Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Ethnography’ Category

Open Access Book: Indiana Folk Arts

IFA CoverThis year is a big year for the Mathers Museum of World Cultures in a number of respects. Two of these weave together. Its the state bicentennial for Indiana and we are engaging with it in a big way through the exhibition Indiana Folk Arts: 200 Years of Tradition and Innovation. That exhibition is now traveling across Indiana along with with a deep roster of presenting artists and craftspeople. The exhibition and associated in-person demonstrations are happening at state parks and festivals around Indiana and the exhibition will also be presented at the Indiana State Fair, later this summer. The exhibition brings together more than a decade of research by Traditional Arts Indiana and was also an project worked on by the Laboratory in Public Folklore graduate course taught in the IU College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology. Working with TAI Director and MMWC Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage Jon Kay, a large number of students have been involved in all aspects of the exhibition and associated programs, products, and events.

2016 is also slated to be a big year for book publishing at MMWC. We have a number of books in the cue for fall. The first to become available is the catalogue for Indiana Folk Arts. Edited by Jon Kay with chapters authored by a large and talented group of graduate students, the volume enriches the exhibition while also standing alone as a contribution to scholarship on Indiana craft and art. At exhibition events and here at the MMWC, the book is being distributed for free in a beautiful full-color print edition. In keeping with our institutional commitment to increased and open access to scholarship, the volume is also available electronically and permanently via the IUScholarWorks Respository. Licensed under a CC-BY license, it can be found online here: https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/handle/2022/20893. Its the first MMWC publication for which we obtained an ISBN number (two actually, one for the print edition and one for the PDF edition), which is also pretty neat.IFA Front Page

Congratulations to Jon Kay, the volume’s editor, to all of its contributors, and to the talented artists, craftspeople, and tradition bearers featured in the book. Welcome readers–72 beautiful pages await you, wherever in the world you live. If you like the book and support the work behind it, spread it widely. Tell your friends and colleagues so that they can enjoy it too.

Two Euchee (Yuchi) Baskets in the Collections of the Philbrook Museum of Art

The basketry traditions of the Native South have experienced divergent histories from a common regional tradition of work basketry. Among the North Carolina Cherokee, for instance, the indigenous river cane basketry tradition was augmented with the adoption of an old European white oak splint basketry practice and a more modern vine runner basketry practice using Japanese honeysuckle. The two older traditions are focused on workbasket forms, even as these have increasingly become works of art and heritage appreciated as aesthetically compelling collectables rather than tools of labor. The vine runner basketry made in honeysuckle added graceful forms intended by their makers to be visually appreciated more than used for rough labor. The richness of Cherokee basket making, up to the present, has been facilitated through an arts and crafts market fostered by the location of the Eastern Cherokee community in a key tourism destination at the eastern gateway to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. While workbaskets were, for a time during the early 20th century, presented for sale to outsiders among the Florida Seminole, Florida Seminole basketry shifted in that century to decorative craft baskets made from coiled sweet grass. As in Cherokee, North Carolina, these baskets were crafted with non-Seminole tourist-collectors in mind.

Not all Southern Native communities reside in locales where tourism and tourist craft markets could foster (and reshape) local basketry practice. In many native communities, local baskets were used less and less for work—replaced by commercial containers—and thereby they became less and less common, as did knowledge of their construction and use. In some contemporary Native communities, a commitment to revitalize tribal cultures has more recently led to a renewal of basketry practices, not so much for external consumption but as heritage endeavors celebratory of local traditions. This dynamic is found among the Catawba (ex: “Catawba Indian basket maker revives almost-lost ancient tradition”) and among numerous groups—such as the Chickasaw—who have begun regularly organizing basketry classes (ex: “Chickasaw Nation to host basket weaving class”).

While revivals of the sort that numerous communities are pursuing can be initiated in the near or distant future, there are some communities in which basketry has quietly fallen into obsolescence. As with heritage languages, we might describe basketry in such communities as “sleeping”—especially when extant baskets are present in museums and some ethnographic documentation of basket making or use has been made. As with “sleeping languages,” sleeping basketry traditions are capable of being revitalized, especially when knowledge can be gained from basket makers among neighboring peoples sharing similar practices.

While they are an extraordinarily vital community in many other ways, sleeping describes the present state of basketry among the Euchee (Yuchi) people now residing in Tulsa, Creek, and Okmulgee Counties in (present-day) Oklahoma. (For the remainder of this note, I will just use the “Euchee” spelling.) To my knowledge, eight Euchee baskets are curated in museum collections. Then a Ph.D. student in anthropology, Frank G. Speck collected five Euchee baskets in the Sand Creek tribal town near Bristow, Indian Territory in 1904. These were purchased with funds from the American Museum of Natural History and are preserved in its collections. They can be studied in the AMNH’s online database and were discussed in Speck’s Ethnology of the Yuchi Indians, a book-length study that is now freely accessible via the HathiTrust Digital Library and the Internet Archive (see pages 31-34). [If consulting the AMNH database, see numbers 50 / 5368, 50 / 5369, 50 / 5370, 50 / 5371, and 50 / 5372]

One Euchee basket is cared for by the Columbus Museum in Columbus, Georgia. (I hope to report on it later.)

