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Posts from the ‘Museum Anthropology Review’ Category

Summer 2015 Roundup

Sherds and Patches has been neglected. My summers are always busy, but this year has been really busy. As the fall semester is about to begin, I feel like I should at least take stock of where I have been. A surprising number of folks visit this site and seemingly find something that they are looking for. In hopes of leading online visitors to some of the exhibitions, projects, etc. that I have been involved in this summer, I offer this roundup with relevant links. Packing a summer into one post, please excuse the length (about 1600 words). Skimmers welcome.

When the spring semester ended, my Mathers Museum of World Cultures colleagues and I, together with MMWC Policy Committee Chair Eric Sandweiss, poured our energies into hosting Museums at the Crossroads: Local Encounters, Global Knowledge. Held at the museum between May 14 and 21, the workshop was supported by the IU School of Global and International Studies and the College of Arts and Sciences. It gathered museum professionals and other scholars from numerous institutions and various countries for generative discussions and activities aimed at considering the state of museums in changing social contexts around the world. I am thankful for all who journeyed to Bloomington to join the discussion. Thanks too go to the MMWC staff members who helped organize the gathering and to the School and College for their generous support. Learn a bit more about Museums at the Crossroads from this IU press release. SGIS published a wrap-up story about Crossroads.

Before and after Museums at the Crossroads, I worked as a lead investigator on a Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded research/planning project considering the viability of alternative, sustainable financial models for university press monograph publishing in the humanities and interpretive social sciences. This is a project being pursued concurrently on the University of Michigan and Indiana University campuses. I am the researcher for the IU component of the project. A glimpse of the project is available in this IU press release (where our project is the second of two being discussed). A story last summer in the Chronicle of Higher Education provides additional context for the models that I have been discussing with IU faculty and administrators as well as with our UM/IU, research team.

Another big project that came to fruition in the days after Museums at the Crossroads is the Mathers Museum of World Cultures exhibition Cherokee Craft, 1973. This is an exhibition that I have looked forward to doing since the early 1990s. As I student, I first studied the museum’s collections made among the Eastern Cherokee. I knew then that they would make a great exhibition. That moment came this summer. Originally, I was going to curate the exhibition with help from graduate students Emily Buhrow Rogers and Kelley Totten but by the time we finished, it was Kelly and I helping Emily with her exhibition. What Kelly and Emily came up with is infinitely better than the simple exhibition that I had originally imagined. Cherokee Craft, 1973 opened June 16. Here is how we have described the exhibition in promotional materials.

Cherokee Craft, 1973 offers a snapshot of craft production among the Eastern Band Cherokee at a key moment in both an ongoing Appalachian craft revival and the specific cultural and economic life of the Cherokee people in western North Carolina. The exhibition showcases woodcarvings, masks, ceramics, finger woven textiles, basketry, and dolls. The works presented are all rooted in Cherokee cultural tradition but all also bear the imprint of the specific individuals who crafted them and the particular circumstances in which these craftspeople made and circulated their handwork.

What that description does not explain is that the presentation for the exhibition creatively evokes the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc. gallery (ca. 1973), from which the museum obtained its collection. Come by and see the exhibition at MMWC and find the real co-op as it is today on its website.

After a quick but wonderful visit to Oklahoma for Green Corn, I headed off to the Smithsonian Institution to again serve as a visiting faculty member at the Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology, which is led by Candace Greene and funded by the National Science Foundation. I have discussed SIMA previously. It is a great program and this was a another great year. If you are new to SIMA, check out the SIMA information page. On top of the great SIMA stuff, I even had a bit of time to see the Chinese basketry in the NMNH collections!

A basket cataloged as Chinese in the collections of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. ET08510

A basket cataloged as Chinese in the collections of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. ET08510

SIMA was followed by a quick family trip to Santa Fe, where I got to attend the International Folk Art Market (which was great as always) and see the exhibition “The Red that Colored the World” at the Museum of International Folk Art. The “Red” exhibition is a tour de force. Simply amazing. I hope that many many more people get to see it in Santa Fe or on the tour to come. You can read about the Red exhibition in many places, including this NEH story by Peter BG Shoemaker in Humanities magazine.

