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Posts from the ‘open access’ Category

Museum Anthropology Review is a Teenager Now; New Issue is Now Out

Life got away from me last week and I still have more “Exhibition Week” posts to share, but today I turn attention to the new issue of MAR.

It is hard to believe but Museum Anthropology Review is now in its thirteenth year. If you are interested in a bit of how MAR got to this point and where it will be heading in the near term, you can check out the editorial that I wrote for the new issue, just out. You can find the whole issue, including my piece, online here: As always, MAR is not just free to readers but open access.

MAR is the journal of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, Indiana University’s museum of ethnography, ethnology, and cultural history. The new issue is particularly focused on reports recounting projects undertaken at the MMWC and by its partners, friends, and regular collaborators.

Three MMWC colleagues share projects that they led. Jon Kay tells the story of Traditional Arts Indiana’s exhibition for the Indiana Bicentennial, Emily Buhrow Rogers reflects on the Cherokee Craft, 1973 exhibition, and Kristin Otto discusses our museum’s projects relating to so-called Ghanaian fantasy coffins.

MMWC partners C. Kurt Dewhurst and Timothy Lloyd report on the larger Sino-US collaboration project that the MMWC has been an active participant in and Marsha Bol, another participant in that collaboration, shares background on a different project, her recent exhibition on beadwork at the Museum of International Folk Art. Regular MAR contributor Kerim Friedman is joined by his collaborator Gabrielle de Seta for a discussion of the Sensefield exhibition that they organized as a companion to the Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival.

The issue concludes with a book review and an exhibition review by Otto. Both focus on innovative projects of special relevance to museum anthropology in African contexts.

Thanks go to the reviewers and others who helped with this issue behind the scenes. MAR’s transition to teenager status provides an opportunity to thank the librarians and library staff who have worked to support and encourage the journal since its beginnings. Thanks also to all of the graduate assistants who have worked on the journal over the years.

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A partial view of Museum Anthropology Review 13(1)

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.


Some Writings: Summer 2018

Some (smaller) writings from summer.

Lijun Zhang and I self-published another short piece today on Medium. Check it and out help us get it in circulation.

This fall is all about writing, so I am hopeful that some longer works will be in the works soon.

View at

What is the Museum Anthropology Review Business (Labor) Model?

Alternate title: How to give away $99,000 worth of articles.

Although it has become normalized in open access/scholarly publication reform discussions to speak in this way, it often seems laughable to use the phrase ‘business model” in the context of many open access projects. Business model implies more modeling and more business that are often found in these efforts. When the eye-rolling or chuckling stops, the business school talk does remind prompt us to try to figure out what we are doing and how we are doing it. This is good even for tiny projects held together (often happily) with just a bit of used string and some tape. (Thank goodness that we do not all want to become the next oversized thing.)

I write the following as founding editor of Museum Anthropology Review, an open access journal supporting scholarly and public-facing work in museum anthropology, museum-based folklore studies, and material culture studies. In an immediate context of painful collective disciplinary assessment, debate, and reflection (#hautalk) on scholarly communication work (and labor practices, and power, and hierarchy, and practices of discrimination, etc.) in the ethnographic disciplines, I thought it might be useful to be more explicit about labor and funding underpinning MAR). While the journal has a complex origin story and has changed alongside other changes (in my career, at Indiana University, in the fields that it serves, etc.), the so-called business model has remained pretty consistent, making this small task easier. It is not the business school way, but it may be easiest and most contextually relevant in MAR and disciplinary context to track labor and money using participant roles. It is hard to do this in a way that will not seem either self-promoting or defensive, but it has to be done. I have stressed throughout my wider engagements with open access that projects such as MAR need to try to be intentional in their experimental work and in reporting back to the field for collective benefit. The need for more of this is more pressing now than ever and I have been relatively silent on open access issues since finishing what I thought of as capstone activities in two pieces written with colleague-collaborators (Jackson and Anderson 2014; Walters et al. 2015 [for this project, see also here]).

MAR Screenshot

Readers: The journal does have readers. I and others involved in the journal know this from digital statistics (like Google Analytics), citations to work published, and word of mouth. Accessing MAR requires internet access but does not cost readers anything. Everyone involved is pleased to know that the work is worth doing, so I say thank you to the readers who have spent their time and attention on MAR. (I invite you to sign up as a reader and get free tables of contents for MAR by email.)

