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Posts from the ‘Training’ Category

Southern Foodways Alliance: 2017 Summer Oral History Workshop

An organization whose work I am enthusiastic about is the Southern Foodways Alliance. Here I share news of its next oral history workshop. I quote from the call for participants and end with a link to the webpage where more information can be found.

SFA’s 2017 oral history workshop will be held in Atlanta, Georgia. Geared toward those who are new or moderately new to oral history methods and fieldwork, participants will think critically and creatively about the dissemination of oral histories and the impact recorded narratives have on communities and audiences.

This summer’s workshop will study and document stories along Buford Highway, collaborating with We Love BuHi, a nonprofit community organization that catalyzes and supports an inclusive and sustainable Buford Highway through creative place-making collaborations.

Open to undergraduate and graduate students, professors, educators, and SFA members, participants will learn SFA-devised methods and approaches to oral history, audio recording skills and techniques, an intro to digital photography, and hear guest lecturers from documentarians and community organizations documenting Atlanta foodways. The week will culminate in the collection and processing of oral history interviews using foodways as a way to open the door to life stories and experiences.

We strongly encourage people of color to apply.

SFA documents stories of the diverse communities throughout the South, and we believe it to be equally important for oral historians to represent that diversity.

For dates, more information, pictures, and the broader SFA context, start online here: http://www.southernfoodways.org/scholarship/workshops-2/

An Interview with Alexander Betts, Curator at the Ohio History Connection

Alex Betts is a Curator at the Ohio History Connection based at the OHC’s headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. He earned a MA with distinction in Museum and Artefact Studies at the University of Durham in the United Kingdom. As an undergraduate he earned a BA at Indiana University, where he double majored in anthropology and history, graduated Summa Cum Laude, and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. While an undergraduate he worked for three semesters as a practicum student at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures participating in a wide range of curatorial and collections documentation projects. He also interned at the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites and at the Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Jason Jackson (JJ): Thanks Alex for talking with me. I am eager to catch up with you. For an emerging professional in our field, you have already experienced quite a few adventures as a curator-in-training and curator. We’ll come back to some of these, but I hope that we can begin with your current role as a Curator at the Ohio History Connection. You began there as an Assistant Curator in March 2015, less than a year after this 131 year old institution changed its name from the Ohio Historical Society to the Ohio History Connection. You’ve recently been promoted to the position of Curator.What is your work at the OHC about and how does your role fit within the mission of the organization?

Alexander Betts (AB): Thank you for having me! Yes, I am a Curator in the Collections Management department of the recently re-branded Ohio History Connection. We are a team of five that works to make sure that OHC’s collection of nearly two million objects can be effectively used by staff, researchers, and visitors. As a Curator, I contribute to this goal through collections inventory, cataloging, photography, location tracking, storage, and being a collections point-person on exhibit teams. Another large part of my job is to maintain an active deaccessioning regimen, from initial identification to final disposal. My work focuses on the history and art collections, but also involves the archaeology, ethnography, and natural history collections. We are based at the headquarters in Columbus, the Ohio History Center, but also work with our over 50 historic sites around the state. As you can probably guess, our team is never lacking in things to do!

At the Ohio History Connection, our mission is: “Spark discovery of Ohio’s stories. Embrace the present, share the past and transform the future.” Along with the rest of the Collections Management team, I incorporate the spirit of this mission into my work everyday. Whether we are creating new records and photos for the online catalog, hosting visiting researchers, or assisting with the latest exhibit, our work increases accessibility and helps all Ohioans to share in the mission with us. I am also a big believer of the role that active and responsible deaccessioning plays in collections stewardship, especially at a 131-year-old institution. This is one reason that I was hired for the job.

13244773_987181538406_4419907469572014645_nAlex sits with a pair of metal teeth (H 64030) from the Miller Ohio Penitentiary Collection at the Ohio History Connection. This and other Ohio Pen objects are on display in the OHC’s newly-opened Gallery 3.

JJ: You and I know that the range of positions in the museum field is quite large, from information technology to retail; from market research to health and safety. But when most students think about a museum job, I suspect that many of them think specifically about just the work that you are doing—working everyday with a collection (of collections) of objects. How did you travel from being a freshman in college to being a curator working with two million objects?

AB: As a freshman I already knew that I wanted a career in the curatorial/collections realm—it has been a dream of mine since I was 12. I entered IU as a history major but also quickly found anthropology. IU has such a strong anthropology department, and this is where my undergraduate interests blossomed. Starting my first practicum at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures was what cemented my desire for a museum career. It began to feel like a concrete goal. I will always look to Chief Curator Ellen Sieber as the one who jump-started the beginnings of my career. Through her guidance over three semesters, I gained invaluable experience and skills that I still use today.

After IU, I spent a summer interning with the registrar at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis. This was another fantastic internship that introduced me to a completely different area of collections work. I can say I truly enjoyed that summer!

As summer came to a close, I moved to the North East of England for the Museum and Artefact Studies program(me) at Durham University. From my first view over the medieval city and its cathedral (est. AD 1093) in the distance, I knew this was the right next step. During several months of my time there, I commuted to the nearby city of Newcastle to intern at Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, the region’s museum network. I split my time between database management in the Documentation Office and rehousing projects with the conservators. The TWAM staff were so willing to shape the internship to my learning needs and interests, which is one of the most supportive things a museum can do for its interns.

After returning home to Indiana, I began the job hunt. Despite my expectations for a competitive field, I received two job offers only four months later. One was from OHC. What do I credit for this incredible luck? My internship experiences. Part of this was intentionally strategic, as I sought collections internships that had variety and branched into registration, conservation, and databases. But the real value was in their quality. I am fortunate to have had supportive, attentive supervisors to guide me and help me learn. Without them, these internships would have been mere exercises rather than the sources of growth that propelled me to where I am now.

JJ: Wow. Yours is a very encouraging story. Given the role that internships and practicum played in you own career development, are you working now with students at the OHC or, like some institutions of its type, does it instead draw in community volunteers rather than students?

AB: OHC does have a large number of both interns and community volunteers that assist our efforts in several departments. So far I have not had the chance to take on interns of my own, but I absolutely look forward to “paying it forward” during my time here. It looks like I may have a chance to train some catalogers later this year, and I am excited to experience the perspective of the teacher.

JJ: In closing, what advice might you share with an IU undergraduate who—like you did—wants to curatorial career? What observations would you like to share with the department chairs in your home IU departments—history and anthropology? I ask both of these questions, because we are busy working to strengthen the support that the museum provides to students with public humanities/applied social science career interests. Much of this work is, of course, done in cooperation with departments across campus.

To my fellow Hoosiers and other students: In my experience, there is nothing more valuable for pursuing a curatorial career than finding good internships. I believe this to have been my key to success. Always seek out variety in those work experiences, not only for an attractive resume, but to try on various hats and see what fits you best. For the same reasons, test out different institutions. Some people strongly prefer working in small community museums, while others prefer large state museums. You may even be like me and love elements of both. It’s all about finding what feels right, in addition to gathering the experience necessary to move forward. And throughout all of it, remember to enjoy yourself!

To the department chairs: Never stop working to promote a flexible learning environment. The best classes I took were those that allowed students to create their own paths within the curriculum by being conscious of differing learning styles and allowing expression through a variety of media. In one class we were asked to present our research in any style we felt appropriate. In another, we were taken on “campus field trips” that tied into our lecture themes, such as analyzing the murals inside the IU Auditorium. These are the kinds of experiences that stick with a student. With that in mind, please continue to offer and expand opportunities at IU and around Bloomington that provide practical experience. My time at the MMWC is a good model. Classroom learning is incredibly important, but the single most useful component of my IU education was this practical experience. It not only provided me with the skills needed to progress toward a career, but also confirmed what I feel passionate about in life.*

JJ: Thank you Alex for sharing your experiences. Good luck!

AB: Thank you for the interview, Jason. If your readers and students have questions or I can help in any way, please feel free to contact me at: abetts (at) ohiohistory (dot) org.

 

*Alex concludes by urging IU to continue developing its hands-on opportunities. This aspiration is expressed in the Bicentennial Strategic Plan of the IU Bloomington Campus in goal 1(2)f “Developing workplace savvy and  professional confidence  through  internships in all settings.” Internships and Practicum are a key focus of the MMWC Strategic Plan as well (see 4.3).

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.

 

 

 

 


Time to Apply to Participate in the Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology

Happy New Year! With the new year comes the season in which thoughts turn towards summer plans. A great summer program for graduate students interested in material culture studies is the Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology (SIMA). Held at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History and funded by the [U.S.] National Science Foundation, this is a month-long intensive course focused on promoting “broader and more effective use of museum collections in anthropological research by providing a supplement to university training.”

“Working intensively each summer with 12-14 students interested in museum research, the institute: [1] introduces students to the scope of collections and their potential as data, [2] provides training in appropriate methods to collect and analyze museum data, [3] makes participants aware of a range of theoretical issues relating to collections, [and 4] positions students to apply their knowledge within their home university.”

Graduate students in anthropology and neighboring fields (including folklore studies) can find full information and application instructions on the SIMA website. As noted there: “The program covers students’ room, board, and tuition. Housing is provided at a local university and a small stipend will be provided 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. Preparatory readings are assigned to ensure that students arrive with comparable background knowledge.”

This is a great program and a great opportunity. Please consider applying.

Badges! (with Special Reference to Public Folklore) #dmlbadges

As if the worlds that I try to keep up with were not overflowing already, more and more stuff to keep track of keeps coming. For several months I have wanted to take a few hours to get up to speed on the basics relating to the newer life-long-learning/educational reform/online meaning of badges. I had not quite done this, although I had read a few small online accounts and grasped the concept. I still had not taken time to do this background reading when today the phenomena took on a bigger life today.

The MacArthur Foundation awarded a two million dollar grant to HASTAC and the Mozilla Foundation (the Firefox people) for the purpose of funding a Digital Media and Learning Competition centered on the building of badge projects and the associated open technical infrastructure to make it all work. Here is how the MacArthur release begins:

Learning happens everywhere and at every age. Traditional measures of achievement, like high school diplomas, GEDs and college degrees, cannot convey the full range of knowledge and skills that students and workers master. To address this issue, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, HASTAC and Mozilla today announced a $2 million Digital Media and Learning Competition for leading organizations, learning and assessment specialists, designers and technologists to create and test badges and badge systems. The competition will explore ways digital badges can be used to help people learn; demonstrate their skills and knowledge; unlock job, educational and civic opportunities; and open new pipelines to talent.

There is a great deal of discussion of this new program going on online and the conversation suggests that many folks have already invested a lot of brain power into working out the norms, forms, and aims of the emergent badge-based education and credentialing landscape. I am interested and sympathetic but too new to have any deeply informed opinions (beyond my support for the open source software/open standards aspects, my overall belief in the importance of life long learning, and my recognition of plural educational pathways and diverse learning styles/goals).

As I begin to make sense of the badges approach, I can immediately see some ways that the approach would particularly serve some sectors of the world in which I work. Public folklorists have long pursued for themselves and built for their colleagues robust continuing education opportunities of diverse sorts. Public folklorists are very good at continuing to study and master a range of practical skills of a general sort that can apply to their work–video production, GIS systems, database development, etc. They are also good at providing to their professional community field-specific training events outside of the walls of formal higher education. Workshops and similar events are a staple activity whenever public folklorists gather. While these could be seen as standard continuing education activities typical of any profession, they go along with another dimension that is not so uniformly present in professional life, and that is mentoring and collegial support of a real and meaningful sort. Public folklorists to a high degree help, lookout for, coach, and support one another. Resource scarcity could have produced high levels of competition, but in my estimation it has instead fostered a strong communitarian ethos among U.S. public folklorists. (Its not an absolute quality but a relative one.)

