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Posts from the ‘Exhibitions’ Category

A Gallery Talk at Sam Noble Museum in Conjunction with the Putting Baskets to Work in Southwest China Exhibition

Chinese Baskets Talk Image

I will be doing a gallery talk at the Sam Noble Museum on Sunday, June 24 at 2:00 pm in the Higginbotham Gallery, which is where the exhibition Putting Baskets to Work in Southwest China is now on display.

Information on the event is available here: http://samnoblemuseum.ou.edu/calendar/gallery-talk-collecting-baskets-in-south-west-china/

The exhibition is discussed here: http://samnoblemuseum.ou.edu/permanent-exhibits/current-exhibits/

Everyone is welcome! Anyone who loves, for instance, river cane baskets (Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, etc.) will enjoy seeing these bamboo work baskets.

 

Workshop on Ethnographic Methods in Museum Folklore and Ethnology

This post is the next in my series of reports on the trip to China that American museum colleagues and I took in December 2017. The Beijing posts (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) were about the time that we spent in transit to Nanning, where the core of our work on the trip would begin. This is the first post to share a bit of what the trip was about, explaining what we were up to in Guangxi.

Central to the story of our time in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is our friend and colleague Zhang Lijun. Lijun is researcher on the staff of the Anthropological Museum of Guangxi (广西民族博物馆) and she is also a research associate of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. She is essential to the museum ethnography sub-project within the China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project that has linked the China Folklore Society and the American Folklore Society for over ten years of exchanges and joint projects. As she notes in her recent contribution to Metafolklore: Stories of Sino-US Folkloristic Cooperation | 文化对话:中美非物质文化遗产论坛. (Guangzhou: Sun Yat-sen University Press, 2017), she served as a translator for the founding discussions between AFS and CFS while a masters student at Beijing Normal University. A decade later, and with a Ph.D. from Indiana behind her, she is now helping lead a key project in this flourishing partnership. (For an overview of these broader efforts, see this essay by AFS Executive Director Tim Lloyd.)

Our work in Guangxi is the reason for the trip and Lijun was crucial to the planning and the doing of both parts of that work. As called for in our proposal to the Henry Luce Foundation and planned for in our partnership discussions with the Anthropological Museum of Guangxi, this trip (the first of four during the current phase of our work) had two parts–a training workshop at the museum in Nanning and then a period of jointly pursued fieldwork in Nandan County among the Baiku (White Trouser) Yao people. This post is about the training workshop, an event for which Lijun’s bilingual skills and bi-national scholarly background were essential ingredients.

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Zhang Lijun facilitating discussion during the first day of the Workshop on Ethnographic Methods in Museum Folklore and Ethnology held at the Anthropological Museum of Guangxi, Nanning. December 11, 2017. Photograph by Jason Baird Jackson.

Wang Wei, the Director of the Anthropological Museum of Guangxi, is an leading scholar in paleoarchaeology with a deep history of participating in high-level international research collaborations and a strong record of publishing in international science journals. This experience has shaped his goals for the museum’s research staff. He is eager for them to also have international research experiences and opportunities to work jointly on publication as well as exhibition projects. Those goals are part of what we are up to in the current phase of cooperative research. They also motivate his providing generous support for our joint work. Those of us connected to the American museums share these aspirations.

Because the entire research and collections staff of the Anthropological Museum of Guangxi is too large to participate in the fieldwork phase of the project, the December 2017 workshop was developed as a means of broadening the professional development opportunities that the larger project offers. The workshop was held on December 11-12 and its focus was “Ethnographic Methods in Museum Folklore and Ethnology.”

During this event, American and Chinese participants, drawn from the partner museums, gave bilingual presentations on fieldwork methods as these pertain to work of museums of ethnography. About sixty attendees attended the workshop. Some were students affiliated with universities in the city of Nanning and, as initially anticipated, quite a few were members of the Anthropological Museum of Guangxi’s research and collections staff. There were also working ethnographers from various agencies in the city. A fourth group of attendees were staff members drawn from the ten local eco-museums with which the Anthropological Museum of Guangxi partners in its 1+10 eco-museum collaboration. These eco-museum representatives are members of the local minority groups that their institutions serve and they are active with impressive cultural documentation work in their home communities. The workshop sessions, which all took place at the museum, were well-attended and well-received.

