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Posts from the ‘Museums’ Category

Lessons of Accountability

Below find the second of 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 heather ahtone, senior curator at the First Americans Museum. She served previously as James T. Bialac Curator of Native American and Non-Western Art at the University of Oklahoma’s Fred Jones, Jr. Museum of Art. This series of guest posts has been organized in partnership with Michael Paul Jordan. –Jason Baird Jackson

Lessons of Accountability

by heather ahtone

As a young professional in 2012, Dan Swan was one of the first in the museum community who helped me feel like a professional. That may seem redundant, how does one not feel like a professional if one is? But I think that for many Native folks coming into the museum field, like myself, it is common to feel like an imposter. I came to my professional field as a matter of accidents and curiosity, with few mentors in the actual field. I didn’t have a cadre of Native folks to help me navigate the museum field’s history of colonialism, authoritarianism, and dismissal of Indigenous agency. Stepping into an institution as the only Person of Color at a level with some capacity for bringing an Indigenous presence into the conversation, I felt a significant amount of pressure. Those pressures were purely internally driven. I could have gone with the flow. But it was clear to me that I had a level of accountability. It would never be imposed by the institution but would always be present for me as a lone representative as I assumed responsibilities curating the collections representing all the brown folks (my position was as curator of Native American and Non-Western arts).

The first part of the lesson of accountability Dan taught was mutual respect. It was a hard lesson emotionally. I wanted to earn a doctoral degree and needed a committee member. I asked Dan to join my committee. He declined. In the most Dan-like way, he declined by expressing that as a respected colleague it was inappropriate for him to be in a position of power over my scholarly work. I can only say that I was broken-hearted by his decision. But I was humbled by his acknowledgment of me as an equal (of sorts – he will always be someone I look up to!). His expression of respect gave me a courage that became a driving force in my work. It made me see that I also had responsibilities as an equal to him–not as a measure of myself, but as a measure of all the goodness he has done for our Native community. That courage was needed to serve the Native folks who were not standing in those meeting rooms, sitting at the table, and having a voice (quivering as I often felt). His respect held me up on many days.

The second part of the lesson of accountability was service. As I assumed the responsibilities and provided leadership in my curatorial position, I pushed myself and the institution to meet the accountability I felt on behalf of the Indigenous community. This appeared to me as service, until the museum field response became an unquenchable demand for more. More work. More writing. More of my voice to fill the silence of Indigenous invisibility. And this was how I learned about my real service to the field. I witnessed Dan creating opportunities for his students, for his peers, and for me. I realized that my true service to the field would not come from the “doing.” Service would come from putting others forward and nurturing a broad voice from the community, not just my voice. He taught by example that the work could never be for myself, but always to serve the community. He wasn’t the only one teaching me this point, I have to acknowledge that I needed two teachers for this particular lesson, Dr. Gregory Cajete was the other. Between the two, I found that truly serving the community was found in nurturing a broader body of servants to our Native community.

The final part of the lesson of accountability was in speaking the truth. Dan has been a champion for my projects for a long while. During one project, fairly early in my curating path, Dan used my work as a teaching tool for his students. He was openly proud of the project, and I appreciated that. It was during a class visit with his students after visiting the exhibition that we discussed openly the successes and failures of the project. The successes were fairly public and I had more practice speaking to these. In conversation in front of his students, Dan asked questions about the failures. This was a challenge to me in the moment. I had less practice speaking to my failures openly. I’m not sure if I spoke the whole truth in that moment, I am sure I was incredibly uncomfortable. But the discomfort with the questions exposed to me that this was where the real learning rests. That when we can honestly assess our failures, we lay a path to confront them and genuinely improve our practice. I have since incorporated my failures with my successes as a part of my public speaking practice. The response to the failures has never ceased to be one of people embracing that truth as “refreshing” and as a moment of strength. My grandmother’s lessons on honesty laid a foundation that Dan’s lesson on truth have fortified.

With all that said, I have learned so many more lessons from Dan. I will always be grateful for his kindness, generosity, and support. He has never let me take the easy path. Our conversations are a source of personal joy and intellectual growth. I believe I will be learning from him for years to come. And if I have listened to what he taught well, I will be able to pass those lessons along to another generation for even more.