Authors: The journal does have authors. Authors are not paid for their contributions to MAR, but they are also not charged author fees or article processing charges, as is common in some other kinds of open access projects. In MAR we have so-far published 33 peer-reviewed articles. Had the authors of those articles published them in Curator and paid to make them open via Wiley’s Online Open program, the total cost to authors would have been $2500 x 33 = $82,500. Author-pays open publication in Museum Anthropology would have cost $3000 x 33 = $99,000 (See Wiley-Journal-APCs-2018MAY24 (a spreadsheet) via, accessed June 16, 2018). Those of us in other MAR other roles wish, of course, that authors were more aware of these taken-for-granted things. Hopefully this post will help a bit. I am proud that the MAR community has been able to make publication happen for these authors and their readers without ability-to-pay being a factor shaping the publication process. I also thank journal’s authors for sharing their valuable work widely through publication in MAR.

Peer-Reviewers:  The journal definitely has peer-reviewers. They are generous and thoughtful and they are essential. I thank them here for their contributions to MAR. MAR peer-reviewers are not paid for their contributions. This is the current scholarly publishing norm for journals. I track the debate on the ethics of this. We are in a bind. Peer-review is hard, important labor. My opposition to industrial scale commercial scholarly publishing is based in part on the relationship between free labor of some participants and the huge profits that these firms reap (sample rants here and here). If paying peer-reviewers were to become the norm, then small community-based journals such as MAR would not be able to do it and corporate run and co-published journals would have an even bigger slice of the scholarly publishing pie (the enclosure of anthropology was at issue here). It is a conundrum at the heart of scholarly communications reform. For now, know that MAR peer-reviewers are valued and unpaid. The cash/gift economy status of the other roles is probably relevant to their feelings about this. My hope is that one feels relatively less exploited about peer-reviewing for a journal that looks like the one that I am describing here.)

Editorial Board: As is normal, MAR has a valued editorial board. As is common, I have not turned to them for structural, business or governance issues as much as I might have. As in other journals, they often serve as a kind of meta- peer-reviewers. For instance, serving as a source of editorial advice when I need help figuring something out or as a source of recommendations for reviewers. Sometimes editorial board members are called upon to undertake peer-reviews themselves. As with all journals that I know (and this is relevant in the context of the current journal controversies in the ethnographic fields), they also lend their reputations to the journal as a project. This is not inherently bad and it has a function beyond the accumulation of symbolic capital. When a potential author considers making a submission to any journal, they can review the masthead and ask: “Does my work resonate with the work of some of the people identified here?” Editorial Board Members are not paid for their MAR service. I thank them for encouraging and supporting the journal and helping it go.

A special member of the editorial board during the initial years of MAR was Associate Editor Kimberly Christen. As reflected also in her important scholarship (example here) and her own large and innovative projects (example here), Kim was a key interlocutor for me on (then new) questions of open access, helping me make sense of the shifting terrain across which MAR would travel.

Editor: At the most, two people have worked in the editorial office. Quite often, one person works in the editorial office. If there is just one person, then that person has been me. MAR launched in 2007. The story of its birth and its transformation is a different story and I postpone telling it here. A large number of friends and colleagues have helped by occupying the roles that I have noted above and by offering a range of encouragements and words of appreciation. The duties that traditionally fall to an editor are the ones that I have pursued. In the MAR case, this also includes overseeing the journal’s reviews work (book, exhibitions, etc.). This is a smaller setup than is normal even in smaller journals, which typically have a book review editor and other separated roles. There is no doubt that a critic would say that this concatenation of roles represents a concentration of power. I hope that close independent analysis would suggest that no pronounced problems flowed from this fact. For better or worse, it was also a concentration of so-called “service” labor. Understanding the finances of the editorial office can help readers judge the risks and ethics.

The actual production of the journal is also done in the editorial office. Content does not get handed off to a publishing partner for formatting, metadata coding, assignment of DOI numbers, etc. That work happens in-house and it is the editor and (when existing) the editorial assistant that do that work. As described below, Indiana University has created an excellent open access publishing environment that makes this possible.

