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Posts from the ‘Other News’ Category

Mayer Kirshenblatt (1916-2009)

I just learned that Mayer Kirshenblatt, a remarkable human being and the father of folklorist Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett has passed away. If you have not seen it yet, I strongly recommend their jointly composed book They Called Me Mayer July: Painted Memories of a Jewish Childhood in Poland before the Holocaust (University of California Press, 2007). The paintings and stories gathered therein (and in the companion exhibition) are simply amazing. (The book was reviewed in Museum Anthropology Review here.)

My condolences go to Barbara and to everyone whose life Mr. Kirshenblatt touched. His memory, and his memories, will live forever.

Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908-2009)

Although we never met, I was greatly impacted by the work of Claude Lévi-Strauss. I am very saddened to learn of his passing, but I recall how happy I felt upon his reaching his 100th birthday last November. He was a giant.

Tragic Foolishness at the Penn Museum

On her new blog, Dr. Louise Krasniewicz provides a massively discouraging account of the foolishness that has been going on at one of the country’s great university anthropology museums, the University Museum at the University of Pennsylvania.  Its ETHNOGRAPHIC collections are priceless and it has a very long and very distinguished history of scholarship in ETHNOGRAPHY and ETHNOLOGY (even in LINGUISTICS–see Sapir’s work there), not just old world archaeology.  Dr. Krasniewicz describes the liquidation of cultural anthropology by the museum’s director, a move that is not only out of sync with good sense but out of sync with cutting edge archaeology, even cutting edge classical archaeology (as evidenced by the renewal of multi-method, multi-disciplinary material culture studies). The only hope that I can find is in the history of the museum’s names.  Deleting “anthropology” from the name need not last for ever. Of all the museums that I know, the Penn Museum has carried the most different names at different points in time. It could easily be renamed again two years from now.

I hope that the ethnographic collections will be stewarded responsibly. Ugh.

Scholarly Society-Library Partnerships Webcast Now Online

The video archive version of the recent Association for Research Libraries (ARL) webcast on “Reaching Out to Leaders of Scholarly Societies at Research Institutions” to which I contributed is now available online.  It can be gotten to for free, all that is required is signing in for ARL headcounting purposes.  Watching it in this way provides the same content experienced when the program was being done live.  The event lasted one hour.  Jennifer Laherty and I were the first of two pairs of speakers.  We present after about five minutes of introduction from the ARL staff organizers who spoke on the general goals of the initiative of which the program was a part.  Q&A follows the second presentation on data projects in astronomy (by Sayeed Choudhury and Robert Hanisch). Find the webcast via a link available here:

New M.A. Program at Texas A&M

Copied from a H-Folk posting by Harris Berger:

The Department of Performance Studies at Texas A&M University announces a new Master of Arts degree in Performance Studies. This interdisciplinary program emphasizes the ethnographic study of vernacular culture. The Department of Performance Studies has strengths in Africana studies, dance and ritual studies, ethnomusicology, folklore, performance ethnography, popular music studies, religious studies, theatre and media studies, and women’s studies. Application deadline for Fall, 2010 is January 15, 2010. Assistantships are available.

Latrinalia Revisited

My IU folklore colleague John McDowell was featured prominently in a recent April Fools Day news feature on NPR affiliate WFIU exploring the nature of latrinalia, more commonly known as bathroom graffiti.  John did a great job as a consultant to the station’s news staff.  If you missed it, you can see, hear, and read the story online here:


Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology

From a Dear Colleague Letter from Candace Greene, Director of the Smithsonian Institution Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology (SIMA):

Dear Colleagues – I am pleased to announce a new research training initiative being launched by the Smithsonian Department of Anthropology with support (pending) from the National Science Foundation.

The Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology is an intensive four-week training program that will teach graduate students how to use museum collections in research, incorporating Smithsonian collections as an integral part of their anthropological training. Support from the Cultural Anthropology Program at NSF will cover full tuition and living expenses for 12 students each summer.

Please help us get the word out on this program, which will begin in June 2009 and is already accepting applications. Full information including application instructions and dates is available at

Candace Greene
Director, Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology
Ethnologist, Collections and Archives Program
Department of Anthropology
National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution

Plateau Peoples Web Portal

Check out the informational website for the new Plateau Peoples Web Portal project being undertaken at Washington State University by my friend and collaborator Kimberly Christen. It is an awesome new project that builds on the work that she and colleagues have been doing developing open source community cultural archive tools. Learn more about the broader effort on her website, on the site for the Mukurtu project, and at the new Plateau Peoples Web Portal project site. Congratuations to the whole project team.

A Bronx Botánica Opens its Doors in Bloomington, Indiana

By Gabrielle Berlinger

With the arrival of the vernal equinox, “Botánica: A Pharmacy for the Soul” opened its doors to the public this past Friday at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures in Bloomington, Indiana. This exhibition, the Masters Project of doctoral student in folklore Selina Morales, is the culmination of her years of her research into different dimensions of space, constructions of identity, cultural materials, and systems of belief that are produced in the botánica, a store that sells items necessary for practicing a variety of Afro-Caribbean religions. In the gallery at the back of the Museum’s first floor, Selina recreated the botánica that her Puerto Rican grandmother, Jerusalén Morales-Díaz, owned and ran in New York City from 1985 to 1991. Selina draws on memories, family stories, and her ethnographic fieldwork in New York, New Jersey, and Puerto Rico to contextualize and communicate the experience of Jerusalén as proprietor of the botánica.

1. A visitor examines the baños, or baths, that hang on the pegboard display.

During the two-hour opening, over 250 people entered the exhibition and stepped into a botánica, guided by the Morales family’s memories. The front door of the store, flanked by recreated city brick walls tagged with graffiti, opens into a main room where photographs of Jerusalén’s family and clients in the botánica are displayed behind and on top of the proprietor’s counter. The walls of the room alternately display cases with altars to deities of the Afro-Caribbean religions, and objects sold for ritual practice. Colorful candles line one wall from floor to ceiling, while another is covered in pegboard from which pouches of bath salt, beaded necklaces, and other religious materials hang. The items’ vibrant colors set against the store’s white walls jump out and draw visitors in to read the contextualizing labels that quote Jerusalén, Selina, and other family members explaining the meaning of these objects and this space. A semi-enclosed room behind the counter area recreates the private area in which Jerusalén would consult clients who visited her botánica for healing and advice.

2. A visitor examines the wall of candles.

This opening day was a momentous event for many people. It celebrated Selina’s long-term research, material collection, and exhibition curation, and introduced a rich case study of Afro-Caribbean religious belief, material culture, and practice that the Bloomington public may now engage in mind and body, through memory, sight, sound, smell, and touch.

Both of Selina’s grandmothers and one grandfather, her aunt, and her brother were all in attendance for the opening. A steady stream of family, friends, and new visitors toured the exhibition, spooned clean large platters of hot Puerto Rican food (Pernil [roast pork], arroz con gandules [rice with pigeon peas], yucca con mojo [yucca with garlic-olive oil sauce], and crackers with guava paste and white cheese), and enjoyed the music of Sancocho, an Afro-Caribbean drum group, that entertained in the adjoining room.

3. A view of the main room from behind the proprietor’s counter.

Selina deserves great congratulations on the opening of such an impressive exhibition that has created a space in which the community may consider notions of healing, family, love, creativity, and spirituality. Her beautiful creation makes all of us – her family, friends, and colleagues – proud to share in her life’s work and in the work of folklore.

For more on the exhibition, see Selina Morales’ blog:

Thanks to Gabi Berlinger for this great guest post. Selina’s exhibition is wonderful and the lively, crowded, fun opening was Bloomington’s museum event of the year. Congratulations to Selina and to the Mathers Museum staff on a job well done–Jason.

Museum Anthropology @ Wiley-Blackwell

FYI:  Museum Anthropology has a new official webpage on the site of its publisher, Wiley-Blackwell.  Find it here.

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