I was happy tonight to attend the opening for a great new exhibition organized by the Sage Collection and presented at the Indiana University Center for Art and Design Columbus (IUCA+D Columbus). Curated by Sage Assistant Curator Kelly Richardson, the exhibition is titled UBIQUI-TEE: T-Shirts Design Culture. It does a great job of framing the diversity of t-shirts and their many uses in global culture. The show was strikingly presented in a beautiful setting, the still relatively new design-focused center in beautiful downtown Columbus, Indiana.
Extensive Sage collections were supplemented by loans from a number of individuals and institutions, including the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, which lent shirts collected in Native American and African contexts as well as two wonderful, recently collected t-shirt quilts.
Congratulations to Kelly and everyone involved in the new show.
(Columbus had a great downtown. Go see the show.)
Having been asked to do so, I am happy to share news that the Smithsonian Institution is seeking applications for the position of Director of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. This is an important and exciting post. See the details below:
The Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Smithsonian Institution, is accepting applications and nominations for a Director. The Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage is responsible for planning, developing, and managing programs which have as their major objectives the research, documentation, presentation and conservation of living traditional and grassroots folk cultures of the United States and of other countries. The director is responsible for the administrative direction and management of all Center program activities including the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, exhibitions, symposia, scholarly research, cultural heritage policy, educational projects and all media, as well as the participation of other Smithsonian museums and programs in national celebration events and National Mall events. The Director represents, at national and international levels, Smithsonian concerns relating to the understanding of the cultural representation of living heritage, as well as public sector folklore, and policies related to them. The Director will have a proven track record of leadership, management and fundraising skills to run a unique multi-disciplinary cultural organization. The successful applicant must have a degree in a relevant field, management level experience in public programming, and have earned a presence in the scholarly and/or cultural community. The Smithsonian offers a competitive salary commensurate with experience and a comprehensive benefit plan including a lucrative, fully vested retirement program with TIAA- CREF. For detailed information on the position, qualifications and application instructions, go to http://www.sihr.si.edu/jobs.cfm and scroll to position announcement EX-13-01. We are only accepting online applications for this position. For questions or additional information, contact Tom Lawrence, 202-633-6319 or email@example.com. The Smithsonian Institution is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
The William C. Sturtevant collection includes a nice group of coiled, sea grass baskets created by the African American weavers of the Sea Island region near Charleston, South Carolina. The better documented of these were collected by William C. Sturtevant in 1959. In this group is the basket shown above. It was made by Mary Jane Manigault (1913-2010), a basket maker who would go on (25 years later) to be awarded a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1984.
There is a rich literature about the Sea Island basketry tradition. A recent work is the exhibition catalog Grass Roots: The African Origins of an American Art. The volume was edited by Dale Rosengarten, Theodore Rosengarten, and Enid Schildkrout and published by the Museum of African Art in 2008. The associated exhibition led to free online resources on the subject being made available through the Museum of African Art, the National Museum of African Art, and the McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina.
Interestingly, one of William Sturtevant’s photographs from his 1959 visit to the Sea Island region was featured in the Grass Roots exhibition’s online presence. It is an image of Pearl Dingle weaving a basket at her family’s stand in Mt. Pleasant South Carolina. You can see it on the McKissick website.
The rich obituary for Mrs. Manigault published on the website for the documentary film Bin Yah: There is No Place Like Home is definitely worth checking out. It notes that her baskets are among those in the amazing Sea Island collection curated at the Mathers Museum (at Indiana University) where I work as a Faculty Curator. The NEA National Heritage Fellow profile for her is another great online resource.
This basket is currently identified as T331 and is from the William C. Sturtevant Collection, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.
Today I got to see the exhibition at the Wells Library focusing on Indiana University’s unbelievable folklore studies collection. The exhibition, in the library lobby, was put together by a team led by IU folklore librarian Moria Marsh and has been installed as part of the programming for #AFS11. I got to see the exhibition today and it is great.