God bless you, friend, enjoy all the beauty that the world has to offer.

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An in-process photograph of the First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City. FAM is slated to open in Spring 2021. FAM press photograph via https://www.indianz.com/News/2018/03/19/american-indian-cultural-center-and-muse.asp

 

 

 

Sowei Mask Repairs in Focus: Material Interpretation and Object Itineraries (Lecture)

2020-05-14 Otto Lecture

Sowei Mask Repairs in Focus: Material Interpretation and Object Itineraries

A Material Culture Studies Lecture by Kristin Otto

Thursday May 14, 2020
2–3 p.m. (EST)

Email Jason Jackson at mchsl@indiana.edu to request Zoom details.

Following the emergence of repair as a topic of interest for material culture scholars, this talk examines the significance of repair for the “lives” / biographies / itineraries of ethnographic material culture in museum collections. Sowei masks (also known as Sande or Bundu masks) are among the most widely collected and easily recognizable objects from Africa in museum collections around the world. Repair proved to be a common experience for the masks as they circulated from performative contexts in West Africa into Western markets, collections, and institutions. Through in-depth case studies of five sowei masks in museum collections around the world, Otto examines how repair shapes the material and immaterial lives of the masks in new contexts and transactional spaces.

Kristin Otto is a Ph.D. candidate in Indiana University’s Department of Anthropology and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. Her work as a museum anthropologist and curator focuses on how processes of making and repair impact our understandings of museum collections and material culture.

Sponsored by the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology.

New Project Pages

Here on Shreds and Patches, there is a new menu item for Projects. The Projects landing page gives a quick overview of, and links to, some of key projects that I am involved in and the menu can also lead visitors directly to project pages. Right now there are project pages for the “Museum Ethnography in the Native South” project (2020-present) and two sub-projects of the larger “China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project” of the American Folklore Society and the China Folklore Society. These are the “Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies” (2017-present) and “Intangible Cultural Heritage and Ethnographic Museum Practice” (2013-2016).

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Near Old Dali, Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan, China, May 2019.

Web Resources for Museum Job Seekers, Revisited

This semester I am teaching the undergraduate course Museums and Material Culture (FOLK-F440). The course combined an introduction to material culture studies with collections research projects at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. It is an intensive writing course and later today the students will turn in the drafts of the major individual research papers. Tomorrow’s class meeting is slated to be a discussion of careers in this sector.

In the spring, I am teaching Curatorship. I have taught this graduate course many times previously. Before each run of the course, I update my older (2012!!!) post on “Web Resources for Museum Job Seekers.” As a resource for the undergraduate course, I have done the update about a month early.

All the of the links have been rechecked and are working. As in 2018, I note that general services such as Indeed and LinkedIn play a growing role in connecting people to positions. But the specialized sites, often with positions circulated on social media, remain important. Find the newest version of the list at the old post, here:

https://jasonbairdjackson.com/2012/12/04/web-resources-for-museum-job-seekers/

#AFSAM19: Material Culture and Heritage Studies in Northern Guangxi, China

Notes on Basketry among the Dong People of Sanjiang County E

A title slide showing key project sites in the Dong areas of Guangxi and Guizhou.

Shreds and Patches has been quieter than usual as I work my way through a really complicated semester. In the midst of the jumble of unforeseen circumstances, there are some good things actually happening according to plan. One of these was the most recent in a series of panels at the American Folklore Society Annual Meetings reporting on the work of the museum partners in the China-U.S. Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project. Earlier this month, at the start of the 2019 meeting in Baltimore, members of our group, presented a panel on “Material Culture and Heritage Studies in Northern Guangxi, China: Ethnographic Reports from the China-U.S. Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project.” This is the panel abstract:

In a three-year phase of the China-U.S. Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project, researchers from six museums have collaborated in a bi-national program of ethnographic research in China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. In this panel, project participants will report on the research, sometimes emphasizing textile practices such as embroidery and basketry, sometimes focusing on heritage issues, sometimes discussing the lessons of the collaboration. The presenters will share their findings in accessible ways but China specialists may wish to know that research has taken place among the Dong people of Sanjiang County and the Baiku Yao people living in Nandan County.

Carrie HERTZ (Museum of International Folk Art) presented on “The Fabric of Life: Baiku Yao Textiles in Huaili Village.”

Hertz - The Fabric of Life

A title slide related to the textile arts of the Baiku Yao people of Nandan County, Guangxi.

FAN Miaomiao (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi) presented in absentia on “Field Research on Dong Textiles in the Tongle Area of Sanjiang County.”

Micah J. LING (Indiana University) shared her paper “Mijiu and Mai Wup: Trilingual Fieldwork and an Indigo Dying Method.”

LIANG Ziaoyan (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi), also presenting in absentia, shared her paper “Imagination and Enlargement: Daily Performance and Life History in Ethnographic Video.” Her paper focused on her experiences in our work in Sanjiang County.

C. Kurt Dewhurst (Michigan State University Museum) presented a paper that he and I, with help from ZHANG Lijun (George Mason University), worked on together titled: “Notes on Basketry among the Dong People of Sanjiang County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.”

I (Jason Baird Jackson, Indiana University) presented a paper for which Lijun was co-author. It was about “Building a Museum Collection of Work Baskets in Northern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.” The paper focused on the collection of baskets assembled for the collections of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures.

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A slide evoking in basketry collected for the Mathers Museum of World Cultures.

The session concluded with a presentation of a film by Jon Kay (Indiana University) titled “A Rice Basket: Basketmaking in a Baiku Yao Community” It is now viewable online on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/QrD_-lrB9UY

This session, and one that preceded it in 2018, will be a springboard for more sustained writing by many project participants. We have learned much during our collaborative work in Guangxi. I thank many the local people in Nandan and Sanjiang Counties who have taught us and our hosts and partners at the Sanjiang Dong Ecomuseum, the Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum, and the Anthropology Museum of Guangxi. Special thanks also go to The Henry Luce Foundation, the China Folklore Society, and the American Folklore Society for their support of the broader projects of which ours museum and material culture efforts are just a part.

 

 

 

The Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage: Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies

The following is a report on The Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage: Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies (第七届中美民俗学与非物质文化遗产论坛: 博物馆民俗与遗产研究的协作工作). The version of record appears on the website of the American Folklore Society. This version adds more images. You can find a copy of the conference program here. –Jason Baird Jackson (杰森. 拜尔德. 杰克逊)

During three beautiful spring days in Beijing, a group of Chinese and American scholars and cultural workers gathered to discuss practices of collaboration in folklore studies and intangible cultural heritage work, with a focus on collaborations between ethnographic museums and between such museums and other groups in society. Held on May 19-22, 2019, this was the Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage, one of a long-running series of conferences organized cooperatively by the China Folklore Society (CFS) and the American Folklore Society (AFS), as part of a broader binational collaboration begun in 2007. These forums have explored various aspects of cultural heritage policy, practice, and theory, giving US and Chinese participants an opportunity to learn about the state of the field as pursued in the national context that is not their own (Lloyd 2017).

This Seventh Forum, focusing on Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies, was held at the Indiana University China Gateway office in Beijing. Meeting under the auspices of the CFS and the AFS, the conference’s program was organized by the Mathers Museum of World Cultures and the Anthropology Museum of Guangxi (Guangxi Museum of Nationalities), with extensive logistical and practical support provided by the two societies and the gateway office staff. Generous financial support was provided by the Henry Luce Foundation and the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs at Indiana University.

Delegates to the forum came from a diversity of American and Chinese museums and universities. Chinese institutions represented included the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, the Anthropology Museum of Guangxi, the Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum, Beijing Normal University, the Sanjiang Dong Ecomuseum, East China Normal University, Fudan University, the Guizhou Nationalities Museum, Minzu University of China, Shandong University, and the Yunnan Nationalities Museum. American institutions represented included the Michigan State University Museum, the Museum of International Folk Art, Texas Tech University, the Mathers Museum of World Cultures (Indiana University), History Miami, the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History (University of Oklahoma), and the American Folklore Society (Figure 1).

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Figure 1. Delegates to the Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage held at the Indiana University Gateway Office in Beijing, May 19, 2019. Shu Caiqian (Guizhou Nationalities Museum), Zhang Yibing (Guizhou Nationalities Museum, Zhu Gang (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), Li Mingjie (East China Normal University), Wang Wei (Shandong University), Jessica Anderson Turner (American Folklore Society), An Deming (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), Luo Wenhong (Fudan University), Marsha MacDowell (Michigan State University Museum), Surna (Minzu University of China), Kristin Otto (Mathers Museum of World Cultures), Felicia Katz-Harris (Museum of International Folk Art), Sarah Hatcher (Mathers Museum of World Cultures), Yang Lihui (Beijing Normal University), Lu Chaoming (Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum), Jason Baird Jackson (Mathers Museum of World Cultures), Chen Xi (Sun Yet-sen University), Carrie Hertz (Museum of International Folk Art), Chao Gejin (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), Wuerxiya (Mathers Museum of World Cultures), Fan Miaomiao (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi), C. Kurt Dewhurst (Michigan State University Museum), Yang Quanzhong (Sanjang Dong Ecomuseum), He Chun (Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum), Michael Paul Jordan (Texas Tech University), Wu Dawei (Sanjang Dong Ecomuseum), Ou Bo (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi), Michael Knoll (History Miami), Lan Yuanyuan (Sanjang Dong Ecomuseum), Gong Shiyang (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi), Jon Kay (Mathers Museum of World Cultures), Luo Yong (Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum), Mai Xi (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi), Zhao Fei (Yunnan Nationalities Museum), Wang Yucheng (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi).

On the afternoon of May 19, the conference began with warm words of welcome from AFS Executive Director Jessica Turner and CFS Past President Chao Gajin (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), standing in for current CFS President Ye Tao (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) who was unable to attend (Figure 2). Also offering brief opening remarks on behalf of the program committee were Jason Baird Jackson (Mathers Museum of World Cultures) and Gong Shiyang (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi) (Figure 3). These remarks preceded the forum’s keynote address by C. Kurt Dewhurst (Michigan State University Museum). Extending an earlier discussion of principles for museum collaboration (Dewhurt and MacDowell 2015), Dewhurt reflected on a range of museum collaborations in which he and the MSU Museum have participated. Among the collaborations that Dewhurst addressed were earlier phases of the AFS-CFS partnership, which has included two museum sub-projects (2013-2016; 2017-2019). The first of these encompassed the Fifth and Sixth forum events, the traveling exhibition and bilingual catalogue Quilts of Southwest China (MacDowell and Zhang 2015), and numerous other elements (Lloyd 2017). In this phase, three Chinese museums and three US museums partnered together (Dewhurst and Lloyd 2019). In the more recent phase, collaborators from the three U.S. museums have joined with the Anthropology Museum of Guangxi for a program of joint research focused on textiles and intangible cultural heritage policy in two northern counties of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Central to this new phase of work are the Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum and the Sanjiang Dong Ecomuseum. Thus, while Dewhurst’s keynote was a general reflection on museum collaboration, his presentation also served to orient conferees to the specific joint AFS-CFS supported projects that gave the forum its organizational context.

The keynote address was followed by a panel discussion in which representatives from the Sanjiang Dong Ecomuseum and Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum described their work and the community and organizational collaborations in which they participate (Figure 4). American participants appreciated this opportunity to learn about the innovative work of these ecomuseums first-hand and drew comparisons to various kind of community-based museums in the US. While Chinese delegates were more knowledgeable about the form that ecomuseums take in China, they also appreciated the chance to engage with the ecomuseum leaders directly in a comparative scholarly context.

It was an honor that many Beijing-based leaders in the CFS and in Chinese folklore studies overall could attend these opening events, which also included a welcoming banquet generously hosted by the CFS. This gathering was enlivened further when the leaders of the Sanjiang Dong Ecomuseum introduced both Dong flute music and toasting songs to the group. For many American delegates, this was a memorable first experience with the richness of Chinese banquet customs and the beauty of Dong music (Figure 5).

The second day of the conference was a full day featuring presentations from Chinese and American delegates. In line with the goals of the forum, the presenters described specific museum collaboration projects, using them as the basis for broader reflections on the work of museum ethnography and heritage studies today. Translation for most conference presentations was very ably done by Chen Xi (Sun Yat-sen University) and Luo Wenhong (Fudan University) (Figure 6). A number of themes emerged through the juxtaposition of presentations throughout the conference. These included: (1) the nature of museum-based ethnographic and exhibition projects in urban contexts, (2) the dynamics unique to heritage-oriented fieldwork pursued across differences of language, culture, and institutional context, (3) the place of objects and material culture studies within museum collaborations, (4) the use of exhibitions as catalysts for broader collaborations and relationship building, (5) the value of older museum collections for contemporary communities and craftspeople, (6) the place of documentary video in museum ethnography, and (7) the special importance that attaches to national folk costume in diverse museum and local cultural contexts in the current era (Figure 7).

The conference’s third day featured a morning of additional presentations followed by a special outing in which conferees visited Beijing’s Shichahai historic area to learn about cultural preservation and heritage tourism activities centered there (Figures 8-9). Participants enjoyed a hutong tour and a visit to the Drum Towner of Beijing (Gulou). While she could not attend the forum, this outing was curated by Zhang Lijun (George Mason University) and drew upon her folklore research interpreting the narrative performances of hutong tour guides (Zhang 2016, 2019). The conference concluded with a banquet, hosted by AFS and featuring Yunnan cuisine. Highpoints of this concluding gathering were many individual expressions of friendship and goodwill as well as a vigorous singing competition staged between the binational groups gathered around two large banquet tables. Heartfelt singing in Dong, Yao, Mandarin, Mongolian and English brought the seventh forum to a joyful close.

References Cited

Dewhurst, C. Kurt, and Timothy Lloyd. 2019. “The American Folklore Society-China Folklore Society Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project, 2013-2016.” Museum Anthropology Review 13 (1): 59-68. https://doi.org/10.14434/mar.v13i1.25405

Dewhurst, C. Kurt, and Marsha MacDowell. 2015. “Strategies for Creating and Sustaining Museum-Based International Collaborative Partnerships.” Practicing Anthropology 37 (3): 54–55. https://doi.org/10.17730/0888-4552-37.3.54

Lloyd, Tim. 2017 “The Inside Story of the AFS China-US Project.” https://www.afsnet.org/news/349609/The-Inside-Story-of-the-AFS-China-US-Project.htm, accessed June 12, 2019.

MacDowell, Marsha, and Lijun Zhang, eds. 2016. 中国西南拼布 | Quilts of Southwest China. Nanning: Guangxi Museum of Nationalities. [Distributed in the United States by Indiana University Press.]

Zhang, Lijun. 2016. “Performing Locality and Identity: Rickshaw Driver, Narratives, and Tourism.” Cambridge Journal of China Studies 11 (1): 88-104. https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/260292

Zhang, Lijun. 2019. “A Brief Guide to Shichahai.” Video Presentation Prepared for The Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage: Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies, Beijing, China.

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Figure 2. Figure 2. Chao Gajin welcomes delegates to the Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage: Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies. May 19, 2019. Photograph by Jon Kay.

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Figure 3. Figure 3. Gong Shiyang addresses delegates to the Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage. May 19, 2019. Photograph by Jon Kay.

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Figure 4. Wu Dawei offers remarks on the work of the Sanjang Dong Ecomuseum during the ecomuseum panel discussion. Left to Right: Lu Chaoming, He Chun, Lan Yuanyuan, Yang Quanzhong, Wu Dawei, Luo Wenhong (translating), Jason Baird Jackson. May 19, 2019. Photograph by Jon Kay.

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Figure 5. Wu Dawei performs Dong flute music at the opening banquet. May 19, 2019. Photograph by C. Kurt Dewhurst.

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Figure 6. Zhang Yibing discusses the work of the Guizhou Nationalities Museum with Luo Wenhong providing English translation.. May 20, 2019. Photograph by Jon Kay.

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Figure 7. Carrie Hertz discusses research related to the exhibition Dressing with Purpose. May 20, 2019. Photograph by Jon Kay.

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Figure 8. Surna discusses her research on Mongol national dress. May 21, 2019. Photograph by Jon Kay.

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Figure 9. Lan Yuanyuan and He Chun begin a rickshaw tour of the Shichahai neighborhood in Beijing. May 21, 2019. Photography by Jason Baird Jackson.

Exhibitions Week: Quilting Art and Tradition—People, Handcrafts, and Community Life (a.k.a. Quilts of Southwest China)

The MMWC has a huge amount of exhibition related news. This week I devote a series of posts to highlighting some of these developments.

