Reflections on “Museums Different” – Anthropology News


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Following the CMA’s second biennial conference, these reflections aim to continue conversations among cultural heritage professionals and academics.

In September 2019, the second biennial conference of the Council for Museum Anthropology (CMA) brought together 158 scholars, artists, and museum professionals working in institutions across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Australia. The conference gathered in O’gha Po’oge (White Shell Water Place) on Tewa lands, a place also called Santa Fe, New Mexico. The surrounding geographic region is home to nineteen Pueblo communities and many other Nations and tribes. The conference theme, “Museums Different,” intended to highlight the ways museums are increasingly embracing decolonial initiatives and attempting to reconfigure institutional structures to further inclusivity, equity, and ethical practice.

In 2020, the CMA board issued a call for the third biennial conference, but planning was suspended in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many CMA members have voiced a desire to return to an in-person conference when it is safe to do so, and CMA board members have been discussing timelines and approaches for a third conference. As CMA considers how future meetings will be planned and executed, there are important considerations from 2019 that can guide these decisions.

Group picture in front of the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology on the last day of the 2019 CMA conference.

This article aims to encourage reflection on conference organizing, thought that spurs deliberate action at future meetings. Some of the following points were accomplished to certain degrees at the 2019 CMA meeting, and I make these points to encourage replicating them at future conferences. Some of these ideas were developed during conversations I shared with colleagues at the conference and in the subsequent months following the meeting: Davina Two Bears, Elysia Poon, Felicia Garcia, Erin Monique Grant, Christopher W. Smith, and Emily Jean Leischner. The following points are not exhaustive, and institutional change to challenge and alter colonial structures is specific to a given organization and regional contexts.

Territory acknowledgements and land return

John Garcia (Santa Clara Pueblo) delivered an opening blessing at the start of the 2019 “Museums Different” conference: “This is a very special place in O’gha Po’oge.” Here, conference goers were in a position to acknowledge the land they were presenting on and consider why O’gha Po’oge is more often referred to as Santa Fe. Following this welcome, Lucy Lippard, a New Mexico art critic and curator, delivered the opening keynote asking artists and anthropologists to consider two questions: “Are you wanted here? By whom?” These messages prompted attendees to examine their ethics in past and present work.

Meaningful territory and land acknowledgements should be written and spoken at the opening of conferences. The 2019 CMA meeting included a conference-wide written acknowledgement (in print and online). Museums and cultural heritage institutions should implement these acknowledgements and also consider how they should be enacted within institutional processes. If these gestures are commitments to decolonial work, they should be accompanied by decisive actions—including, but not limited to, political, social, and economic support for the return of land. For further information and ideas, see the Guide to Indigenous Land and Territorial Acknowledgements for Cultural Institutions, the Native Governance Center Guide, the Resource Generation Land Reparations and Indigenous Solidarity Toolkit, Howie Echo-Hawk’s medium article “Fuck your land acknowledgement,” and Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang’s article “Decolonization is Not a Metaphor.”

Challenging extractive relationships

The final plenary of the 2019 conference responded to many of the ideas shared during the meeting. Organized by Conference Committee co-chair Bruce Bernstein, speakers included Governor Brian Vallo (Pueblo of Acoma), artist and curator Teri Greeves (Kiowa), independent scholar Tessie Naranjo (Santa Clara Pueblo), Assistant Director of Collections at the National Museum of the American Indian Cynthia Chavez Lamar (San Felipe Pueblo/Hopi/Tewa/Navajo), Poeh Cultural Center Collections Manager Lynda Romero (Pueblo of Pojoaque), and Director of the Navajo Nation Museum Manny Wheeler (Diné). Many of these panelists shared experiences negotiating repatriations and loans within settler colonial systems. For example, multiple panelists spoke about a long-term loan, in which one hundred ceramics traveled to the Poeh Cultural Center from the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), which Chavez Lamar chronicled in a 2019 article. Naranjo, Chavez Lamar, and Romero considered the impact of these pots returning to Tewa communities and lands but also the impact this loan had on NMAI’s institutional structures. Governor Vallo used the term “the cost of culture” to describe the monetary costs Indigenous Nations and communities pay to engage in repatriation work, highlighting ongoing extractive relationships. Speaking about the conference, Wheeler stated that non-Native people are the ones talking the most. Greeves expanded this sentiment, asserting that non-Native people need to be better listeners. While many sessions I attended during this conference included Indigenous presenters, most were chaired by settlers. How much active listening are these chairs doing in that role?

