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The Temple of Heaven | 天壇 (12/8)

This briefer note is the second on our recent trip to China. The context for this travel will come (I hope) a few posts down the road. For now, perhaps you can just go with it. For the first post in the series, see The IU Gateway Office and Tsinghua University Art Museum (12/8).

After our group’s visit to the Tsinghua University Art Museum we ended the day with a visit to the Temple of Heaven (天壇). Wikipedia’s account (or whatever you can access) is probably sufficient for those who are curious about what the Temple of Heaven is about. In a nutshell, it is an impressive temple complex dating back to the early 1400s and was a key site for imperial sacrificial rituals. It is comprised numerous surviving buildings and beautiful grounds. For our interest as museum-types, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (number 881, to be exact). While it clearly attracts a significant number of visitors, visiting it (late in the day, in winter?) was certainly different from visiting the Forbidden City, where one typically becomes one tiny fish in a single vast, densely packed school of fish swimming straight through the complex from one end to another.

As earlier in the day, the companions were Jon Kay, Carrie Hertz, and Jason Jackson. At the Temple of Heaven we arrived too late in the day to enter any buildings, but we were able to stroll the grounds and see some of the buildings from the outside. Like so many monumental sites in China, one rarely has enough time to see the whole destination properly. Visiting when we did though, we really enjoyed the quiet contemplative nature of the experience. Many of those at the site were, like us, having a park visit experience as much or more than they were having a historical buildings experience. Of course, our state of reverie did not keep us from attending to the buildings, which were great. (A bit more text follows the images.)

Carrie and I, on an earlier trip’s visit to the Forbidden City, had noticed the English language signs pleading for no scratching. At the time, this had not made full sense to us, although we of course understood the impulse to protect these ancient monuments. At the Temple of Heaven, we were able wander without rushing or bumping into other people and thereby got a close look at the problem these signs work to prevent. You can see both the signs and some scratches in the images here.

We figured it out with some smart phone help, but one of the reasons that we were late in the day getting to the Temple of Heaven is that our taxi driver delivered us to the Temple of Heaven Holiday Inn (not yet a UNESCO World Heritage site), which it turns out is not exactly right by the Temple of Heaven itself. This meant that what we lost in terms of time spent at the site, we gained in terms of a walk through a not particularly touristy but elder-rich Beijing neighborhood. Posted here are some pictures for our families, friends, and other interested folks.

Thanks as always to my great travel companions. For deciding on the Temple of Heaven, thanks go especially to Carrie.

The IU Gateway Office and Tsinghua University Art Museum (12/8)

This post is about a portion of my recent trip to China. The main focus of this trip was collaborative ethnographic research in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, but other activities happened along the way. This post about the morning of December 8, 2017 and my companions for the day were two friends and colleagues–Dr. Carrie Hertz, Curator of Textiles and Dress at the Museum of International Folk Art and Dr. Jon Kay, Director of Traditional Arts Indiana and Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, Indiana University.

After traveling from the U.S. to Beijing, our first morning in China was devoted to a visit to the Indiana University China Gateway Office, which is adjacent to Tsinghua University in Beijing. There we met with China Gateway Director Steven Yin and IUPUI Recruitment Coordinator and Assistant Office Manager Peter Wen. We spent some time at the Gateway discussing China-related projects (including our own) and then Peter walked us across the Tsinghua campus for our visit to the remarkable Tsinghua University Art Museum (TAM), where Steven had arranged for us to meet with colleagues and see the museum.

 

At TAM we met with Ge Xiuzhi from the research department and Wang Ying from the education and external relations department. They were generous hosts with whom we shared tea and luxurious visits to the museum’s spacious and beautiful galleries. Our interests gravitated to some of our favorite topics–textiles and dress, architecture, and furniture. Here are some images from “Architecture China,” an exhibition that tells the story of a group of vernacular architecture researchers while also introducing architecture students (and everyone else) to the key techniques in the national architectural tradition.

 

A key exhibition at TAM at present is a large overview exhibition titled “Tsinghua Treasures: Exhibition of Tsinghua University Art Museum Collection.” It is very large and presents a rich sample of the museum core collection. As reflected in this sample of our images, we devoted a lot of time to the textile section, which is rich in items of dress and adornment.

 

We could have spent more than one day just studying the various sections of Tsinghua Treasures. We regretted neglecting some wonderful sections, including those devoted to ceramics, painting, and calligraphy.

 

We focused intently on the furniture gallery. As with the architecture exhibition, there were excellent hands-on educational stations in this gallery that helped one better understand the techniques and woods used in Chinese furniture.