The workshop program was comprised of seven presentations interspersed with questions and discussion. All were illustrated with bilingual slides and all were translated into the language (English or Mandarin) not spoken by the presenter. I presented an overview of ethnographic methods in the contexts of research design and the goals of museum work. My presentation introduced and connected the topics to be addressed by the other presentations. I was followed by Marsha MacDowell (Michigan State University Museum), whose presentation focused on interview methods. Jon Kay (Mathers Museum of World Cultures) focused on survey methods as well as on video documentation techniques. Carrie Hertz (Museum of International Folk Art) explored the uses of still photography in research, exhibitions, publication, and other museum activities. Kurt Dewhurst (Michigan State University Museum) presented on the use of existing collections in new field research and on the role that new ethnographic work can play in re-contextualizing such collections. Gong Shiyang (Anthropological Museum of Guangxi) presented on the role of eco-museums as research centers and on the partnership linking AMGX and its 10 partners in Guangxi. Fan Miao Miao (Anthropological Museum of Guangxi) presented on strategies for ethnographic research on dress and adornment practices.

At the conclusion of the workshop on December 12, research participants from the three U.S. partner museums, from the AMGX and from the Baiku Yao Eco-Museum in Nandan met to discuss the research plan for the joint fieldwork that would follow.

Here are some pictures from the first day of the workshop.

Here are some images from the second day of the workshop.

One of the temporary exhibitions on display at the museum is an exhibition produced in partnership with the Museum of Women and Children in Beijing (the museum we visited earlier in our trip). This exhibition is interesting because it deals with a classic ethnographic topic (“Brocade Made by Minority Nationalities in China”) in a kid-friendly way. Here are some pictures.

The Ethnic Costume Museum at the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology (12/9)

In the previous post in this series, I described how my traveling companions and I visited Beijing’s 798 Art Zone. (For the series in order, see 1, 2, 3, and 4.) After that stop on December the 9th, we visited one more Beijing museum. This one was a new one for everyone. Carrie researched it and put it on our agenda—The Ethnic Costume Museum at the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology (BIFT). We were uncertain what to expect, but we speculated that it would be a small university museum.

It won’t take many words to tell the story. We were extremely impressed. The museum is not richly contextualizing and interpretive in approach (as more and more university museums work to be) but its collections are outstanding and they are beautifully presented in large, comfortable galleries. For scholars interested in dress, adornment, and textile history in China, it is a definite must-see.

The museum is located on an upper floor of a multi-use academic building in the midst of the BIFT campus. Discovering this, one presumes further that the space will be small, as many similar university galleries in the United States often are. But on arrival up the stairs, this speculation is dispelled. The galleries go on and on. You can check out an English language web page for the museum here: http://english.bift.edu.cn/department/ethniccostumemuseum/index.htm It begins:

The Costume Museum at the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology (BIFT), founded with the approval of Beijing Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage, is the first museum specializing in ethnic costumes in China. The Museum is also a cultural research institute integrating collection, display, research, and teaching.

BIFT Costume Museum covers a floor space of 2,000 square meters, with several major exhibition halls: Han Nationality Costume Hall, Ethnic Minority Costume Hall, Miao Nationality Costume Hall, Metalworking Jewelry Hall, Brocade Embroidery and Wax-printing Hall, Olympic Uniform and Ceremony Costume Hall, Picture Hall, and Hands-on Workshop (for teaching and academic exchange).

As the top specialized costume museum in China, it has a fine collection of over 10,000 pieces of costume, accessories, fabric, wax printing, and embroidery. The collection is displayed in different categories, such as costumes of Miao nationality, metalworking jewelry, folk wax printing, and fabric. The museum also has a collection of nearly 1000 precious photographs taken during the 1920s and 1930s featuring the ethnic costumes of Yi, Zang, and Qiang nationalities.

That is all true. Here I share some of our photographs from the visit, which was the high point of our day and great preparation for the work we would begin in Guangxi the next day.

When we arrived, we noticed a sign that indicated that no photography was allowed. This left us crestfallen. We started taking in the exhibitions and noticed that all the other visitors were taking pictures and that the staff was completely aware of this. On investigation, it was flash photography that was prohibited. As a result of these factors, as well as the appropriately dark galleries (appropriate because textiles are being put on display for extended periods, raising the problem of light damage) our photographs are dark and rushed.

In honor of our generous hosts in Nandan County, I present the Baiku Yao men’s outfit on display at the museum before posting a sample of other images from the museum.

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The “Men’s attire of the white-pants Yao branch of the Yaozu people” at the Museum of Ethnic Costumes. December 9, 2017. Photograph by Jason Baird Jackson.

The Museum of Women and Children | 中国妇女儿童博物馆 (12/9)

This is the third 2017 China trip post. As in the two (1, 2) previous posts, it reports on adventures in Beijing with Jon Kay (my MMWC colleague) and Carrie Hertz (of the Museum of International Folk Art). On the second day in Beijing, we were thrilled to be joined by our friends and colleagues from the Michigan State University Museum—Marsha MacDowell and C. Kurt Dewhurst.

Our goals for December 9th were pretty ambitious. In the morning we went to The Museum of Women and Children, China’s “first state-level museum focusing on women and children.” Because the museum previously hosted the U.S. exhibition The Sum of Many Parts: 25 Quiltmakers from 21st-Century America (here and here), it was well known to Marsha (who was central to the earlier traveling exhibition—a project that Jon was also involved in). Marsha and Kurt told us of the extensive and detailed textile exhibitions they saw previously at the museum (and that are still announced on the English website…). Sadly the museum was rather deserted on our arrival. It soon became clear why. Most of the exhibitions were recently taken down, leaving the galleries rather empty. We saw where the great textile exhibitions had been and we quickly saw the remaining history exhibitions and then we kept moving. Later in the trip—when we got to Nanning—we would see an exhibition that gave us hope for the Museum of Women and Children, but at this stage, we just departed the museum a bit disappointed and looking ahead to our next stop—Beijing’s 798 Art Zone.

The IU Gateway Office and Tsinghua University Art Museum (12/8)

This post is about a portion of my recent trip to China. The main focus of this trip was collaborative ethnographic research in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, but other activities happened along the way. This post about the morning of December 8, 2017 and my companions for the day were two friends and colleagues–Dr. Carrie Hertz, Curator of Textiles and Dress at the Museum of International Folk Art and Dr. Jon Kay, Director of Traditional Arts Indiana and Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, Indiana University.

After traveling from the U.S. to Beijing, our first morning in China was devoted to a visit to the Indiana University China Gateway Office, which is adjacent to Tsinghua University in Beijing. There we met with China Gateway Director Steven Yin and IUPUI Recruitment Coordinator and Assistant Office Manager Peter Wen. We spent some time at the Gateway discussing China-related projects (including our own) and then Peter walked us across the Tsinghua campus for our visit to the remarkable Tsinghua University Art Museum (TAM), where Steven had arranged for us to meet with colleagues and see the museum.

 

At TAM we met with Ge Xiuzhi from the research department and Wang Ying from the education and external relations department. They were generous hosts with whom we shared tea and luxurious visits to the museum’s spacious and beautiful galleries. Our interests gravitated to some of our favorite topics–textiles and dress, architecture, and furniture. Here are some images from “Architecture China,” an exhibition that tells the story of a group of vernacular architecture researchers while also introducing architecture students (and everyone else) to the key techniques in the national architectural tradition.

 

A key exhibition at TAM at present is a large overview exhibition titled “Tsinghua Treasures: Exhibition of Tsinghua University Art Museum Collection.” It is very large and presents a rich sample of the museum core collection. As reflected in this sample of our images, we devoted a lot of time to the textile section, which is rich in items of dress and adornment.

 

We could have spent more than one day just studying the various sections of Tsinghua Treasures. We regretted neglecting some wonderful sections, including those devoted to ceramics, painting, and calligraphy.

 

We focused intently on the furniture gallery. As with the architecture exhibition, there were excellent hands-on educational stations in this gallery that helped one better understand the techniques and woods used in Chinese furniture.

 

Staff from the Tsinghua University Art Museum visited Indiana University during May 2017. On that visit I attended a presentation at the Eskenazi Museum of Art at which the Eskenazi staff (and I) were given a exciting overview of this new museum’s work and collections. It was wonderful to be able to follow up on this presentation and to see the TAM itself in the company of very generous hosts and my wonderful colleagues.

Our visit to the Tsinghua University Art Museum

A view of our group and the grand staircase at the Tsinghua University Art Museum. (L-R) Peter Wen, Ge Xiuzhi, Jon Kay, Carrie Hertz, Jason Jackson. December 8, 2017. Photograph courtesy of Ge Xiuzhi.

 

A Southwest Central Indiana Collaboration: The Art with a Purpose Exhibition at the Brown County Art Gallery

This afternoon the Brown County Art Gallery in Nashville, opened the exhibition Art with a Purpose: Brown County Baskets. The exhibition is a homecoming, of sorts, because it is being staged in the community in which the baskets and basket makers who are the exhibition’s focus lived and worked. Oak rod baskets, while once made in other pockets in the Eastern United States, were unique within Indiana in a small region centered on Brown County. The exhibition is also a homecoming in another way. While the exhibition’s curator–Dr. Jon Kay–produces exhibitions that appear all around Indiana, and at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures‘ galleries in Bloomington, it is much less common for him to be able to present an exhibition in his own home town of Nashville. Thanks go to Lyn Letsinger-Miller, President of the Brown County Art Gallery, and to the Gallery’s other leaders, for hosting the exhibition and a very special kick-off event today.

The exhibition is also an exciting re-mix, as it is a new, edited, and updated version of Working Wood: Oak-Rod Baskets in Indiana, the 2015 exhibition that Jon curated for the Mathers Museum of World Cultures as part of the 2015 Themester @Work: The Nature of Labor on a Changing Planet (a program of the IU College of Arts and Sciences). As you can see from the photographs, the exhibition was adapted for the art gallery and includes two beautiful paintings related to the county’s unique basketry heritage executed in the Brown County Art Colony’s signature style. They are The Basket Weaver and The Basket Weaver’s Daughter, both by E. K. Williams.

In Jon’s talk this afternoon, he explained the history and practice of oak rod basketry and tracked the ways that these baskets went from being valuable tools for everyday living to being symbols of an old-fashioned way of life consumed by urban tourists visiting the county to disappearing when easier-to-make white oak splint baskets were imported to the county from basket making areas of Kentucky and Tennessee. These rustic splint baskets were good enough for tourists who did not know the local history of rod basketry and who were not collecting the works of named artisans.  The story of particular basket making families linked across time, in Jon’s account, to the broader history of tourism and the politics of culture in Brown County. These themes, in turn, reflected larger modern and anti-modern sensibilities in the U.S. as a whole during the twentieth century.

There was a big crowd out for the opening events. The attendance by descendants of the two key basket marking families–Hovis and Bohall–made today’s events extra special. Thanks go to the Brown County Art Gallery for its wonderful efforts bringing this exhibition to a new audience. Congratulations to Jon and to all of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures staff and students who worked on the project.

Some background…

Traditional Arts Indiana, the Mathers Museum of World Cultures program that Jon Kay directs, is a partnership between Indiana University and the Indiana Arts Commission. Its task is to document, interpret, and support the folk and traditional arts across all of Indiana. It does that in a myriad of ways, including through the production of exhibitions that circulate across the state and engage its people in deeper appreciation for Indiana’s diverse heritage.

While TAI has a statewide focus, as does Indiana University, Indiana University Bloomington is making a special effort to support, and positively impact, the eleven counties of the Southwest Central Indiana region in which our campus is located (Brown, Crawford, Daviess, Dubois, Greene, Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, Orange, Owen and Washington). Projects being pursued in this region are, like the Art with a Purpose: Brown County Baskets exhibition, intended to be partnerships between parts of the university (such as Traditional Arts Indiana/Mathers Museum of World Cutures) and local community organizations, such as the Brown County Art Gallery. In pursuing collaborations such as this one, we are happy to be advancing our campus’ goals while, we hope, also enhancing the quality of life and cultural richness in the region in which we live and work.

Jon Kay is Director of Traditional Arts Indiana and Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. At Indiana University, he is also a Professor of Practice in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology. His most recent book is Folk Art and Aging: Life-Story Objects and their Makers (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2016). That book is a title in the Material Vernaculars series that the museum co-publishes with Indiana University Press. Jon’s studies of Brown County are reflected, for instance, in his article “A Picture of an Old Country Store“, published in Museum Anthropology Review.

Learn more about oak rod baskets in Annie Corrigan‘s 2015 radio story with Jon for WFIU (“Southern Indiana’s Lost Craft“).

Don’t Miss the Quilts of Southwest China Exhibition Opening at MMWC

While the coming week will be diverse and full as always, I have one big hope–that many friends, colleagues, campus citizens, and community members will come out for the opening of Quilts of Southwest China. The exhibition opens next Saturday (January 21, 2017) from 2-4 p.m. This is a project that we (a big, bi-national we) have been working on since 2013. If you would like to learn more about the project, you can also come out on Friday at noon for a talk (“Curating Quilts of Southwest China”) by co-curator Lijun Zhang of the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities. (Lijun is also a research associate of the MMWC and an IU Ph.D. graduate).

I give here the invitation (everyone is invited!). Below the invitation, I share some links for more information on the exhibition.

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Read about Quilts of Southwest China in the Bloomington Herald Times.
Read about Quilts of Southwest China on the Art at IU Blog.
Purchase the Quilts of Southwest China catalogue at the MMMWC store or from the IU Press.

See you at the museum!

Get Oriented to Themester 2016: Beauty

Reviewing the Mathers Museum of World Cultures events and exhibitions pages is probably the only way to get a full sense of all that we are doing for 2016 Themester, but for an overview of Themester as a whole and its focus on Beauty, I recommend checking out yesterday’s kickoff press release (Figure 1). In addition to the MMWC pages, it would also be great to see the Themester website. For MMWC, Themester boils down to three great classes [A400, E460, F360] taught at the museum, three great beauty-focused exhibitions [Costume, Hózhó, Siyazama], plus a lot of programming, including folk artists residencies throughout the semester, as well as films, lectures, and hands-on activities. Check out the full list here. Thanks go to the College of Arts and Sciences for including the museum in an impressive roster of Themester activities. Thanks too go to the students who are helping us organize our Themester activities and to the artists and tradition bearers whose work we are highlighting. Please join it this remarkable exploration of beauty around the world.

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Figure 1: The Themester 2016 press release, which leads off with a photography b MMWC Consulting Curator Pravina Shukla, from her exhibition Costume.

Siyazama: Traditional Arts, Education, and AIDS in South Africa

Get all the details by checking out the new press release announcing the Mathers Museum of World Cultures’ programs and activities in support of the exhibition Siyazama: Traditional Arts, Education, and AIDS in South Africa. This wonderful exhibition is part of a great fall at the museum, now underway. I hope to see everyone at the opening at the museum right after the First Thursdays Festival. Thanks to Themester 2016 and the School of Public Health for supporting this exhibition and its programs and to the Michigan State University Museum for curating it.

Siyazama Release

Working Wood: Oak-Rod Baskets in Indiana [Exhibition, Presentation @ MMWC]

The final exhibition of the three basketry exhibitions that the Mathers Museum of World Cultures (MMWC) is presenting as part of Themester opened this week. Like the first of the three to open (Willow Work: Viki Graber, Basketmaker), this one was also curated by MMWC Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage Jon Kay as an outgrowth of his research on Indiana folklife pursued as the Director of Traditional Arts Indiana. Later in this post, I will share information on a great upcoming event connected with the exhibition, but first a description:

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. Sponsored by Fall 2015 Themester @Work: The Nature of Labor on a Changing Planet, the exhibit will be on display at the museum through February 7, 2016.

It is great to now see all three basketry exhibitions open and staged in adjacent galleries. (Putting Baskets to Work in Southwestern China is the other one–I curated it with Lijun Zhang, Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities). Together they are one outgrowth of a broader focus at present on basketry research at MMWC. I’ll discuss some other aspects of this work in later posts. (Our Themester series echos the College’s theme. Our work is together grouped as @Work with Basketry on a Changing Planet).

A chance to learn more about the work of the basketmakers explored in Working Wood: Oak-Rod Baskets in Indiana is upcoming this Friday at the MMWC. Jon will present a talk titled “The Last Basketmaker: Indiana’s Oak-Rod Baskets and Their Makers” (Friday, September 11; 4 to 5 p.m.). Here is our description of the event:

The Bohall and Hovis families of Brown County made oak-rod baskets for their neighbors to gather produce and carry everyday items. While these workbaskets were essential for subsistence farming, industrialization and changes in agricultural practices threatened the continuation of this craft. and by the 1980s, the weaving of oak-rod baskets had ended in Indiana. In a lecture filled with historic photographs, Jon Kay, Director of Traditional Arts Indiana and Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the MMWC, unravels the story of these baskets and explores the global forces that brought this distinctive Indiana tradition to an end. The lecture, sponsored by Fall 2015 Themester @Work: The Nature of Labor on a Changing Planet, is free and open to the public.

Friday afternoon will be a great time to see the exhibitions and then hear and see Jon’s talk. I hope that you can make it.

The front of the At Work with Basketry on a Changing Planet postcard.

The front of the At Work with Basketry on a Changing Planet postcard.

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