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On Taking Credit: Textile Traditions and Fashion Rip-Offs

Below find a guest post by Carrie Hertz, Curator of Dress and Textiles at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA. –Jason Baird Jackson

On Taking Credit: Textile Traditions and Fashion Rip-Offs

by Carrie Hertz

On August 13, the mail carrier delivered the most recent catalog for Boden, a British fashion brand. While flipping through its pages that evening, I stopped dead on a spread for a new “limited-edition collection” of clothes featuring very familiar embroidery patterns. In explanation, the copy reads:

Our designers were so inspired by a vintage rug they discovered on their travels, they dreamed up this limited-edition collection of exquisitely embroidered pieces.

Let’s unpack this.

The Boden designers, clearly positioned here as worldly travelers, admit foreign “inspiration” for their ideas without actually revealing any valuable details about the source. The mention of a “vintage rug” not only suggests a possibly singular, idiosyncratic item, it places that rug’s creation far in the past, likely made by an anonymous and untraceable craftsperson now lost to history. As a limited-edition line of clothes, potential customers could be led to believe these designs are rare, exclusive, and fleeting, requiring their urgent action. These designs, however, are not unique. They are rip-offs.

IMG_8683As a folklorist and curator of textiles and dress, I engage and partner with artists around the globe who often struggle against the living legacies of colonial structures and the inequalities endemic to Western cultural imperialism. Western fashion corporations repeatedly claim the rights of “discovery” to the world’s textile traditions, capitalizing on unfair advantages constructed over centuries of imperial exploitation, profiting off the creative work of others, and actively concealing the sources of their theft.

Perhaps most painful to many of the artists and communities that I work with is the public erasure of their cultural contributions. In this case, Boden didn’t provide proper credit, not even naming the exquisite embroidery tradition it found so inspirational, perhaps because to do so would immediately shatter the illusion of their design team’s innovation, the elite exclusivity of their garments, or even their relative beauty in comparison to much higher quality versions readily available at affordable prices in the global market place.

So, I offer a small piece of this context now.

Suzani (from the Persian word for needle) embroidery has been developed over centuries in Central Asia, traded along the Silk Road, and later survived Communist attempts to suppress it during the Soviet era in places like Uzbekistan. According to Mary Littrell, a textile scholar and research associate for the Museum of International Folk Art:

In the 20th century, Communist rulers in Uzbekistan equated handcrafts with a feudal past. Handcrafts, associated by the Soviets with individual creativity and private production, served no purpose in a unified and mechanized future. Craft production was forbidden or forced underground as the workers turned to mass production. With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Uzbek artisans began the long process of reviving their centuries-old craft traditions and transforming them in new directions for domestic, tourist, and international markets. (

Today, you can readily find gorgeous hand-embroidered garments made with naturally-dyed silks and cottons being sold on sites like Etsy and produced by living artists for which this artform represents multigenerational cultural memory and skill. During every non-pandemic year, the International Folk Art Market (IFAM, features numerous Uzbek artists selling handcrafted rugs, bedspreads, pillows, clothing and accessories. For examples:

Check out the beautiful designs at Bibi Hanum ( founded by Muhayo Aliyeva and her sisters (;

or the stunning work of Sanjar Ravshanovich Nazarov (;

or the truly exquisitely-embroidered coats produced in Madina Kasimbaeva’s workshop ( in Tashkent (

These are only a few of the talented and dedicated artists “dreaming up” suzani designs today. Uzbek artists and others have fought hard to sustain and revitalize suzani tradition. At the very least, they deserve credit for their efforts.


Some Media Sources for the History of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures (1)

August 11, 1963
[Indiana University News Bureau Press Release Launching the Indiana University Museum of History, Anthropology, and Folklore]
[PDF: IU Museum of History Anthropology and Folklore Original Press Release]

Summer 1982
Lighting for Storage of Museum Collections: Developing a System for Safekeeping of Light-Sensitive Materials

December 1989
Museum Studies in Collection Management

October 1998
Mathers Museum Showcases Worldwide Music Connections

August 27, 2002
IU Group Helps Establish World’s First Underwater Shipwreck Museum in Dominican Republic

September 3, 2002
IU Exhibit to Highlight Latino Experience in Bloomington

April 22, 2004
IU helps Dominican Republic Sink Shipwreck Museum

September 20, 2004
New Laboratory Brings Shipwreck Relics to Indiana University

November 4, 2005
Museum Studies Journal to be Housed in IU’s Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology

March 20, 2006
Celebration of Diverse Asian Cultures, History and Peoples at IU Begins March 24