It seems to me that this is an ideal kind of environment for badges to strengthen the the workings of what is present already. Public folklorists in particular learn by doing–in internships and in their jobs (something central to the badge scheme), learn through informal channels and in continuing education formats, and learn within a supportive community of practice. As a very clear way of gaining formal recognition for one’s ever growing skill set and as a way of conveying these skills in online and offline ways to employers, granting agencies, community partners, etc. badges seem very promising to me as a framework for strengthening public sector folklore work. Many of these same points could be made in connection to other areas to which I have ties–museum work and applied anthropology. The digital humanities people are of course already very aware of the badges discussion.

One of the best things about badge programs is that they can be organized by a diversity of groups and agencies (unlike formal higher education, which is built around colleges and universities and their slow moving practices).

In addition to the MacArthur release, see also the Mozilla announcement and their “About Open Badges” page, the competition announcement at HASTAC, and these these posts [1] [2] by Audrey Watters at Hack Education.

I know that the badge business will seem crazy based only on my post (what is it? are they patches?). It will make more sense if one goes to these core sources and check it out firsthand.

Want the downside? Want the “What is totally wrong with all of this?” assessment? For a compelling account of the dystopic potential of badges, check out Alex Ried at Digital Digs.

New Topics for the Open Folklore Screencast?

Its time to start work on one or more new informational screencasts for the Open Folklore portal site and project. The first (posted below in case you have not seen it) focused on using the search tools at the Open Folklore portal site. What topics would be most useful to the folklore studies community? To students? To interested folks in general? Your feedback is welcome in comments here or via the Open Folklore project email address openfolklore(at)gmail(dot)com.

Recording of the Creative Commons Webinar Now Online

I should have noted it previously, but the excellent folks at Traditional Arts Indiana have gotten the recording of my early summer webinar on the Creative Commons up online. If you missed it and are just dying to check it out, the details (and a link to the recording) can be found on the TAI website here. Thanks to TAI for organizing this event. I am glad that the more recent TAI Webinars that have been successful. Details on all this activity can be found on the TAI webpage at http://www.traditionalartsindiana.org.

See my earlier post on this event here.

Creative Commons Webinar for Traditional Arts Indiana

In the wake of the recent Creative Commons-focused Artisan Ancestors podcast that I did with Jon Kay, I am leading a free webinar on the Creative Commons. Traditional Arts Indiana (which Jon directs) is organizing the event. I will be introducing the CC and addressing its special relevance to those working in or with the “traditional” arts and vernacular/community culture.  The event is free and will happen online on June 14 at 12:15 p.m. (timed for the lunch hour).  Full details on how to participate can be found here, on the Traditional Arts Indiana website. We are planning to be together online for about 45 minutes and there will be opportunities for questions/discussion. If you are interested, please join in.

Time to Apply: Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology #SIMA

Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology (SIMA)
Supported by the Smithsonian Institution and the National Science Foundation
June 27 – July 22, 2011
Application deadline: MARCH 1

SIMA is a graduate student training program in museum research methods offered through the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.  During four weeks of intensive training in seminars and hands-on workshops at the museum and at an off-site collections facility, 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 (and continually refines) a prospectus for research to be implemented upon return to their home university.

Application Information

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, as are international students enrolled in universities in the U.S.A. NOTE: First Nations people of Canada are eligible.

Costs

The program covers students’ tuition and housing, which is provided at a local university. A small 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.

Application deadline – MARCH 1, 2011

SIMA dates for 2011: June 27 – July 22

For more information and to apply, please visit http://anthropology.si.edu/summerinstitute/
Additional questions? Email SIMA@si.edu

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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