More good news in terms of publication work. I am pleased to share that my article “Kultuuriline omastamine kultuurimuutusena” is now published in Estonian in the wonderful journal Studia Vernacula (see volume 14). This is a translation (minus the case studies) of my earlier paper “On Cultural Appropriation,” which appeared in English in the Journal of Folklore Research (volume 51, number 1 in 2021). Special thanks go to Elo-Hanna Seljamma for work translating the paper, to Kristi Jõeste for inviting me to contribute the paper, and to Madis Arukask for discussing my contribution in an editorial appearing in the new issue. Studia Vernacula is a wonderful open access journal beautifully produced in digital and print form. Even if you do not read Estonian, I urge you check it out with the help of Google Translate or a similar service. So much wonderful material culture studies work appears therein year after year.
Posts from the ‘Good News’ Category
Article: “A Survey of Contemporary Bai Craft Practices in the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan, China” in Museum Anthropology Review 16(1-2)
I am very happy to note a new co-authored article titled “A Survey of Contemporary Bai Craft Practices in the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan, China.” It was jointly written with Wuerxiya (first author), C. Kurt Dewhurst (third author) and Cuixia Zhang (fourth author) and it appears in Museum Anthropology Review volume 16, numbers 1-2. This is the special double issue published in honor of Daniel C. Swan, as noted in an earlier post on Shreds and Patches. The article is based on work undertaken by a much larger bi-national team within the “Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies” sub-project of the broader “China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project,” a collaboration (2007-present) of the American Folklore Society and the China Folklore Society. In particular, it describes work undertaken through the auspices of, and in partnership with, The Institute of National Culture Research at Dali University. Special thanks go to the Institute and its leadership.
Find the article online at Museum Anthropology Review: https://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/mar/article/view/34101
I am very happy to note the publication of “Basketry among Two Peoples of Northern Guangxi, China” in the latest double issue of Asian Ethnology. This article is one that I co-wrote with my friends and collaborators Lijun Zhang (first author), C. Kurt Dewhurst (third author), and Jon Kay (fourth author) and it is based on work undertaken by a much larger bi-national team within the “Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies” sub-project of the broader “China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project,” a collaboration (2007-present) of the American Folklore Society and the China Folklore Society.
I am a huge fan of Asian Ethnology, a wonderful open access journal now in its 81st year. Check out the huge volume that our paper is a part of, Find Asian Ethnology online here: https://asianethnology.org/ and also in JSTOR
Find our article here: https://asianethnology.org/articles/2386
Find Jon Kay’s companion article here: https://asianethnology.org/articles/2387
His project is distinct from ours, but find William Nitzky’s article (also) on the Baiku Yao people today here: https://asianethnology.org/articles/2384
Social media is changing again and it seems like a good time to give Shreds and Patches more love and attention.
My collaborator and special issue co-editor Michael Paul Jordan and I are very pleased to announce the publication of a new double-issue of Museum Anthropology Review titled Studies in Museum Ethnography in Honor of Daniel C. Swan
Find the new collection in honor of Dan in Museum Anthropology Review online here: https://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/mar/issue/view/2153 Thanks to all of the authors, production staff, publishers, peer-reviewers, and helpers who made this collection possible.
The pandemic slows all work beyond bare necessity, but good things can happen amid the difficulties of the present. Over the summer, with a small but mighty crew and some generous grants-in-hand, I did what the sailors call a shakedown cruise for the new Material Culture and Heritage Studies Laboratory that I founded at summer’s start. With great helpers, it was fun to return to research that had been set aside in 2012 when my MMWC era began. I am thankful for those organizations investing in this new work and for those colleagues and friends encouraging and participating in it. Last Friday the lab’s website launched bringing the quiet phase to an end. Check out the new website here: https://mchslab.folklore.indiana.edu/index.html
Thanks to all who have helped!
Hi everyone. Some of you already know that The Michiana Potters: Art, Community, and Collaboration in the Midwest by Meredith A. E. McGriff came out recently from Indiana University Press. It’s great. You should read it asap. This is an exciting milestone not only for Meredith and her collaborators, but also for the Material Vernaculars book series that I edit for the IU Press. The Michiana Potters is the sixth title in the series. I am really happy about the work that the series is doing and I really appreciate both the IU Press and everyone who has supported the series as readers, reviewers, authors, and especially purchasers.