Quilt Exhibition Openging Ceremony 7

Huang Biyu introduces her work as a textile artist to visitors to the Yulin Museum, which is hosting the exhibition Quilting Art and Tradition–People, Handcrafts, and Community Life (the Chinese version of Quilts of Southwest China), March 16, 2019. (Photograph courtesy of the Anthropological Museum of Guangxi)

After a U.S. tour that saw the collaboratively curated exhibition Quilts of Southwest China move from the (1) Michigan State University Museum (East Lansing, Michigan, USA) to the (2) International Quilt Study Center and Museum (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA), (3) the Mathers Museum of World Cultures (Bloomington, Indiana, USA) and the (4) Museum of International Folk Art (Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA), the exhibition is now at its third stop in China. Titled in China Quilting Art and Tradition—People, Handcrafts, and Community Life, the exhibition has just opened at the (3) Yulin Museum (Yulin, Guangxi, PRC). It has previously been presented at the (1) Anthropological Museum of Guangxi (Nanning, Guangxi, PRC) and the (2) Yunnan Nationalities Museum (Kunming, Yunnan, PRC). The exhibition is one of several collaborative projects arising out of joint work supported generously by the Henry Luce Foundation and various other American and Chinese funding agencies. The American Folklore Society and the China Folklore Society are coordinating partners for the larger effort that includes the museum partnership linking the Mathers Museum of World Cultures to the MSU Museum, the Museum of International Folk Art, the Yunnan Nationalities Museum, the Anthropological Museum of Guangxi and the and the Guizhou Nationalities Museum (Guiyang, Guixzhou, PRC). The exhibition was jointly produced by the six museum partners and was co-curated by Lijun Zhang and Marsha MacDowell.

Colleagues from the three Chinese partner museums (AMGX, YNNM, GZMN) attended the exhibition opening in Yunlin as did featured textile artist Huang Biyu, who did an artist’s demonstration and worked with a large group of local students in an exploration of Chinese quilting design. Photographs from the opening events taken by Chu Chu and Li Jie of the AMGX are shared here.

Did you miss the exhibition or would you like to do a deeper dive into the world of minority textiles in Southwest China? The bilingual catalogue edited by Marsha MacDowell and Lijun Zhang is available from Indiana University Press. Find it on the press website here: http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/product_info.php?products_id=808361

Thanks to our friends at the AMGX for managing the Chinese tour of the jointly produced exhibition and thanks to the staff of the Yulin Museum for hosting it. It is tremendous to think that a jointly produced exhibition that first opened at the MSUM in 2015 is still traveling and reaching new audiences.

 

 

Shreds and Patches in 2018

Which Shreds and Patches posts were most popular in 2018? These were:

  1. What is the current status of confidentiality and non-disclosure policies at HAU?
  2. Coconut Rattles in Florida and Oklahoma
  3. What is the Museum Anthropology Review Business (Labor) Model?
  4. The IU Gateway Office and Tsinghua University Art Museum (12/8)
  5. The University of Tartu, Appreciated
  6. The Mallet: Making a Maul in a Baiku Yao Community
  7. Beijing’s 798 Art Zone, Revisited, Again (12/9)
  8. The Ethnic Costume Museum at the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology (12/9)
  9. Workshop on Ethnographic Methods in Museum Folklore and Ethnology
  10. Pot Holders, Or William C. Sturtevant Collections Research, Day 1

Numbers 1 and 3 arose in the context of the systemic problems with Hau that became widely known and discussed beginning last summer. Numbers 4, 6, 7, 8, and 9 relate to collaborative work in China. Numbers 2 and 10 are retro posts that I wrote back in 2012 and relate to studies of the William C. Sturtevant Collection at the National Museum of Natural History. Number 5 is a post related to my 2019 travels in Estonia.

Shreds and Patches has featured 580 posts spread over about 4123 days since my first post, The site software reports 101,258 views from 30,545 visitors. The peak week for 2018 was June 11-17, when the Hau inspired posts appeared. That week saw 2076 views from 1675 visitors. Peak wordiness came in 2011 with 41,403 words. This year saw 22,681 words (prior to this post).

Thanks to everyone who reads and appreciates the posts and special appreciation goes to the those who wrote guest posts during 2018. Happy new year everyone.

