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Posts from the ‘SIMA’ Category

A Peak at Two “Miao Albums” with a Group of SIMA Colleagues

(Note to readers. This post has been added to. Whether inserted into the original text or added at the bottom, additions will be shown in red.)

Working with the graduate students participating in the Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology is a pleasure. The students who are attending in order to gain skills for their own long-term research and who are doing their own collections-study projects are an obvious focus for faculty attention, but another group of student (and recently graduated) colleagues are also at the heart of SIMA. These are the collections interns—students who are usually pursuing masters degrees in anthropology and/or museum work—who help to make the student research possible through their facilitation of collections access. The regular collections management staff of the National Museum of Natural History’s Department of Anthropology are too few and have everyday tasks to attend to, thus the SIMA interns make a decisive difference in the work of the institute. They are excellent. Most days, they are occupied helping the institute participants access collection objects for research, but today they and I took a few moments to look at a couple of treasures as a group. I thank them for joining me in this quick collections adventure. (We snuck away during a seminar. Don’t tell anyone…)

What we saw together was (as I had hoped) a collection of annotated paintings of a type known in English as a “Miao album.” In American scholarship on China and its frontiers, such an album is the focus of The Art of Ethnography: A Chinese “Miao Album” translated by David Deal and Laura Hostetler with an introduction by Laura Hostetler (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2006). In such books, Chinese observers (artists/scholars/officials…) documented the cultural life of peoples of the Chinese borderlands in paintings and ethnographic text. None of our group are specialists, but we knew that we were looking at something really important and that these books are inherently interesting. Here are a some images of us with these albums. We did not look at each page, but we took enough time to ooh and ahh over a few pages in each of these fragile, beautiful books. We all hope that they can be the focus of new scholarly attention soon.

One of these books is Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History E424083 and the other is E175187. (You can search them in the public database here: http://collections.nmnh.si.edu/search/anth/#new-search )

The members of our expedition (with me) were Eilanra Abdesho Kavsi, Sarah Baburi, David Gassett and Emily Cain . Herself a former SIMA intern, Emily now works full-time in the Department of Anthropology. Eilanra and David are all studying a mix of anthropology and museum studies at the MA-level at George Washington University, while Sarah has recently completed her own MA degree in these fields, also at GWU.

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Our group getting ready to peak at the first of the books on our agenda. (L-R: Emily, Sarah, David, and Eilanra)

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Even the cover is pretty great.

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Our first glimpse.

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This is the first in-person “Miao Album” painting for all of us, myself included.

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Baskets, of course.

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You can get a partial glimpse of the associated text on the facing page here.

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While we normally wear gloves, for fragile things, it is sometimes best to use clean hands.

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Our group, studying.

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Until the translation proves us wrong, we think it is a game scene. See Note 3 below for information from Qing Colonial Enterprise.

IMG_5856More baskets, of course.

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Our favorite, so far. We do not know yet why these guys are trying to fight but we admire the effort of the women to prevent it. See Note 2 below on how this scene appears in The Art of Ethnography. See Note 3 below for information from Qing Colonial Enterprise.

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Weaving inside, hair care outside. See Note 3 below for information from Qing Colonial Enterprise.

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We were pretty worried about the guy in the blue cap, as with think he might be held captive. We look forward to the finding out what the associated caption says. UPDATE. See note 1 below. Also, see Note 2 below on how this scene appears in The Art of Ethnography. See Note 3 below for information from Qing Colonial Enterprise.

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The paintings are still beautiful, but insects have done what insects do.

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Here we begin to investigate the second of the two albums (E424083), this one with wooden covers

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In the second album, the paintings span the fold and the text is integrated into the images, as seen here.

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Both albums include musicians and include images of this particular type of drum.

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More work baskets, of course. See Note 3 below for information from Qing Colonial Enterprise.

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This is a detail from a scene in which four people do something with their arms pulled inside their sleeves like this. Whatever it was, we were interested in it. We also liked the hem of her skirt. See Note 3 below for information from Qing Colonial Enterprise.

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Plowing. Do they take turns pulling? Also, see Note 2 below on how this scene appears in The Art of Ethnography. See Note 3 below for information from Qing Colonial Enterprise.

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There is always work to do, even if the illiterate museum ethnographers do not yet know what it is all about.

IMG_5877The region’s famous basketry raincoats, we think.

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Work baskets, one last time.

Updates:

Note 1 (July 23, 2017). I returned from my time at SIMA and the NMNH in July 2017 and immediately went to look at The Art of Ethnography: A Chinese “Miao” Album (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2006). Regarding the picture of a person being held captive noted above (see the picture that is captioned “We were pretty worried about the guy in the blue cap…”), I note that the image shown here is almost the same as, but not the same as, Plate Number 63 (pages 126-127) in The Art of Ethnography. It will take time to sort out what is going on in this instance, but one or the other plate is clearly a copy of the other. The text in The Art of Ethnography indicates that the scene is about the waylaying of solitary travelers, placing them in a wooden yoke, and extorting them to redeem their own freedom. I checked The Art of Ethnography out of the library right before this trip and now have even more reason to read it asap.