While in Santa Fe, I purchased (at the market) two willow baskets by Blaise Cayol, a remarkable French basket maker. Learn about his basketry on his website Celui qui Tresse.

I collected Blaise Cayol’s baskets for a lot of reasons, including wanting them to help expand on the story that the Mathers Museum of World Cultures is telling in the exhibition Willow Work: Viki Graber, Basketmaker, which opens tomorrow. It is a great exhibition focused on the work of a great basket maker. Quoting from our exhibition announcement:

Willow Work: Viki Graber, Basketmaker presents a weaver of willow baskets from the Mennonite community of Goshen, Indiana, where she has lived for 25 years. Graber learned willow basket weaving at the age of twelve from her father, who was recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts as a 2009 National Heritage Fellow. Where once her family plied their talents to make utilitarian workbaskets, today she works full-time weaving baskets for collectors and to sell at art shows and galleries. While using the same tools and methods as her great-grandfather, Graber’s keen sense of color and innovative designs have elevated her family’s craft to a new aesthetic level.

Jon Kay curated Willow Work, drawing upon work done for Traditional Arts Indiana. Get details on the exhibition on the MMWC website. Learn more about Viki’s basketry on her website, Confluence of Willows.

Willow Work: Viki Graber, Basketmaker is one of three exhibitions that we (MMWC) are organizing for Themester. I will post (I hope) about the two that are still to come, but I note here that a second one has been curated by Jon Kay. Here is the description. Working Wood opens on September 8.

Working Wood: Oak-Rod Baskets in Indiana presents the work of the Hovis and Bohall families of Brown County, Indiana, who made distinctive white-oak baskets for their neighbors to carry everyday items and to gather corn. However, by the 1930s, the interest of urban tourists transformed these sturdy workbaskets into desirable souvenirs and art objects. In recent years, these baskets have come to be called “Brown County” and “Bohall” baskets, perhaps because of the great number of baskets made by the Bohall family in Brown county during the 1920s and 1930s. Nevertheless, the history of this craft is more complex these names reveal. Using artifacts and historic photographs, this exhibit explores the shifts in the uses and meanings of these baskets as they changed from obsolete, agricultural implements, into a tourist commodity. Using the lens of work, this exhibition tells the story of these oak-rod baskets and the people who made and used them, and how local makers strived to find a new audience for their old craft, and how ultimately the lure of steady work in the city contributed to the end of this tradition.

Between now and then, we will be working to finalize an third basketry exhibition that I have co-curated with Lijun Zhang of the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities. Opening September 1, It focuses on work baskets in Southwestern China. We describe it in this way.

Putting Baskets to Work in Southwestern China explores the contemporary the use of basketry in urban and rural labor in contemporary China drawing upon a newly acquired representative collection of bamboo baskets documented as active tools of labor in the region around Dali, in Yunnan province, and in Guizhou and Guangxi provinces. The collection was acquired and documented by Jason Baird Jackson, Director of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, who will co-curate the exhibit with Lijun Zhang, Research Curator at the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities in Guangxi, China.

All three of these work-related basketry exhibitions have been organized for the Fall 2015 Themester, which is themed “@Work: The Nature of Labor on a Changing Planet.” Our museum programs are organized under the rubric “@Work with Basketry on a Changing Planet.” The College of Arts and Sciences at IU has contributed to these projects and the public programs that will accompany them. Learn more about Themester 2015 on the Themester website. Learn more about the exhibitions and programs on the MMWC website.

In the background, Emily Buhrow Rogers and I have been finalizing a double issue of Museum Anthropology Review. We look forward to sharing it in the next couple of weeks. See some of its content online in preview mode at the journal website.

In the midst of all of this, I have—with the support of numerous friends and colleagues—been preparing my faculty promotion case. Time will tell how that turns out.

This is just some of the high points. Its been a busy summer. Whether relaxing or busy, I hope that your summer was excellent.