As I still do, I held a tenured professorship when MAR sprang up into existence. As reflected by my notes above (and the points remaining to be made below), no money comes into MAR and no money goes out of MAR. There is no direct financial benefit to me to work on MAR. I acknowledge that I am paid well by Indiana University in support of the range of teaching, research, and service activities in which I engage and that I am reviewed annually and in the context of promotion decisions. No pressure to stop doing MAR has ever arisen (although my colleagues may privately question my judgement vis-à-vis excess editorial activity) and no special reward for doing it has been provided. My departments are home to a lot of editorial activity and mine just conforms to this local norm. This is a longstanding tradition, with many journals previously edited in them (Museum Anthropology, International Journal of American Linguistics, American Ethnologist, etc.) and many founded in them (Ethnohistory, Anthropological Linguistics, Journal of Folklore Research, etc.). If I did not do work on MAR I would be working on other things and my salary would not, I think, be any different. [I am mindful of the luxuries of choice available to me in my position.) MAR keeps me connected to my scholarly community and has brought a huge range of valuable experiences and relationships into my life. But there is no money to follow. Before 2013, MAR had only a kind of informal social base. It was produced by me and my friends with help from the IUScholarWorks program at the Indiana University libraries (see below). After 2013, MAR became the journal of the the Mathers Museum of World Cultures (MMWC). This was a positive byproduct of my becoming the MMWC’s Director. When my Directorship ends, MAR will remain at the museum and will be the responsibility of its next Director to continue, expand, shrink, change, or shutter. (Note: If the journal were to end next month or next year or next decade, the robust preservation and continued public accessibility of its backfiles is one of the durable commitments that IU Libraries have made to the project. See IU ScholarWorks below).

Editorial Assistant: When I was help in the work of the Editorial Office, it was by a graduate student from the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology or Department of Anthropology at Indiana University holding an .5 FTE (half of fulltime) graduate assistantship. Whereas the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University specifically funded a .5 FTE graduate assistantship for the work of supporting my previous editorship (2005-2009) of Museum Anthropology (the journal of the Council for Museum of Anthropology), MAR was never directly supported in this way. During a year serving as a department chair (2009-2010), a graduate assistant was assigned to support me in my scholarly activities. Helping with MAR became this colleague’s key duty. Between becoming Director of the MMWC in 2013 and the end of Spring 2017, the primary duty of a graduate student similarly appointed has also been to help with the journal. During fall 2017 and spring 2018, the work of the MMWC Director’s Office graduate assistantship has broadened to other projects, but the incumbent did do some MAR work. When a graduate student was working primarily on the journal, they held the title Editorial Assistant and appeared thus on the MAR masthead.

When filled, this Editorial Assistant role was a 20 hour per week position held during the fall and spring semesters. Those holding it have had the same stipends as their classmates holding similar appointments in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology. They also hold fee waivers that pay for a significant portion of their course work for the full year (including summer courses) and they have a university health insurance plan. I wish that all of the assistantships held by students in my home departments (Folklore and Ethnomusicology, Anthropology) were better paid and offered better benefits, but I am happy that those student colleagues who worked with me on MAR had as good of a deal as any of their classmates. They can speak for themselves, but I think that they appreciated the experiences that they had while working on the journal. The rich range of publishing opportunities provided to graduate students in my departments have, over time, made (what I perceive to be) a significant difference in the career outcomes of the graduate students with whom my faculty colleagues and I have thus worked.

The key thing to note here vis-à-vis broader debates in anthropology publishing right now is that MAR’s basic editorial office work (correspondence, copyediting, layout and formatting, social media stuff, etc.) was either done by me or by a graduate student being paid to work with me.* Given its small scale and lack of cash in and cash out practices, MAR could have been done with a wider pool of volunteer laborers. I actually support this model and have spoken up for it often, but in the actual doing, the mix of roles described here made sense to me for MAR. In part, this stemmed from MAR being an off-shoot of Museum Anthropology which, for a time, was run with as many variables as possible being held constant so as to provide a kind of natural experiment to contrast open access and conventional publishing in the sub-field that both journals served. The mode of editor (or pair of editors) plus assistant has been constant with Museum Anthropology from the time of my editorship and thus through the period of MAR’s history at issue here. Creating opportunities to support the work of graduate students interested in museum ethnography was always a key concern of mine in this work. It motivated my seeking the Museum Anthropology editorship in 2005 and it has remained a prominent goal throughout. I thank the College of Arts and Sciences and the Office of the Vice Provost for Research for supporting the assistantship positions that have at various points helped MAR prosper. I thank Janice Frisch (2019-2010), Teri Klassen (2014), and Emily Buhrow Rogers (2014-2017) for their hard work as editorial assistants with MAR.