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Material Culture Journalism, 5

Material culture journalism, continued. Thanks to those who share stories…

Gritty’s Evolution from Googly-eyed Hockey Mascot to Meme to Leftist Avatar, Explained | On our burning hunger for moral clarity and the unexplainable heart of the universe” by Todd VanDerWerff in Vox. (HT/AZ) #antisystemicmovements #mascots #costume

Smithsonian Secretary David J. Skorton to Step Down from Top Spot in June” by Peggy McGlone and Maura Judkis in The Washington Post #museums

Missouri Family Hand-makes Cookie Cutters in any Shape you can Imagine” by AOL/In The Know (HT/Missouri Folk Arts Program) #smallbusiness #foodways

The Juul Fad Is Far Bigger Than I Ever Would Have Guessed” by Kevin Drum in Mother Jones. #capitalism #publichealth

Year End Obituary: Charles Harrison, Inventor Of The Plastic Garbage Can” by NPR/All Things Considered. #AfricanAmericanHistory #Sears #IndustrialDesign

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At the Estonian National Museum

#fulbrightspecialist #fulbright #exchangeourworld

This is the third of three anticipated posts on my fall 2019 visit to Estonia (1st, 2nd).

A great resource for the University of Tartu’s departments of Estonian Native Craft, of Ethnology, and of Estonian and Comparative Folklore is the Estonian National Museum (ENM). The museum is curates vast collections of relevance to students and researchers in these fields and the museum is a research hub for all them. Founded in 1909, the ENM has a long and distinguished history as an ethnography museum centering on Estonia and, more broadly, all peoples speaking Finno-Ugric languages. It its contexts, the museum’s work centers on an Estonian instance of Northern European ethnology (with Soviet “ethnography” dominating during the period of Soviet hegemony). But not long ago (2016), the museum moved into a dramatic and vast new facility and unveiled a pair of large new permanent exhibitions.

These exhibitions move beyond (but fully include) the ethnography of 19th and early 20th century peasant lifeways. In this mode, the new exhibitions show an additive expansion of the museum’s concerns to include the archaeology of the distant past, historical and contemporary linguistics, social history, and the ethnology of everyday life in the recent period and the present. Especially in its exhibition work, the new museum is working at the cutting edge of museum technology and communication research is a part of the museum’s practice and research agenda.

Estonian_National_Museum_in_Tartu

The entry to the Estonian National Museum at night. By Klarqa. CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, from Wikimedia Commons

I will not offer a review of the two permanent exhibitions here, but I want to stress how much I learned about museum practice (and about Estonia and Finno-Urgric peoples) from my multiple visits to the museum’s galleries. I was very fortunate to be given introductory tours of both exhibitions by curators who were central to the work of developing them. Encounters tells the story of people in Estonia from the earliest moments of human activity in the territory of the present nation up to the present. Encounters is actually an interconnected suite of topical and chronological sub-exhibitions and I benefited greatly from seeing it first with Kristel Rattus and Liisi Jaats, two ENM researchers/curators who were part of the exhibition development team. Similarly, I saw the Echo of the Urals exhibition with Art Leete, Professor of Ethnology at the University of Tartu and specialist on Finno-Ugric groups in present-day Russia. Art led the curatorial team for the Finno-Ugric exhibition. The two exhibitions use a wide range of sophisticated exhibition techniques and these techniques are markedly different between the two shows, making the ENM an ideal teaching and learning laboratory for museum ethnology.

While I was more learner than teacher in this context, my work at the University of Tartu teaching the short “Material Culture and the Museum” course intersected with the ENM in a couple of ways. Because the ENM is such an attraction and hub for folklore studies and ethnology, (all or almost all) students and auditors in the course were familiar with the museum and it thus could be used as a valuable point of reference in and out of class sessions. More directly, the ENM hosted the 2018 International Committee for Museums and Collections of Ethnography (ICME) conference. I will touch on that below, but I note here that students participating in the course were obligated to attend parts of the ICME meeting, an activity that I feel certain greatly enhanced the overall experience of the course. The conference and my remarks on museum ethnology could have been completely askew, but in actuality there was, I think, an unusually good fit, with the topics that I raised in the initial sessions showing up in richer context in the presentations of ICME keynote speakers and presenters. The new exhibitions and new museum provided a great context for the course and the conference.