 

Staff from the Tsinghua University Art Museum visited Indiana University during May 2017. On that visit I attended a presentation at the Eskenazi Museum of Art at which the Eskenazi staff (and I) were given a exciting overview of this new museum’s work and collections. It was wonderful to be able to follow up on this presentation and to see the TAM itself in the company of very generous hosts and my wonderful colleagues.

Our visit to the Tsinghua University Art Museum

A view of our group and the grand staircase at the Tsinghua University Art Museum. (L-R) Peter Wen, Ge Xiuzhi, Jon Kay, Carrie Hertz, Jason Jackson. December 8, 2017. Photograph courtesy of Ge Xiuzhi.

 

Yes, it is surely a Oklahoma Cherokee basket; Or my captions, as written

Fellow basketry enthusiasts may have seen the traveling exhibition Rooted, Revived, and Reinvented: Basketry in America. Happily for our musuem the exhibition includes a Sea Island basket from the collections of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. Finding its way into the world now is the exhibition’s catalogue. I saw it for the first time yesterday. Basketry people will certainly aspire to obtain a copy. It has fresh essays and beautifully printed color images. Do not let me note here discourage you if it is on your wish list. (I note in particular Jon Kay’s chapter on oak rod basketry from Brown County, Indiana which gets a lot of valuable information into print for the first time.)

The book has lots of merits, but, the production process was probably of the sort that is more common to commercial publishers and less common at university presses. I did not have a chance to review the page proofs for my chapter (“Native American Basketry from the Multicultural South: Craft, Labor, and Heritage”) and that usually has consequences. I do not propose to track the backstory on the text as a whole here, but I do want to share the text of my original image captions because they provide information that scholars and community basket makers will probably want and because in one case a significant error was introduced in the editing.

The error concerns Figure 8. The basket in this figure is a small buckbrush basket collected by William C. Sturteveant in Northeast Oklahoma. We do not know the maker for this basket, but it is certainly a basket made by a Cherokee person in the territory of the Cherokee Nation in present-day Oklahoma. In being simplified, my “Cherokee Nation” and “Eastern Oklahoma” was transformed into Eastern Band Cherokee, which is a misrepresentation.

Below is a picture of the basket in question along with the original text of my captions, which provide catalog numbers or temporary inventory numbers and collection details where available. The chapter in question is:

Jackson, Jason Baird. “Native American Basketry From the Multicultural South: Craft, Labor, and Heritage.” In Rooted, Revived, Reinvented: Basketry in America, edited by Kristin Schwain and Josephine M Stealey, 31–38. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2017.
A buckbrush basket from Eastern Oklahoma.

Figure 8, Basket, 20th Century, Unknown Craftsperson Cherokee Nation, Eastern Oklahoma, Buckbrush, National Museum of Natural History, WCS-528, William C. Sturtevant Collection

Figures

Figure 1
Double-woven Basket and Lid, ca. 1973
Rowena Bradley (1922-2003)
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
Qualla Boundary, North Carolina
River Cane
Mathers Museum of World Cultures 1973-19-0011

Figure 2
Single-woven Gathering Basket, ca. 1958
Unknown Craftsperson
Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians
Philadelphia, Mississippi
River Cane
National Museum of Natural History WCS-580
William C. Sturtevant Collection Read more

Congratulations to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science on the Publication of Navajo Textiles Volume

Congratulations our colleagues at in the Department of Anthropology at the the Denver Museum of Nature and Science on the publication of the new volume Navajo Textiles: The Crane Collection at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (Denver: Denver Museum of Nature and Science; Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2017). It is a beautiful volume contextualizing a beautiful collection of Navajo textiles. Kudos especially to the contributing authors, photographers, and everyone else who brought the project to life.

IMG_5972

Paid Internships for IU Students at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures

We have realized a big museum goal–establishing a paid internship program at MMWC. Please check out the announcement (below and here) and encourage bachelors and masters students to apply. (Application materials are on our website.)

ALLEN WHITEHILL CLOWES CHARITABLE FOUNDATION INTERNSHIP PROGRAM

The Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation has awarded funding to support the establishment of a new internship program at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, Indiana University Bloomington. This new program will be MMWC’s first offering of competitive, paid internship experiences, building on decades of practicum student programming, and significantly increasing the MMWC’s ability to cultivate dedicated museum professionals at the undergraduate and master’s level.

With a long-term goal of improving Indiana’s professional museum workforce, this program’s primary objective is to increase the quantity, quality, and accessibility of real-world professional development experiences available to IUB upper-level undergraduate and M.A. students seeking museum careers.

Beginning in Summer 2017 an inaugural class of interns will launch the program. Internship cohorts of three students per semester will participate in the program over a 1o-semester pilot (fall, spring, summer) through Summer 2020.

On-campus internships undertaken during fall and spring semesters will enable IUB students to gain valuable work experiences without interrupting their studies by relocating to distant locations or for Unrelated part-time work. The program will also advance a public service mission through the option of funding summer session work in off-campus museums as well. This option expands the range of professional opportunities available to museum-focused IUB students, while strengthening the work of these peer institutions.

The Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation, Inc., a private foundation, was established by Allen W. Clowes. a leading philanthropist in Indianapolis. Indiana, who during his life made major contributions to various charitable organizations that promoted or preserved the fine arts, music, literature, education, science and history. Most of these organizations are located in Central Indiana.

The primary mission of the foundation is to support charitable organizations that promote or preserve the Arts and Humanities and to support charitable organizations that were supported by Mr. Clowes during his life or are similar to those supported by Mr. Clowes.

For information on applying for 2017 Summer and Fall internships, please see here.

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/

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: http://hdl.handle.net/2022/20925

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: http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/pages.php?CDpath=12

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!

Who Cares About Craft as Traditional Knowledge?

This fall has been a particularly busy season for research-based programs at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. An an outgrowth of our Indiana Folk Arts: 200 Years of Tradition and Innovation exhibition and our participation in classes and programs for Themester, we will have hosted, by semester’s end, a very large number craftspeople or groups of craftspeople representative of a broad swath of vernacular making in Indiana. Because of our Themester mandate to focus on questions of Beauty in our engagements with these artist-craftspeople, our discussions with them have always had an aesthetic component. We have asked, for instance, questions like: “What characteristics do you associate with a beautiful weaving [or chair, or drum, or pottery bowl, or…]?” or “When producing for the marketplace, how do you balance functional use and aesthetic impact?” Art and aesthetics are a crucial part of the human experience and of what makes cultures distinctive and meaningful.

But the objects that we curate and interpret, and the makers of things with whom we engage, are not only about art. Even while many have both aesthetic and functional purposes, many others of our museum’s objects are not reasonably framed as art and some of our interlocutors are talented, knowledgeable makers and users of things, without being artists. Our work is bigger than art, as important as art is. Aesthetic values are part of larger cultural systems and those larger wholes are our focus. Whether in China or in Indiana, our work is about local knowledge, including traditional cultural knowledge. A big part of our engagements with makers focuses on the knowledge that goes into making–craft expertise along with local environmental and contextual knowledge concerned with uses, meanings, significances.

A detailed story in last Saturday’s Independent by Amalia Illgner is a good evocation of the kinds of concern we (particularly Traditional Arts Indiana, led ably by my colleague Jon Kay) try to bring to our work with craft objects, craft knowledge, and craftspeople. (I appreciate Matthew Bradley for sharing it with me.) Read the story (“Raiders of the Lost Crafts”) here. (I note here that, despite the declensionist hook and playful title, the author is not so obsessed with authenticity discourses that she disregards fruitful rediscovery of older craft knowledge through the study of museum collections and documentary materials. The story is a rare and rather sophisticated treatment of its subject.)

raiders-of-the-lost-crafts

Who cares about craft as traditional knowledge? My colleagues and I do. We also like art and we also love seeing where contemporary craftspeople, including studio craft, DIY craft, and many others, are taking their passions–but documenting what people know and have long known is important and helping foster environments where those who have traditional cultural knowledge are supported and encouraged is key part of our mission. If you care about such things, you still have lots of chances to engage your interests at the museum this year. This week we will host a wonderful group of African American quilters and a talented maker of African drums. In following weeks, we offer chances to connect with Indiana limestone carvers, a hoop-net maker, a rosemaler, a pysanky artist, a Native American potter, a Zapotec weaver, and an Orthodox iconographer. Learning from such craftspeople is something we intend to keep doing as along as we can.

Really Really Getting Up to Speed for Tomorrow, Fall

This week the Mathers Museum of World Cultures has been part of a larger Indiana University effort to get the word out about an interlocking set of events and initiatives. As readers here will have noted, these include the campus’ first First Thursday Festival (happening tomorrow), the Siyazama exhibition opening at MMWC (happening tomorrow after the First Thursday Festival concludes), and the College of Arts + Sciences’ Themester, which focuses on Beauty and includes a raft of MMWC activities–both tomorrow and throughout the semester. Here I want to post one last time before our big day tomorrow. My purposes are two. To lay out specifically what MMWC activities are happening and to provide a round up of the various communications and news stories that have appeared in connection with these events. Getting the word out is normal, but when some events are new (as First Thursdays is) it pays to really get it out. Here is a round up of coverage and a chance to get the whole picture, so as to not miss out.

First the MMWC part:

Tomorrow at the museum we host four visiting artists for demonstrations (10:30 to 11:30) and a narrative stage hosted by Jon Kay (11:45-12:30). [This will be the first use of our brand new stage!) Here is how we explained this part:

The Beauty of Indiana Folk Arts: Visiting Folk Artists Series–Viki Graber (Basketmaking), John Bundy (Decoy Carving), John Bennett (Blacksmithing), and Greg Adams (Willow Furniture)

Thursday, September 1; 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. (Demonstrations), 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (Narrative Stage)

Drop by and meet some of Indiana’s master folk artists while they make and create–Viki Graber (Basketmaking), John Bundy (Decoy Carving), John Bennett (Blacksmithing), and Greg Adams (Willow Furniture) will share their work and their art with you. The demonstrations and narrative stage will be free and open to the public, and are sponsored by Themester 2016: Beauty, an initiative of the IU College of Arts and Sciences.

Our artists guests have a break before they join the museum at First Thursdays for outdoor demonstrations and narrative stage presentations in the Culture Tent adjacent to Woodburn Hall. The Bicentennial Exhibition will be on display outdoors, providing engaging context.  Here is how we explained this:

First Thursdays–Indiana Folk Arts: 200 Years of Tradition and Innovation
Thursday, September 1, 5 to 7:30 p.m.

For more than 200 years Indiana has been home to a wide variety of folk arts. In celebration of the state’s Bicentennial, a special traveling exhibit has been developed by Traditional Arts Indiana, a program at IU’s Mathers Museum of World Cultures, with accompanying demonstrations by Indiana folk artists. Drop by and meet some of Indiana’s master folk artists while they make and create–Viki Graber (Basketmaking), John Bundy (Decoy Carving), John Bennett (Blacksmithing), and Greg Adams (Willow Furniture) will share their work and their art with you. Their presentations will be free and open to the public, and are sponsored by Themester 2016: Beauty, an initiative of the IU College of Arts and Sciences.

As First Thursdays concludes, we will open the Siyazama exhibition (as well as our two other Themester exhibitions–Costume: Beauty, Meaning, and Identity in Dress and Hózhó: Navajo Beauty, Navajo Weavings. Here is our overview of the opening event.

Mathers After Hours–Siyazama: Traditional Arts, Education, and AIDS in South Africa
Thursday, September 1; 7 to 9 p.m.

Join us for the opening of a special traveling exhibition–Siyazama: Traditional Arts, Education, and AIDS in South Africa–that explores how traditional arts, knowledge, and skills are used to address AIDS. The exhibition also showcases the Siyazama (Zulu for “we are trying”) Project, an arts education project based in KwaZulu-Natal, which uses traditional crafts to raise awareness about AIDS. The exhibition grew out of the South African National Cultural Heritage Project, a bi-national project led, in part, by Michigan State University Museum and MATRIX: Center for Humane Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences Online. The exhibition opening will be free and open to the public, and is sponsored by Themester 2016: Beauty, an initiative of the IU College of Arts and Sciences, and the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington.

I note that we also have a great performance and great food lined up for the opening! (see Figure 1 for a piece from Siyazama)

We hope to see you at all or some of this tomorrow. Now for the published stories and releases.

Sanya Ali wrote a nice piece for the Indiana Daily Student (“Mathers plans variety of programming for beginning of September“)

T. J. Jaeger wrote a nice article about First Thursdays, including its Mathers angles, for the Limestone Post. (“IU to Showcase Artists with Massive Monthly Festival“)

On the Art at IU blog, Karen Land posted a nice account of First Thursdays, including its Mathers parts, (“New First Thursdays festival puts the focus on IU’s arts and humanities, food and fun“)

In a message to IU students, staff, and faculty, Provost Lauren Robel invited the campus community to First Thursdays, including the Siyazama opening and other associated events. (“Inaugural First Thursdays Festival“)

First Thursday’s lead organizer, Ed Comentale, Associate Vice Provost for Arts and Humanities, authored a overview of First Thursdays for Inside IU Bloomington. (“First Thursdays Festival will showcase creativity on campus“)

There is a pay-walled story about First Thursdays in the Bloomington Herald-Times by Michael Reschke. Check it out if you have a subscription, just don’t feed the trolls. (“IU ‘First Thursday’ showcases art and humanities“).

In addition, there are press releases for Siyazama and Themester.

Hopefully that is enough information for everyone to really know what the deal is. I look forward to seeing you at our artists events, at First Thursdays, at the MMWC exhibition opening, and at all the great programs lined up for fall. Thanks to all who have worked to bring these events to fruition.

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Figure 1: “Let’s Work Together to Fight AIDS” cloth by Johanna Sebaya, Mapula embroidery project, Winterveldt, North West Province, South Africa, 2005. | Photo by Pearl Yee Wong, courtesy of the Michigan State University Museum

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