IUScholarWorks:  MAR would not be possible without the extraordinary vision, investment, and labor gathered in the IUScholarWorks program of the Indiana University Libraries. Focused on supporting open access scholarly communications efforts, IUScholarWorks (IUSW) has a number of signature projects, including Indiana University’s institutional repository and the IUScholarWorks Journals program. MAR was the first of the IUSW supported journals. This program has grown to include more than forty open access journal titles, including others of relevance to the ethnographic disciplines (Anthropology of East Europe Review, Ethnomusicology Translations, Studies in Digital Heritage, etc.).

I am not able to quantify the financial investments that the IU Libraries have made in MAR via the IUSW program, but the investment is significant and important. Most crucially, it is via IUSW that MAR has access to the incredible open access journal hosting and workflow software known as Open Journal Systems (OJS). OJS makes MAR possible and the IUSW librarians and staff make MAR on OJS possible. I want to express appreciation for the investment and incredible support that the IU Libraries have provided to me and to the MAR project. I hope to say more about the details of this support in the future and to quantify the technical and staff costs underlying it. For now, it may be enough to know that just as MAR tries to serve the field without charging fees for that service, IUSW tries to serve projects like MAR without charging fees for that service. It is certainly the case that economies of scale have been realized by having library-based publishing support services that can concurrently help a wide range of (mostly small) journal projects.

Indiana University Press: Technically, I could speak of the IU Press alongside IUScholarWorks. At Indiana University, our wonderful press is now a unit inside the IU Libraries. In this position, there is significant overlap and interdigitation between the open access publishing support work of IUScholarWorks and the general publishing work of the IU Press. But the two efforts also preserve some distinction. One way that MAR is increasingly being served by the IU Press is through promotion. As an outgrowth of the Press’ own commitment to fostering open access publishing, the Press has generously promoted MAR alongside its full suite of scholarly journals. As with the libraries as a whole and IUSW in particular, I cannot say enough good things about our press. The open access-fostering work of the Press, IUSW and the libraries in general are an outgrowth of a larger campus-wide and university-wide commitment that has been a key factor in the success of MAR and other OA (related) projects (JFRR, Material Vernaculars, Open Folklore) in which I have participated. I am appreciative of this support even as I cannot put a dollar figure on it. The key thing here is that MAR had not had to pay the IU Press to promote the journal (through print and web ads) just as it has not had to pay the libraries for IUSW services.

Conclusion: Responding to current calls for transparency in the work of open access journals is important. When I edited Museum Anthropology for the Council for Museum Anthropology Review, I was required to prepare and present annual editor’s reports that provided the board, the membership, and the AAA an auditable record of the journal’s editorial work and the financial realities of the journal in relation to the finances of AAA vis-à-vis its (then) publishing partners (University of California Press –> Blackwell/Wiley-Blackwell). By their nature, more emergent and grassroots projects (like MAR) lack formal institutional structures and thus they lack baked-in prompts for recording and reporting the facts of their existence. I hope that the accounting that I have provided here shows how one such project has functioned, particularly in terms of the flow of in-kind services. If cognate projects to MAR can also respond to calls for more public sharing of their underlying circumstances, the larger project of building a more equitable and sustainable system of scholarly communication can be advanced. I regret now not putting the facts noted above into written form sooner. Rather than end though on regret, let me close with a final word of appreciation to all of those who have provided the in-kind labor or financial support or technical infrastructure that has made MAR possible. See what you think of the results at:


*For the first time in MAR’s history, I paid a freelance copyeditor to edit three article manuscripts last month. Other duties prevented me from doing this work in a timely way and the assistantship role is not filled during the summer months. I paid for these edits out of discretionary funds raised through my involvement in other non-journal projects. Noting this fact allows me to record the value I place on the contributions that publishing professionals make in scholarly communication work. The DIY nature of MAR is an outgrowth of its nature and scale and is not a repudiation of professionalism in publishing work. Opposition to large corporate publishers is not the same thing as opposition to all publishers. I have devoted significant effort to supporting university presses and I try to be an ally to university press colleagues.

[Jason Baird Jackson is the author of this post. It was initially written on June 16-17, 2018 and published on Shreds and Patches on June 17, 2018. It is released under a CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license. At the time of its publication, his twitter account “handle” is @jasonjackson116]

What is the current status of confidentiality and non-disclosure policies at HAU?

UPDATE 1: On Facebook (June 13, 2018) someone from the HAU social media team stated that no one now involved in HAU is bound by a confidentiality agreement (beyond norms of editorial confidentiality that are customary in scholarly publishing). (Update created early EST on June 13, 2018)

UPDATE 2: Anyone reading this as part of a larger effort to make sense of the much wider set of issues being discussed in the field should be aware that it was written prior to the release of additional documents (including the open letter of June 13) and great deal of public discussion. (Update created late EST on June 13, 2018)

UPDATE 3: Discussions of HAU have continued, with many relevant documents and position statements appearing and a lot of commentary on social media. I cannot account for all of this here. I hope that the unfolding of the discussion reveals more clearly the logic behind my querying the more general status of non-disclosure strategies at HAU. Even if this approach was only taken for a period (the period in which I was asked to join the advisory board) and only with the advisory board and not the various editorial boards or with various staff and volunteers, the existence of policies or practices related to confidentiality would be a major factor in the wider range of issues (of power and silencing) that are now being discussed. While I cannot provide coverage of all of the discussion, two essays from today speak rather directly to what I was getting at in the post below. These are the essay by former HAU treasurer Rodolfo Maggio and the essay by former HAU editorial team participant Ilana Gershon. (Update created afternoon EST on June 19, 2018)

What is the current status of confidentiality and non-disclosure policies at HAU? Why can’t the policies be published?

Those are my questions. This is my context.

Alex Golub has noted previously that I tend to bury my lede. Other stuff will follow, but here is my main note, first. My email records on the following matter are incomplete, but I possess one key message that lends certainty to my account. I was invited to serve on what was then (to be) called the External Advisory Board for the journal HAU sometime in spring of 2013. My understanding of this at the time was that the invitation was an outgrowth of my work prior to that point on scholarly communications in general and on open access issues in particular. While then new to the work of directing the Mathers Museum of World Cultures and at the time serving as Interim Editor of the Journal of Folklore Research as well as continuing as Editor of Museum Anthropology Review, I was earnest in considering this opportunity closely. With several substantive issues already published and numerous scholars joining the cause, it was already clear that HAU was emerging as a significant undertaking. Why did I not follow through and join the External Advisory Board? Whatever it was, why to do I bring it up now?

I bring it up now because in all of the conversation now underway (from a great many perspectives and points of view—the current HAU discussion is not a binary one), no one else has flagged it and it seems more germane to me now than it did then—and at the time it was a big deal for me. When I was asked to join the External Advisory Board, I was asked to agree to what in legal parlance is a non-disclosure agreement. In the English speaking world right now, these are very much in the news in a #MeToo context. In that context, they are seen by some as tools by which to silence victims and shield serial predators. None of that was on my mind at the time I was asked to help HAU. But I was bothered by the confidentiality language I was asked to embrace, understanding it at the time as the kind of language used in industry to try to protect trade secrets and business processes. Why did this bother me? I was being asked, as I understood it, to help with HAU because of my experience with open access and with publishing more broadly. In essence, I was being asked to bring knowledge gained from other publishing projects into the HAU context, but was being explicitly bared from taking knowledge gained in the HAU context into other publishing contexts and also being bared from reflecting in my scholarly writing and speaking (etc.) on that which I would learn as a HAU volunteer.

In the face of my concerns, there was an effort led by Sarah Green (Manchester) to weaken the confidentiality language in the HAU governing documents, but the basic approach remained in place and none of the others then serving, or being approached, to my knowledge, were particularly concerned about this issue. I said no, and HAU went on without me. In itself, that is o.k. I hardly needed more publishing endeavors in my life and I am not confident that I could have made an particularly important contributions to HAU. But, on this point, I will just say that, especially, in anthropological contexts, all open access projects (perhaps to too great a degree) have drawn upon our (probably over-extended) disciplinary concern with gift economies, Maussian exchange, communal labor, etc. From its name on down, from its first moment of existence, HAU struck this note at a greater volume and with greater frequency than any of the rest. It seemed ironic then and, with the hindsight that comes with more recent developments (they are out there, you can find them), it seems even more unbelievable that a (formerly) open access journal would play the gift economy card so vigorously while adopting, from the earliest possible moment, one of the most draconian tactics in the corporate tool box. My partners and friends in working on open access in folklore studies and in anthropology have generally spoken of our efforts as provisional, emergent, experimental, contingent, practical, cooperative…. When we figure out how to accomplish X or Y, we (as scholars and community members) try to share what we have learned and to help other efforts thrive. My involvement, such as it was, in helping Cultural Anthropology’s move towards open access had this character and the same is true for many other people who joined in that effort. In a campus context, the work of Museum Anthropology Review has provided lessons for the forty or so other open access journals that have followed it in the IUScholarWorks Journals program. The approach has also characterized the Open Folklore project and the move of numerous folklore studies journals to sustainable open access publishing frameworks. When open access advocates speak of sharing, they have generally really meant it and lived that value. Confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements, and the the values with which they so often co-occur, are incompatible with open access as a community-centered approach to scholarly publishing. (I am well aware of the alternative forms that open access has also taken–green, corporate, predatory, etc.)