Why do a single out purchasers? Well, as I have noted previously, the MV series is an unusual experiment in scholarly publishing. Because those of us involved in the series want to make sure that potential readers are not hindered from reading series titles because of lack of library access or the inability to purchase the book, MV titles are offered for sale in beautiful print editions and also offered in free-to-readers editions online. When you choose to purchase one of those beautiful print books (or a commercial ebook edition), you are helping subsidize the digital free-to-readers edition. The granddaughter of one of the potters profiled in Meredith’s book, for instance, can click here and get access to the book and carry it around on her phone, show it to her art teacher, and use it for a class project. When someone who can afford to buy the book–a pottery collector getting excited about Michiana ceramics or a professor working in material culture studies, to give two obvious examples–buys the book, they are helping fund the production of the book so that others can also read and enjoy and learn from it. In fields such a folklore studies and cultural anthropology, maximizing access, especially for members of those communities from which we learn, is a crucial ethical consideration.
I have basically told this same story every time an MV title has appeared. The good news is that the system seems to be working. I hope that you will keep it working by purchasing Meredith’s fine book if you can.
As I will describe below, things are actually more complicated than I have evoked above. It is not actually the case that a book is either in print form or in the free digital form. There are other versions in the world too. Some of you can help the cause by using those other versions. I will now reveal some of these other ways.
First, the buyers. You can get a handsome paperback or hardback version of The Michiana Potters from a wide range of booksellers. The IU Press links to some of them on its webpage for the book. Pretty much any brick and mortar or online bookseller should be able to get it for you. If you are an ebook reader, you can also get an ebook edition from the usual sources of ebooks. So, book buyers, get busy. Thank you for making the series possible.
If you need or want to check out the free-to-readers edition of The Michiana Potters, it is now posted to the MV section of the IUScholarWorks repository. You can find its repository page here. If you know someone who really needs to read this or another MV title, please help them find this page. The series page with all six books in IUScholarWorks is here.
Now, lets get fancy. If you teach at a university or college and you wanted to assign The Michiana Potters or another MV title to your students, you can probably do this in a way that saves them money while also contributing financially to the work of the IU Press as the series publisher. “How can that be?” you ask. Well, series titles are also published as part of services that are relatively common in college and university libraries. One colleague of mine, for example, is teaching the inaugural series volume Material Vernaculars: Objects, Images, and Their Social Worlds this fall. Students in that colleague’s class will be reading the book via a JSTOR, a key service making journal and book content available on in university and college libraries. Other libraries have purchased eBook access using other services. For professors and students, your university library may or may not have purchased any one MV title in this form, but some have and more could. Usually all you need to do is look it up in your college or university library catalog.
So, if you are a university person, you can use a JSTOR or a university library ebook version for yourself or for your students. When you do, you are contributing, just by that use, to supporting the publishing work of IU Press, including the MV series. If you can do so, please use such library provisioned versions. They save your students money but they still help support the press. Doing so is better than pointing your students to the IUScholarWorks version. But, if you cannot arrange other access for your students or yourself, go ahead, of course, and use the Free-to-Readers version. That is what it is there for.
You can find The Michiana Potters in JSTOR here: https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctv14npjxm
One source that I would really like to discourage you from using are the ever growing number of dubious file sharing sites. There really is no justification for getting The Michiana Potter from a Russian hacker when the IU Press and the IU Scholarly Communications Department, both at the IU Libraries, have worked to share a safe and easy version with you.
Happy reading to everyone! Congratulations to Meredith!
Below find the ninth in a series of posts offered in celebration on the occasion of our colleague and friend Daniel C. Swan’s retirement from the University of Oklahoma, where he has served with distinction as a Professor of Anthropology, Curator of Ethnology, and Interim Director of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. Here I take a turn reflecting on an an aspect of Dan’s work and his personal impact. This series of guest posts has been organized in partnership with Michael Paul Jordan. –Jason Baird Jackson
Daniel C. Swan, Museum Leader
by Jason Baird Jackson
Earlier posts in this series in celebration of Daniel C. Swan’s retirement from the Sam Noble Museum, and from the University of Oklahoma where it is based, have emphasized mentoring. To impact a more junior colleague positively and to help launch them, or to advance them, in their career is particularly noble work. Since we met one another in the spring of 1994, Dan has been an extraordinary mentor to me and an energetic advocate for me and my work. My career has followed the particular—and wonderful—pathways that it has because of Dan’s deep influence on me and on my lifecourse. This observation could easily be the stepping off point for an essay on Dan’s outsized role as a mentor and supporter to me and to many others. I would love to write that essay.