When planning conferences, organizing boards and committees should create systems whereby attendees from host communities or Nation(s) (Indigenous Nations/groups on whose traditional and ancestral territories the conference is taking place) do not have to pay registration fees to attend panels or present papers. Further, anyone that wishes to see a presentation, which includes information generated with or about themselves, their families, their Nations or communities, or a marginalized group they are affiliated with, should not have to pay attendance fees. According to the CMA Organizing Committee, no Indigenous attendees paid conference fees, a departure from the registration processes of many prior museum and anthropology meetings. Nevertheless, I understand some prospective attendees did not know until quite late that the CMA had scholarships available. Communicating this information effectively is crucial.

Candid photograph of conference attendees

Conference attendees sharing food and conversation at the IAIA open house.

Likewise, certain institutions stewarding global Indigenous collections or Indigenous collections from North America do not charge admission/collections visit fees to those groups. The Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia does not charge admission fees to Indigenous peoples. The Indian Arts Research Center at the School for Advanced Research does not charge tour/collections visits fees to Indigenous peoples of North America and they are open to waiving entrance fees to Indigenous peoples from other locations.

Strategic planning and organizing

Though I imagine this is a common experience for other conference organizing committees, I understand that the CMA Organizing Committee did not achieve successful, early preparations for every plenary session. Some plans fell through and some changes to plenaries occurred quite late. In the future, conference organizers may want to consider how an early lack of successful planning can determine who leads conversations during the conference. Unsuccessful preparations might mean settler professionals and scholars are leading plenary discussions when this was not intended. Organizing committees and boards should be aware of this when planning future meetings.

Further resources for museums, libraries, and archives

Throughout this piece, I have included links to sources that may be helpful for museum professionals and academics examining the organizations of which they are a part. With reference to archives, the “Protocols for Native American Archival Materials” bullets action items surrounding how archives, libraries, and Indigenous communities can build relationships of mutual respect, and work together to develop policies for accessibility, use, reproduction, and repatriation of materials. The American Philosophical Society Library’s “Protocols for the Treatment of Indigenous Materials” describes policies surrounding how library staff consult with Indigenous peoples, categorize archival materials as (possibly) culturally sensitive or not, screen requests to view these materials, and make decisions on whether or not to allow reproductions. With reference to museum collections, the Alutiiq Museum’s “Guidelines for the Spiritual Care of Objects” describes Alutiiq perspectives on ancestral materials and the museum’s approach to caring for these materials, delineating culturally appropriate stewardship. Within the “Shared Stewardship of Collections” guidelines, the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage expresses commitments to ensuring respectful collections management of and accessibility to the materials within the Rinzler Archives. Emphasizing how collaboration is an “ongoing proactive process,” this document articulates guiding principles about the shared authority of descendant communities for outlining appropriate care of collections and in ensuring respectful self-representations. These sources point to shifts toward increased community engagement and/or more socially responsible work occurring within museums.

Museums and social justice

There is more to museum social justice work than the conference focus. Most of the above points can also be considered in relation to BIPOC peoples broadly, those in economically precarious positions, LGBTQIA2S+ folks, those with disabilities, and other groups who are systematically oppressed. For example, the CMA “Museums Different” website and program does not include information about venue accessibility, which could be helpful for people with disabilities who are planning their conference travel. For further resources, see the “Social Justice and Museums Resource List.”

Monique Scott writes that “it is easier to critique than construct.” It is going to take more (de)construction to transform museums and academic organizations into different entities, ones that are socially and ethically responsible. Readers might consider the following questions: how can a given cultural heritage institution use resources and skills to support the priorities of those who see their ancestors’ works within collections? How can that institution build social, generative relationships over those based on property and extraction? When and where can settler professionals working at that institution listen more and listen better?



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Studying Historical Artifacts on YouTube


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A new community of YouTube creators are using video to give audiences a close-up view of antique garments and accessories. Can they inspire museums to invest in new ways to share their collections and expertise?

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit museums and heritage institutions with unprecedented, multifacted challenges. Necessary closures and social distancing measures have drastically reduced on-site access, with terrible impact on these institutions’ finances. Since many museums have moved to virtual content, they have proposed more online talks, special events, virtual tours, larger database access, and social media challenges. Pleas for museums to produce more digital content are not new, but the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a new urgency for museums to adapt to the crisis and continue to address long-standing calls for transformation.

