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Posts from the ‘Public Folklore’ Category

An Interview with Sterling Jenson of the March Field Air Museum

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Sterling Jenson is the Collections Manager at the March Field Air Museum in Riverside, California. He earned a B.A. degree in folklore and an M.A. degree in arts administration at Indiana University. While at IU, he was graduate assistant in the registration department at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures (MMWC) and a volunteer in its education department. He was also an intern at Traditional Arts Indiana, which is now a department of the MMWC.

Jason Baird Jackson (JJ): Thank you Sterling for your willingness to talk to me about your work as a museum professional and Indiana University alumnus. We’ll go back in time shortly, but could you tell me a bit about the March Field Air Museum and your work as its Collections Manager?

Sterling Jenson (SJ): The March Field Air Museum celebrates the history of aviation with a focus on one of the historical military airfields of the United States, the March Air Reserve Base. March Field was founded in 1918 and since that time has been an important part of the history of the [U.S.] Air Force and the Air Force Reserves, which means that the museum has an important legacy to present to the public. The museum has on display over seventy aircraft, including one of the two A-9s in existence, a SR-71 Blackbird, and, a PT-6 biplane trainer from 1930. The collections range in size from a B-52 on our flight line to ribbons awarded to airmen for their service. In order to house these objects, the museum has two hangars, an exhibit hall, and a library.

As Collections Manager, I am in charge of the processing of the objects, loan paperwork, and ensuring that the collections are organized. Currently, I am building upon my predecessor’s work in order to make the collections more accessible. Prior to my arrival, the museum was using an [Microsoft] Access database to keep track of the objects and the books in our library. In order to better serve the museum, I am migrating the database from Access to CollectiveAccess in the case of objects and to Koha for the library books. Both programs are open source software that we will be able to upload to the museum’s website in order to make the collections more accessible. I am also in the process of overseeing an inventory and standardizing the disposition system, both of which I learned from my time working as a Graduate Assistant at the MMWC.

JJ: A B-52! I know that you did not get experience in caring for a 132-ton bomber during your time at the MMWC! How did your experience as a student at IU prepare you for the challenging museum work that you are doing now?

SJ: At Indiana University, I studied folklore as an undergraduate and then went back to get my Masters of Arts in arts administration. Due to my studies in folklore, I love collecting information that describes the context of the object, especially personal narratives or biographies. While I never know if these stories will ever be utilized in the exhibits, trying to collect them when the objects arrive is the best time to get this kind of documentation. For one donation, the son emailed me a document he created for his father’s funeral, which helps explain the history of the man who wore the uniform.

My studies in arts administration have helped me immensely because the program focused on both the practical components as well as the theoretical ones. I have been working on preparing grant proposals in order to better manage the objects within the collections. The course [MMWC Assistant Director] Judy Kirk taught on Museum Management will be helpful in the near future as I go through and update the collections policies, plans, and procedures. During my graduate studies, I worked at MMWC in the Registrar’s office as the Graduate Assistant. I loved my time there because [Registrar] Terry Harley-Wilson gave me hands-on projects, including working with loan agreements and working with an inventory.

At my current position, I am try to emulate Terry by giving my interns and volunteers important tasks and seeking their opinions to better improve the department. As many of our aircraft are on loan from the National Museum of the United States Air Force, including the B-52, I am using what I learned at MMWC regarding loans frequently. I am grateful we have a Restoration Department to deal with repairs to the aircraft, so my focus can be on the smaller objects within the collection. In short, my experience dealing with loans and other institutions at MMWC has been valuable in this position.

JJ: I am a big advocate for the combination of disciplinary training in folklore studies and professional training in arts administration, thus it is great for me to hear how you bring them together everyday in your current role. I am, of course, also thrilled that your work with MMWC Registrar Terry Harley-Wilson has proved to be so valuable in your current efforts. Courses like Judy Kirk’s combined with hands-on experiences at the museum are a big part of our mission. Is there something about your current role that has surprised you or that you initially felt less prepared to address? We are all, of course, constantly learning new things on the job.