For others, as for myself, a key part of Dan’s influence as a mentor relates to his providing an observable, emulatable model for collaborations that link communities and cultural organizations for work that addresses the needs or goals of the partner community and that serves society more broadly, while also advancing collaborative scholarly research. While Dan’s involvement in a wide range of such projects in Indian Country are perhaps best known, he has been involved in partnerships and initiatives connecting to, and serving, a still wider range of constituencies and communities. This was true, for instance, in his work as a curator in a an extremely diverse city, while at the Science Museum of Minnesota and I saw it first hand in his work as Senior Curator at the Gilcrease Museum.
In 1999, for instance, we worked together to raise funds for an “Oklahoma African American Folk Arts Survey” aimed at addressing the Gilcrease Museum’s historic neglect of African American cultural life in the state and in the Americas. We brought the Smithsonian exhibition Creativity and Resistance: Maroon Cultures in the Americas to the Gilcrease the following year for the same reason. At a much larger scale, one of his most ambitious and far reaching Gilcrease projects was the major permanent exhibition Las Artes de Mexico. Opened in 1996 and co-curated with Kevin Smith, that project shook things up for Gilcrease and leavened an excellent but little-known collection of Mexican art and documents with contemporary collections and contemporary voices—including Indigenous ones. It was perhaps the first time that a major Gilcrease Museum exhibition was informed by new, project-based ethnographic field research. It was also innovative not just for the museum but for the field in the way that it snuck in a wide range of then emerging best practices and subverted, in a fruitful and innovative way, the then-standard conventions of art-museum-based exhibition presentation and planning. Even the staid Tulsa World captured the sense of what I am getting at here in this June 9, 1996 report by arts reporter James D. Watts, Jr.
I could keep reflecting on Dan’s exhibition projects in this way. Symbols of Faith and Belief: The Art of the Native American Church (a partnered project of the Native American Church of Oklahoma and the Gilcrease Museum), A Gathering of Traditions: A Centennial Celebration of Dr. Charles Marius Barbeau in Oklahoma (a partnership of the Wyandotte Nation, the Seneca-Cayuga Nation, and the Sam Noble Museum) and A Giving Heritage: Wedding Clothes and the Osage Community (a partnered project of the Sam Noble Museum and the Osage Nation Museum) in particular deserve detailed discussion. I hope to write, or to help someone write, that essay. Dan has been involved in a huge number and range of exhibitions and an even larger number of public-facing and community facing programs. These are not well-enough known.
Mentoring. Museum collaboration. Exhibitions. Dan’s accomplishments in these areas warrant extensive discussion. So too with his own research and writing. If you have not read Peyote Religious Art: Symbols of Faith and Belief (University Press of Mississippi, 1999) or Wedding Clothes and the Osage Community (co-authored with Jim Cooley) (Indiana University Press, 2019) yet, I really urge you to do so. On the article side, my favorites include “Early Osage Peyotism” (Plains Anthropologist, 1998), “The North American Lotus (Nelumbo lutea (Wild.) Pers.) – Sacred Food of the Osage (Ethnobotany Research and Applications, 2010), and (with Michael Paul Jordan) “Contingent Collaborations: Patterns of Reciprocity in Museum–Community Partnerships” (Journal of Folklore Research, 2015). It is hard to fathom how Dan found time for so much writing when his administrative, curatorial, teaching, and collaboration duties were so extensive across so many years. His larger oeuvre is remarkable and really warrants separate discussion. I hope to help with that and with helping surface the ways that all of these activities intersected with his teaching work at the universities of Tulsa, Memphis, and Oklahoma.
I am cheating by evoking those other areas here in brief as I do not want them to go unmentioned in the series. But the focus of my thinking today is in museum leadership. Between 2013 and 2019, I served as Director of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures (MMWC). Almost daily during those years, I thought about Dan and about all of the things that I learned from him about leading teams of colleagues within museums. I was really fortunate to have been hired by Dan to work as his understudy and assistant at the Gilcrease Museum during his tenure there as Senior Curator. Dan had begun his own museum career at the Oklahoma Historical Society’s main facility in Oklahoma City and then at the White Hair Memorial, an OHS state historic site and community learning center in the Osage Nation. Before returning to Oklahoma to work at Gilcrease Museum as Senior Cuator, Dan was Curator of Ethnology at the Science Museum of Minnesota. After Gilcrease he served as Director of the University of Memphis’ Chucalissa Museum and finally returned again to Oklahoma to follow me as the Sam Noble Museum’s Curator of Ethnology. Yesterday was his last day in that role and as the museum’s Interim Director. I write this reflection on his first day of retirement.
