
Regina Bendix, Kilian Bizer, Stefan Groth (Hg.)
Die Konstituierung von Cultural Property: Forschungsperspektiven.
Göttinger Studien zu Cultural Property, Band 1. Göttingen: Universitätsverlag Göttingen 2010, 320 Seiten, Softcover, 30,00 EUR
Kann Eigentum an Kultur sinnvoll sein? Das Interesse, Cultural Property dem Markt zuzuführen oder dies zu verhindern und hierdurch kollektiven oder individuellen, ideologischen oder ökonomischen Gewinn zu schaffen, gestaltet sich unter den stark divergierenden Bedingungen, die Akteure in einer postkolonialen, spätmodernen Welt vorfinden.
Die interdisziplinäre DFG-Forschergruppe zur Konstituierung von Cultural Property beleuchtet diese seit einigen Jahren in der Öffentlichkeit mit wachsender Brisanz verhandelte Frage. Die Forschergruppe fragt nach der Konstituierung von Cultural Property im Spannungsfeld von kulturellen, wirtschaftlichen, juristischen und hiermit auch gesellschaftspolitischen Diskursen. Dies bedingt auch die in dieser fokussierten Form neue Zusammenarbeit von Fachwissenschaftler/innen aus Kultur- und Sozialwissenschaften sowie Rechts- und Wirtschaftswissenschaften. Die Unterschiedlichkeit des disziplinären Zugriffs auf einen Forschungsbereich zeigt sich in den in diesem Band vermittelten ersten Ergebnissen aus der laufenden Forschung genauso deutlich wie die Notwendigkeit, disziplinäre Standpunkte in gemeinsamer Arbeit zusammenzuführen, um den Konstituierungsprozess von Cultural Property zu verstehen.
Der erste Teil versammelt Beiträge, die den Zusammenhang zwischen Heritage Praxen und der Formierung von Interessen an Cultural Property anhand von Fallstudien aus Indonesien, Kambodscha und Deutschland beleuchten. Im zweiten Teil werden existierende Parameter des Schutzes von Cultural Property aus der Sicht von Völkerrecht, Verfüungsrecht und visueller Anthropologie untersucht. Der dritte Teil widmet sich Erkenntnissen aus internationalen Verhandlungsprozessen und ein vierter Abschnitt zeigt unterschiedliche Forschungsperspektiven auf Cultural Property.
Der Band kann auf den Seiten des Göttinger Universitätsverlages bestellt werden und ist zudem unter einer Creative-Commons-Lizenz als PDF verfügbar: