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Posts from the ‘Interlocutors’ Category

Four Dissertations Defended Successfully

On top of the recent museum events and the usual end of semester grading, etc., the past week saw four students with whom I work compete their doctorates in successful dissertation defenses. Warm congratulations to Dr. Janice Frisch, Dr. Gabriel McGuire, Dr. Mintzi Martinez-Rivera, and Dr. Carrie Hertz. It has been a pleasure learning with each of them.

Candace Greene Wins Ames Prize; Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology Recognized

I learned great news today. My friend, colleague and collaborator Candace Greene (National Museum of Natural History) has been selected as this year’s recipient of the Michael M. Ames Prize for Innovative Museum Anthropology, awarded by the Council for Museum Anthropology.

In a letter sent to Candace and quoted from in an announcement making the rounds, Alex Barker, CMA President, wrote: “The award recognizes your groundbreaking work in developing and implementing the Smithsonian Institution Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology, and particularly the transformational potential of the program. Museums are more than just collections of things, after all. They’re also collections of people, and the SIMA program provides crucial training and educational opportunities, enriching the discipline of museum anthropology and embodying the innovative spirit the award recognizes.”

I am not attending the American Anthropological Association meetings and will unfortunately miss it, but there will be a formal announcement and presentation during the current AAA meetings during the Council for Museum Anthropology’s reception on Saturday, November 17 in the San Francisco Hilton’s room Imperial A. The reception runs from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

I am super pleased with this wonderful news of recognition well-deserved. Candace has been a great leader in the museum anthropology community and her vision for the creation of SIMA, together with her hard work to make it a success, have been amazing. This is an important award, well-bestowed. Congratulations to Candace and to everyone involved in making SIMA a thriving endeavor.

Museum Anthropologists are Award Winners

I am presently batting my email box. One of the small rewards in this situation is discovering great news emails that slipped by. From the excellent news rediscovered department, I am happy to note two recent awards bestowed on friends from the museum anthropology community.

Dr. Nancy Parezo was awarded the 2011-2012 Graduate College Graduate and Professional Education Teaching and Mentoring Award at her home institution, the University of Arizona. Nancy is a member of the Department of American Indian Studies at UA and is a lead faculty member for the Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology held each year at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. (I will be joining Nancy for part of this year’s SIMA).

The Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums (ATALM) recently bestowed its 2012 Guardians of Culture and Lifeways International Awards. Winning for “Outstanding Project” was the
Plateau Peoples’ Web Portal, “an interactive, online digital archive that provides access to Plateau peoples’ cultural materials at Washington State University through tribal curation. The Portal provides a way for tribal communities to include their own knowledge and memories of digital materials for various collections.  This project is an inspiring model of how university repositories can successfully collaborate with tribal communities to curate and enhance collections with tribal voices and histories.” The project director for this effort is my friend and collaborator Kimberly Christen of Washington State University.

Belated congratulations to Nancy, Kim, and to the Plateau Peoples’ Web Portal team on these well deserved awards.

Something I Would Really Like You to Read: Codacorolla on Public Libraries Today

I believe that William Gibson is usually correct when he says that “the future is already here, it is just not very evenly distributed yet.” In the spirit of that sentiment, there is something seemingly ephemeral that I would really like you to read. You (whomever you are) are really busy and cannot be constantly badgered to go off on literary wild goose chases, so I promise not to make such special pleas all the time.

The consistently smart and helpful Miriam Posner pointed me (and her other twitter followers) to a comment made recently on a MetaFilter post dealing with:

California rejects top rate tax increase, removes all state funding for CA libraries. Funding cut for “literacy programs, InterLibrary Loans, and miscellaneous expenses such as librarian training programs and books.

You do not need to read the whose ensemble of posts and comments to get to the piece that I would like you to read. The comment, which very vividly evokes the state of public libraries and public librarians, is by librarian and MLS graduate student “codacorolla” and it can be found here:

http://www.metafilter.com/112698/California-Dreamin#4183210

I hope that someone reading this post chooses to read this comment and to factor the bigger situation that it evokes into their commitments as a citizen.

Interview on Open Access @savageminds

Thank you very much to anthropologist Ryan Anderson for inviting me to do an interview on open access issues in anthropology. He has begun publishing it on Savage Minds and re-broadcasting it on his weblog ethnografix. Ryan is also one of the organizers of the online anthropology magazine anthropologies. The current issue focuses on Appalachia and includes essays by Britteny M. Howell, Ann Kingsolver, Tammy L. Clemons, Shaunna L. Scott, Amanda Fickey and Lynne Rieske-Kinney, and Sarah Raskin. Check it out.

Follow Ryan on Twitter at @ethnografix

Matthew Guterl on The Future of the Library/Libraries

A fellow faculty participant in the November 2, 2011 “Faculty Discussion on the Future of University Libraries” held at Indiana University under the sponsorship of the Dean of Libraries and the Provost was my Department of American Studies colleague Matthew Guterl. Matt is Rudy Professor of American Studies and History and the Chair of the the Department of American Studies. A historian of race and race-relations in the Americas, he is the author of numerous key works in American Studies, including The Color of Race in America, 1900-1940 (Harvard University Press, 2001) and American Mediterranean: Southern Slaveholders in the Age of Emancipation (Harvard University Press, 2008). This site does not have a flashy title like The Edge of the American West, Crooked Timber, or Savage Minds but it is fun to welcome such a talented guest contributor to the blog part of my website. Rather than see them filed away unread, here are Matt’s thoughtful reflections on the future of libraries at IU and everywhere.

“The Future of the Library/Libraries”

Matthew Pratt Guterl

I haven’t been to the big limestone box on Jordan in over a year, but I use the library every day.

Once I needed to use the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature; now I use Google.  I used to check the stacks; now I just search by keyword on Project Muse, or wait for a Google Scholar alert to arrive in my inbox.  I used to store my handwritten notes and copies in fireproof boxes or plastic crates; now I have digital reproductions of the entire archive of my current project stored on my phone.

The last time I was there, in the Wells Library, it was for coffee and donuts.

Maybe the future of the library is not the same thing as the future of that building.

Wells Library, Bloomington, Indiana. Courtesy of Indiana University.

After all, even if I’ve been absent physically, I’ve clicked on the IU Libraries link more times than I can count, and trolled through its rich databases with great delight.  I have more need of the library-in-the-abstract than ever before.

The big limestone box – and all that it includes – is still important.  But ours is not the Fitchburg State library, and IU isn’t a second tier, branch campus.  When I wonder about the short-term future of “real” academic libraries with walls and windows and floors, my thoughts race to Rutgers-Newark, to IU-East, or Washington State-Tri-Cities, or Lincoln University, the places most likely to be first erased by budget cutting and spatial reallocation.  I think about small town libraries in places less well off than Bloomington.  I think about corporate libraries and law firm libraries and museum libraries.  I think about the impending extinction of the bookshelf at the old ski lodge, or the hotel lobby, where the accidental discovery of some old Faulkner text, or some Philip K. Dick collection, encourages a new thought. Our research library – the Wells Library – may be safe, for now.  These other, less secure sites, are not.

I worry, after thinking about all of this, about the right now, and about short term access for the less fortunate, confronted with the boxing up of the local library stacks, however meager, or the end of the hard copy, however scarce, and about the corresponding absence of laptops and ipads and wifi, which we imagine as open substitutes, available to anyone, in this age of receding material reality.

Yes, the Wells Library will survive for some time, much like the 42nd Street Branch of the New York Public Library, or the Library Company in Philadelphia.  The scale of the architecture ensures that, as does the vastness of the collections and the professionalism of the research faculty.  Such places, awe-inspiring and beautiful, still generate new knowledge, even while they also encourage new and necessarily generous donations, and serve as delightful backdrops for critical fundraising campaigns.  But eventually, perhaps inevitably, as the library becomes ever more disembodied, even these historic buildings may become repurposed reliquaries, like old Masonic temples turned into state office buildings, or old movie theatres turned into restaurants, or old plantations turned into museums and beds and breakfasts.  Or, like abandoned factories, they will simply be emptied of content and left to fall apart, or turned into loft apartments.

Of course, for those of us caught up in the past, it is easy to get nostalgic about what is lost in this transition.  I remember the smell of my first public library, nestled in a retrofitted old fire station next to my childhood home.  I remember reading Santayana on the steps of the New York Public Library, waiting for the doors to open, and excited about what might be revealed within.  I remember the pleasure of waiting for something to arrive, for my call number to light up, or of finding something unexpected, and of the pervasive smell of glue and paper and ink.   I remember discovering a letter, misfiled under the wrong name, proving what I thought to be a powerful point.   In my most troubled moments, I grow concerned that all of this – this set of possibilities, this travail – will be lost.

Nostalgia, though, is the conservative reflex of those confronted by rapid change.  And so I push back against it.  I imagine what is possible in our future.  And I think, instead, of how cool it will be when the poorest person in the world can press a button – even if the button is worn, and the screen is dingy – and call up the complete works of Toni Morrison, linked to every video interview she’s ever given, and joined with her correspondence, archived in public and for free.  As a public university now more indebted than ever to a bigger, more global “public,” we have a big role in making this future possible.

I’m not sure that this utopic vision includes the bricks-and-mortar of the Wells Library, though it surely includes research librarians.  In many ways, it is the antithesis of this place, which has more in common with the Royal Library at Alexandria than it does with Google books.  And I remember that when the College’s Strategic Planning Committee met a few years ago, we half-joked about creating a rooftop biergarten, with crystal slides to the ground floor.  But this vision most certainly includes the library as a liberal ideal, with a social function worth expanding, a political mission worth protecting, and a research agenda that deserves better articulation.

Remembering Kara Bayless (1982-2010)

The wonderful memorial statements authored by American Folklore Society members and read publicly at the opening ceremonies of the 2011 AFS meetings are now online on the AFS website. Among them is a beautifully written statement about Kara Bayless an amazing Oklahoman, folklorist, and doctoral student in my home department. A star student, Kara was enrolled in my seminar at the time of her tragic passing last year during the 2010 AFS meetings. She is so missed by her many friends and colleagues.

Also remembered at the meetings, with statements now on the website were three distinguished elders in the field. Stetson Kennedy (1916-2011), Roger E. Mitchell (1925-2011) and Kathryn Tucker Windham (1918-2011).

Learn about their lives and work here: http://www.afsnet.org/?InMemorium

Gabrielle Berlinger Reports on the Latest Housing Protests in Israel

While, after inexcusable delay, the U.S. media finally start covering the Wall Street protests here in the United States, my colleague and IU doctoral researcher Gabrielle Berlinger continues to be one of the few people positioned to report in English on the continuing housing protests in Israel. As the protests connect directly with the community in which she is living and working and because they relate closely to her research, her reporting is rich in ways that journalistic accounts never could be. Her latest account, of a protest outside the home of the Minister of Housing in Jerusalem, is here.

The Hasan El-Shamy Shout-Out

This is a shout-out. I have boundless respect and admiration for my senior colleague Hasan El-Shamy. Dr. El-Shamy is continuing to make crucial contributions to the social sciences and humanities, especially in his beloved field of folklore studies. He is a leader in considering the mutual implications of psychology and folklore studies. He is a world renowned scholar of Middle Eastern expressive culture and belief systems. He has advanced comparative methods and theories in folklore studies, adapting them for the current century. He has argued persuasively for the importance of recognizing vernacular theorizing on the human condition and he has an uncanny ability to recognize the lay social theories expressed in the most humble of expressive genres and folk beliefs and to connect these to the longterm concerns of psychological, social and cultural theory in the academic mode. At another end of the continuum, he is in dialogue with literary scholars as a consequence of his detailed studies of a key canonical text in world literature—The Thousand and One Nights. The glowing reviews that his works receive and the global community of admirers in dialogue with his studies speak to his centrality and influence to our field.

In the past several years, Dr. El-Shamy has published numerous important books, including Tales Arab Women Tell (IU Press, 1999), Popular Stories of Ancient Egypt (Oxford University Press, 2002), Types of the Folktale in the Arab World (IU Press, 2004), Archetypes and Motifs in Folklore and Literature (Sharpe, 2005), A Motif Index of The Thousand and One Nights (IU Press, 2006), and Religion Among the Folk in Egypt (Praeger, 2008). In one of countless high profile recognitions that he has received, this year he was recognized with the honor of being the “Great China Lecturer” at East China Normal University in Shanghai. He was the 94th internationally recognized scholar to be accorded this distinction.

Dr. El-Shamy is on a well-deserved research leave this semester and I wish him well in his continuing research endeavors.

Wars and Rumors of Wars @Philbrook Museum of Art

Excited to see this promotional video with my friend Christina Burke, Curator of Native American and Non-Western Art at Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa. Christina is a great curator stewarding a great collection in a great museum. This video introduces the new exhibition Wars and Rumors of War. The exhibition is built out of the museum’s fine collection of Native American works on paper. Congratulations Christina, congratulations Philbrook. I hope I make it back to Tulsa in time to see the show.

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