Since most work in museum collections was put to a stop in 2020, a growing community of creators and audience members—sharing an interest in examining objects from the past—has congregated in new online spaces. YouTube has seen the exponential growth of a niche called CosTube, where dress historians, tailors, and seamstresses share educational content documenting their own production of historical garments and reviewing the costumes in popular dramas. In March 2020, the close-up examination of antique clothing emerged as a new trend under the algorithm-friendly guise of the unboxing or haul—a popular genre of videos where an individual reacts on camera to a new acquisition.

Abby Cox and Nicole Rudolph are two prominent creators in this genre, using close-up examination of antique garments and accessories in their video productions. In this medium, they draw from their experience as museum workers and historians to teach their audience the intricacies of object analysis and historical sewing techniques. Their content provides radical access to collections that are most often in museum trust. Their productions challenge museums to adapt the ways in which they share their collections and expertise with a global audience.

Technical ways of looking

Writing about Indigenous material culture in museums, Métis anthropologist Sherry Farrell Racette has examined the potential for objects to be “teachers” and “animate storytellers.” To access these stories, Beverly Lemire, Laura Peers and Anne Whitelaw have discussed the promise and limitations of visual engagements, exploring the methodology of “close looking” and responding to the object’s “insistent materiality.” This YouTube video genre shows how objects can effectively lead visual storytelling. It proposes the visual and emotional experience of close looking to a large audience outside of academia and the museum collections room.

In these videos, the creator’s gaze is often searching for technical details that help us understand the garment’s fabrication and its subsequent alterations. Serving the needs of the historical costuming community, these extant garments serve as inspiration and teaching tools to incorporate more original practice into individual projects. For Rudolph, looking with the goal of reconstruction in mind reveals not only more details, but also insights into past technical and cultural practices. “That is the purpose of a lot of my videos,” Rudolph told me, “trying to understand why they did things, and how that actually can inform us, not just the construction, but how these things were worn and used, or functioned.”

Image description: A hand shows the backside of a fabric-covered button sewn on a blue antique garment embellished with white soutache trim.
Caption: Abby Cox shows the details of a 1910s jacket from her private collection on her YouTube channel.
Abby Cox

In examining antique garments, these filmmakers aim to connect their audience with a humanized past. For Cox, clothing is an anthropological constant—an aspect of life that is experienced throughout time and space. “Clothing makes history more tangible. It makes the past more real because it’s something that we can all relate to.” To help her audience relate to the clothing on an emotional and technological level, the garments shown on camera tend to be ordinary pieces. “I aim to collect garments that are normal people’s clothes,” Cox explained to me.

While researchers might mention technological enhancements to their own methods of looking, YouTube creators confront the technical limitations of their equipment to show this information to their audience. Some filmmakers might be restricted to a single, static overhead shot. Others might have a moving camera in one hand, making it more difficult to handle and show the garment. Most videos in the genre combine several shots and camera angles, pairing audio cues with specific shots in post-production.

In comparison to the still photographs available on museum databases and individual blogs, video provides creators with a dynamic balance between wide and close shots. “Video can provide context,” Cox emphasized. Shot at 60 frames per second in bright light, her footage is slowed down and stabilized in post-production. Shadows are lifted and highlights raised to get a clearer image. “This is about data […] if you stop the video, I want you to be able to learn something from it.”

Close shots are produced with the viewer in mind. Like many other CosTubers shooting close-ups of minute handwork, Rudolph sets her camera on a tripod with an extension arm angled over the garment. “Our ideal camera position is like a person watching you. Where would a person looking at this want to be? What angle could they see things from? And so, that sets up like a little person, thankfully [able to see] things without getting in the way, and that also allows me to keep the tripod further back from my actual workspace.”

Intimacy and access

These camera angles and close-ups create a visual intimacy with the object that is often reserved for curators, collections managers, and researchers with access to museum collections. For Cox, collecting and sharing her collection online came from experiencing the limitations of museums, especially during the pandemic, when access to the primary sources of dress history is even harder than usual: “I’m frustrated with museums, as a former museum person.”

This public education initiative overlaps with the purpose of museums. The enthusiasm and engagement this content has created highlights the gaps in the niche that museums would be well positioned to partially fill. Cox hopes that her and her colleagues’ example could help future-proof museums. “If [museums] think about it as a service—and they provide a service to people—they can actually help spread their mission so much further, by taking it digital.”

By adding this genre to their YouTube presence, museums could significantly expand access to their collections. As Rudolph elaborated, “Bringing it into [people’s] homes in a different format, gives you a whole other audience and appreciation. And then, people start to realize how important those things are and be willing to invest, you know, $3 a month to see it keep happening and to see more things.” Rudolph outlined how grassroots subscription models such as Patreon could provide additional funding when ticket sales are dwindling due to the pandemic. This strategy, she and Cox suggested, should also apply to post-pandemic times, as a way to better reach public audiences who do not travel to museums for physical, financial, or social reasons.

Grassroots funding models

As full-time YouTubers specializing in this niche have experienced, sharing their collections and their research for free on YouTube can also be a successful financial venture, from which museums could learn. “There are a lot of opportunities to monetize museums in a way that’s beyond the typical museum admission ticket, overpriced lunch, souvenir, and postcard,” Cox pointed out. Monetizing YouTube videos, offering online courses, or downloadable information packets, could all be ways for museums to create passive income streams and continue to perform their mission during and after the pandemic.

Cox also sees the role that she and other CosTubers could play in directing their sizeable audiences to museums in the future—in person or online,

I want to go, visit a museum, look at some stuff in their collection, be able to get the content and the B-Roll that I want, tell the story of the dress, allow the curator to share their expertise, give them screen time. And then, I want to take the AdSense revenue that I earned from those videos that I release and donate it back to the museum specifically to the costume collection, so they can either use that money to help fund an exhibition, help fund an acquisition, a publication, an internship.

These innovative avenues for museum funding should also challenge museums to examine the ways in which their current funding structure might influence their output. Would responding to immediate audience feedback and suggestions change museum ways of structuring exhibits, collecting, communication, or research? This growing YouTube niche should inspire museums to invest more in video as a way to share their collections and expertise. For Rudolph, it does not have to be a high-production effort from the start. “It can seem really daunting and obviously there’s a whole variety of levels of effort. But anything is something […] you can just get a $20 lavaliere microphone, hook it up to your phone that has a decent camera on it, and spend 20 minutes talking about all the things in a garment, put that video up, and that can be all that it takes [to get] the ball rolling.”

Lise Puyo is a PhD candidate at the University of Pennsylvania and École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. Her dissertation focuses on the agency of wampum belts sent by Indigenous Christians to Catholic sanctuaries in Europe between the 1650s and the 1830s.

Christy DeLair and Catherine Nichols are the section contributing editors for the Council for Museum Anthropology.

Cite as: Puyo, Lise. 2021. “Studying Historical Artifacts on YouTube.” Anthropology News website, March 25, 2021. DOI: 10.14506/AN.1605



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Museum Anthropology at the 2019 AAA/CASCA Annual Meeting


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The Council for Museum Anthropology is looking forward to a vibrant AAA/CASCA program this year.

All members (or those interested in joining) are encouraged to attend both the CMA business meeting (Friday, November 22 at 12:15 p.m.) and reception (Friday, November 22 at 8:00 p.m.). In addition, Aaron Glass, this year’s winner of the CMA Michael Ames Award for Innovative Museum Anthropology, will be installing a complete panel version of the award-winning exhibit “The Story Box” at the Annual Meeting (in Meeting Room 20 of the East Building) on Thursday and Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. both days. There will be a hosted viewing period (with Aaron Glass​ in attendance) on Thursday from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Ethnographic Terminalia is also back this year with innovative installations at The Hangar at the Center for Digital Media, 577 Great Northern Way, Vancouver, BC V5T 1E1.

Wednesday, November 20

Museum Methods Workshop (2-0015)
10:00 a.m.–2:30 p.m.
Offsite | Museum of Anthropology 6393 NW Marine Dr | Vancouver | BC V6T 1Z2

The Post-Anthropological: Convergences across Museums, Art, and Colonialism (2-0635)
4:30 p.m.–6:15 p.m.
Room 116 | Vancouver CC WEST | West Level 1

Thursday, November 21

The Politics and Stewardship of Collections Data in a Digital Climate (3-0230)
8:00 a.m.–9:45 a.m.
Ballroom B | Vancouver CC WEST | West Level 1

Changing Climate, Shifting Terrains: Indigenizing Museums (3-0385)
10:15 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
Room 122 | Vancouver CC WEST | West Level 1

Basketry in the Contemporary World (3-0735)
2:00 p.m.–3:45 p.m.
Room 112 | Vancouver CC WEST | West Level 1