Note 2 (July 26, 2017). In reading The Art of Ethnography, I learned about how “Miao Albums” were frequently copied (inexactly) and observed that some of the pages that we saw in the two NMNH albums appear in similar form in the album published in The Art of Ethnography. Here are three known examples (see above):

(1) The scene of the men fighting but being restrained by the women (see p. 28 (#14) in The Art of Ethnography and the E175187 scene pictured here);

(2) The scene of plowing, where a man pulls the plow (see p. 106 (#53) in The Art of Ethnography and the image from NMNH E424083 pictured here);

(3) The scene of the scene of a man being held hostage in a wooden yoke (see p. 126 (#63) in The Art of Ethnography and the image from E175187 pictured here).

Note 3 (July 28, 2017). In reading Laura Hostetler’s Qing Colonial Enterprise: Ethnography and Cartography in Early Modern China (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), I learned further about the re-occurring tropes linked to specific groups from those reoccurring in book after book. In relation to some of those pictured above, I can note, for instance “Women restrain men from fighting one another” is the brief description that Hostetler points to as reoccurring for Hong Miao entries (see above). Similarly, the trope table in Qing Colonial Enterprise notes (with group identifications): “A tall ladder leads from a streambed up a steep cliff. Figures appear above and below” (Kemeng Guyang Miao); “Men and Women dancing. Long sleeves cover their arms and drape down over their hands” (Lingjia Miao); “Two women play Chinese chess” (Qing Zhongjia); “Several armed men surround a Han prisoner in a cangue whom they kidnapped for ransom” (Qingjiang Zhongjia); “One woman works at a loom, another washes her hair in a basin” (Yangdong Luahan Miao); “Agricultural scene. Two men plow a paddy. No draft animal is used; instead a man pulls the plow” (Yetou Miao); (See pp. 171-174)

Call for Applications: Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology

SIMAHere is a call for applications for next year’s Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology, which will be held again at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, DC. I post it here on behalf of SIMA Director Candance Greene. This is a wonderful program that has made a big difference for the training of graduate students for collections research. Note that the program now includes Faculty Fellows as well as graduate student participants.

Dear Colleagues,

We are now recruiting prospective graduate student participants, as well as Faculty Fellows, for the 2016 Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology (SIMA). We hope you will forward this announcement to interested students and colleagues and re-post to relevant lists. SIMA is a graduate student summer training program in museum research methods offered through the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History with major funding from the Cultural Anthropology Program of the National Science Foundation. Summer 2016 dates are June 27-July 22. Student applications are not due until March 1, 2016, but now is the time for students to investigate the program and begin to formulate a research project to propose. Decisions on Faculty Fellows will be made in December.

During four weeks of intensive training in seminars and hands-on workshops in the research collections, students are introduced to the scope of collections and their potential as data. Students become acquainted with strategies for navigating museum systems, learn to select methods to examine and analyze museum specimens, and consider a range of theoretical issues that collections-based research may address. In consultation with faculty, each student carries out preliminary data collection on a topic of their own choice and develops a prospectus for research to be implemented upon return to their home university. Instruction will be provided by Dr. Joshua A. Bell, Dr. Candace Greene and other Smithsonian scholars, plus a series of visiting faculty.

Who should apply?: Graduate students preparing for research careers in cultural anthropology who are interested in using museum collections as a data source. The program is not designed to serve students seeking careers in museum management. Students at both the masters and doctoral level will be considered for acceptance. Students in related interdisciplinary programs (Indigenous Studies, Folklore, etc.) are welcome to apply if the proposed project is anthropological in nature. All U.S. students are eligible for acceptance, even if studying abroad. International students can be considered only if they are enrolled in a university in the U.S. Members of Canadian First Nations are eligible under treaty agreements.

Costs: The program covers students’ tuition and shared housing in local furnished apartments. A stipend will be provided to assist with the cost of food and other local expenses. Participants are individually responsible for the cost of travel to and from Washington, DC.

SIMA dates for 2016: June 27 – July 22
Application deadline – March 1, 2016

NEW opportunity for faculty: We are now also offering fellowships for faculty to develop courses in museum anthropology. Interested faculty members should see the information included on the SIMA website.

I will be at the AAA meetings in Denver from November 18-22 and would be glad to discuss and answer any questions about the program. Email me at greenec@si.edu if you would like to schedule time to meet.

Want to discuss a project proposal? We’d love to hear from you. Email SIMA@si.edu
For more information and to apply, please visit http://anthropology.si.edu/summerinstitute/

Regards,

Candace Greene

Time to Apply to the Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology

simaposter_medIts application season again for the Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology.

As noted recently on the American Folklore Society website:

“The Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology (SIMA), supported by the Smithsonian Institution and the National Science Foundation, is accepting applications for its 2015 program in Washington, DC to be held June 22-July 17. SIMA is an intensive museum research methods training program for graduate students, offered in residence at the Department of Anthropology in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. Graduate students at the masters or doctoral level who are preparing for research careers and are interested in using museum collections as a data source should apply. Although primarily oriented to cultural anthropology, students in related programs (Indigenous Studies, Folklore, etc.) are welcome to apply if the proposed project is anthropological in nature.”