July 27, 2006
IU Archaeologists Hot on the Trail of Columbus’ Sunken Ships

August 24, 2006
Hands ‘on’ the Art: IU Art Museum Offers New ‘touch art’ Program for People with Low Vision

November 28, 2006
American Indian Groups and Mathers Museum at IU Celebrate Native Americans’ Heritage

December 12, 2007
Indiana University Discovers 1699 Captain Kidd Shipwreck

January 24, 2007
Actor Gary Farmer to Kick Off Second Native Film Series at IU Bloomington

January 18, 2008
‘Bridgwaters Family Photographs’ Opens at the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center on Feb. 1

February 6, 2008
IU Lecture: Captain Kidd, Columbus, Taino and the Golden Age of Piracy

February 21, 2008
IU Bloomington Libraries Publish their First Electronic Journal, Showcasing Faculty Partnerships

April 30, 2008
Faculty Member’s Work on Governance Commission Highlights IU-Liberia Connections

September 2, 2008
IU’s Festival Latino Brings in a Grammy-nominated Group to Celebrate 10th Anniversary

November 17, 2008
‘Maps Of Time’ Author to Deliver Wilkie Lecture

November 17, 2008
Captain Kidd’s Treasure: Wood Discovered, “Living Museum” in the Works

February 9, 2009
One-Man Shows in the Spotlight During IU’s ArtsWeek 2009

April 14, 2009
Indiana University Museums Receive National Honor

August 11, 2009
IU’s Mathers Museum Honored with Prestigious Grant from Institute of Museum and Library Services

August 18, 2009
IU Discovers Stone Tools, Rare Animal Bones — Clues to Caribbean’s Earliest Inhabitants

September 29, 2009
‘Shadow of Cortes’ Exhibit Traces Route of Conquistador and How he is Remembered

Exhibition Review: To Have and To Hold

August 26, 2010
Cultures Unite in ‘Indiana in Afghanistan; Afghanistan in Indiana’ Exhibit at IU’s Wells Library

October 1, 2010
Year-long Celebration of IU and Bloomington Museums begins Friday

October 10, 2011
American Folklore Society’s National Meeting Begins Wednesday at IU Bloomington

October 19, 2010
‘From the Big Bang to the World Wide Web’ Opens with Lecture, Museum Exhibit

December 3, 2010
Anthropology Students, with Extreme Cuisine, Connect Heritage with Food at Public Display

May 2, 2011
Capt. Kidd Shipwreck Site to be Dedicated ‘Living Museum of the Sea’ by Indiana University

August 9, 2011
Mathers Museum, Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology Merger Yields Cultural History Powerhouse

August 12, 2011
Bloomington Herald-Times: IU’s Black Laboratory and Mathers Museum to Merge

October 25, 2011
Pow Wow on Nov. 5 to Kick Off IU’s Observance of National American Indian Heritage Month

September 4, 2012
Exhibit, Book Capture Nation’s Vivid Past through IU Alum’s Early Color Photographs

September 27, 2012
Conference will Highlight French, Native American and African Interaction in Colonial Midwest

January 29, 2013
IU’s Mathers Museum of World Cultures names Folklore Professor as New Director

February 5, 2013
IU’s Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology Appoints New Director

March 12, 2013
Mathers Faculty Curator Reinvigorates Museum Research with Senegalese ‘Wish Books’

Apr. 11, 2013
Curating the Ostrom Collection: IU Students Practice Hands-on Curatorship at Mathers
[PDF: Inside IU 2013-4-11 (Ostrom) copy]

April 4, 2013
Mathers Museum Celebrates 50th Anniversary with ‘Treasures’ Exhibition, Programs

May 6, 2013
Art, Theater, Film Highlight IU’s Annual Summer Festival of the Arts

June 4, 2013
Mathers Museum to Host Limestone Exhibit Created by Traditional Arts Indiana

Summer 2013
[Various Stories] Process [Anthropology Department Newsletter]

June 25, 2013
Mathers Exhibit Highlights Native Americans’ Military Contributions

August 21, 2013
IU Professor Curates Apartheid-era Photo Exhibition for Display in Bloomington and South Africa

August 28, 2013
Wells Library IQ-Wall Moves to Mathers Museum

September 3, 2013
20th Lotus World Music and Arts Festival Will Begin with Concert at IU Bloomington

September 7th, 2013
Once a Hoosier, Always a Hoosier, in Ghana

September 10, 2013
Exhibit at Mathers Draws President of Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance to Campus

October 18, 2013
IU Professor is Expert on Little-Known Native American Tribe

November 12, 2013
Pottery Exhibit at Mathers Features Life-Size Replica of Wood-Fired Kiln

November 19, 2013
IU’s Mathers Museum One of Three U.S. Institutions to Collaborate with Chinese Museums

Treasures of the Mathers Museum

February 11, 2014
Interchange – Curating Culture: Museums and Meaning

March 31, 2014
Brilliant Minds at IU Bloomington: The Mathers Museum of World Cultures

April 2, 2014
Mathers Brings Research Work to Life

April 14, 2014
Ojibwe Art Collected by Ostroms on Display Now at Mathers Museum

May 16, 2014
Musicians to Honor Southern Indiana Artist Lotus Dickey at Mathers Museum

June 16, 2014
Mathers Museum Exhibit “Assessing Authenticity” Exploring Identification and Authentication in Museums

July 21, 2014
Mathers Museum Makeover Creates Flexible Exhibition Space, Hands-on Learning Area

December 9, 2014
Traditional Arts Indiana to Create Traveling Show with National Endowment for the Arts Grant

February 16, 2015
‘Graces Received’ Curator to Speak Tuesday about How to Read Meanings in Catholic Folk Art

April 27, 2015
Mathers Museum to Host New Summer Institute on ‘Museums at the Crossroads’

March 12, 2015
Traditional Arts Indiana Thriving in New Home at IU’s Mathers Museum

May 5, 2015
William Siegmann’s Cultural Legacy Shown in Exhibitions at IU Art Museum, Mathers Museum

Summer 2015
Interconnections: Folklore Studies and Anthropology at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures

Collaborative, Consultative, and Research-Based Public Folklore Programming in Museum Contexts: A Professional Development Project to Strengthen the Work of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, Traditional Arts Indiana, and the Michigan State University Museum

January 15, 2016
Mathers Museum to Host Smithsonian Exhibition on History of Indian Americans

April 11, 2016
Among Old Photos At Mathers Museum, A Researcher Finds His Ancestor

July 8, 2016
Public Discussion to Share Spirit of Mardi Gras in Conjunction with ‘Arts of Survival’ Institute

August 31, 2016
New First Thursdays Festival Puts the Focus on IU’s Arts and Humanities, Food and Fun

December 7th, 2016
Celebrating Elinor Ostrom and IU’s Continuing Engagement with China

December 8th, 2016
Continuing IU’s China Connection and Meeting the Global Needs of IU Students

Traditional Arts Indiana at Indiana University’s Mathers Museum

January 11, 2017
‘Quilts of Southwest China’ Showcases Tradition, Community, Identity at Mathers Museum

February 14, 2017
IU Bloomington’s Mathers Museum to Temporarily Close during Summer for Renovations
[PDF: 2017-02-14 MMWC Closure Release]

January 24, 2017
Interchange – Sharing Patchwork: The Quilts of Southwest China

February 27, 2017
China Remixed: IU Presents a 10-Week Culture Festival

April 26, 2017
Staff and Faculty: Enter to Win a Copy of ‘Quilts of Southwest China’ Book, See Exhibit

June 23, 2017
IU Students Learn Many Skills During Mathers Museum Internship

August 22, 2017
Mathers Museum Reopening after Summer Construction

October 11, 2017
The Day of the Dead Community Altar Welcomes Artifacts at Mathers Museum

November 3, 2017
Traditional Arts Indiana at IU Offers New Statewide Folk Art Apprenticeship Program

November 3, 2017
Mathers Museum of World Cultures Exhibit Offers ‘A Different Look at Syria’

November 28, 2017
New Position to Support Growth of Arts and Humanities at IU Bloomington

January 17, 2018
Contributions from the China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project

February 20, 2018
Jason Jackson: Director, Mathers Museum

March 20, 2018
Mathers Museum of World Cultures Exhibit Centers on Aging, Imagination

March 30, 2018
Indiana University Mathers Museum Sisters of the Cloth Quilt Exhibit

April 2, 2018
Mathers Museum Offers More than Just an Exhibit to IU Freshman Laysha Hawkins

July 11, 2018
Mathers Exhibit Shares Memories through Historic Photos

Aug 29, 2018
Dying in Style: Mathers Museum to Give Talk about Fantasy Coffins

August 30, 2018
Fantasy Coffins Take Forms of Uterus, Basketball, Octopus

September 6, 2018
Fantasy Coffin Designer Paa Joe Bringing his Brand of Underground art to IUPUI, IU Bloomington

October 1, 2018
Traditional Arts Indiana at IU Launches New Award for Folk and Traditional Artists

October 5, 2018
Mathers Museum Exhibit Showcases ‘Fantasy Coffins’ From Ghana

October 11, 2018
Mexico Remixed will be IU Bloomington’s third annual Global Arts and Humanities Festival

November 5, 2018
Day of the Dead Celebration Kicks Off Mexico Remixed

December 12, 2018
IU Names Bicentennial Professors, Sets Goal of Faculty Presentations in All 92 Indiana Counties

Jan. 30, 2019
IU Center for Rural Engagement Launches New Rural Arts Series Offerings in Three Communities

March 29, 2019
Histories and Realignments: Museum Anthropology Review in a New Era

March 29, 2019
Traditional Arts Indiana’s Bicentennial Exhibition

March 29, 2019
Exhibiting Moments: Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures

March 29, 2019
Shapes of the Ancestors: Bodies, Animals, Art, and Ghanaian Fantasy Coffins

March 29, 2019
The American Folklore Society-China Folklore Society Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project, 2013-2016

May 9, 2019
Vodou Drums Symbolize Clash Between Climate Change and the Sacred in Haiti |
Mathers Museum of World Cultures Exhibition at IU Explores the Intersection of Humanity, the Divine and the Environment

June 11, 2019
Fossils, Flies and Fashion: Meet the Director Who Works with All University Collections

Aug. 12, 2019
Traditional Arts Indiana to Honor 2019 State Fair Masters

September 5, 2019
Themester 2019 Explores ‘Remembering and Forgetting’

September 10, 2019
At Home and Abroad: Reflections on Collaborative Museum Ethnography at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures

September 24, 2019
McRobbie: State of Indiana University is Strong, Innovative as it Prepares for Third Century

September 24, 2019
The State of Indiana University at the Bicentennial

September 25, 2019
IU President Announces New Museum During State of the University Address

October 11, 2019
Reclaiming a Culture: How IU is Helping an Indigenous Community Restore its Endangered Language

October 16, 2019
Mathers Museum of World Cultures celebrates Day of the Dead

Oct. 22, 2019
From the Desk: Creating the IU Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

December 4, 2019
Sacred Drums and Sustainability: A Curator’s Talk at the Mathers Museum

December 8, 2019
15th Annual Parranda Eelebrates End of Fall Semester

December 9, 2019
200-Year History of Bloomington Focus of Mathers Museum Exhibit

December 23, 2019
Advanced Visualization Lab Re-purposes Technology Across IU Campuses

Images of Native Americans exhibited at Mathers Museum

Mead Traveling Film and Video Festival Comes to Bloomington

This listing is very incomplete, even relative to materials available online in December 2019.
Does not included works of scholarship drawing upon MMWC resources.
Does not include event and exhibition notices.

Delaware Indian Dance Rattles Made of Coconuts

The sixth most popular post on this website is a small item called “Coconut Rattles in Florida and Oklahoma.” I have no idea why this should be true (it is probably some accidental search engine optimization), but to satisfy hearty reader demand for more coconut rattle coverage, Jim Rementer shares here a bit of what he has learned over the years about coconut rattles among the Delaware people in Northeastern Oklahoma (Delaware Tribe of Indians) in the following guest post. Thanks to Jim for this post. –Jason

The Delaware Indians in Oklahoma made dance rattles from various materials. The main thing used in hand rattles was gourds, but at some time they found a new material to make rattles and that was coconut shells. These rattles were (and can be) used in dances like the Bean Dance (Malaxkwsitkan) and also by the men singers who accompanied the main singer who was using a water drum.

I have no idea when the Delawares started using coconut rattles nor how they cleaned them. I never thought to ask how they were made but this first one has a long bolt through the coconut and handle with a nut at the base of the handle (Figure 1). The one was made by James Thompson (1867-1964).

coconut rattle by Pop

Figure 1. A coconut shell rattle made by James Thompson (Delaware, 1867-1964).

This other rattle pictured here was also made by a Delaware named William Wilson (Figure 2).


Figure 2. A coconut rattle made by William Wilson (Delaware).

Here (Figure 3) is a photo of singers at a Delaware dance held about 1960 at the same place where the annual Delaware Days are still held. Ranny Carpenter appears to be using a coconut rattle but I cannot be sure if it is a coconut or gourd.”


Figure 3. A water drum and coconut shell rattle being used at a Delaware social dance, ca. 1960. The Delaware word for any kind of rattle is shuhënikan.



CFP: Quilt and Textile Studies for Uncoverings 2020

Mathers Museum of World Cultures Research Associate Janice Frisch, who is editor of Uncoverings, shares the following call for papers.

Call for Papers
Quilt and Textile Studies
Uncoverings 2020

The American Quilt Study Group is looking for papers for the 2020 issue of their research journal, Uncoverings, edited by Dr. Janice E. Frisch.

The American Quilt Study group establishes and promotes the highest standards for interdisciplinary quilt-related studies, providing opportunities for study, research, and the publication of works that advance the knowledge of quilts and related subjects.

We are interested in papers that explore global patchwork and quilting traditions, both historical and modern. Papers that explore topics that influenced the global production of patchwork and quilting are also welcome, such as those that focus on technological changes, influences from other mediums, and impacts of historical and contemporary events. Ethnographic and historic research are both welcome.

Submissions should be complete papers with abstract and end notes (the journal uses the Chicago Note system and no bibliography). Papers should be between 4,500 and 9,000 words, inclusive of notes and must be submitted by June 1, 2019.

You do not have to be a member of the American Quilt Study Group to submit a paper, but you will have to join if your paper is selected. Authors of selected papers will also need to be able to attend the 2020 AQSG Seminar in Harrisonburg, VA (Sept. 9-14, 2020) to present their work. Paper presenters usually receive grants to offset registration, hotel, and travel costs for attending seminar.

Additional information on the submission process and the journal can be found here:

If you have questions please contact the American Quilt Study Group at:

The journal welcomes paper submissions by June 1 of each year, so please consider submitting next year if you are unable to meet this year’s deadline.

The following image is my own selection–Jason.

A array of small pieces of Florida Seminole patchwork in many colors and designs.

Sample Florida Seminole patchwork strips from the William C. Sturtevant Collection at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.

Exhibitions Week: Quilting Art and Tradition—People, Handcrafts, and Community Life (a.k.a. Quilts of Southwest China)

The MMWC has a huge amount of exhibition related news. This week I devote a series of posts to highlighting some of these developments.

Quilt Exhibition Openging Ceremony 7

Huang Biyu introduces her work as a textile artist to visitors to the Yulin Museum, which is hosting the exhibition Quilting Art and Tradition–People, Handcrafts, and Community Life (the Chinese version of Quilts of Southwest China), March 16, 2019. (Photograph courtesy of the Anthropological Museum of Guangxi)

After a U.S. tour that saw the collaboratively curated exhibition Quilts of Southwest China move from the (1) Michigan State University Museum (East Lansing, Michigan, USA) to the (2) International Quilt Study Center and Museum (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA), (3) the Mathers Museum of World Cultures (Bloomington, Indiana, USA) and the (4) Museum of International Folk Art (Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA), the exhibition is now at its third stop in China. Titled in China Quilting Art and Tradition—People, Handcrafts, and Community Life, the exhibition has just opened at the (3) Yulin Museum (Yulin, Guangxi, PRC). It has previously been presented at the (1) Anthropological Museum of Guangxi (Nanning, Guangxi, PRC) and the (2) Yunnan Nationalities Museum (Kunming, Yunnan, PRC). The exhibition is one of several collaborative projects arising out of joint work supported generously by the Henry Luce Foundation and various other American and Chinese funding agencies. The American Folklore Society and the China Folklore Society are coordinating partners for the larger effort that includes the museum partnership linking the Mathers Museum of World Cultures to the MSU Museum, the Museum of International Folk Art, the Yunnan Nationalities Museum, the Anthropological Museum of Guangxi and the and the Guizhou Nationalities Museum (Guiyang, Guixzhou, PRC). The exhibition was jointly produced by the six museum partners and was co-curated by Lijun Zhang and Marsha MacDowell.

Colleagues from the three Chinese partner museums (AMGX, YNNM, GZMN) attended the exhibition opening in Yunlin as did featured textile artist Huang Biyu, who did an artist’s demonstration and worked with a large group of local students in an exploration of Chinese quilting design. Photographs from the opening events taken by Chu Chu and Li Jie of the AMGX are shared here.

Did you miss the exhibition or would you like to do a deeper dive into the world of minority textiles in Southwest China? The bilingual catalogue edited by Marsha MacDowell and Lijun Zhang is available from Indiana University Press. Find it on the press website here:

Thanks to our friends at the AMGX for managing the Chinese tour of the jointly produced exhibition and thanks to the staff of the Yulin Museum for hosting it. It is tremendous to think that a jointly produced exhibition that first opened at the MSUM in 2015 is still traveling and reaching new audiences.



