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Mentoring Workshops and Events

The Council for Museum Anthropology is committed to providing meaningful professional development and mentorship for graduate students and young professionals through annual workshops and other events throughout the year. After a 2018 survey to assess member interests and needs, spearheaded by Student Board Member Sowparnika Balaswaminathan, in 2019 CMA began offering a yearly Museum Anthropology Workshop as part of the Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association. The Museum Anthropology Workshop is organized each year by CMA’s Student Board Member along with other Board Members. Workshops have diverse foci, incorporate other CMA members and local museum professionals/scholars as mentors, and may work with museums or cultural centers located in that year’s host city.

In 2021, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, CMA initiated a series of virtual meetings aimed at providing additional opportunities for mentorship, developing skills, sharing work-in-progress, and networking throughout the year.

Annual Museum Anthropology Workshops

2019 Museum Methods Workshop, Vancouver, November 20

Held at the Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, as part of the annual AAA meeting in Vancouver, this four-hour workshop was intended for current and recently graduated students (undergraduate, M.A., and PhD). Participants were mentored on collaborative curating, exhibition techniques, and anthropological materials research by senior scholars and curators in small group sessions. Mentors included Jennifer Kramer (University of British Columbia), Susan Rowley (University of British Columbia), Jennifer Shannon (University of Colorado, Boulder), Joshua Bell (Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History), Diana Marsh (National Anthropological Archives), Morgan Guerin (Musqueam) and Debra Sparrow (Musqueam). Lead CMA organizers: Sowparnika Balaswaminathan and Diana Marsh, with additional support from a AAA Section Mentoring Grant.

Photo Credit: Sowparnika Balaswaminathan
Photo Credit: Sowparnika Balaswaminathan
Photo Credit: Sowparnika Balaswaminathan

2020 Portfolio Development for the Cultural Heritage Sector, Virtual Workshop, December 2

This career portfolio workshop taught students and early career scholars how to communicate skills acquired through volunteer, academic, and paid experiences for future careers in the field of museum anthropology and the cultural sector. Portfolios are a platform to illustrate specific skills and talents, showcase alternative scholarly products such as exhibits, and augment resumes and cover letters by showing process, decision-making, and outcomes. The workshop focused on identifying future career competencies, effectively documenting skills, and developing a professional identity. Through interactive and breakout room exercises, participants began to create their own career portfolio and received feedback from peers, workshop leaders, and CMA mentors that included Cara Krmpotich (University of Toronto), Emily Stokes-Rees (Syracuse University; Museum Anthropology editor), Joshua Bell (Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History), David Odo (Harvard Art Museums), and Kristin Otto (University Museum, New Mexico State University).

Originally planned as a three-hour in-person workshop to be held in St. Louis during the annual AAA meeting, the workshop was re-conceived as a two-hour virtual workshop suited for COVID-19 circumstances. The workshop was facilitated by Dylan Freeman-Grist and Carolina Garcia from Haley Sharpe Design, a Toronto-based international consultancy in the museum and heritage sector. Lead CMA organizers: Kristin Otto, Diana Marsh, and Cara Krmpotich, with additional support from a AAA Section Mentoring Grant.

Photo Credit: Kristin Otto

2021 Mentoring Series and CMA Social Zooms

In 2021, the Council for Museum Anthropology began organizing a series of virtual gatherings, alternating monthly between Mentoring Events and CMA Social Zooms (lead organizers: Kristin Otto and Catherine Nichols). The CMA Social Zooms provide occasions for current and future CMA members to get together to strengthen and build social-professional connections during the pandemic times, when we can’t meet in person. In February, those at the CMA Social Zoom were invited to “bring” something to share – e.g. a digitized museum object or project they love. Similar ways to facilitate connections and share work-in-progress will be part of other CMA Social Zooms.

Photo Credit: Cory Kratz

The Mentoring Series began in March.

Archives 101 for Museum Anthropologists with Dr. Diana Marsh (held Mar 26, 2021)
Chances are, if you’re researching historical museum collections, collectors, or institutions, you’ve considered doing research in archives. Diana Marsh, museum anthropologist-turned-archival studies professor led the event, providing basic tips and tricks on how to navigate archival collections for museum research. She discussed: general principles that govern archival practice, organization and representation; navigating catalogues and finding aids; differences between museum collections (usually, but not always, 3D) and archives (usually, but not always 2D or audiovisual); ways to start identifying relevant archival collections and researching digitally during the pandemic; decrypting archival jargon and debunking archival myths.

Making the Most of your Museum Internship with Dr. David Odo (held May 28, 2021)
If you are planning to intern at a museum this summer or hoping to find an opportunity in the next year or two, or are interested in learning how you can make the most of your experience, join this session facilitated by Dr. David Odo to discuss goal setting, finding a mentor, identifying opportunities for growth, and other important aspects of a successful internship. Former museum interns also participated in this candid discussion of their experiences in order to help you prepare for your museum adventure. Open to anyone interested in pursuing museum-based internships in anthropology and its allied fields.

Close Looking, Careful Visiting: Key Methodologies in Material Culture Research with Dr. Laura Peers (held July 22, 2021)
This session explored close looking and social visiting with ethnographic material culture as ways of learning from historic items in museum collections. Drawing on both literary analysis and Indigenous concepts of sociality linked with elder-items, this session sought to encourage learning from the layered meanings of material culture through very close visual and sensory examination.

Grant Writing in Museum Ethnography with Drs. Jason Baird Jackson and Kristin Otto, and Emily Jean Leischner (October 15, 2021)
Museum anthropologists, museum folklorists, and community-based researchers often share a need to secure funding to support research with existing museum collections and to pursue museum- and material culture-relevant research in both historical archives and contemporary social worlds. In this CMA Mentoring series session, Jason Baird Jackson unpacked the grant application process and shared practical strategies for successfully applying for research grants to support new research work in museum ethnography. While ethnographic collections and their study, together with associated practices of ethnographic fieldwork and ethnohistorical research centered the discussion, many of the processes and practices involved carry over into archaeological and art historical research. To provide additional perspectives during the session, Kristin Otto and Emily Jean Leischner participated in the session as informal respondents.

Mapping the Future: Collaborative Relationships at the Manitoba Museum with Maureen Matthews, Roland Sawatzky, Amelia Fay, Randy Mooi, Kevin Brownlee, Diana Bzdecki-Robson, Graham Young (June 24, 2022 at 1pm CST)
The panel will bring together the curatorial group at the Manitoba Museum whose disciplines span history, cultural anthropology, archaeology, zoology, botany and paleontology who recently worked together to plan, write, and create content for the renovation of over 40 percent of the museum. In doing so, they created galleries with over 30 percent fully integrated Indigenous content, where all the Indigenous exhibits were themselves created as partnerships with Indigenous families, communities and institutions.  In developing the exhibits, the curatorial team had all the usual constraints of lack of space, severe word limits, and extreme time pressure. By working together we were able to respond to the imperatives of collaborative Indigenous representation in the museum and the relational obligations of large and relevant Indigenous collections.

Black Museum Anthropology: A Conversation with Deborah Johnson-Simon, Raymond Codrington, and Irma McClaurin (Aug 25, 2022 6-8pm ET) 

2022 Mentoring Workshop TBA (proposed Wed Nov 9)