Museum leadership is often hard, especially in moments such as the current one. In each of his museum leadership roles, Dan made difficult choices with his eyes focused on how to advance the community-service mission of these museums. When I became Director at MMWC, I thought often about how I so regularly watched Dan turn bad news into good news and how he stayed positive and good humored even when this could not be done. There was almost always another day to try again. Every problem could be approached from a new angle. New friends, new funds, new relationships, new ways of organizing the team, new ways of organizing the day, new ways of organizing the collections, could almost always be found and, with them, new progress could eventually be made. The time that I spent at Gilcrease working with Dan and with our colleagues of that period was the most formative in my career. Despite all of the good things that have happened to me since, it remains my own personal golden age. I was shown how to do the work of a curator and given ever more expansive opportunities to do it. I had so much fun to work with Dan and with my other Gilcrease colleagues of that time.
But, I was also watching how the museum’s senior staff, its directors (there were several in a brief period) and especially how Dan, as Senior Curator, did their work. How did museum leaders interact with the board and with funders? Where did the funding come from? How did the leadership group work with the media? With city officials? How were staffing problems dealt with? Controversies? Mistakes? The usual physical plant crises? How did the museum present itself to its audiences and was it diversifying those? With respect to Dan in particular, how did he pull off major projects (the Thomas Moran exhibition, for instance) that went beyond the skills and experiences that the museum’s staff already had? How did he help the teams that he led innovate? I learned so much from watching him and from being involved in the group work that he led the Gilcrease Museum’s curatorial, registration, education, conservation, and programs staff in.
There are many lessons, but one that I thought about most often in my own directorship was the balance that a museum leader has to try to strike between firmness and flexibility, seriousness and fun, expectations (of growth, of productivity, of commitment, of progress) and acceptance (of personality differences, of relative skills, of career investment, of hard realities). In striking this balance, Dan always displayed an equanimity that I never came close to. With the staff, he knew just when the best course of action was to lighten the mood with appropriate humor. Inversely, he knew when frank words were necessary and how to convey them constructively. From my perspective, he knew just when he needed to roll up his own sleeves and join in the physical work of lifting a crate or painting a wall and when he needed to straighten his tie and leave such work to those for whom it was an assigned duty. I wish I had words adequate to describe what I am getting at, but the key thing is that Dan was a model museum leader not just in the sense that he was an excellent one, but in the sense that he literally provided the model by which I and others learned how to also be museum leaders ourselves through his example and influence.
While my time as a museum director is concluded, for now at least, I still use the lessons that I gained form Dan daily. They appear in my courses about museums and curatorship, certainly. They appear in my own mentoring of students and colleagues. But they also permeate my day-to-day work. At present, I am returning to my own research and my own collaborations. In doing so, I am trying to build a new team of collaborators and to revitalize relationships with partners for a post-MMWC period. I am trying to keep existing efforts going while looking ahead to new ones. Doing just this is fundamental to the work that I have watched Dan do for all of the twenty-six years that I have known him.
I am thrilled at the prospect of Dan having, at last, the freedom to take up his projects and pursue his collaborations out of pure interest and commitment without the burden of having to feed a museum’s insatiable demand for new exhibitions, new grants, new reports, new budgets, new donations, and all of the rest.
Dan—thank you for all that you have given and all that you have done. Congratulations!
Below find the eighth in a series of guest posts offered in celebration on the occasion of our colleague and friend Daniel C. Swan’s retirement from the University of Oklahoma, where he has served with distinction as a Professor of Anthropology, Curator of Ethnology, and Interim Director of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. Reflecting here on an aspect of Dan’s work and his personal impact is Abby Wightman, who is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Mary Baldwin College. This series of guest posts has been organized in partnership with Michael Paul Jordan. –Jason Baird Jackson
Thank You, Dan, For All The Keys
by Abby Wightman
When my friends Michael Jordan and Jason Jackson asked me to write this piece in honor of Dan Swan, I was surprised – honored and pleased, but still surprised. Dan did not serve on my dissertation committee. We have never been work colleagues. I am not a museum anthropologist, and we have never co-authored a publication. In anthropological terms, we did not have formally-defined roles with assigned duties and reciprocal obligations. Yet it is precisely this list of “nots” – of all the ways Dan and I are not connected – that is so important here.
When Dan arrived at the University of Oklahoma in 2007, I was nearing the end of my doctoral studies in cultural anthropology, so he did not serve on my dissertation committee. Despite this, Dan reached out to me twice in later years – first, to ask me to participate on a conference panel and then several years later to work with him on a bigger, but also more complex and delicate project.