Friday, November 22

Museums as Sites of and for Research (4-0125)
8:00 a.m.–9:45 a.m.
Room 16 | Vancouver CC EAST | East Meeting Level

Council for Museum Anthropology (CMA) Business Meeting (all members please attend!) (4-0675)
12:15 p.m.–1:45 p.m.
Room 120 | Vancouver CC WEST | West Level 1

The Diaspora of Objects – Distributed Collections in the Time of Globalisation (4-1010)
2:00 p.m.–3:45 p.m.
Ballroom B | Vancouver CC EAST | East Convention Level

Engaging Collections: From Culture to Citizenship Empowerment (4-1155)
4:15 p.m.–6:00 p.m.
Room 204 | Vancouver CC WEST | West Level 2

Council for Museum Anthropology (CMA) Reception
8:00 p.m.–10:00 p.m.
Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art | 639 Hornby Street | Vancouver | BC V6C 2G3

Saturday, November 23

Indigenous and Local Collecting: Remembering What Museum History Forgets (5-0150)
8:00 a.m.–9:45 a.m.
Room 115 | Vancouver CC WEST | West Level 1

Past, Present, and Future Climates of Collaborative Anthropologies with First Nations in Vancouver (5-0470)
10:15 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
Room 207 | Vancouver CC WEST | West Level 2

Collaborative Dynamics in the Art Scene (5-1085)
4:15 p.m.–6:00 p.m.
Room 114 | Vancouver CC WEST | West Level 1

Sunday, November 24

Relational Museum Collections: Indigenous Intangible Heritage and Skills Repatriation (6-0105)
8:00 a.m.–9:45 a.m.
Room 111 | Vancouver CC WEST | West Level 1

Cite as: Marsh, Diana. 2019. “Museum Anthropology at the 2019 AAA/CASCA Annual Meeting.” Anthropology News website, November 18, 2019. DOI: 10.1111/AN.1317



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The Council for Museum Anthropology Program in San José


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Council for Museum Anthropology members, welcome to San José, CA! CMA is looking forward to this year’s AAA Annual Meeting, taking place November 14–18.

All members are encouraged to attend our general Business Meeting (4-0650 in the AAA program) on Friday, November 16, 12:15–1:30 PM to learn more about CMA initiatives, the journal, board membership, and upcoming events.

That evening, we invite you to a members-only reception!

San José Museum of Quilts & Textiles
520 S 1st St San Jose, CA 95113
Friday, November 16, 7:45–10:30 p.m

2018 Annual Meeting Events

There are workshops and tours at this year’s meeting that may be of interest to CMA members, including the following:

(2-0260) Archival Research 101
Wednesday, November 14, 1:00 p.m.–5:00 p.m.

Organizers

Diana E. Marsh
National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian NMNH

Gina Rappaport
National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian NMNH

Alex Pezzati
Penn Museum Archives

Guha Shankar
American Folklife Center, Library of Congress

Laura Cutter
National Museum of Health and Medicine Archives

  • understand the general principles that govern archival organization and descriptive practices, as well as decrypt archival jargon
  • Understand the types of records that are found in archival repositories and how they may be used
  • Determine strategies for locating materials of interest in archival repositories and gain skills in searching online catalogs and finding aids

(3-0998) Field Trip to the Computer History Museum
Thursday, November 15, 2:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m.

A guided tour of the Computer History Museum will highlight past and ongoing contributions of anthropologists to the development of Silicon Valley.

2018 Museum Anthropology Panels

We are anticipating a fantastic AAA meeting this November with intriguing panels sponsored by the Council of Museum Anthropology. Notable relevant and CMA-sponsored panels include the following:

Wednesday, November 14

(2-0620) Materiality, Movement, and Meaning: Resistance, Resilience, and Adaptation in the Indigenous ‘Deep Local’
4:30 p.m.–6:30 p.m.