ICME is a group within the larger International Committee of Museums (ICOM). ICOM is the UNESCO-affiliated international organization promoting and supporting museums and museum work. ICME is one of the 30 International Committees active within ICOM. As the name suggests, its focus are museums of ethnography a conception that includes museums whose ethnographic collections and work are very local (such as community-specific museums), national and regional (such as the ENM) and those whose concerns are global in scope (such as the Mathers Museum of World Cultures). The meeting in Tartu at the ENM was the 51st ICME meeting and it was organized under the theme “Re-imaging the Museum in the Global Contemporary.” (Find information on the conference, including specific presentations here and here).

The ICME conference was presided over gracefully by ICME President Viv Golding (University of Leicester) and the hard working local organizational team was led by Agnes Aljas (Research Secretary at the ENM). Agnes in particular went to great lengths to facilitate my participation in the conference and I thank her for her kind efforts.

There were many excellent presentations throughout the conference and a range of meaningful special activities, Each day began with a keynote, all of which were rich and inspiring. The keynote speakers were Andrea Witcomb (Professor, Deakin University, Australia), Pille Runnel (Research Director, Estonian National Museum), Philipp Schorch (State Ethnographic Collection of Saxony, Germany) and Wayne Modest (Research Center for Material Culture, Netherlands).

ICME Group Photograph (ICME 2018)

Participants in the 2018 ICME meeting. From http://network.icom.museum/icme/, accessed November 1, 2018.

One contrast that I would highlight concerns the way that many of core conference presenters–as one might expect in Estonia as a Northern European host country–work in contemporary contexts shaped by volkskunde– or folklife-centered disciplinary histories (European ethnology, etc.). Their ethnographic concerns remained issues of commonality and difference inside (usually small) nation states. Nationalism is their main specter. With the exception of Pille Runnel from the ENM, whose valuable keynote took us behind the scenes at the host museum, the primary concerns of the other keynote speakers were more inflected towards volkerkunde (social anthropology, etc.) disciplinary histories or contexts. Whether overseas colonial projects or the dynamics of settler colonialism (in Australia), colonialism was the specter that haunted their remarks, even when focused on the problems of contemporary national cultures. This distinction was never complete and it is less so in places like modern Europe, but it remains present but not always acknowledged in our discussions. Discussions of projects with source communities, for instance, mean very different things in Berlin or Tartu. One could often feel audience members straining to connect the compelling suggestions made by keynote speakers to their own very different working contexts. I am always hyper sensitive to these dynamics working as a folklorist, ethnologist, and cultural anthropologist in a settler society that has vexing colonial (overseas and internal) circumstances as well as a difficult history of nation building in multicultural-but-unequal circumstances. This is a hard problem to solve because working knowledge of different disciplinary traditions and circumstances are so unevenly spread and widely-read and discussed work in English language museum anthropology has often overwhelmingly favored work in colonial situations over work arising from provincial and national ones.

These remarks are not in any way a criticism. A problem that I have long felt as a museum folklorist who is also a museum anthropologist (and as a teacher of folklore studies and of anthropology) were made still clearer for me in the ICME context. I hope that I can find new ways to help bridge the gap that I am evoking. International meetings where different perspectives and different national and global circumstances converge certainly help. I know that I am not alone in having learned much at the ICME meetings. I would not normally have been able to travel to an international meeting of this sort, thus my visit to Tartu was an extra-ordinary opportunity.

One last ENM note. The ENM stewards another museum site that I visited. As noted in my first post, I visited the Heimtali Museum of Domestic Life near Viljandi. My visit was excellent thanks to the work of my guides Kristi Jõeste and Ave Matsin of the Department of Estonian Native Craft and the kindness of our hostess And Raud. A textile artist, arts professor, and student of Estonian craft, costume and textiles, Ms. Raud founded the museum around her extensive collection. While it is now a branch of the ENM, the Ms. Raud remains the Heimtali Museum of Domestic Life’s greatest guide and interpreter. I thank her and Ave and Kristi for my visit.

My museum engagements in Estonia were inspirational and they will inform my teaching, research, and curatorial work for many years. I am fortunate to have had these opportunities and I thank all those who made them possible, including the Fulbright Specialist Program, the University of Tartu, and the Estonian National Museum.

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