Many things have been happening lately–so many that keeping up with them here has been difficult. Many good things have gone unreported and some bad current events (global and national, not personal) have gone un-commented upon. I am pleased though to celebrate the conclusion of the 2013 Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology. I was invited to join the institute for its last week and a half and to participate in its concluding symposium at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) on the Mall in Washington. In the symposium, SIMA’s twelve graduate student participants presented the initial findings of their four-week research projects utilizing the (amazing) collections–both objects and archival materials–of the NMNH Department of Anthropology. The students came to SIMA from many different graduate programs and backgrounds and possessed a diversity of historical, ethnographic, topical, and theoretical interests. They did wonderful work and I learned a lot from their studies and from their careful and compelling reporting. While they have further to go, of course, with their projects, I think that it is pretty exciting to hear the results of four intensive weeks of research as the concluding act of that same four week process. Quite remarkable.
I am very appreciative of my continued association with this wonderful program. I am glad that I have been able to help it continue moving along so well.
SIMA will happen again next summer. Details will be posted here on the SIMA website in the months ahead.
I learned great news today. My friend, colleague and collaborator Candace Greene (National Museum of Natural History) has been selected as this year’s recipient of the Michael M. Ames Prize for Innovative Museum Anthropology, awarded by the Council for Museum Anthropology.
In a letter sent to Candace and quoted from in an announcement making the rounds, Alex Barker, CMA President, wrote: “The award recognizes your groundbreaking work in developing and implementing the Smithsonian Institution Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology, and particularly the transformational potential of the program. Museums are more than just collections of things, after all. They’re also collections of people, and the SIMA program provides crucial training and educational opportunities, enriching the discipline of museum anthropology and embodying the innovative spirit the award recognizes.”
I am not attending the American Anthropological Association meetings and will unfortunately miss it, but there will be a formal announcement and presentation during the current AAA meetings during the Council for Museum Anthropology’s reception on Saturday, November 17 in the San Francisco Hilton’s room Imperial A. The reception runs from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
I am super pleased with this wonderful news of recognition well-deserved. Candace has been a great leader in the museum anthropology community and her vision for the creation of SIMA, together with her hard work to make it a success, have been amazing. This is an important award, well-bestowed. Congratulations to Candace and to everyone involved in making SIMA a thriving endeavor.
Last week I went quickly to New Orleans. I had not planned to go to the American Anthropological Association meetings this year, but my friend Candace Greene called a meeting of the Advisory Board for the Smithsonian Institution Summer Institute on Museum Anthropology. Candace direct’s this important NSF-funded summer training program (more about it soon) and I have been involved in its development since its formative stage. This coming summer will be the program’s third year of providing a month-long intensive training program in the use of systematic museum collections for advanced research in cultural anthropology and neighboring fields. The program attracts graduate students from across the United States and really fills an important need.
I arrived in New Orleans in time for an all-afternoon SIMA advisory panel meeting. The program is preparing plans for its next three year cycle and our conversations focused on assessing what has been accomplished and building out for the future. The meeting ended in time to catch up with fellow Oklahoma-ists Dan Swan, Michael Jordan, Jessica Walker and John Lukavic.. After dinner, I was able to attend one of many solid museum anthropology and material culture studies panels on the conference program. John was a presenter on this panel (Making Meaning with Objects: Community Processes and Museum Practices) and presented a talk titled “Circulating Property and Knowledge: Intellectual Property and Cultural Knowledge Systems of the Southern Cheyenne.” John’s paper was one of many fine contributions to this panel.
The next day, before heading home, I was able fit in several meetings and a couple more excellent panels. Two of my meetings were with journal editors eager to trade notes on the changing world of scholarly communication, including the practical possibilities of shifting to open access strategies. The paper panel was “Museum Ethnography in Theory and Practice” organized by Jennifer Shannon and Christina Kreps. I was not able to hear all the papers, but all that I did hear were excellent, as was the commentary provided by Eric Gable and Ann McMullen. I also went quickly to see the poser session organized by Dan Swan–”Applying New Theories to Old Things: Museum Research Today.” The posters (and the projects that they represent) were all great.
Getting caught up in open access talk, I had to race to catch my plane with a real sense of anxiety. I took the most impressive cab ride of my life. The driver had no choice but to take me into some terrible rush hour traffic on I-10 going to the airport. He used so many tricks to get there fast that it was mind boggling. On many occasions, he bypassed long stretches of gridlock by exiting and then creatively cutting from off-ramps to on-ramps thereby getting back onto the interstate ahead of big blocks of stopped and slowed cars. Had I been a driver in the vicinity I would have been out of my mind with irritation at his antics, but as a passenger worried about missing a flight, I was full of admiration. It really was movie-quality cab driving. It took an hour to get there and I know that he saved me 30 or more minutes. NOLA has flat rates from downtown to the airport and this instance was the first time in which I thought that a taxi rate seemed way too low for the work done. Needless to say, I was a generous tipper. This cab ride may be the thing I remember most about the trip.
I left way early in the meeting and missed tons of promising panels and missed seeing scores of friends and colleagues. Perhaps I can make a longer trip of it next year.