Make Time to Watch “The Flight of the Condor: A Letter, a Song and the Story of Intangible Cultural Heritage”

Don’t miss the recent documentary film “The Flight of the Condor: A Letter, a Song, and the Story of Intangible Cultural Heritage”. by Áslaug Einarsdóttir and Valdimar Tr. Hafstein. If you watch the film (30 minutes) above or via Vimeo, be sure to circle back to the projexct website and take note of Valdimar’s new book from Indiana University Press: Making Intangible Heritage: El Condor Pasa and Other Stories from UNESCO.

Valdimar is an innovative researcher and a leading scholar in folklore studies and European ethnology. His writings on heritage policy and practice are essential contributions to the field and the new film does an outstanding job of telling a complex and compelling story in an engaging way that, in doing so, illuminates a global phenomena of importance.

While you are still feeling warm feelings about UNESCO’s recent inscription of reggae and dry stone walls on the world heritage list, watch The Flight of the Condor and think more deeply with Valdimar about the work of heritage, the circulation of cultural forms, and the ways that the contexts of our understanding can change so wildly across time, space, and social position.

CFP: Limitations and Adaptations: Negotiating Aesthetics, Power, and Positionality

I am happy to share the call for papers for the 12th joint student folklore conference organized by the students at Indiana University and the Ohio State University. Save the date and get your plans together to attend in Bloomington.

Limitations and Adaptations: Negotiating Aesthetics, Power, and Positionality
Twelfth Annual IU/OSU Student Folklore Conference
February 22–23, 2019

The Indiana University Folklore Student Association, in collaboration with the Folklore Student Association at the Ohio State University, invites submissions for the twelfth annual Indiana University / Ohio State University student folklore conference to be held in Bloomington, Indiana on February 22–23, 2019. We welcome proposals from folklore, ethnomusicology, and related disciplines. Presenters are encouraged to submit proposals related to the conference theme of “Limitations and Adaptations.” Some questions to consider could include the following:

  • What limits do people face in vernacular cultural production? How are these limits formed or identified? What are the power structures behind them?
  • How do limits shape artistic production?
  • How do people use vernacular cultural production to transcend limits/barriers or to adapt to change/oppression?
  • Does adaptation create or take place in a liminal space?
  • How do people adapt to limitations cross-culturally?
  • How might researchers be limited by factors such as identity, language, and environment? What impact might these limits have on selection, collection, or transmission of research?
  • What is the role of the researcher in either adhering to or pushing back against limitations? Is your project overcoming limitations in some way?

Proposals for papers, posters, roundtables, panels, workshops, and other formats are welcome. All presenters should write a 250-word abstract of their presentations. Prearranged or collective sessions should additionally include a session title, 250-word session abstract, and list contacts for all members of the panel/roundtable, if relevant.

All submissions will be due via google forms by December 30, 2018.

Submission link:

Housing form:

For additional questions, please contact us at


T̶h̶o̶u̶g̶h̶t̶s̶ ̶o̶n̶ ̶H̶A̶U̶. Good News! The Free-to-Readers Version of The Expressive Lives of Elders


Good news everyone. The free-to-download-and-read version of the latest title in the Material Vernaculars series–The Expressive Lives of Elders: Folklore, Art, and Aging edited by Jon Kay is now available. While I hope that you will purchase an ebook edition or a paperback edition or a hardback edition of this great new book, or that you will use the JSTOR Books or Project Muse Books edition if you have access to such from a library with which you are affiliated, it is important to make sure that everyone who needs to access this significant work can do so, hence the importance of durable (its not going to be withdrawn), free access to everyone. Remember, if you can purchase a copy or use one of the toll access, library-supported versions, you are helping Indiana University Press generate the financial resources to continue investing in free and/or open access projects such as the Material Vernaculars series.

How do you access it? Go to and look for the “View/Open button. That will lead you to the PDF download.

Find all of the existing Material Vernaculars titles in free PDF format here: Find them described and ready to buy here:

If you value the work that Indiana University Press does, consider making a donation to support its work or, just browse the press’s website and purchase some great books and journals.

As I prepare this post, the Press is having a 40% off sale!!!!!!!!!!

Congratulations to Jon and to all of the authors who contributed to The Expressive Lives of Elders. Thanks to the peer-reviewers, to everyone who has already purchased a copy, and to everyone at the IU Press, the IU Libraries, and the Mathers Museum of World Cultures who is supporting the Material Vernaculars series so enthusiastically.

Happy reading!


Google Celebrates Native Artist in November 9th Doodle

A guest post by Emily Buhrow Rogers.


A carved bear by Amanda Crowe (Eastern Band Cherokee) from the collections of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, Indiana University. ca. 1973. Museum purchase. 7″ x 2″ x 4.75″ (1973-19-002)

In honor of Native American Heritage month, Google today celebrated renowned Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians artist, Amanda Crowe (1928-2004). Born and raised on North Carolina’s Qualla Boundary, Amanda Crowe is perhaps best known for her fluid and expressive animal carvings, which have been collected and praised by museums and art galleries across North America. She is also famous as an educator. After training at the Art Institute of Chicago, she returned to North Carolina and took up a post as studio art teacher at Cherokee High School. Here, she trained hundreds of students from her community in the art of woodcarving and influenced generations of Cherokee artists. The Mathers Museum of World Cultures collected several of her works and displayed them in the 2015-2016 exhibition, “Cherokee Craft, 1973.” Her bear sculptures instantly became staff favorites. (Here is a screenshot from the Doodle. Here is a link to the Doodle video.

Google Crowe Image

The Doodle video was made in cooperation with Amanda Crowe’s nephew, William “Bill” H. Crowe, Jr., and the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, from whom the Mathers Museum of World Cultures obtained its Cherokee collection in 1973.

Emily Buhrow Rogers is a doctoral candidate in cultural anthropology at Indiana University, where she is also a research associate of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. She was the curator of the museum’s exhibition Cherokee Craft, 1973. Her dissertation research focuses on craft and environmental knowledge among the Choctaw people of Mississippi.

At the Estonian National Museum

#fulbrightspecialist #fulbright #exchangeourworld

This is the third of three anticipated posts on my fall 2019 visit to Estonia (1st, 2nd).

A great resource for the University of Tartu’s departments of Estonian Native Craft, of Ethnology, and of Estonian and Comparative Folklore is the Estonian National Museum (ENM). The museum is curates vast collections of relevance to students and researchers in these fields and the museum is a research hub for all them. Founded in 1909, the ENM has a long and distinguished history as an ethnography museum centering on Estonia and, more broadly, all peoples speaking Finno-Ugric languages. It its contexts, the museum’s work centers on an Estonian instance of Northern European ethnology (with Soviet “ethnography” dominating during the period of Soviet hegemony). But not long ago (2016), the museum moved into a dramatic and vast new facility and unveiled a pair of large new permanent exhibitions.

These exhibitions move beyond (but fully include) the ethnography of 19th and early 20th century peasant lifeways. In this mode, the new exhibitions show an additive expansion of the museum’s concerns to include the archaeology of the distant past, historical and contemporary linguistics, social history, and the ethnology of everyday life in the recent period and the present. Especially in its exhibition work, the new museum is working at the cutting edge of museum technology and communication research is a part of the museum’s practice and research agenda.


The entry to the Estonian National Museum at night. By Klarqa. CC BY-SA 4.0, from Wikimedia Commons

I will not offer a review of the two permanent exhibitions here, but I want to stress how much I learned about museum practice (and about Estonia and Finno-Urgric peoples) from my multiple visits to the museum’s galleries. I was very fortunate to be given introductory tours of both exhibitions by curators who were central to the work of developing them. Encounters tells the story of people in Estonia from the earliest moments of human activity in the territory of the present nation up to the present. Encounters is actually an interconnected suite of topical and chronological sub-exhibitions and I benefited greatly from seeing it first with Kristel Rattus and Liisi Jaats, two ENM researchers/curators who were part of the exhibition development team. Similarly, I saw the Echo of the Urals exhibition with Art Leete, Professor of Ethnology at the University of Tartu and specialist on Finno-Ugric groups in present-day Russia. Art led the curatorial team for the Finno-Ugric exhibition. The two exhibitions use a wide range of sophisticated exhibition techniques and these techniques are markedly different between the two shows, making the ENM an ideal teaching and learning laboratory for museum ethnology.

While I was more learner than teacher in this context, my work at the University of Tartu teaching the short “Material Culture and the Museum” course intersected with the ENM in a couple of ways. Because the ENM is such an attraction and hub for folklore studies and ethnology, (all or almost all) students and auditors in the course were familiar with the museum and it thus could be used as a valuable point of reference in and out of class sessions. More directly, the ENM hosted the 2018 International Committee for Museums and Collections of Ethnography (ICME) conference. I will touch on that below, but I note here that students participating in the course were obligated to attend parts of the ICME meeting, an activity that I feel certain greatly enhanced the overall experience of the course. The conference and my remarks on museum ethnology could have been completely askew, but in actuality there was, I think, an unusually good fit, with the topics that I raised in the initial sessions showing up in richer context in the presentations of ICME keynote speakers and presenters. The new exhibitions and new museum provided a great context for the course and the conference.

ICME is a group within the larger International Committee of Museums (ICOM). ICOM is the UNESCO-affiliated international organization promoting and supporting museums and museum work. ICME is one of the 30 International Committees active within ICOM. As the name suggests, its focus are museums of ethnography a conception that includes museums whose ethnographic collections and work are very local (such as community-specific museums), national and regional (such as the ENM) and those whose concerns are global in scope (such as the Mathers Museum of World Cultures). The meeting in Tartu at the ENM was the 51st ICME meeting and it was organized under the theme “Re-imaging the Museum in the Global Contemporary.” (Find information on the conference, including specific presentations here and here).

The ICME conference was presided over gracefully by ICME President Viv Golding (University of Leicester) and the hard working local organizational team was led by Agnes Aljas (Research Secretary at the ENM). Agnes in particular went to great lengths to facilitate my participation in the conference and I thank her for her kind efforts.

There were many excellent presentations throughout the conference and a range of meaningful special activities, Each day began with a keynote, all of which were rich and inspiring. The keynote speakers were Andrea Witcomb (Professor, Deakin University, Australia), Pille Runnel (Research Director, Estonian National Museum), Philipp Schorch (State Ethnographic Collection of Saxony, Germany) and Wayne Modest (Research Center for Material Culture, Netherlands).

ICME Group Photograph (ICME 2018)

Participants in the 2018 ICME meeting. From, accessed November 1, 2018.

One contrast that I would highlight concerns the way that many of core conference presenters–as one might expect in Estonia as a Northern European host country–work in contemporary contexts shaped by volkskunde– or folklife-centered disciplinary histories (European ethnology, etc.). Their ethnographic concerns remained issues of commonality and difference inside (usually small) nation states. Nationalism is their main specter. With the exception of Pille Runnel from the ENM, whose valuable keynote took us behind the scenes at the host museum, the primary concerns of the other keynote speakers were more inflected towards volkerkunde (social anthropology, etc.) disciplinary histories or contexts. Whether overseas colonial projects or the dynamics of settler colonialism (in Australia), colonialism was the specter that haunted their remarks, even when focused on the problems of contemporary national cultures. This distinction was never complete and it is less so in places like modern Europe, but it remains present but not always acknowledged in our discussions. Discussions of projects with source communities, for instance, mean very different things in Berlin or Tartu. One could often feel audience members straining to connect the compelling suggestions made by keynote speakers to their own very different working contexts. I am always hyper sensitive to these dynamics working as a folklorist, ethnologist, and cultural anthropologist in a settler society that has vexing colonial (overseas and internal) circumstances as well as a difficult history of nation building in multicultural-but-unequal circumstances. This is a hard problem to solve because working knowledge of different disciplinary traditions and circumstances are so unevenly spread and widely-read and discussed work in English language museum anthropology has often overwhelmingly favored work in colonial situations over work arising from provincial and national ones.

These remarks are not in any way a criticism. A problem that I have long felt as a museum folklorist who is also a museum anthropologist (and as a teacher of folklore studies and of anthropology) were made still clearer for me in the ICME context. I hope that I can find new ways to help bridge the gap that I am evoking. International meetings where different perspectives and different national and global circumstances converge certainly help. I know that I am not alone in having learned much at the ICME meetings. I would not normally have been able to travel to an international meeting of this sort, thus my visit to Tartu was an extra-ordinary opportunity.

One last ENM note. The ENM stewards another museum site that I visited. As noted in my first post, I visited the Heimtali Museum of Domestic Life near Viljandi. My visit was excellent thanks to the work of my guides Kristi Jõeste and Ave Matsin of the Department of Estonian Native Craft and the kindness of our hostess And Raud. A textile artist, arts professor, and student of Estonian craft, costume and textiles, Ms. Raud founded the museum around her extensive collection. While it is now a branch of the ENM, the Ms. Raud remains the Heimtali Museum of Domestic Life’s greatest guide and interpreter. I thank her and Ave and Kristi for my visit.

My museum engagements in Estonia were inspirational and they will inform my teaching, research, and curatorial work for many years. I am fortunate to have had these opportunities and I thank all those who made them possible, including the Fulbright Specialist Program, the University of Tartu, and the Estonian National Museum.

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