SJ: One of the areas that I feel less prepared for is needing to explain why all of my projects in my department need to be so thorough and why they take so long. As you know, the standards in the museum world have been set high because of past mistakes in the field. In order to achieve these standards takes work, care, and persistence. I hope that I am slowly making progress in explaining the importance of collections care.

JJ: I have been there with you, for sure. Unfortunately we live in an impatient moment in which time is money, talent is money, attention is money, and money is money. We are expected to be good stewards of all of them but it is often hard to explain to those not working alongside us why being careful the first time is so crucial. We cannot un-break an ancient Greek vase or recover an un-digitized analog oral history recording destroyed in a fire or flood or misplaced and discarded through careless handling. As you note so well, past mistakes haunt us and we want and need to get it right the first time.

In closing, can you tell me about your favorite item or collection at the March Field Air Museum?

SJ: My favorite items are part of the Collection relating to Orla Bridges and as you can see in the photograph (Figure 1), the curator decided that these items were important enough to put right into the cases. Wagoner Orla Bridges’ uniform and Victory in Europe Medal from the Great War for Civilization were donated to our museum within the last year. Mr. Bridges was stationed at March Field about the time when it opened in 1918 and his family owned the farm across the street from the front gates of the base. He is a great example of someone who has ties to both local history as well as international history.

JJ: Well said. That is a great example of what we do—connecting the little and the big, the local and the global. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me about your work and your career. Good luck with all that you and your March Field Air Museum colleagues are pursuing.

BridgesFigure 1. A uniform coat and military medal from the collection of Wagoner Orla Bridges, now in the collections of the March Field Air Museum.

Open Access Book: Indiana Folk Arts

IFA CoverThis year is a big year for the Mathers Museum of World Cultures in a number of respects. Two of these weave together. Its the state bicentennial for Indiana and we are engaging with it in a big way through the exhibition Indiana Folk Arts: 200 Years of Tradition and Innovation. That exhibition is now traveling across Indiana along with with a deep roster of presenting artists and craftspeople. The exhibition and associated in-person demonstrations are happening at state parks and festivals around Indiana and the exhibition will also be presented at the Indiana State Fair, later this summer. The exhibition brings together more than a decade of research by Traditional Arts Indiana and was also an project worked on by the Laboratory in Public Folklore graduate course taught in the IU College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology. Working with TAI Director and MMWC Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage Jon Kay, a large number of students have been involved in all aspects of the exhibition and associated programs, products, and events.

2016 is also slated to be a big year for book publishing at MMWC. We have a number of books in the cue for fall. The first to become available is the catalogue for Indiana Folk Arts. Edited by Jon Kay with chapters authored by a large and talented group of graduate students, the volume enriches the exhibition while also standing alone as a contribution to scholarship on Indiana craft and art. At exhibition events and here at the MMWC, the book is being distributed for free in a beautiful full-color print edition. In keeping with our institutional commitment to increased and open access to scholarship, the volume is also available electronically and permanently via the IUScholarWorks Respository. Licensed under a CC-BY license, it can be found online here: https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/handle/2022/20893. Its the first MMWC publication for which we obtained an ISBN number (two actually, one for the print edition and one for the PDF edition), which is also pretty neat.IFA Front Page

Congratulations to Jon Kay, the volume’s editor, to all of its contributors, and to the talented artists, craftspeople, and tradition bearers featured in the book. Welcome readers–72 beautiful pages await you, wherever in the world you live. If you like the book and support the work behind it, spread it widely. Tell your friends and colleagues so that they can enjoy it too.