Of interest here are two baskets close to the present-day Euchee community, at the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma. These two baskets (I believe, the only ones in Oklahoma museum collections) are significant in a number of ways that I will narrate here.

They are, to my knowledge, the most recently collected baskets from among the Euchee. Some Euchee families preserve heirloom objects from the past, but I have not been shown or told about old workbaskets in the possession of the Euchee families that I know. There is a chance that these two were among the last in Euchee hands.

They were collected by famed basketry collector Clark Field. One can learn more about Field and his collection in the volume Woven Worlds: Basketry from the Clark Field Collection edited by Lydia L. Wyckoff and published by the Philbrook Musuem of Art. Field collected these two baskets from Johnson Tiger, then living in Kellyville, Oklahoma. [Kellyville is a municipality in the territory of the Yuchi Tribal Town known as Polecat (after nearby Polecat Creek)].

Tiger indicated for Field that the first of the baskets (catalog number 1963.13.2) was made by his grandfather George Fulsom and dated to 1875. George Fulsom was age 57 at the time of the 1910 census and thus he was born around 1853. If the basket was actually crafted in 1875, this would have been when George Fulsom was about 22 years of age. Field paid Tiger $27.50 for the basket in 1962, which would be about $218 in 2016 dollars. (As noted below, it may be that this amount was the price paid for both baskets.)

IMG_5425

Euchee tray or fanner basket of river cane. Collected from Johnson Tiger in 1962 and attributed to his grandfather George Fulsom. Late 19th century. Polecat Tribal Town. Philbrook Musuem of Art #1963.13.2. Used with permission of the Philbrook Museum of Art.

This plaited basket is made of river cane, the primary material out of which baskets were historically made in the Native South, but a plant that was and is increasingly rare generally and that is particularly rare on the western edge of its range in Oklahoma. Like most of the known Euchee baskets, this example was one of two fundamental tools used in processing corn for food. (It could be used, of course, for other activities, including other food processing ones.) With a solid bottom, this kind of basket was used to both catch grain falling through a sifter (sieve) basket and for fanning grain that has been pounded (or ground) so as to separate the grain from the chaff.

As J. Marshall Gettys has noted, this basket is interesting because it is made of rivercane (the region’s old material) but it has a reinforced rim assembled in a style more common in European American basketry styles. In river cane trays or sifters in the South, a braided rim (as found in the second basket, below) would be more common (Gettys 2001:182).

The second basket was likely long used as a pair with the first one. It (catalog number 1963.13.3) is a sifter basket or sieve. Johnson Tiger told Field that Fannie Fulsom, his grandmother and the wife of George Fulsom, made this basket. As with the first basket, he dated it to 1875. According to the 1910 census, Fannie Fulsom was 45 in 1910, indicating that she was born around 1865. If this is correct and if the basket were made in 1875, then she would have been age ten at the time of its manufacture. While it is possible a ten-year-old made it, my intuition is that it was either made at a later (but still probably nineteenth century) date or by a different maker. Like all of the other Euchee baskets in museum collections, this (and the other Philbrook basket) shows extensive wear from practical use. Especially noteworthy is the way that the basket was patched with cloth strips. Because they are woven with evenly sized openings in their bases (bottoms), sifter baskets are more fragile than fully woven trays, such as the other Philbrook basket.

IMG_5454

Euchee sifter basket or sieve in river cane style but made with hardwood splints, probably hickory. Collected from Johnson Tiger in 1962 and attributed to his grandmother Fannie Fulsom. Late 19th century. Polecat Tribal Town. Philbrook Musuem of Art #1963.13.3. Used with permission of the Philbrook Museum of Art.

The Philbrook records do not preserve a purchase price for the second basket. It is possible, but unproven, that the price recorded for the first basket was a price for both baskets.

While this basket has a braided rim in the region’s aboriginal style, it is made not of river cane but of narrow splints of hardwood (probably hickory). My interpretation of this material is that it represents an Indian Territory (/Oklahoma) adaptation in a setting in which river cane was difficult to obtain. To my knowledge, it is only in Oklahoma that we find Southern river cane-based forms produced in materials other than river cane. Elsewhere in the South, newer materials were utilized in altered, adopted, or innovated forms.