W. Warner Wood
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Hearst Ginda Verde: Following a Textile Pattern, Unraveling a Global Mimetic Meshwork

Hadley Jensen
Bard Graduate Center / American Museum of Natural History
The Art of Making and the Making of an Art Form: The Production and Preservation of Indigenous Knowledge in Navajo Dye Charts

Alanna Cant
University of Kent, Canterbury
13 Grains of Maize: Material Religion and History in the ‘Deep Local’ of Witchcraft in Oaxaca, Mexico

Ira Jacknis
UC Berkeley
Interlacing Traditions: Weaving as Ethnography

David Odo
Harvard Art Museums, Harvard University
The “Deep Local” Comes to Campus: the global flow of contemporary indigenous art from Australia at the Harvard Art Museums

Discussant
Joshua A. Bell
Smithsonian NMNH

Thursday, November 15

(3-0360) Approaches to Expanding the Use of Anthropological Archives
10:15 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

Diana E. Marsh
National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian NMNH

Adrianna Link
American Philosophical Society

Presenters

David Zeitlyn
University of Oxford

Sarah Buchanan
University of Missouri

Ricardo Punzalan
University of Maryland, College Park

Emily Leischner
University of British Columbia

(3-0870) Institutional Reflections and Research Directions in Museum Anthropology
2:00 p.m.–3:45 p.m.

Elizabeth Oakley
University of Pennsylvania
Our Museums, Our Selves: Reproducing Intellectual Subjectivities and Anthropological Subjects

Presenters

Christopher Green
University of Pennsylvania
Re-Collecting Race: Imaginaries of Difference at the Musée du quai Branly

Maia Behrendt
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
The Museum and the Representation of Indigenous Cultures: From Static Dioramas to Fluid and Evolving Spaces for Collaboration

Diana Marks
Independent Researcher
Missionaries, Zonians, Traders: Adaptations of Guna Indigenous Dress in 20th Century Panama

Nicole Ursin
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Understanding Museum Demographics: Historic Arkansas Museum

(3-1038) Out of the Ashes:International Solidarity and the Challenges for Rebuilding Anthropology at Brazil’s National Museum in Rio de Janeiro (Late-Breaking Session)
4:15 p.m.–6:00 p.m.

Beth Conklin
Vanderbilt University

Chair
Carlos Londoño Sulkin
University of Regina

Carlos Fausto
Museu Nacional, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro

Aparecida Vilaça
Museu Nacional/UFRJ

Danilyn Rutherford
Wenner-Gren Foundation

Ed Liebow
American Anthropological Association

Friday, November 16

(4-0460) Pragmatic Imagination, University Collections, and the New Museum Anthropology
10:15 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

Organizer, Chair, and Presenter

Christina Hodge
Stanford University Archaeology Collections
Pragmatic Virtuality: A Strategic Partnership in 3D Scanning

Presenters

Margaret Bruchac
University of Pennsylvania
Approaching Reconciliation: Thoughts on Transforming Repatriation Practice

Esteban Gomez
University of Denver
Artistic Explorations of Place: Creative Pragmatism in University Anthropology Museums

Amanda Guzman
University of California, Berkeley
Teaching Museum Anthropology and Cultural Equity by Design

Louise Hamby
Australian National University
The Potential of the Berndt Flour Bin

Emily Rogers
Indiana University
Exhibiting Moments: Cherokee Craft at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures

Christina Kreps
University of Denver

Saturday, November 17

(5-0235) Voices out of the dark? Contemporary museum-like practices and culturalized politics
8:00 a.m.–9:45 a.m.

Mary Mostafanezhad
University of Hawaii, Manoa

Organizers and Presenters

Paula Mota Santos
Fernando Pessoa University & CAPP/ISCSP-Lisbon University
Bringing Slavery into light in Post-colonial Portugal

Hugo DeBlock
Ghent University, Belgium
Objects as Archives of a Disrupted Past: Art In and Out of Vanuatu

Presenters
Rachel Giraudo
California State University, Northridge
Stemming the Stoner Stereotype: Post-Prohibition Representations of Cannabis Cultures in California

Cristiana Bastos
University of Lisbon
Plantation Memories, Labor Identities, and the Celebration of Heritage: the Portuguese in Hawaii

Kathleen Adams
Loyola University Chicago
Authoritative Aspirations, Emotional Considerations: From Toraja Grave Displays to Locally-Configured Museums

Christina Kreps
University of Denver

(5-0415) How Experimental Are You? Museum anthropology as a catalyst for shaping the discipline
10:15 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

Jennifer Kramer
University of British Columbia
Exhibiting Nuxalk Radio at the University of British Columbia – An Experimental Crucible for Healing and Well-being

Chair and Presenter

Gwyneira Isaac
Smithsonian NMNH
Have You Socialized Your Humans Yet? A graduate course in anthropology, museums and the body

