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Posts from the ‘Heritage Policy’ Category

Fieldwork: Highlights from the Textile Group

This post in the recent series on December 2017 research and travel in Guangxi, China was written by Carrie Hertz, who also provided the photographs.

In this post, I complement Jason’s series of field reports (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) on our December 2017 trip to China with some highlights from the research team focused on Baiku (White Trouser) Yao textiles.

The textiles most visible in daily life are traditional baby carriers and women’s dress. December 15, 2017.

Textile making traditions are extraordinarily strong in Huaili village. In most households you can find a floor loom, an indigo dye pot, and a cache of tiny silkworm eggs. Because of the damp climate, most families hang their laundry out to dry. Strung out like banners across rooftops, balconies, pathways, and side yards, the clotheslines offer a visual inventory of typical wardrobes.

Daily dress combines traditionally made and mass-produced garments. Most women have several sets of indigo-dyed skirts, aprons, jackets, and tunics in regular rotation, the finest serving as festival dress when new, and as daily wear when faded. With age, the natural red dyes of embroidered skirt hems bleed, creating a beautiful ombre effect, and the appliqued silk felt disintegrates, taking on a feathery appearance.

A beautifully aged skirt hung out to dry. December 17, 2017.

Each garment represents countless hours of skilled labor, spread out throughout the year. Winter, while fields lie untended, is a busy time for textile production. Throughout the village, small groups of women huddle around fires on their front stoops, busy with embroidery or winding spools of cotton.

Lu Xiao Mei works on her embroidery while visiting with Li Xiu Ying and Wang Lian Mei holding her baby. December 15, 2017.

Winter is also a good time for warping looms. Women help each other, taking over the village courtyard. It takes the better part of a day to set up warp poles and wind the approximately 80 meters of thread in a spiral pattern around them.

The tree sap used to draw intricate resist patterns on clothing is harvested in winter. The bark is scarred and glistening where people have gouged it with their knife blades.

December 14, 2017.

We had the great fortune to spend two days with a recognized master textile artist, He Jinxiu. She is considered the most skilled and knowledgeable needleworker in Huaili village and teaches embroidery and resist dyeing to all of the girls attending the local primary school. At her home, she brought out stacks of textiles that she was currently working on as part of a yearly cycle of production. Together we inventoried these materials, along with the tools, techniques, and terminology important to their creation. We diagrammed garment patterns. We filled notebooks with the local names for various motifs and their significance.

The home production of textiles is supplemented with supplies and finished goods purchased in the Lihu Town market. Alongside the many stalls stuffed with factory clothes and accessories, vendors sell silk embroidery thread, stylus for batik, and bolts of undecorated, hand woven cloth. A large area is devoted to selling indigo. One half kilogram costs about 6 RMB. In addition to being an important venue for textile sellers and makers, market days are for dressing up, for looking and being seen.

 

We also had opportunity to interview Li Xiu Ying, the primary textile producer in her family. For most of her life, her mother made her clothes, but now she makes clothes for her mother, using the skills her mother imparted.

Li Xiu Ying wears a handmade needle case hanging from her belt. Her nail beds are ringed with blue from indigo dye. December 15, 2017.

With Mrs. Li, the textile team examined a traditional burial cloth, part of the ecomuseum’s permanent collection. Every household hopes to always have a few of these on hand. When villagers die, the cloth is laid over the body and a series of smaller cloths, thirteen layers for men and fourteen for women, cover the face.

A woman’s burial face cloth made by He Jinxiu is now in the collections of the Museum of International Folk Art.

 

He Jinxiu holding up a woman’s burial face cloth that she made, now in the collections of the Museum of International Folk Art. December 17, 2017.

The textile research team feels incredibly grateful to those who shared their time and knowledge with us. These brief highlights merely touch upon what we learned and experienced during our visit.

Carrie Hertz is Curator of Textiles and Dress at the Museum of International Folk Art and a participant in the China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project.

The Temple of Heaven | 天壇 (12/8)

This briefer note is the second on our recent trip to China. The context for this travel will come (I hope) a few posts down the road. For now, perhaps you can just go with it. For the first post in the series, see The IU Gateway Office and Tsinghua University Art Museum (12/8).

After our group’s visit to the Tsinghua University Art Museum we ended the day with a visit to the Temple of Heaven (天壇). Wikipedia’s account (or whatever you can access) is probably sufficient for those who are curious about what the Temple of Heaven is about. In a nutshell, it is an impressive temple complex dating back to the early 1400s and was a key site for imperial sacrificial rituals. It is comprised numerous surviving buildings and beautiful grounds. For our interest as museum-types, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (number 881, to be exact). While it clearly attracts a significant number of visitors, visiting it (late in the day, in winter?) was certainly different from visiting the Forbidden City, where one typically becomes one tiny fish in a single vast, densely packed school of fish swimming straight through the complex from one end to another.