On the New Volume of Museum Anthropology Review

Museum Anthropology Review (MAR) has just published a new double issue—its first themed collection. Volume 7, number 1-2 of MAR collects papers originally presented at a January 2012 workshop titled “After the Return: Digital Repatriation and the Circulation of Indigenous Knowledge.” Hosted by the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution and funded by the (U.S.) National Science Foundation and the Understanding the American Experience and World Cultures Consortia of the Smithsonian Institution, the workshop was organized by Kimberly Christen (Washington State University), Joshua Bell (Smithsonian Institution), and Mark Turin (Yale University). The workshop brought together scholars from indigenous communities, cultural anthropology, folklore studies, ethnomusicology, linguistics, and collecting institutions to document best practices and case studies of digital repatriation in order to theorize the broad impacts of such processes in relation to: linguistic revitalization of endangered languages, cultural revitalization of traditional practices, and the creation of new knowledge stemming from the return of digitized material culture. Like the workshop itself, the peer-reviewed and revised papers collected in MAR ask how, and if, marginalized communities can reinvigorate their local knowledge practices, languages, and cultural products through the reuse of digitally repatriated materials and distributed technologies. The authors of the collected papers all have expertise in applied digital repatriation projects and share theoretical concerns that locate knowledge creation within both culturally specific dynamics and technological applications.

Find this special issue of MAR online at:

As it has always been, MAR is an open access, peer-reviewed journal free to all readers. With volume 8, to be published in 2014, MAR is becoming the journal of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. It will continue to be published in partnership with the Indiana University Libraries with assistance from the IU Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology and other partners.

2014 will bring new enhancements to MAR. To keep up with the journal, please sign up as a reader, follow it on Twitter @museanthrev, and/or like it on Facebook.

Some Museum Anthropology Review Stats for 2012

Readers of Museum Anthropology Review might be interested in knowing which contributions to the journal were most intensively consulted during 2012. Only today did I study the statistics closely. Here is the journal’s top five for 2012.

1. Daniel C. Swan’s “Objects of Purpose—Objects of Prayer: Peyote Boxes of the Native American Church” in MAR 4(2).

2. Jon Kay’s “A Picture of an Old Country Store: The Construction of Folklore in Everyday Life” in MAR 4(2).

3. Heather Horst’s Review of “Longing and Belonging: Parents, Children and Consumer Culture (Pugh)” in MAR 4(2).

4. Carrie Hertz’s “Costuming Potential: Accommodating Unworn Clothes” in MAR 5(1-2).

5. Jill Ahlberg Yohe’s “Situated Flow: A Few Thoughts on Reweaving Meaning in the Navajo Spirit Pathway” in MAR 6(1).

Congratulations to these authors and thanks to MAR’s many readers around the world!

[Cross-posted from the Museum Anthropology Review announcements page.]

On Museum Anthropology Review

I am very happy to report that the final material for Museum Anthropology Review 5(1-2) was published today, bringing the 2011 volume/issues to a close.

This was the first time that an issue was published with an initial bundle of content and then added to as the year progressed. This represents a kind of transitional strategy bridging older journal publishing norms, in which an issue is prepared and then released into the world as a fully prepared bundle, and the newer pattern in which content is prepared and released into the world as soon as it is ready, item by item. The older pattern has certain hallmarks that many are still fond of, including sequentially paginated pages (in paper-like PDF format) and a table of contents in which articles appear at the top and reviews appear at the bottom. For authors, this format makes for objects that look familiar (to custom-minded observers) on such things as C.V. and annual reports. The cost, of course, is delay in publication, as works pile up in preparation for being bundled up as issues.

The newer approaches leverages the advantages of digital publication platforms and get information in circulation as quickly as possible, something that helps the research community in many ways.

MAR is moving from the older to the newer framework and will probably use the approach adopted for volume 5 again at least for volume 6 next year. This means that volume 6(1) will appear as soon as possible and will initially contain a group of materials from the “top” of the table of contents. Additional reviews will be added to the issue’s table of contents up until the point that additional articles or other content from the top of the table of contents are ready. At that point the effort will switch over to issue 6(2).

Publishing a combined “1-2” issue for 2011 was a valuable step for me personally–beyond these considerations. It allowed me a bit more time this summer to work on other projects, something that I have sorely needed to do. While I had the help of a wonderful graduate student/editorial assistant through the middle of 2010, last academic year (2010-2011) was the first in which I handled the day to day editorial tasks on my own. This was fun and informative, of course, but there is only so much time in the day and it was nice to be able to focus this past summer on other obligations. The combined issue helped make that possible.