Presenters

Jen Shannon
University of Colorado – Boulder
NAGPRA Comics: Risking the media for the message

Cara Krmpotich
University of Toronto
“An Anonymous Stitch in the Quilt”: An experiment in collaborative making and listening

Lea McChesney
University of New Mexico, Maxwell Museum of Anthropology
“Keeping Our Connections to Up Home”: Museum-Community Collaborations, Gendered Knowledge, and Community Building in the Hopi Pottery Oral History Project

Mark Auslander
Michigan State University Museum
This is our Home: Museums and Rights to the City in an Era of Crisis

Jennifer Kirker
The Pick Museum, Northern Illinois University
Experiments in activism: a life history approach to academic museums

(5-0800) Fostering the Anthropological Imagination: The work of Frances and Howard Morphy
2:00 p.m.– 3:45 p.m.

Organizer and Presenter

Joshua A. Bell
Smithsonian NMNH
Clever People: The Collaborative Scholarship and Transformative work of Frances and Howard Morphy

Veronica Strang
Durham University
Looking Out From Ethnography: celebrating cultural diversity and cross-cultural comparison

Fred Myers
New York University
Engaging the Other: Aesthetics, Ritual and the Category of Art in the Work of Howard Morphy

Annick Thomassin
Australian National University
Politics, Sea rights and Fisheries Co-management in Torres Strait, Australia

Corinne Kratz
Emory University
Morphy + Morphy = Imagination²

Chair and Discussant
Francoise Dussart
University of Connecticut

Marcus Banks
University of Oxford

Diana E. Marsh is Secretary for the CMA. Contact her at [email protected]

Cite as: Marsh, Diana. 2018. “The Council for Museum Anthropology Program in San José.” Anthropology News website, November 8, 2018. DOI: 10.1111/AN.1028



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Ethnography of Museum Anthropology Futures


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Introducing the Inaugural Conference of the Council for Museum Anthropology.

The following is co-authored by three emerging museum anthropology professionals tasked with using ethnographic methods to critically reflect on the inaugural Council for Museum Anthropology conference, which took place May 25–27 of this year at Concordia University, Montreal, QC. This is the first installment in the three-part series.

The inaugural meeting of the Council for Museum Anthropology (CMA) happened May 25–27 at Concordia University in Montreal, QC. The conference, titled “Museum Anthropology Futures,” brought together roughly 100 scholars and professionals, established and emerging, for three days of presentations, conversation, and community building. The conference coalesced at the CMA section meeting during the AAAs several years ago. Organizers Joshua Bell (Curator of Globalization, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution), Erica Lehrer (Associate Professor, Departments of History and Sociology and Anthropology), Jennifer Shannon (Curator and Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology, University of Colorado – Boulder), and John Lukavic (Associate Curator of Native Arts, Denver Art Museum), noted that growing enthusiasm among CMA members for a community-specific space outside of the annual AAA section meeting had finally grown to a point that such a conference was feasible.

What is “Conference Ethnography”?

The concept of conference ethnography stemmed from Jennifer Shannon’s dissertation research, in which conferences were one of her field sites. She and fellow organizer, Joshua Bell, approached us early this year to conduct a “conference ethnography” of the inaugural CMA Conference. The resulting project endeavored to document the development of ideas, community building, and the overall success of the conference, then reflect upon emergent themes through written reports. To accomplish these goals, we employed the ethnographic methods of participant observation, interview, and survey.

Ultimately, our understanding of the conference is rooted in three phases of interaction: involvement in the conference planning process, attendance of the conference proper, and post-conference communications. Due to the organizers’ interest in weaving the ethnography process into the fabric of the conference itself, we were in regular communication with the organizers and student organizing committee in the months leading up to the event regarding the goals of the project, logistical considerations, and the content and design of the conference program.

Pre-conference communication allowed us to explore goals and hopes for the outcome of the conference, as well as the ideologies which informed its content. We ensured that at least one ethnographer was present at each session and social event. This was possible thanks to two volunteer assistants, Molly Kamph and Sadie Colebank, who graciously offered their time and skills. We used official CMA social media accounts to share observations and photos throughout the conference to digitally interact with attendees. Additionally, we accepted every invitation to unofficial social gatherings.

Post-conference, we designed a survey in collaboration with conference organizers which was distributed to all attendees, presenters, staff, and organizers. At this time, we received 24 survey responses out of 103 recipients. Our dataset at this time includes photographs, videos, interview audio recordings, written notes, official conference materials, survey responses, and social media activity.