Learn a lot more about SIMA on the program website: http://anthropology.si.edu/summerinstitute/

I am excited to be returning to SIMA 2015 as a visiting faculty member.

Thanks to the National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution for its great support of the Institute.

Its Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology (SIMA) Applicaton Time Again

Its time for graduate students with material culture interests to think about, and follow through on, applying to participate in the 2014 Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology. This is a four-week training program focusing on the methods needed to incorporate museum collections into broader research efforts in cultural anthropology and in cognate ethnographic fields such as folklore studies.

Funded by the National Science Foundation and held at the Smithsonian Institution, the program covers students’ room, board, and tuition. Housing is provided as is a small stipend for food and other local expenses. Participants are individually responsible for the cost of travel to and from Washington, DC. This is an intensive residential program and the participants are expected to devote full time to the training. Anyone working with, or interested in working with, material culture collections in their research should check out the program. Details are on the SIMA website.

Applications are due on March 1, 2014.

For other NSF funded training programs in cultural anthropology, see the Methods Mall website.

 

 

 

 


Excellent Symposium Concludes 2013 Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology

Many things have been happening lately–so many that keeping up with them here has been difficult. Many good things have gone unreported and some bad current events (global and national, not personal) have gone un-commented upon. I am pleased though to celebrate the conclusion of the 2013 Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology. I was invited to join the institute for its last week and a half and to participate in its concluding symposium at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) on the Mall in Washington. In the symposium, SIMA’s twelve graduate student participants presented the initial findings of their four-week research projects utilizing the (amazing) collections–both objects and archival materials–of the NMNH Department of Anthropology. The students came to SIMA from many different graduate programs and backgrounds and possessed a diversity of historical, ethnographic, topical, and theoretical interests. They did wonderful work and I learned a lot from their studies and from their careful and compelling reporting. While they have further to go, of course, with their projects, I think that it is pretty exciting to hear the results of four intensive weeks of research as the concluding act of that same four week process. Quite remarkable.

I am very appreciative of my continued association with this wonderful program. I am glad that I have been able to help it continue moving along so well.

SIMA will happen again next summer. Details will be posted here on the SIMA website in the months ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

Fall Conference #5: SIMA Board Meeting and the AAA Annual Meeting #AAA2010

Last week I went quickly to New Orleans. I had not planned to go to the American Anthropological Association meetings this year, but my friend Candace Greene called a meeting of the Advisory Board for the Smithsonian Institution Summer Institute on Museum Anthropology. Candace direct’s this important NSF-funded summer training program (more about it soon) and I have been involved in its development since its formative stage. This coming summer will be the program’s third year of providing a month-long intensive training program in the use of systematic museum collections for advanced research in cultural anthropology and neighboring fields. The program attracts graduate students from across the United States and really fills an important need.

I arrived in New Orleans in time for an all-afternoon SIMA advisory panel meeting.  The program is preparing plans for its next three year cycle and our conversations focused on assessing what has been accomplished and building out for the future.  The meeting ended in time to catch up with fellow Oklahoma-ists Dan Swan, Michael Jordan, Jessica Walker and John Lukavic.. After dinner, I was able to attend one of many solid museum anthropology and material culture studies panels on the conference program.  John was a presenter on this panel (Making Meaning with Objects: Community Processes and Museum Practices) and presented a talk titled “Circulating Property and Knowledge: Intellectual Property and Cultural Knowledge Systems of the Southern Cheyenne.” John’s paper was one of many fine contributions to this panel.

The next day, before heading home, I was able fit in several meetings and a couple more excellent panels.  Two of my meetings were with journal editors eager to trade notes on the changing world of scholarly communication, including the practical possibilities of shifting to open access strategies.  The paper panel was “Museum Ethnography in Theory and Practice” organized by Jennifer Shannon and Christina Kreps.  I was not able to hear all the papers, but all that I did hear were excellent, as was the commentary provided by Eric Gable and Ann McMullen.  I also went quickly to see the poser session organized by Dan Swan–“Applying New Theories to Old Things: Museum Research Today.” The posters (and the projects that they represent) were all great.

Getting caught up in open access talk, I had to race to catch my plane with a real sense of anxiety.  I took the most impressive cab ride of my life.  The driver had no choice but to take me into some terrible rush hour traffic on I-10 going to the airport.  He used so many tricks to get there fast that it was mind boggling.  On many occasions, he bypassed long stretches of gridlock by exiting and then creatively cutting from off-ramps to on-ramps thereby getting back onto the interstate ahead of big blocks of stopped and slowed cars.  Had I been a driver in the vicinity I would have been out of my mind with irritation at his antics, but as a passenger worried about missing a flight, I was full of admiration.  It really was movie-quality cab driving.  It took an hour to get there and I know that he saved me 30 or more minutes.  NOLA has flat rates from downtown to the airport and this instance was the first time in which I thought that a taxi rate seemed way too low for the work done.  Needless to say, I was a generous tipper.  This cab ride may be the thing I remember most about the trip.

I left way early in the meeting and missed tons of promising panels and missed seeing scores of friends and colleagues.  Perhaps I can make a longer trip of it next year.

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