As earlier in the day, the companions were Jon Kay, Carrie Hertz, and Jason Jackson. At the Temple of Heaven we arrived too late in the day to enter any buildings, but we were able to stroll the grounds and see some of the buildings from the outside. Like so many monumental sites in China, one rarely has enough time to see the whole destination properly. Visiting when we did though, we really enjoyed the quiet contemplative nature of the experience. Many of those at the site were, like us, having a park visit experience as much or more than they were having a historical buildings experience. Of course, our state of reverie did not keep us from attending to the buildings, which were great. (A bit more text follows the images.)

Carrie and I, on an earlier trip’s visit to the Forbidden City, had noticed the English language signs pleading for no scratching. At the time, this had not made full sense to us, although we of course understood the impulse to protect these ancient monuments. At the Temple of Heaven, we were able wander without rushing or bumping into other people and thereby got a close look at the problem these signs work to prevent. You can see both the signs and some scratches in the images here.

We figured it out with some smart phone help, but one of the reasons that we were late in the day getting to the Temple of Heaven is that our taxi driver delivered us to the Temple of Heaven Holiday Inn (not yet a UNESCO World Heritage site), which it turns out is not exactly right by the Temple of Heaven itself. This meant that what we lost in terms of time spent at the site, we gained in terms of a walk through a not particularly touristy but elder-rich Beijing neighborhood. Posted here are some pictures for our families, friends, and other interested folks.

Thanks as always to my great travel companions. For deciding on the Temple of Heaven, thanks go especially to Carrie.

Who Cares About Craft as Traditional Knowledge?

This fall has been a particularly busy season for research-based programs at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. An an outgrowth of our Indiana Folk Arts: 200 Years of Tradition and Innovation exhibition and our participation in classes and programs for Themester, we will have hosted, by semester’s end, a very large number craftspeople or groups of craftspeople representative of a broad swath of vernacular making in Indiana. Because of our Themester mandate to focus on questions of Beauty in our engagements with these artist-craftspeople, our discussions with them have always had an aesthetic component. We have asked, for instance, questions like: “What characteristics do you associate with a beautiful weaving [or chair, or drum, or pottery bowl, or…]?” or “When producing for the marketplace, how do you balance functional use and aesthetic impact?” Art and aesthetics are a crucial part of the human experience and of what makes cultures distinctive and meaningful.

But the objects that we curate and interpret, and the makers of things with whom we engage, are not only about art. Even while many have both aesthetic and functional purposes, many others of our museum’s objects are not reasonably framed as art and some of our interlocutors are talented, knowledgeable makers and users of things, without being artists. Our work is bigger than art, as important as art is. Aesthetic values are part of larger cultural systems and those larger wholes are our focus. Whether in China or in Indiana, our work is about local knowledge, including traditional cultural knowledge. A big part of our engagements with makers focuses on the knowledge that goes into making–craft expertise along with local environmental and contextual knowledge concerned with uses, meanings, significances.

A detailed story in last Saturday’s Independent by Amalia Illgner is a good evocation of the kinds of concern we (particularly Traditional Arts Indiana, led ably by my colleague Jon Kay) try to bring to our work with craft objects, craft knowledge, and craftspeople. (I appreciate Matthew Bradley for sharing it with me.) Read the story (“Raiders of the Lost Crafts”) here. (I note here that, despite the declensionist hook and playful title, the author is not so obsessed with authenticity discourses that she disregards fruitful rediscovery of older craft knowledge through the study of museum collections and documentary materials. The story is a rare and rather sophisticated treatment of its subject.)

raiders-of-the-lost-crafts

Who cares about craft as traditional knowledge? My colleagues and I do. We also like art and we also love seeing where contemporary craftspeople, including studio craft, DIY craft, and many others, are taking their passions–but documenting what people know and have long known is important and helping foster environments where those who have traditional cultural knowledge are supported and encouraged is key part of our mission. If you care about such things, you still have lots of chances to engage your interests at the museum this year. This week we will host a wonderful group of African American quilters and a talented maker of African drums. In following weeks, we offer chances to connect with Indiana limestone carvers, a hoop-net maker, a rosemaler, a pysanky artist, a Native American potter, a Zapotec weaver, and an Orthodox iconographer. Learning from such craftspeople is something we intend to keep doing as along as we can.