I do not touch here on the accusations that have been made regarding the work of HAU. I have no special insight into that. But I do observe in a general way that a culture of confidentiality and the use of confidentiality-enforcing agreements is a proven breeding ground for a wide range of abuses and a partial explanation for why unhealthy relationships and structural arrangements so often go unaddressed until things are way out of hand (if then). I do not presume to know what has gone on behind the scenes in a journal that I have no role in, but I know with certainty that I was right in not agreeing to join any volunteer, scholarly effort that demanded a formalized, all-purpose pledge of confidentiality of me.

The non lede…. Am I hostile to HAU? No. I am stunned (in a good way) by the amount of first rate scholarly activity the HAU community has been able to assemble and share. Many colleagues whom I respect are active in HAU, have published in HAU, and have devoted great effort to the advancement of HAU. I think that I have only spoken or written about HAU positively in public contexts (Jackson and Anderson 2014 provides an example). (And yes, I am very much listening to the critiques of HAU that are about issues other than open access. More articulate voices than mine are saying important things on that front.)

Have I helped HAU in anyway despite my not joining the effort formally? I think so. Despite my private reservations, I advocated on HAU’s behalf with the leadership of the Indiana University Libraries, thereby positioning IU to become a HAU-N.E.T institution. This was an easy sell on a campus and with a library that is passionate about open access, but it was the quantity and quality of the work that HAU was publishing that made this a certain thing. The transformation of HAU into a non-OA publication certainly changes this dynamic on our campus.

It is another small thing (although it involves significant technical work by my IU Library colleagues), but I advocated for inclusion of HAU content in the Open Folklore project’s  search corpus.

I wanted HAU to succeed. I still want HAU to succeed.

Do I have any comment on David Graeber’s published apology of June 11, 2018 or the “new” HAU Trustee’s statement of June 12, 2018? No, with one exception. I appreciate part of what Graeber has indicated that he is trying to do. I am filled with dread reading so many social media posters linking HAU’s moment to failures (deemed by them) in open access. As Graeber notes, the story of HAU, whatever it is, is not the story of open access failing. Here is not the place to argue that point further, but open access is not the problem. Open access is hard, complex, partial, and human. Open access is also succeeding on a great many fronts. I could recount them all day and not be done. The move to Chicago was hardly the only future HAU could have had and the current controversies are surely not about open access, they surely are about humans and human relationships in a much more complex sense.

Framing Sukkot: Tradition and Transformation in Jewish Vernacular Architecture

Just in time for the holiday that is at its center, I am happy to trumpet the publication of Framing Sukkot: Tradition and Transformation in Jewish Vernacular Architecture by Gabrielle Berlinger. Framing Sukkot is the third title in the Material Vernaculars series and it is appearing in the world just as the Jewish holiday of Sukkot is about to begin for 2017/5778!

Here is how Indiana University Press introduces Professor Berlinger’s new book:

The sukkah, the symbolic ritual home built during the annual Jewish holiday of Sukkot, commemorates the temporary structures that sheltered the Israelites as they journeyed across the desert after the exodus from Egypt. Despite the simple Biblical prescription for its design, the remarkable variety of creative expression in the construction, decoration, and use of the sukkah, in both times of peace and national upheaval, reveals the cultural traditions, political convictions, philosophical ideals, and individual aspirations that the sukkah communicates for its builders and users today.

In this ethnography of contemporary Sukkot observance, Gabrielle Anna Berlinger examines the powerful role of ritual and vernacular architecture in the formation of self and society in three sharply contrasting Jewish communities: Bloomington, Indiana; South Tel Aviv, Israel; and Brooklyn, New York. Through vivid description and in-depth interviews, she demonstrates how constructing and decorating sukkah and performing the weeklong holiday’s rituals of hospitality provide unique circumstances for creative expression, social interaction, and political struggle. Through an exploration of the intersections between the rituals of Sukkot and contemporary issues, such as the global Occupy movement, Berlinger finds that the sukkah becomes a tangible expression of the need for housing and economic justice, as well as a symbol of the longing for home.