We would like to acknowledge several ways in which this project has been fundamentally unique. The most notable is the very brief existence of the “field site” environment—three days of conference activities at Concordia. This project necessarily straddled a line between promotion of the conference itself and critical engagement with its structure, function, and content. Accordingly, one of our intentions was to utilize this project to get a measure of “the state of the field.” We note that the individuals gathered, while influential in the field, do not wholly represent contemporary ideas and practices or the demographics of the field. In fact, who was and was not represented speaks volumes about the “state of the field,” something we will address directly in the following installments.

It must also be noted that this project was commissioned by the organizers of the conference. All three ethnographers were paid for their labor. We have established strong methodological standards and ethical boundaries to help us navigate this dynamic. These include limiting data access to only ourselves, and doing the work of analysis and writing on our own, non-paid time. While we respect our obligation to the organizers, we also feel a very strong obligation to the attendees of the conference who shared personal opinions and reflections about their experiences at the conference and in the field at large.

We recognize that our own demographic(s) impact our analysis of the conference proceedings and the conversations we were a part of. As three young, white, female emerging museum anthropologists, we came into the environment of the conference with pre-existing (and passionate) opinions on the field. We have attempted to listen carefully to the perspectives of all attendees, but cannot deny the effect of our identities upon our interpretation(s). Our findings strongly represent the voices of the young, female, students and emerging professionals in attendance, but we have attempted to mitigate that inequity through continually soliciting feedback via a variety of media.

What did ‘Museum Anthropology Futures’ look like?:

Through non-traditional presentation sessions (i.e., roundtables, workshops, pecha-kucha style presentations, and themed lunch tables), attendees took part in discussions of such topics as: decolonizing museologies, collaborative practices and politics, student perspectives on the field, teaching and mentorship, the role of technology in the future of museum anthropology, teaching with museum collections, and the role of activism in the museum.

Currently, museum anthropology in the United States is largely dominated by a focus on North American indigenous communities. While this conference certainly focused on these topics, it also included voices from anthropologists who study non-American Diasporic communities and Holocaust museums, among others. A standout session was the keynote, given by Wayne Modest (Head of the Research Center for Material Culture, Tropenmuseum, Museum Volkenkunde and Africa Museums), in which he discussed the role of activism in the museum, today’s “anxious politics,” and the wounds of anthropological and museological history.

Many participants of the conference expressed hope to foster a stronger museum anthropology community, in which diverse practitioners and academics can connect. These connections were fostered by the innovative structure of the conference, in which there was roughly equal time for socializing and community-building as there was for sessions. Importantly, 92 percent of respondents to a post-conference survey stated that their attendance at Museum Anthropology Futures connected them to the broader community of museum anthropology. Overall, our findings showed that the conference was very well received, and most participants cited feeling invigorated, connected, and inspired afterwards, though some did not, citing a divide between emerging academics and established professionals.

The second installment of this series will constitute a more thorough critical discussion of the data collected and our overall impressions. The third and final essay will expand on our findings and propose ways in which museum anthropology can move forward within anthropology, institutions, academia, and beyond. We will be discussing individual presentations and presenters throughout. For a reflection on each day’s events, written by us, see the Council for Museum Anthropology blog.

Find the full conference schedule here.

Haley Bryant (MA, GWU 2015) currently works as a digitization technician and as a research assistant for the Smithsonian Institution’s Department of Anthropology. Her academic interests include: community archiving projects, indigenous systems of knowledge organization and production, activism and advocacy, and experimental ethnography—particularly film. [email protected]

Emily Cain (MA, GWU 2015) manages cultural projects, engages with anthropological collections, and promotes public access to objects and information for the Department of Anthropology at NMNH as a curatorial assistant and digitization specialist. When not at the museum, she draws on her passion for community collaboration and experimental ethnography to reconnect with and contribute to her West Virginian heritage. [email protected]

Lillia McEnaney (BA, Hamilton College 2017) focuses her research on the American Southwest, visual and material culture, the anthropology of indigenous religion(s), and community-based collections and exhibitions. Lillia has been the CMA Blog Intern since 2014 and will be attending New York University in Fall 2017. [email protected]

Cite as: Bryant, Haley, Emily Cain, and Lillia McEnaney. 2017. “Ethnography of Museum Anthropology Futures.” Anthropology News website, August 11, 2017. doi: 10.1111/AN.523



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