Among the cool items on exhibition at the Library is the award recently won by the Open Folklore project, a joint effort of the AFS and the IU Bloomington Libraries.
There are tons of AFS-related exhibitions around campus and town. Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to get them ready.
Today, out of town folklorists started appearing around Bloomington for a series of events designed to rally the local troops and welcome the earliest of the visitors coming to Bloomington for the American Folklore Society meetings. I spent the early afternoon in a fruitful Open Folklore planning meeting, but my colleagues welcomed Dr. Fekade Azeze, Associate Associate Professor of Ethiopian Literature and Folklore, and Coordinator of the Folklore Graduate Programme, at Addis Adeba University in Ethiopia. USC Folklorist Tok Thompson moderated a discussion with Dr. Azeze at midday and then he delivered a lecture on customary dispute resolution in the afternoon. I made it to the talk and it was very stimulating material. Dr. Azeze described the customary legal system of two of the largest Ethiopian peoples and situated these practices in the contemporary context, describing efforts to study such systems as a means of indigenizing the national legal system, which is largely founded on non-Eithiopian principles and practices.
Immediately after the lecture, there was an opening reception for the Faces of Fieldwork exhibition curated by Pravina Shukla, Michael Lee, and Carrie Hertz and on exhibition at the Mathers Museum. The portrait photographs submitted by the contributing ethnographers were stunning, the exhibition was well mounted by the Mathers staff, and the reception was a nice opportunity to experience the exhibition and welcome guests to town for the meetings.
I had to get home for family responsibilities, by a departmental reception for early-arriving alumni (Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology) was held. I am sure that a good time was had by all.
Tomorrow things begin in earnest, with pre-conference tours both on-campus (IU research collections and archives) and off (Southern Indiana regional sights focusing on the limestone industry). The meeting will open formally tomorrow night, with the highlight being Henry Glassie’s plenary lecture and a big welcoming reception. I will spend the day in an AFS board meeting.
Safe travels and welcome!
Soon a large group of folklorists, from the U.S. and from many countries, will be visiting my adopted home town of Bloomington, Indiana. The 2011 American Folklore Society meetings are returning to Indiana University for the first time since 1968. There is much history that could be recounted, but it seems very salient that 1968 is a year famous for its protests and revolutions. 2011 is shaping up as a revolutionary year as well. This convergence relates to the conference theme (which was chosen well over a year ago)–Peace, War, Folklore.
How did the conference planners come to select this theme? Its a timely one and, as the program it prompted shows, a fruitful one. The immediate inspiration came from a desire to tie in to a semester-long program at Indiana University (organized by the College of Arts and Sciences) called Themester. As the name suggests, a themester is a semester theme that provides a basis for campus-wide activities, courses, and programs. At IU the Themesters happen during fall semesters. The theme for 2011 is Making War, Making Peace.
It is exciting that the AFS meetings can stand out as one of the big Themester events for 2011. The Themester program maintains a blog and the two most recent posts are by members of the AFS planning committee. In his post, conference chair Michael Dylan Foster explains the conference theme in light of folkloristics on the one hand and Themester on the other. In a second post, Jon Kay, Director of Traditional Arts Indiana and a member of the conference committee describes a TAI-organized, Themester-supported exhibition on the art of Gustav Potthoff, a man who paints to preserve and convey personal memories of the horrors of war and the prisoner-of-war experience based on his internment during World War II, during which he was among those forced to build the notorious “bridge over the River Kwai.”
To learn more about Themester at IU, see the program website. Thanks go to the Themester leadership for its engagement with the 2011 AFS meetings. (Public conference events relating to the Themester are listed here.)
Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett and the Museum of the History of Polish Jews [A discussion of her current museum project in the online journal Habitus.]
Excited to see this promotional video with my friend Christina Burke, Curator of Native American and Non-Western Art at Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa. Christina is a great curator stewarding a great collection in a great museum. This video introduces the new exhibition Wars and Rumors of War. The exhibition is built out of the museum’s fine collection of Native American works on paper. Congratulations Christina, congratulations Philbrook. I hope I make it back to Tulsa in time to see the show.
I have always wanted to visit the Denver Art Museum and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Today I had my chance and it was great. As part of my “Introduction to Folklife” course at Colorado College, my class and I had the chance to go north to Denver for the day and to visit both museums. Both are impressive. Both have great collections and deep traditions of excellent work in those areas that matter most to me—world ethnography and Native American studies/Native American art. There was no way we could see more than a small portion of both museums, but what we saw in both institutions was great. Colorado is very lucky.
At DMNH we were generously hosted by Steve Nash, who showed us around behind the scenes in the Department of Anthropology (which he chairs). We also got to see Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh, who was busy working on the next issue of Museum Anthropology (Steve and Chip took over editing the journal from me in 2009 and are doing great work with it.)
Our focus at DMNS was the Native North American culture halls, where we saw objects relating to our current reading and research project (centered on Daniel C. Swan’s book Peyote Religious Art: Symbols of Faith and Belief) and our next one (focused on Claire Farrer’s Thunder Rides a Black Horse: Mescalero Apaches and the Mythic Present). Organized on the basis of cultural areas, the DMNS exhibitions (which are steadily being updated and improved by Chip and Steve) do a great job of providing an basic orientation to the diversity of Native North America. This was evident when we got to the Denver Art Museum and the students had a better ability to appreciate the contexts for the work that is presented in a art museum mode there.
At DMNH we also had a chance to see the strange and remarkable carved gemstone sculptures made by Vasily Konovalenko to portray aspects of Russian peasant folklife. One could talk and think about them for hours and they were a great conversation point for our class and a great reminder of how complex not only art and material culture are, but how complex issues of cultural representation are, in general and under the banner of folklife in particular.
After short drive downtown and a quick street-side gyro, we hit the art museum. Like DMNS it is huge and impressive and impossible to see properly on a single day trip. Here our foci were the Native American and non-western art halls, as well as the galleries devoted to the art of the Western United States. We saw the galleries for the arts of Oceania, Africa, Asia, and Native North America. DAM was among the first U.S. art museums to get serious about Native American art and their collections are stunning. In my own area of special interest, the DAM is currently exhibiting 5 (!) beaded bandolier bags from the Southeast. This is simply dumbfounding and a reminder of how deep the collection is. All the galleries provided rich learning opportunities for me and for the students. I was reminded of how fun it is to teach in the presence of rich collections well-displayed. (I really missed being a curator today.)
The students seemed to have good time. They were easy, engaged, and wonderful travel companions and all the logistics went off without a hitch.
Colorado College and its amazing block plan (which makes such trips possible through its one class at a time format) are at the root of the day’s success. Many people did great behind-the-scenes administrative work to enable me (as a new to CC visitor) to take this trip with the students. Thanks to everyone who heaped to make it happen.
I am very pleased to note the publication of the exhibition catalog Tipi: Heritage of the Great Plains. This book has been published by the Brooklyn Museum in cooperation with the University of Washington Press on the occasion of an exhibition of the same name that has been organized by the Brooklyn Museum and that will travel to the Autry National Center for the American West in LA and the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul. It is a beautiful book on a topic that long been of scholarly and general interest. The project has been organized by and the catalog edited by Nancy B. Rosoff and Suzan Zeller of the Brooklyn Museum. I am taking special notice of the book here because it includes contributions from three of my close friends and collaborators. Daniel C. Swan and Michael P. Jordan (Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History) have published a chapter titled “Tipis and the Warrior Tradition,” which focused on their collaborative work with Kiowa people and organizations and Christina E. Burke (Philbrook Museum) has published a chapter on “Growing Up on the Plains,” which explores child raising and associated material culture among the Native peoples of the Plains in the context of the tipi as vernacular architecture.