From a substantive point of view, 5(1-2) is full of interesting stuff and I am very thankful to the many authors, peer-reviewers, librarians, editorial board members, publishers, and other friends of MAR who have made it possible.

At 154 pages volume 5 is only #4 of 5 in terms of page length, but with 42 discrete contributions it covers a lot of interesting territory, from Captain Cook to the alternative globalization movement; from the history of shoes to the material realities of the current economic crisis. As has been true throughout the MAR experiment, contributions cover a wide diversity of world regions and theoretical, topical, and disciplinary concerns. I am especially proud of the ways that the journal continues to showcase work by the most distinguished senior scholars–generous colleagues such as Richard Bauman, Keith Hart, Marsha MacDowell, Edward T. Linenthal, and Aldona Jonaitis–alongside leading younger scholars, including folks like Karin Zitzewitz, Beth A. Buggenhagen, Elizabeth Hutchinson and so many others. I am also happy that the journal brings together, in what I think is a healthy way, the twinned and entwined concerns that are its focus—museum studies and material culture studies. Rooted in anthropology and folklore studies, MAR has been an effective meeting ground for scholars working in a great many fields. Alongside its folklorists and anthropologists, 5(1-2) features scholars representing the fields of comparative literature, history, art history, fashion studies, architecture, design, communications studies, and religious studies. This diversity is a great strength.

Also speaking to the journal’s diversity aspirations, 5(1-2) was the second issue to feature content in a language other than English. MAR 4(1) had included both French and English versions of Christian Bromberger’s commentrary on the Musée du Quai Branly and now, with 5(1-2) MAR has published a book review concurrently in Portuguese and English. Thanks go to author Lori Hall-Araujo and translator Roberta Crelier for the work on Lori’s review of Mestre Vitalino e artistas pernambucanos.

In conclusion, I wish to especially thank the authors of the issue’s peer-reviewed articles. Richard Bauman’s “Better than any monument”: Envisioning Museums of the Spoken Word is a great contribution to the history of the field, exploring the intersections of linguistic anthropology and museum anthropology. The paper continues his vital research work on the social history of early recording technologies and their intellectual and cultural ramifications. Thanks go to Carrie Hertz’ for her Costuming Potential: Accommodating Unworn Clothes. The article is a rich contribution to contemporary material culture studies, particularly relating to questions of consumption, circulation, reuse, and disposal.

The submission mailbox is always open. Please consider Museum Anthropology Review as a robust not-for-profit, gold open access publishing option for your work in museum and material culture studies.

Open Folklore, MAR Roundup

While the project partners (the American Folklore Society and the Indiana University Bloomington Libraries) continue building the inaugural Open Folklore site, discussion of the project has continued in several places. Here is a roundup of links. I especially wish to highlight the very detailed post published recently at Archivology.

Archivology (9-7-2010) Open Folklore, Open Access, and the Future of Scholarly Publishing

Library Babel Fish (8-23-2010) Open to Change: How Open Access Can Work

Archivology (8-9-2010) 5 suggestions for the Open Folklore project

Indiana Daily Student (8-4-2010) Open Folklore to uncover ‘gray literature’

Savage Minds (8-2-2010) Open Folklore

Museum Anthropology Review is published by the Indiana University Bloomington Libraries as part the IUScholarWorks program. I edit it in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology also at Indiana University. It thus lives within the ecology of the current core of Open Folklore and will get indexed, linked to, etc. along with other Open Folklore content.  (Lots of folklorists contribute to the journal too, by the way.) The recent round of discussion about scholarly communication in anthropology has led to some new discussion of Museum Anthropology Review. In addition to my own posts (below), I can note:

John Hawks Weblog (9-5-2010 ) Why don’t universities cut out the middleman?

Savage Minds (9-2-2010) Gourmet vs. All Things Considered: The anthropological edition

See also Archivology (9-7-2010) and Library Babel Fish (8-23-2010) given above.

Thanks to everyone who has been following, and offering encouragement to, these experiments.


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