As I noted in discussing the edited collection Material Vernaculars: Objects, Images, and Their Social Worlds last fall, it is my hope that many readers will purchase a beautiful paper or hardback edition of Framing Sukkot, thereby helping support the work of a great university press. One of the things that makes IU Press great is its commitment to building strategies for free and open access to scholarly writings. The Material Vernaculars series, co-published with the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, is part of that commitment. So, first let me note that you can buy copies of the book from a range of online booksellers, including Amazon and the IU Press itself. Secondly, let me show you where the free digital edition of the book lives. Hopefully by the time Sukkot ends, people around the world will be reading this great new book.

To access the free PDF version, click on the image below or go to this URL

Once you are there, click on the “View/Open” link as shown in the image. Clicking should enable you to download a copy of the book.

Dr. Berlinger is an Assistant Professor of American Studies and Folklore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is also the Babette S. and Bernard J. Tanenbaum Fellow in Jewish History and Culture within the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies. In addition to the new book, you can find a moving Sukkot-oriented post by Dr. Berlinger on the IU Press blog.

Check out Framing Sukkot!

Thank You @iupress for a Great Material Vernaculars Reception at #afsam16

A quick note to convey appreciation for the great staff of the Indiana University Press, especially the work of the press staff who attended the 2016 American Folklore Society meetings in Miami. It was clear that the press had a great meeting. They brought mountains of new books and were wiped out. They also announced a lot of forthcoming titles and clearly were talking to a lot of scholars about their work. One highlight for me was a tremendous reception sponsored by the press in celebration of the Material Vernaculars series that the press co-publishes with the Mathers Museum of World Cultures and that I edit. The reception attracted a huge crowd and the food and drinks that IU Press so kindly provided were first rate. Thanks to IU Press and to all who came to the reception. Thanks to all who purchased copies of the first two Material Vernaculars titles. Your endorsement is very encouraging.

The Free-to-Readers Edition of Material Vernaculars: Objects, Images, and Their Social Worlds

As I discussed in a previous post, works in the Material Vernaculars series are being made available in a free-to-readers PDF edition via IUScholarWorks. The eponymous edited collection Material Vernaculars: Objects, Images, and Their Social Worlds was posted today and you can find it here:

If you think that high quality open and/or free access editions of scholarly monographs are a good thing, and if you have the means to do so, I urge you to purchase copies of the companion print or ebook editions as a way of supporting the cause and subsidizing the access of others, including those who cannot otherwise afford to obtain the book. If you really want to make a difference, consider donating to the not-for-profit publishers and libraries behind such efforts. In our case, you can contribute to the Indiana University Press (co-publisher of the Material Vernaculars series with the Mathers Museum of World Cultures) here:

Here is a screen shot showing you where to click to download Material Vernaculars. The image should link to the page in IUScholarWorks where the book is found. (The link is given above as well.)

slide1Happy reading!

Material Vernaculars: Institutional Role, Review, Authors, and Genres

The new Material Vernaculars series is co-published by the Mathers Museum of World Cultures with a huge amount of heavy lifting from our partner, the Indiana University Press. The first two volumes in the series are Folk Art and Aging by Jon Kay and the eponymous edited volume Material Vernaculars: Objects, Images, and Their Social Worlds. Jon Kay is the author of the first of these and I am the editor of the second. Jon and I are both on the IU faculty (in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology) and in the MMWC, where Jon is Director of Traditional Arts Indiana and Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage and I am the museum’s director. As the new series becomes known, it is reasonable to ask—is it just a publishing venue for the museum and its associates and partners?

MW Website

The answer here is no, but as you might guess, the series is intended to be the go to place when the museum does have its own publishing projects. This answer prompts then a couple of more points needing to be made. Peer-review for the series is fully managed by the IU Press and editorial review is a joint matter, thus it is quite conceivable that a museum project might be passed on by the press either at the early editorial review stage or at the peer-review stage. (I note that the press has already passed on one possible project, to illustrate this point tangibly.) Thus the series will hopefully be the home for additional MMWC authors and projects, but this is not guaranteed—and should not be.

The other side of this is that the series will hopefully come to publish authors without ties to museum, including colleagues not yet known to me. As the series homepage presently notes, “Potential authors interested in the Material Vernaculars series should contact the series editor Jason Baird Jackson via mvseries [at] and Aquisitions Editor Janice Frisch at frischj [at]” That phrase, and the series overview, are available here.

As noted there, a new series also poses genre questions. Here, my intentions as editor are broad. “The series accommodates a diversity of types of work, including catalogues and collections studies, monographs, edited volumes, and multimedia works.” To me, these are the key genres of relevance for research museum practice in ethnography, ethnology, and cultural history (our museum’s fields), but it could be that new, as yet not fully recognized genres could also find a home in the series. While the forthcoming edited volume is something of a sampler, future edited volumes will likely have a strong thematic focus. Stand alone essays will continue to find a home in the museum’s journal, Museum Anthropology Review.

I hope to hear from potential authors and editors interested in learning more about the series. Thanks to all who have supported this new effort.


Improving Access to Scholarship: Material Vernaculars as Milestone and Experiment

First the take away, then the story. While produced in very nice and reasonably priced hardback, paperback, and ebook editions, works in the new Material Vernaculars series are also being made available in free-to-the-reader PDF versions. This is a great thing and, if you agree with me about that, and can afford to do so, I really hope that you will purchase the edition of your choice, thereby signaling your support for making such works freely accessible to those who cannot afford to purchase them. If this seems strange to you, its a lot like community and public radio in the United States. Those who can support these services help make them accessible to those who cannot afford to make their own donations. We all gently nudge those who use them and could, but don’t, support them. (Called free riders.) Its not utopia, but its what we have and its better than the vast majority of people being locked out of non-commercial arts and education programming (and scholarly books). Now you can skip to the end for the link if you are in a rush.


Those who know about my work know that I have been focused on promoting free and open access to scholarly work for a relatively long time. My advocacy efforts followed soon after I began work as a scholarly journal editor. At that time, I was drawn into a diverse range of problems, opportunities, and paradoxes that the transformation of scholarly communication was (and is still) engendering. Probably the best place to find the things that I have written on this theme is to look at the interview that I did with Ryan Anderson (published in Cultural Anthropology in 2014)

In 2015, my focus in this work shifted to books when I was a participant in a project funded by the Mellon Foundation. The results of that project were reported in: A Study of Direct Author Subvention for Publishing Humanities Books at Two Universities: A Report to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation by Indiana University and University of Michigan.

Concurrent with such advocacy work, I have tried to build real-world projects that could advance scholarship while testing strategies for increasing public access to research. Now in its tenth year, Museum Anthropology Review (now the journal of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures) is the best example of this. On the book side, there is now the Material Vernaculars series co-published by the museum and the Indiana University Press. In my previous post, I highlighted the series first title—Folk Art and Aging: Life-Story Objects and their Makers by Jon Kay and the series’ scholarly mandate. Here I am flagging the series’ relationship to free and open access movements.

Books cost a lot of money to make. In a peer-reviewed article, based on our humanities book research studying publishing work of the Indiana University Press and University of Michigan Press, my colleagues report that the zero copy cost for a typical humanities book is about $27,000. Efforts to increase access to scholarship have to find ways to confront these costs from all sides—finding ways to lower prices but also new ways of funding the professional work that it takes to make a quality book.

For me, for the museum, and especially for the IU Press, the Material Vernaculars series is an experiment. If we get past talking about it and actually begin doing it, what can we learn that will, we hope, help us learn to do it more and better? This is part of what is at stake for IU Press and for the whole world of university press humanities book publishing. I am thrilled to be a part of a new series that has a secondary role (beyond its primarily scholarly one) of finding ways to make scholarly books more widely and openly accessible.

So paradoxically, if you believe (for example) that the communities about whom ethnographers write should have access to what they write, then I call on you, paradoxically, to purchase a copy of Folk Art and Aging and the other other books that are in the pipeline. Your purchase helps support the goals of the series and it demonstrates that paid-for print editions or e-book editions are not mutually exclusive of free-to-readers electronic editions. If it helps, think of the print edition as a thank you gift for your donation to this cause rather than as a commodity that you are purchasing in the marketplace. You can feel particularly good about it if you purchase it directly from the Indiana University Press, thereby cutting out one or more commercial intermediaries.

It (PDF) won’t always be the file format of choice, but for now the free editions of Material Vernaculars titles will be circulated in PDF form via the IUScholarWorks Repository. When people download the books from IUScholarWorks, there is a download count, which helps us learn how many people, over what time period, showed interest in the book(s). (So, send your friends to the link rather than passing around the PDF…)

If you are wondering how to download the book, see the picture above for the place to click.

Here is the link. Two actually. The first is durable but enigmatic. The second is more human readable, but potentially less permanent.

Happy reading.

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