Euchee basket making may continue to sleep. If it does, that should not be taken to mean that Euchee people lack appreciation for the baskets, basket making, and the basket-using of their ancestors. Elders I have known, from the 1990s to the present, have often recalled memories of how baskets such as these were used. These stories were never simply for my benefit. They are regularly shared with audiences of younger Euchee people. The tellers of such stories are eager to preserve a memory of past Euchee ways of life. The moral of such stories often center on how hard older Euchee people worked to care for their families and communities and how they possessed and use specialized cultural knowledge to sustain a rich and self-sufficient social life in the face of hardships and limited financial resources. In the late 1990s, I worked with cultural leaders from the Euchee community to organize an exhibition at Tulsa’s Gilcrease Museum. For this exhibition, two of the AMNH baskets were lent and displayed. Euchee elders noted how well-worn these baskets were. This prompted not only an appreciation for their industry of their ancestors, but also laughter at the thought that the baskets unnamed Euchee owners turned a nice profit selling end-of-life, totally worn out, baskets to an earnest young scholar from the East. They also appreciated the fact that some Euchee work baskets still existed in the world and would thus be available for future generations to see and appreciate. These thoughts apply, I think, to the two baskets that Johnson Tiger sold to Clark Field in 1962.

Thank you to my friend Christina Burke, Curator of Native American and Non-Western Art at the Philbrook Museum of Art for letting me spend time with these two baskets, not once but twice. Thanks also to the Euchee elders who have shared their people’s past and present with me.

Osage Weddings Project Website Launched

EDU15_OsageFlierhttp://osageweddings.com/

Update: Archived here: https://web.archive.org/web/20181125013857/https://osageweddings.com/

Still/Moving: Puppets and Indonesia Lecture and Exhibition Opening

Still/Moving Lecture & Exhibition Invite

AFS “Folklore and Museums Section” Founded, AFS Members (and Non-Members too) are Welcome to Join

I am happy to note here that the Executive Board of the American Folklore Society has endorsed a proposal put forward by the Folklore and Museum Policy and Practice Working Group to establish a Folklore and Museums section within the society. The section came into existence as of the Executive Board’s November 2014 meeting in Santa Fe. I am very pleased to serve as the new section’s first convener and to invite everyone with an interest in the intersection of museum practice and folklore (/folklife/ethnology) to join the new section.

As noted in the call for members on the AFS website:

the Folklore and Museums Section exists to foster communication and cooperation among museum-oriented folklorists, to advance the contribution of folklore studies scholarship and practice in museum settings, and to articulate museum-oriented folklorists with other colleagues, institutions, and organizations in the museum sector. The section aims, whenever possible, to cooperate with other sections of the American Folklore Society and with peer-organizations in the field.

The public web home for the new section can be found online here: http://www.afsnet.org/?page=MuseumSection and the member’s group space is accessible to members who are logged into the AFS website.

While I am very eager for all interested colleagues to join AFS, I want to note that the AFS has a free “Section Only” membership category by which non-AFS members can sign-up with sections such as the new Folklore and Museums section. This might be of particular value to non-folklorists who wish to keep up with the section’s work. Information on the Sections Only “membership” is available on the Membership Categories page of the AFS website. There is no cost to join the Folklore and Museums section.

The Santa Fe meetings were a great gathering for museum-minded folklorists. I am optimistic that the new section can help make the 2015 meetings even richer for our corner of the field. Thanks to all who have contributed to the momentum behind the new section and to the growth of folklore and museums work.

Sky Above New Mexico Museum of Art

Sky Above New Mexico Museum of Art, November 2014

On the Digital Practices in History and Ethnography Interest Group: An Invitation

CALL FOR PARTICIPATION

New members are invited to join the Digital Practices in History and Ethnography Interest Group (DPHE-IG) in the Research Data Alliance (RDA), an international initiative to facilitate the development of effective data practices, standards, and infrastructure in particular research areas, and across research areas–aiming to enhance capacity to archive, preserve, analyze, and share data, and for collaboration both within and across research communities.

RDA’s DPHE-IG works to advance data standards, practices and infrastructure for historical and ethnographic research, contributing to broader efforts in the digital humanities and social sciences.  Bi-weekly calls move the work of the group forward.  Many meetings are “project shares” during which someone leading a digital project describes their efforts and challenges. Some calls are with other RDA groups (such as the Provenance Interest Group), aiming to draw their expertise into our work in history and ethnography.

Our call-in meetings are on Tuesdays, 1:00 p.m. EST; see our schedule through May 2015, and let us know if you would like to share a project. Also see our annual report of activities, including a list of project shares thus far.

RDA holds two plenary meetings each year at which interests group can meet, and interact with other interest groups.  The next plenary is in San Diego, California and will be held on March 9-11, 2015.