Working Wood: Oak-Rod Baskets in Indiana [Exhibition, Presentation @ MMWC]

The final exhibition of the three basketry exhibitions that the Mathers Museum of World Cultures (MMWC) is presenting as part of Themester opened this week. Like the first of the three to open (Willow Work: Viki Graber, Basketmaker), this one was also curated by MMWC Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage Jon Kay as an outgrowth of his research on Indiana folklife pursued as the Director of Traditional Arts Indiana. Later in this post, I will share information on a great upcoming event connected with the exhibition, but first a description:

Working Wood: Oak-Rod Baskets in Indiana presents the work of the Hovis and Bohall families of Brown County, Indiana, who made distinctive white-oak baskets for their neighbors to carry everyday items and to gather corn. However, by the 1930s, the interest of urban tourists transformed these sturdy workbaskets into desirable souvenirs and art objects. In recent years, these baskets have come to be called “Brown County” and “Bohall” baskets, perhaps because of the great number of baskets made by the Bohall family in Brown county during the 1920s and 1930s. Nevertheless, the history of this craft is more complex these names reveal. Using artifacts and historic photographs, this exhibit explores the shifts in the uses and meanings of these baskets as they changed from obsolete, agricultural implements, into a tourist commodity. Using the lens of work, this exhibition tells the story of these oak-rod baskets and the people who made and used them, and how local makers strived to find a new audience for their old craft, and how ultimately the lure of steady work in the city contributed to the end of this tradition. Sponsored by Fall 2015 Themester @Work: The Nature of Labor on a Changing Planet, the exhibit will be on display at the museum through February 7, 2016.

It is great to now see all three basketry exhibitions open and staged in adjacent galleries. (Putting Baskets to Work in Southwestern China is the other one–I curated it with Lijun Zhang, Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities). Together they are one outgrowth of a broader focus at present on basketry research at MMWC. I’ll discuss some other aspects of this work in later posts. (Our Themester series echos the College’s theme. Our work is together grouped as @Work with Basketry on a Changing Planet).

A chance to learn more about the work of the basketmakers explored in Working Wood: Oak-Rod Baskets in Indiana is upcoming this Friday at the MMWC. Jon will present a talk titled “The Last Basketmaker: Indiana’s Oak-Rod Baskets and Their Makers” (Friday, September 11; 4 to 5 p.m.). Here is our description of the event:

The Bohall and Hovis families of Brown County made oak-rod baskets for their neighbors to gather produce and carry everyday items. While these workbaskets were essential for subsistence farming, industrialization and changes in agricultural practices threatened the continuation of this craft. and by the 1980s, the weaving of oak-rod baskets had ended in Indiana. In a lecture filled with historic photographs, Jon Kay, Director of Traditional Arts Indiana and Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the MMWC, unravels the story of these baskets and explores the global forces that brought this distinctive Indiana tradition to an end. The lecture, sponsored by Fall 2015 Themester @Work: The Nature of Labor on a Changing Planet, is free and open to the public.

Friday afternoon will be a great time to see the exhibitions and then hear and see Jon’s talk. I hope that you can make it.

The front of the At Work with Basketry on a Changing Planet postcard.

The front of the At Work with Basketry on a Changing Planet postcard.

Vernacular Culture in Hands and Minds (The New Basketry Video)

The best places to preserve worthwhile vernacular cultural knowledge is in the hands and minds of talented and engaged people who carry it forward, making it their own and handing it on to still more people. Viki Graber of Goshen, Indiana comes from a long line of willow basketmakers. She has not only preserved the traditions of her family, she has built upon them in ways that curator Jon Kay has explored in the MMWC exhibition Willow Work: Viki Graber, Basketmaker. With Viki, Jon made a short documentary film showing steps that Viki uses in the production of a bail-handled work basket. Check it out on YouTube.

This basket is of the basic workbasket type that Viki learned from her father. If you visit the exhibition, you will see the great diversity of complex forms that Viki now creates.

Hopefully the film will inspire you to see the exhibition (through December 20, 2015) at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, to learn more about Viki’s basketwork, and to carry on or document the cultural practices of your family, community, or heritage. If you share a passion for vernacular culture—follow the Mathers Museum of World Cultures and Traditional Arts Indiana on social media or sign up for the museum’s email list.

Don’t Miss Viki Graber’s Artist in Residence Visit to the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, Exhibition Opening

It will be a great semester at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. The first of our three At Work with Basketry on a Changing Planet exhibitions has already opened. Willow Work: Viki Graber, Basketmaker opened on August 18, but it is just getting started. This coming week will feature Viki Graber visiting the museum and demonstrating her work as Artist in Residence. Come meet her and see her work 11 am-2 pm on Wednesday (26th), Thursday (27th) or Friday (28th). On Wednesday the 26th at 4:30, we’ll formally open the exhibition with a reception. Everyone is welcome!!!!!

See the whole fall lineup below. The front and back of our postcard here are jpg files. If you have difficulty reading them, full details are on the museum website. Learn more about Viki Graber’s work on her website and Facebook page.

Putting Baskets to Work in Southwest China will open September 1st. Working Wood: Oak Rod Baskets in Indiana will open on September 8. (The photograph on the postcard, showing Bruce Hovis making an oak rod basket, relates to this final exhibition of the three part series.)

The exhibitions and associated programs have been supported by the 2015 Themester program of the College of Arts and Sciences, Indiana University. (The Themester theme for this year is @Work: The Nature of Labor on a Changing Planet.)

The front of the At Work with Basketry on a Changing Planet postcard.

The front of the At Work with Basketry on a Changing Planet postcard.

The back of the At Work with Basketry on a Changing Planet postcard.

The back of the At Work with Basketry on a Changing Planet postcard.

Traditional Arts Indiana Joins the Mathers Museum of World Cultures

I am very pleased to welcome Traditional Arts Indiana as well as its Director–my friend and colleague Dr. Jon Kay–to the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. Indiana University announced this organizational shift today in the media release pictured below (click here or on the picture below to read the release). Thanks go to all of those individuals and agencies who have long supported both units. I am excited by all that we will accomplish working together.

Media release regarding Traditional Arts Indiana and the Mathers Museum.

CFP: Journal of Folklore and Eduction

A CFP posted for the Journal of Folklore and Education.

2015 Journal of Folklore and Education Call for Submissions

The Journal of Folklore and Education is a peer-reviewed, multimedia, open-access K-16 journal published annually by Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education. Local Learning links folk culture specialists and educators nationwide, advocating for inclusion of folk and traditional arts and culture in our nation’s education. We believe that “local learning”–the traditional knowledge and processes of learning that are grounded in community life–is of critical importance to the effective education of students and to the vigor of our communities and society.

The Journal publishes work representing ethnographic approaches that tap the knowledge and life experience of students, their families, community members, and educators in K-12, college, museum, and community education. We intend our audience to be educators and students at all levels and in all settings, folk culture specialists, and other interested readers. As a digital publication, this journal provides a forum for interdisciplinary, multimedia approaches to community-based teaching, learning, and cultural stewardship. It is found at http://www.locallearningnetwork.org.

The 2015 theme for the Journal of Folklore and Education is Youth in Community. Read more

Announcement: Dress to Express Museum Modules

An announcement posted here on behalf of Local Learning:

DRESS TO EXPRESS MUSEUM MODULES

In conjunction with Volume 1 of the Journal of Folklore and Education, “Dress to Express: Exploring Culture and Identity,” Local Learning proudly announces the launch of three museum modules that extend this theme in our new online Discovery Studio found at www.locallearningnetwork.org. Because dress and adornment carry such deep, complex meaning, they present exciting opportunities for learning across disciplines and age groups and in various settings. Dress and adornment create accessible portals to culture and community as well as to historical and contemporary identity.

The images and lesson plans made available by our museum partners connect to literacy, art, and social studies learning and make diverse collections accessible online. These modules offer new ways to think about history, identity, art, and culture as well as encourage close observation and interpretation. Activities suitable for grades 4-12, university, museum, and community settings accompany the images.

Exploring Dress, Culture, and Identity in Asian Art

by Joanna Pecore, Asian Arts & Culture Center, Towson University, Towson, Maryland

What do art objects from distant times and places express about the identity of the people and the cultures depicted in them?

Exploring Dress, Culture and Identity in American Indian Dress and Objects

by Lisa Falk, Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona, Tucson

How would you feel if someone (outside your identity group) used your identity design references in a clothing line? What might change how you feel about this use?

Lau Hala Weaving and Hawai’ian Cultural Identity

by Marsha MacDowell, Michigan State University Museum, East Lansing

How are the weaving and wearing of lau hala papale (hats) connected to Hawai’ian history, identity, natural resources, and culture?

 

Find the Dress to Express Museum Modules in the Discovery Studio of the Local Learning website. Explore more activities and context on this theme in Volume 1 of the Journal of Folklore and Education. This work is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. Please publicize these free resources among your colleagues and networks.

Contact:

Paddy Bowman, Director, pbbowman@gmail.com

Lisa Rathje, Assistant Director, rathje.lisa@gmail.com

Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education www.locallearningnetwork.org

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Some Folklore Jobs

“The Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University invites applications for two one year positions as Visiting Lecturers to begin Fall 2014. We seek candidates with graduate training in folklore as well as experience in the teaching of introductory folklore classes and readiness to teach in one or more of the fields of narrative, belief, folklore of the United States, material culture and ethnographic methods.” Find more detail on the AFS website.

“Staten Island Arts, an arts service organization and presenter, seeks a Staff Folklorist to run a year-round Folk & Traditional Arts Program. Reporting to the Executive Director, Staten Island Folklife works directly with traditional artists and their communities to present, document, and safeguard the traditional cultural resources found throughout the borough. Over the past four years, Staten Island Arts Folklife has been under the direction of a single folklorist, and has established itself as a source of innovation, in the field of public sector folklore.” Find more details on the AFS website.

On the New Volume of Museum Anthropology Review

Museum Anthropology Review (MAR) has just published a new double issue—its first themed collection. Volume 7, number 1-2 of MAR collects papers originally presented at a January 2012 workshop titled “After the Return: Digital Repatriation and the Circulation of Indigenous Knowledge.” Hosted by the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution and funded by the (U.S.) National Science Foundation and the Understanding the American Experience and World Cultures Consortia of the Smithsonian Institution, the workshop was organized by Kimberly Christen (Washington State University), Joshua Bell (Smithsonian Institution), and Mark Turin (Yale University). The workshop brought together scholars from indigenous communities, cultural anthropology, folklore studies, ethnomusicology, linguistics, and collecting institutions to document best practices and case studies of digital repatriation in order to theorize the broad impacts of such processes in relation to: linguistic revitalization of endangered languages, cultural revitalization of traditional practices, and the creation of new knowledge stemming from the return of digitized material culture. Like the workshop itself, the peer-reviewed and revised papers collected in MAR ask how, and if, marginalized communities can reinvigorate their local knowledge practices, languages, and cultural products through the reuse of digitally repatriated materials and distributed technologies. The authors of the collected papers all have expertise in applied digital repatriation projects and share theoretical concerns that locate knowledge creation within both culturally specific dynamics and technological applications.

Find this special issue of MAR online at: http://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/mar/issue/view/233

As it has always been, MAR is an open access, peer-reviewed journal free to all readers. With volume 8, to be published in 2014, MAR is becoming the journal of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. It will continue to be published in partnership with the Indiana University Libraries with assistance from the IU Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology and other partners.

2014 will bring new enhancements to MAR. To keep up with the journal, please sign up as a reader, follow it on Twitter @museanthrev, and/or like it on Facebook.

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