Value, Ownership, and Cultural Goods: Regina F. Bendix to Deliver 2016 Richard M. Dorson Memorial Lecture

This is the season’s big lecture. With many heritage studies projects underway, it is a perfect time to welcome Regina back to Bloomington. Here are the details:

2016 Richard M. Dorson Memorial Folklore Lecture
Join us for the 6th Annual Richard M. Dorson Memorial Folklore Lecture.

“Value, Ownership, and Cultural Goods”

Regina F. Bendix, University of Gottingen, Germany

Monday, March 21, 2016
6:00-8:00 pm
800 N Indiana Ave

A reception will follow the lecture.

Abstract:

Since the mid-1990s, scholarship on heritage has blossomed – some might say boomed – and brought forth a plethora of new journals and studies in many languages, not least due to the vigorous work and impact of UNESCO’s heritage programs. UNESCO’s work on behalf of “cultural goods” reaches back roughly sixty years and has yielded many policy suggestions, conventions and programs. UNESCO’s activities in turn mobilized other international agencies concerned less with safeguarding valuables and more with ownership and group rights. They point toward ways in which different groups of actors harness the notions of tradition, folklore, culture or heritage to improve their lot on this earth. In their efforts, such groups are likely assisted more by experts in international law and economics than by students of culture.

For scholars in folklore and related fields, at least two tasks present themselves. One entails a continuation of a by now “traditional” task: understanding how excerpts from cultural scholarship, in their transfer and implementation in the public sphere transform, the practices, people and places we tend to study. A second task builds on this first one: we need to find avenues to communicate better with disciplines and practitioners engaged in establishing the legal norms and the economic projections concerning the fate of culture turned resource.

Paul E. Buchanan Award from the Vernacular Architecture Forum (Recognizes Great Not-Books and Not-Articles)

Award Committee Chair Nora Pat Small recently noted for me the Paul E. Buchanan Award from the Vernacular Architecture Forum (VAF). What is so cool about this award is that it recognizes outstanding work in vernacular architecture studies that takes one of many forms that are NOT books or articles. Check out the award information page and the list of past winners. Then send your nomination materials to Professor Small at Eastern Illinois University.

Collaborative for Cultural Heritage Management and Policy

The Collaborative for Cultural Heritage Management and Policy (aka CHAMP) is a very active initiative at the at the University of Illinois. Led by anthropologist Helaine Silverman, it involves a huge number of Illinois faculty and organizes a wide range of conferences, talks, and projects. CHAMP has announced a busy series of lectures for October. Check out its website for more information on CHAMP’s activities. Here are the upcoming lectures.

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 16
3 p.m.
DAVENPORT HALL, room 109A
Food, heritage and intellectual property in Europe
Lecture by Dr. Erica Farmer (James Smithson Postdoctoral Fellow, Smithsonian Institution)

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 17
4 p.m.
DAVENPORT HALL, room 109A
Negotiating the “increase and diffusion of knowledge”: Policy, practice, and values around cultural heritage at the Smithsonian Institution
Lecture by Dr. Erica Farmer (James Smithson Postdoctoral Fellow, Smithsonian Institution)

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 21
5 p.m.
GSLIS 126 (501 E. Daniel)
Why UNESCO Matters: The Destruction of Cultural Heritage around the World
A panel presentation:
Lynne Dearborn (Architecture): The destruction of vernacular architecture
Laila Moustafa (LIS): The loss of Islamic manuscripts
Helaine Silverman (Anthropology): Looting the archaeological record
Kari Zobler (Anthropology): The devastation of Syria’s cultural heritage
Co-sponsored with the UNESCO Center for Global Citizenship

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 22
4 p.m.
Lucy Ellis Lounge, first floor in FLB
Vikings in America? Swedes in the American Ethno-Racial Hierarchies in the 19th Century
Lecture by Dr. Dag Blanck (English Department, Stockholm University)

MONDAY, OCTOBER 28
4:30
Lincoln Hall room 1064
The Colonial Occupation of Piura: The Historical Archaeology of the First Spanish Settlement in Peru
Lecture by Dr. Fernando Vela (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)

George Sabo Named Director of the Arkansas Archaeological Survey

Here is some very good news from the University of Arkansas and the Arkansas Archaeological Survey.

George Sabo III, a professor of anthropology and environmental dynamics at the University of Arkansas, will be the next director of the Arkansas Archeological Survey, a division of the University of Arkansas System.

Sabo, who has served as an archeologist with the survey for more than 30 years, will replace  Thomas J. Green, who will retire June 30 after more than 20 years as director of survey, a statewide research, public service and educational institution with 11 research stations. UA System President Donald R. Bobbitt selected Sabo after a national search for a new director.

Read more in the full press release. Congratulations George!

2013 Cultural Heritage Informatics (CHI) Fieldschool

Sharing below information on the 2013 Cultural Heritage Informatics Fieldschool.

The 2013 Cultural Heritage Informatics (CHI) Fieldschool introduces students to the tools and methods required to creatively apply information and computing technologies to cultural heritage materials and questions.

The CHl Fieldschool is a unique experience in which students come together for 5 weeks to collaboratively work on cultural heritage informatics projects. In the process they learn to envision and build applications and digital user experiences for cultural heritage – exploring skills such as programming, web design & development, user experience design, project management, digital storytelling, etc.

Build soundly on the principle of “building as a way of knowing,” the CHI Fieldschool embraces the idea that students develop a better understanding of cultural heritage informatics by actually building tools, applications, and digital user experiences.

2013 Fieldschool Theme: Each year, the CHI Fieldschool has a theme which guides and informs all work and projects undertaken by students. This year’s theme is “Visualization: Time, Space, and Data.”

The CHI Fieldschool is offered through the MSU Department of Anthropology as ANP491 (6 Credits)

DIRECTOR & CONTACT:  ETHAN WATRALL (WATRALL@MSU.EDU)
INFO & APPLY:  CHI.ANTHROPOLOGY.MSU.EDU/FIELDSCHOOL
DATES:  MAY 27-JULY 3

Note:  Interested graduate students from CIC Schools (Big 10 + Chicago) may wish to investigate participating through the CIC Traveling Scholars Program, which lets graduate students enroll on their home CIC campus while participating in a class on another CIC campus. For information, see: http://www.cic.net/projects/shared-courses/traveling-scholar-program/introduction

Director, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

Having been asked to do so, I am happy to share news that the Smithsonian Institution is seeking applications for the position of Director of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. This is an important and exciting post. See the details below:

The Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Smithsonian Institution, is accepting applications and nominations for a Director. The Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage is responsible for planning, developing, and managing programs which have as their major objectives the research, documentation, presentation and conservation of living traditional and grassroots folk cultures of the United States and of other countries. The director is responsible for the administrative direction and management of all Center program activities including the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, exhibitions, symposia, scholarly research, cultural heritage policy, educational projects and all media, as well as the participation of other Smithsonian museums and programs in national celebration events and National Mall events. The Director represents, at national and international levels, Smithsonian concerns relating to the understanding of the cultural representation of living heritage, as well as public sector folklore, and policies related to them. The Director will have a proven track record of leadership, management and fundraising skills to run a unique multi-disciplinary cultural organization. The successful applicant must have a degree in a relevant field, management level experience in public programming, and have earned a presence in the scholarly and/or cultural community. The Smithsonian offers a competitive salary commensurate with experience and a comprehensive benefit plan including a lucrative, fully vested retirement program with TIAA- CREF. For detailed information on the position, qualifications and application instructions, go to http://www.sihr.si.edu/jobs.cfm and scroll to position announcement EX-13-01. We are only accepting online applications for this position. For questions or additional information, contact Tom Lawrence, 202-633-6319 or lawrencet@si.edu. The Smithsonian Institution is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

On “Options Dim for Museum of Folk Art”

The New York Times is reporting that the American Folk Art Museum in NYC will probably go under. This is mainly about financial issues, both the larger economy and mismanagement, but there is also an intertwined intellectual one and this can be seen clearly in the NYT story.

Billie Tsien, an architect who designed the new building, said the museum’s capacity to raise money was in part limited by its subject matter; New York’s movers and shakers do not tend to collect quilts and weathervanes.

The American Folk Art Museum has been pretty consistently hostile to the field of folklore studies–those scholars who actually study the vernacular arts of the United States, the Americas, and the world in context. On intellectual grounds, this day could have been foreseen long ago. That the architect who designed their (former) brand new building understands the museum so narrowly to be a thing of quilts and weathervanes speaks to how out of sync with contemporary folk art scholarship the museum was. There are no shortage of potential donors interested in folk art in New York City, its just that their folk arts of interests were not central to the agenda of the museum.

On more than one occasion, American Folk Art Museum staff told graduate students with whom I work that if they wanted a real museum job working with folk art they needed to get degrees in art history, not folklore studies. Well, those students are doing just fine and are studying and working with folk arts and artists everyday while the American Folk Art Museum is going under. Financial foundations are important, but so are intellectual ones. An elitist art history was not the best platform upon which to erect a museum nominally dedicated to the arts of diverse peoples and communities. I am not against art history, but I am against an art history that is opposed to folklore studies without even knowing what the field is about.

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