At the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, Dan had inherited a binder full of photographs of the Plains Apache community of Oklahoma, taken by anthropologist J. Gilbert McAllister in 1933. McAllister spent one year collecting kinship data among the Plains Apache, and this fieldwork became the basis for an important chapter in the well-known volume Social Organization of North American Tribes, edited by Fred Eggan (1937). As part of his research, McAllister also took many photographs of the Apache people and families he came to know. These photographs, through a rather circuitous route, came to the Sam Noble Museum and eventually to Dan’s care.
Together, Dan and I developed a modest pilot project with three goals: to learn more about the context and people featured in McAllister’s photographs, to ascertain community interest in the collection, and to find a place to archive the collection. In the summer of 2013, with the support of the Sam Noble Museum and a small grant, I spent a summer of fieldwork in Anadarko and Caddo County, visiting with Apache friends. Apache folks patiently went through each photograph to provide the context missing from McAllister’s sparse annotations. The majority of unknown individuals were identified, as were location and context. The results were pretty astonishing, considering the age of the collection and the poor quality of some photographs.
Unsurprisingly, McAllister’s photographs strongly appealed to many Apache people. Unlike anthropologists, who might value historic images for their ethnographic value, Apache people primarily valued McAllister’s photographs for their social value. Although some of McAllister’s photos feature examples of material or expressive culture, the majority of the collection, over 60 photographs, are portraits. These photographs emphasize individuals and families in everyday dress, posed in front of homes, camps, cars, or – rarely – tipis. For many Apache people, McAllister’s photographs were valuable because of these portraits and their kinship ties to people in the present. While the photographs were visual representations of beloved relatives, they also had a material value and use beyond the image, as evidence of kinship claims and connections.
Like most fieldwork, however, this project wasn’t wrapped up tidily in one summer. While we made both hard and digital copies of photographs available to participants, I knew the entire collection should be stored in the community. In 2013, however, that was not possible. For six years, the binder with copies of the collection sat in my office, a constant reminder of my unfinished obligations to the Apache community. Last year, after checking with Dan, I was able to deposit hard and digital copies of the McAllister collection to the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma Cultural Preservation Office. The negatives will be archived, and accessible to the community and scholars, at the Western History Collection at the University of Oklahoma.
As the latest in a line of University of Oklahoma graduate students working with the Plains Apache, it made sense, perhaps, that Dan would ask me to help with McAllister’s photographs. But in a very real way, it also didn’t make sense. At my small university, requirements for tenure and promotion prioritize teaching and advising undergraduates. Dan knew that I could not reciprocate his offer of research support with support from my own institution – yet he offered me opportunities anyway, even without a formal student-advisor relationship. He became an invaluable connection back to Southern Plains scholarship and to the institution where I received my doctorate when I had few other links to this world.
Writing one of the later pieces in this blog series, I have had the opportunity to read previous posts that celebrated Dan as a dissertation advisor, mentor, confidant, father figure, and colleague. Like others, I have benefited and learned from Dan’s expansive knowledge, inclusivity, and respectful collaboration with the communities in which he works. To me, though, Dan’s lasting impact was as a generous provider of opportunities, opening doors to new possibilities without expectation of return. Perhaps a better analogy is that Dan handed you the key and trusted you to unlock the door yourself. It is an advising model based on mutual respect, and it has inspired how I advise undergraduates – providing students with the keys to opportunities and experiences, trusting their judgement and abilities.
Thank you, Dan, for all those keys. Best wishes on all your future adventures!
The normal headnote follows here instead as a footnote.*
Pílla toksali ishaaissacha’chika hánglolihmat chokma amahoobatok. Chokmat ishtoksaháli bíyyi’kattooka ithánali. Chimittibaatoksali’, chiholisso pisa’, chinkana’ iicho’ma’at chinchokma’chihookmano ilanhi. Chokmat isháa’shki.
Lokosh (Joshua D Hinson, PhD)
So when I heard that you were going to retire it seemed good to me. I know you’ve worked tirelessly, and that you’ve done your work well. Your coworkers, your students, your friends – we all wish you well. Be good as you’re going along.
Lokosh (Joshua D Hinson, PhD)
*Above find the seventh in a series of guest posts offered in celebration on the occasion of our colleague and friend Daniel C. Swan’s retirement from the University of Oklahoma, where he has served with distinction as a Professor of Anthropology, Curator of Ethnology, and Interim Director of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. Lokosh (Dr. Joshua D Hinson), Director of the Chickasaw Language Revitalization Program, does the important work of reminding us of the importance of keeping Turtle Island’s first languages in use. This series of guest posts has been organized in partnership with Michael Paul Jordan. –Jason Baird Jackson