Please join the group (just below the calendar here) [its free] and pass on this information to others who may be interested.  We would especially appreciate help reaching people outside Europe and North America.

Jason Baird Jackson (Indiana University), Mike Fortun (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), Kim Fortun (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), co-chairs

(Contact me if I can answer any questions that you might have about DPHE–Jason)

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

Just the Interest Group for You: Digital Practices in History and Ethnography

I would like to share news of the formation of an interest group in an area of interest that I know I share with many Shreds and Patches readers. The group is known as the “Digital Practices in History and Ethnography” Interest Group and it is a constituent interest group within the Research Data Alliance (RDA), an international initiative to facilitate the development of effective data practices, standards and infrastructure in particular research areas, and across research areas. The RDA aims to enhance capacity to archive, preserve, analyze and share data, and to foster collaboration across research communities.  My DPHE colleagues and I invite you to join this interest group, and to participate in its online discussions. Biannual RDA meetings are an opportunity to meet face-to-face with others in our area, and with researchers in other areas.

The RDA website describes RDA’s full array of interest and working groups, and the mission, structure and process of the RDA.  You can join the DPHE interest group at no cost by following these steps:

1. Navigate to the RDA website. https://rd-alliance.org/

2. Register in the top right hand corner of the site.

3. Once you’ve finished your registration and are logged in, navigate here: https://www.rd-alliance.org/internal-groups/digital-practices-history-and-ethnography-ig.html

4. In the middle of the page, click Request Group Membership

5. Answer the form question with a yes, and then you should be subscribed.

The second RDA Plenary was held in Washington D.C. September 16-18, 2013.  Our group discussed its mission and plan at a session on Wednesday afternoon, and circulated a list of discussion questions for on-going consideration by the group.

We’ve now started a discussion thread about metadata in historical and ethnographic research.

We’ve also scheduled held several project review sessions and plan to continue holding these events online in coming months. Early sessions in our series have looked at the

Perseids project (A Collaborative Editing Platform for Source Documents in Classics) http://sites.tufts.edu/perseids/

and the

Nunaliit Atlas Framework http://nunaliit.org/

As detailed here, Garett Montanez and I will present tomorrow (2/13) at a project share (1 pm, eastern time) event focused on the Open Folklore project. The presentation will be online and is free and open to anyone interested.

The DPHE group will be pursuing additional project-focused presentations, as well as open discussions of common interests and concerns.

My fellow DPHE IG co-chairs Mike and Kim Fortun (RPI) and I look forward to your participation.  Please let us know if you have

IU and MMWC in Ghana

IU President McRobbie’s recent trip to South Africa, Kenya, and Ghana has proven incredibly timely for projects coming to fruition at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. The IU delegation began its trip with extensive consultations in South Africa and this linked up nicely with the Margaret Bourke-White exhibition that we opened today. In one of his many compelling stories from the trip, Ryan Piurek recounted the deep history of positive university involvement in South African partnerships and projects, concluding his story with reflections on the Bourke-White exhibition as a current collaboration, one that will see the exhibition travel to two South African venues.

House Painting in Ghana

The President’s trip is concluding with a visit to another African nation where IU has deep ties and a long history of collaboration–Ghana. At MMWC, we are very excited that the museum is also connecting with audiences, communities, collaborators, and research opportunities in Ghana. While the museum’s ties to Ghana and scholars of the nation are multiple, the story right now centers on the work of IU art history graduate student, and MMWC collaborator, Brittany Sheldon. With MMWC help, Brittany has developed an exhibition based on her research on traditional decoratively painted houses. The exhibition State of an Art: Contemporary Ghanaian Bambɔlse will be presented this fall at the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board. The exhibition features Sheldon’s photographs documenting the red, black, and white designs (bambɔlse) that adorn the earthen walls of houses in the Upper East Region in Ghana.

Brittany is in Ghana now and is documenting her continued studies on her blog. For details on the exhibition that she has worked with the MMWC to develop, see the museum’s website.

Congratulations to Brittany on her exhibition and good luck to her in her continued studies with Ghanaian artists and tradition bearers.

Artworks Features IU Folklorists Kate Horigan (on Urban Legends) and Jon Kay (on TAI)

The latest episode of WFIU’s program Artworks does a great job of introducing the work of two of my IU Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology colleagues. Kate Horigan discusses so-called urban legends, the subject of one of her current courses. On the occasion of Traditional Arts Indiana being recognized with a Governor’s Arts Award, Jon Kay describes its many projects around the state of Indiana. No point of my writing about it, when the great show is there ready for you to listen to. Find it here:

http://indianapublicmedia.org/artworks/tais-governors-arts-award-urban-legends-late-john-thom/

%d bloggers like this: