Tag: Cultural Heritage

Reality Television & Archaeology

SARThe latest issue of the Society for American Archaeology‘s (SAA) Archaeological Record Volume 15, No. 2, March 2015 contains a special section – Archaeological Practice on Reality Television – edited by my colleague and former SAA Executive Board liaison for the Public Education Committee, Sarah Herr.

The “From the President” column of the issue provides an excellent introduction and context for the reality television discussion.  President Jeffrey H. Altschul is to be congratulated for taking on the reality television and archaeology topic in a way that proved quite productive.  Too often, our professional disciplines only become involved when our turf is directly threatened and then in a rather holier-than-thou manner.  Over a multi-year period Jeff has been intimately engaged in the reality television topic.  As his SAA President’s term comes to an end, he has begun to see the fruits of that work.

His column details the multi-year conversations with the National Geographic Channel around their portrayal of value, broadly defined, of the material culture at archaeological sites.  Jeff’s leadership in this area produced visible changes in the popular Diggers program, including the opportunity for archaeologists to comment and make recommendations on the rough cut versions of episodes.

The entire issue of the March 2015 Archaeological Record is relevant to the diverse publics interested in cultural heritage preservation and presentation:

  •  Articles by Jim Bruseth, Sarah Whitcher Kansa and Carrie Dennett discuss the economic and other implications of the SAA considering a variety of Open Access options for the organization’s journals.
  • Sarah Herr introduces the section on reality television, providing some background for the discussion.  Sarah also interviews John Francis, Vice President for Research Conservation and Exploration at National Geographic Society (NGS).  Francis reviews the more than one century of NGS contributions to archaeology and specifically discusses the Diggers show and how he did not expect some of negative feedback.  While agreeing to the need for substantive change in the show, he also encourages archaeologists to consider the challenge of holding an audience’s attention when reporting research and to develop an eye for storytelling.
  • Eduardo Pagán, the four-season co-host of PBS’s The History Detectives provides an excellent overview of the history and economic considerations of reality television.  He concludes by stating “I remain hopeful that scholars and professionals in the field can discover ways of harnessing the power of television.  We must reach beyond our classrooms to find effective ways of demonstrating and sharing what we do as scholars and professionals . . . “
  • Meg Watters writes about the reality show Time Team produced for 20 years in the UK and the more recent Time Team America in the US.  Meg writes that  “Time Team America‘s goal is to represent the diverse archaeological resources in the United States and to address global issues such as climate change or the movement of people.”  A difference with Diggers is Time Team America’s focus on archaeological methods of research at each site that are also reported online.  Watters notes that the Time Team America members follow the advice of John Francis to link science and storytelling.  Watters notes that the archaeologists and other researchers at the sites investigated by Time Team America report the program has a positive impact on the public support for the site research.  Watters concludes that for archaeology reality shows to succeed professionals must be more than consultants but involved in program development.  She sees Time Team America as beginning that process.
  • Giovanna Peebles advocates using reality television to be part of the solution and not add to the problem. Giovanna chaired the SAA Task Force on metal detecting of archaeological sites on reality television.  She notes that the “Task Force quickly identified three distinctive but related opportunities for the SAA to explore: improving communications and public education, enhancing relationships with metal detectorists, and working together with the producers of reality television shows.
  • articles by Matthew Reeves on working with metal detectorists, Richard Pettigrew on video production, and Jeffery Hanson on creating a preservation ethic.

This thematic issue of the Archaeological Record is an important read for all cultural heritage professionals and students.  I am particularly pleased that the SAA charged Sarah Herr with pulling together the diverse group of experts for the issue.  The volume speaks well of the SAA understanding of the need to engage with the multiple publics who through their tax dollars and other time and resource commitments make the work of cultural heritage professionals possible.

Museums as Community Assets

Newton

Brandi Newton

So we have gotten to that time of the year where in my museum studies classes I always ask students to respond to the question below.  In this semester’s undergraduate Introduction to Museums course, Brandi Newton, an art history major provided a particularly insightful and compelling response.  The question:

Put yourself in the position of John or Josephine Q. Public. In the current economic chaos, the bank is foreclosing on their home, they have lost their jobs, and the city just reduced their public services. In referring to the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the House Budget Committee recently argued that “The activities and content funded by these agencies…are generally enjoyed by people of higher income levels, making them a wealth transfer from poorer to wealthier citizens.” Isn’t your research or the position you aspire to a museum professional just another example of this wealth transfer? What do John and Josephine Q. Public get for their tax dollars that fund your research/position?

Museums: Important Community Assets

 by Brandi Newton

In recent years The House Budget Committee stated that museums are essentially nothing more than a wealth transfer from the poor to the rich. If this wealth transfer were to exist then any professional working in a museum would be a participant in maintaining this transfer. In this paper however, I will argue that this wealth transfer either does not exist or is so small that it should not be counted as a loss. I will do this by illuminating the percentage of tax dollars actually used by museums and highlighting the missions of a handful of museums based on educating the public while supporting these claims through examples of funded programs designed to give back, often at not cost, to the community.

Greater than 93 percent of annual not for profit museum budgets are covered by either revenue or private donations leaving less than seven percent to be covered by a combination of local, state, and federal taxes (National Endowment for the Arts 2012). Based on these numbers one could actually argue the opposite of what The House Budget Committee stated. Since private donations from foundations, corporations, and individuals compose 38.2 percent of annual museum budgets, the wealthy are in fact transferring their wealth to the greater community not the other way around. To put this further in perspective, data from 2013 showed that “the $146 million budget of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) represents just 0.012% (about one one-hundredth of one percent) of federal discretionary spending” (National Endowment for the Arts 2013:1). This amount of money is a drop in the bucket for federal spending, yet despite their lack of financial support from the government, museums still find ways to give back to their communities.

As described in their mission statement, the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee seeks to benefit its visitors and community by inspiring “participation in civil and human rights efforts globally, through [their] collections, exhibitions and educational programs” (Stokes-Casey 2014:2). This museum benefits its community by giving back in ways that lead to them exposing more people to what they have to offer; this also works to fulfill their mission statement. One way they accomplish this is by offering free admission days. This of course, allows access for those individuals who could otherwise not afford to attend the museums. Their website states that, “Tennessee residents with state-issued ID may visit the museum for free on Mondays from 3 p.m. until closing” (National Civil Rights Museum 2014).

Additionally, The National Civil Rights Museum’s Education Coordinator, Jody Stokes-Casey has been working with a local charter school to develop a program that teaches the values and history offered in the museum itself. This is a seven-week program that, except for one museum field trip, is actually brought to the school and presented to the students during their homeroom period. The stated goal of one of this program’s resources, which is titled Courage in the Civil Rights Movement is to “enrich their classrooms and to create a resource for teachers to facilitate discussion, encourage student dialogue, increase understanding, and promote courageous action” (Stokes-Casey 2014:4).

There are other ways museums can serve their communities; some do not even require attendance to the museum itself. For instance, The National Museum of American History in Washington D.C. says as a free service “We design and produce a wide variety of teacher professional development workshops and digital learning resources – from short YouTube videos to complex mobile app games, websites, webinars, and electronic field trips” (The National Museum of American History 2015). This type of programming meets one of the goals in their mission statement, which is to “explore the infinite richness and complexity of American history” accomplished through “dynamic public outreach” (The National Museum of American History 2015).

Seeing this museum with its multiple historical exhibits in person is also quite easily accomplished. Barring an individual’s personal transportation and time constraints, this museum in incredibly accessible to the public because, admission is always free. This in itself is quite an awesome service considering the fact that for the majority of museums 40.7 percent of their revenue comes from earned income (National Endowment for the Arts 2012).

Yet another example is the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Washington whose STEM “Out-of-School-Time…sends teams of high school interns and Science Center educators into underserved communities to inspire students to pursue STEM learning.” This outreach program alone has reached over 150,000 students. After participating in the math portion of this outreach program 70 percent of students saw an increase in their test scores. Their outreach doesn’t begin and end here, in all “The Center’s outreach initiatives serve more than 200,000 individuals spanning over 39 counties and four states, making it one of the top outreach organizations in the Pacific Northwest” (JPMorgan Chase & Co. 2015). It is important to point out that much of the funding for The Pacific Science Center’s STEM Out-of-School-Time program has been provided, not by tax dollars but by a private company. “JPMorgan Chase Foundation has contributed $750,000 [to The Pacific Science Center] over the past 5 years” (JPMorgan Chase & Co. 2015).

I would argue then that public funding be increased because of the measurable and notable benefit that museums are able to provide to their communities. Does a more educated society not benefit us all? In fact, Dr. Anne-Imelda Radice who in 2006 was appointed the Director for the Institute of Museum and Library Services said, “Public funding helps museums deliver quality services that strengthen communities, families, individuals and the nation” (Manjarrez, C., C. Rosenstein, C. Colgan, and E. Pastore 2008:2). This one simple sentence sums up so much of what is important about museums and why they are of such importance in our lives. They provide opportunities for families, friends and colleagues to learn together and create shared memories. However, this benefit can be achieved individually as well. Ultimately, they ensure that our cultural heritage is preserved for posterity so that we may learn from the past. They inspire us as we look toward the future.

 

References Cited

 

JPMorgan Chase & Co.

2015 Pacific Science Center: Inspiring a lifelong interest in science, math and technology. http://www.jpmorganchase.com/corporate/Corporate-Responsibility/seattle-pacific-science, accessed March 20, 2015.

 

Manjarrez, C., C. Rosenstein, C. Colgan, and E. Pastore

2008 Exhibiting Public Value: Museum Public Finance in the United States (IMLS-2008-RES-02). Institute of Museum and Library Services. Washington, DC.

 

National Civil Rights Museum

2014 Visit. http://civilrightsmuseum.org/visit/, accessed March 17, 2015.

 

National Endowment for the Arts

2012 How the United States Funds the Arts. Washington, DC.

(http://arts.gov/sites/default/files/how-the-us-funds-the-arts.pdf)

 

National Endowment for the Arts

2013 Fact Sheet. http://www.nasaa-arts.org/Research/Grant-Making/NEAFactSheetSpring2013.pdf, accessed March 17, 2015.

 

The National Museum of American History

2015 American History. http://americanhistory.si.edu, accessed March 17, 2015.

 

Stokes-Casey, Jody

2014 Courage in the Civil Rights Movement. NCRM.

And even more on public dollars and museum support . . .

As I noted in two recent blog posts, for the past few years, half of the final exam in my Museum Practices graduate seminar in the Museum Studies Program at the University of Memphis consists of responding to the following:

Put yourself in the position of John or Josephine Q. Public. In the current economic chaos, the bank is foreclosing on their home, they have lost their jobs, and the city just reduced their public services. In referring to the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the House Budget Committee recently argued that “The activities and content funded by these agencies…are generally enjoyed by people of higher income levels, making them a wealth transfer from poorer to wealthier citizens.” Isn’t your research or the position you aspire to a museum professional just another example of this wealth transfer? What do John and Josephine Q. Public get for their tax dollars that fund your research/position?

HD 08 lab2This week’s post is another excellent essay written by Lacy Pline a graduate student in Art History at the University of Memphis.  Lacy is also enrolled in the Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program with a strong interest in public outreach and education in both art history and archaeology. 

Museums Giving Back to Communities

by

Lacy Pline

In her blog Museum 2.0, Nina Simon discusses the public argument about arts support, as seen through the lens of the Detroit Institute of Arts.[1] Simon opens the blog with a question: “How often do we get to see what people really think about the value of the arts?” In response, she offered screen-shots from people with varying ideas. Ken Dettloff’s comment particularly stood out to me when he argued: “Detroit needs [an] art museum while City residents do without streetlights, police, and fire protection? [It] doesn’t make sense!”

Much like the prompt for this class, Dettloff raises a very valid point. How can you even begin to justify artistic programming when there are people in the local community who are going without the most basic necessities? How could I, as a public servant, argue that my research or involvement within a museum is worth their money, when they lack fresh water, electricity, or even a place to live?

I thought for some time on this question, at first reading through the “Labor Day and the Cultural Heritage Professional” blog from Archaeology, Museums, and Outreach. I agree with the claims made that cultural heritage can be used as a source for empowering the people.[2] On a larger scale, this can be seen from the example we watched in class. After a sacred hut burned down, the company who documented the site in 3D was able to make this information available to the community, who otherwise might have lost everything. On a smaller scale, the African American cultural heritage exhibit at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa offers a similar community component, bringing people together through a common heritage. I also agree that museums and public servants must be proactive with the communities, helping to empower people through culture at all times (not just when it’s someone’s project). Along the same page, there should be no disconnect between the public and the professional.

As I continued to research this question however, I was a bit put-off by the response I seemed to most often receive. It was essentially that museums help to create vibrant, thriving communities. They connect community members to one another, they provide educational programming, and they offer events. While this is true, if I was Josephine Q. Public and had just lost as much as she had, I don’t know if hearing those reasons would feel enough for me. The hard truth is, it’s extremely difficult to justify the arts in the face of deprivation. The only answer I could come up with is that it is only justifiable when you make it directly benefit these same people. Benefits should reach beyond “providing culture” and other ethereal rewards, to actually making a difference in the lives of the community.

So how would a museum do this? My first instinct was to see what I could provide through my museum that addresses their current problems. While this is somewhat altruistic, it is also a simple business practice – if you make your museum an integral part of the community, a staple, people will want to fund the museum in order to keep the doors open. If community members are suffering from lack of food or clean water, a museum could create a community garden or well. If there are issues of security within the community, the museum could help organize Neighborhood Watch groups, or create a safe haven (a “Third Space”), open to all.

Beyond addressing the necessities, a museum should strive to give back to the people as much as possible. Children could be educated through special programming and summer camp options. The museum could organize a Senior Citizen Night, creating events just for the elderly. Art or photography classes could be taught in art museums on evenings for members of the community. The Cummer Museum in Jacksonville Florida has a night at the museum type of event, where each Tuesday for 3-4 hours, the museum is open to anyone for free. The C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa offers Volunteer Days, where volunteers can come to the museum and help assist or organize artifacts.

Museums could also strive to educate the community on their own unique personal heritage, creating oral or local history exhibits, or co-creating temporary exhibits with visitors, which is described in The Participatory Museum.[3]

In conclusion, the only way to truly be able to justify spending public money is to spend as much as an institution possibly can on giving back to that same community.

[1]          Nina Simon, “The Public Argument About Arts Support as Seen through the Lens of the Detroit Institute of Arts,” Museum 2.0 (August 29, 2012), accessed: http://museumtwo.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-public-argument-about-arts-support.html

[2]          Robert P. Connolly, “Labor Day and the Cultural Heritage Professional,” Archaeology, Museums, & Outreach (September 3, 2012), accessed: https://rcnnolly.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/labor-day-and-the-cultural-heritage-professional/

[3]          Nina Simon, “Co-Creating with Visitors,” in The Participatory Museum (2010), accessed: http://www.participatorymuseum.org/chapter8/

 

Lacy can be reached at lapline(a)memphis.edu

Launching Your Cultural Heritage Career in 2015

As we move into the New Year, career planning is often at the forefront of folks thinking.  I have posted before about career opportunities in the cultural heritage sector.  In the guest post below Ariana Carella offers some solid advice on this process.  I first met Ariana as the enthusiastic and very helpful voice at the Information Center of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM).  Over our couple years of phone and email contact, I came to know Ariana as an articulate, passionate, and solution-driven individual.  Although a loss to the AAM, I was certainly not surprised that one year ago Ariana was hired as the Membership Manager of the environmental advocacy group Rachel’s Network.

In the past, Ariana shared her resume and application cover letter  with my students as examples for how they might craft their own application package.  Below, Ariana responds to my question of how to make an individual’s application package stand out from the other 100 or more an employer receives for desirable positions.

arianac

Getting Noticed in the Job Seeking Process

by

Ariana Carella

When I was working in the American Alliance of Museums’ Information Center, I read articles about job-seeking for consideration in the online Career Management Resources library. Most of the materials I read were lengthy essays or narratives, which can be hard to synthesize into a resume. The resource library is a great reference tool, but the articles usually didn’t address the heart and soul of applying for a job, that an effective job-seeking process should be a personal one.

Throughout my career, I’ve had conversations with people in the museum community who have shared insights about managing their careers. Below are some of the tips I consider important, which can be used alongside other job-seeking resources:

  • Research, research, research. It is essential to research a prospective employer to give you a sense of the organization’s culture, mission, and how you fit might in. Go to the website, read annual reports, and talk to former and current employees. You can also review the organization’s financial viability by looking up their 990 tax form on Guidestar. The more you learn about the organization, the better you can tailor your resume and cover letter to demonstrate your compatibility. If the only tailoring you’re doing to your cover letter is changing the organization’s name, you are not doing enough work. Your resume and cover letter is the beginning of a conversation you will have with a potential employer, and it is fairly evident to those reading a stack of resumes who has or hasn’t done their homework. In some cases, after doing some research, you may decide an organization is not a good fit for you or your career goals.
  • Your resume is not a complete representation of your career. One tip I received early on: you will need two resumes during the job application process. The first one is a comprehensive resume, which includes every aspect of work you’ve ever done, including volunteering, certifications, etc. The second resume is what you actually send. Use your comprehensive resume to curate the story you want to tell your future employer. Does the job you’re applying to require strong research skills? Which experiences demonstrate that? Do you see any trends in your qualifications and experiences? In my case, I wanted to tell a story of a person with a strong customer service ethic, so I pulled out aspects of my work history from a varied career, which included working at a bank, at a student union, and AAM. The key is to make it easy for the people reviewing your resume to do their job. That may mean leaving out projects you cared deeply about, but aren’t relevant or important enough to share with this particular employer. Put on your HR hat and consider your resume from their perspective. Don’t make them struggle to draw connections between your experience and the work required for the job. Do the work for them!
  • Your resume is not your cover letter. The two pieces work in tandem with each other, but they should never be the same. My resume aims to prove why I’m qualified for the job; it’s a catalogue of relevant tasks, responsibilities, achievements. My cover letter is an opportunity to explain why I’d be a good fit for the organization. For instance, in my resume, I may state that I helped launched a new website as part of a Web team, listing a variety of associated tasks (e.g., copyediting content, managing data migration). In my cover letter, I could then build on that story and say that my experience on teams makes me a good fit for the small nonprofit I’m applying to.
  • One-on-one conversations. I cannot stress enough the importance of mentorship and one-on-one guidance. Whenever possible, meeting with someone to discuss your skills is 100 times more helpful than any available online resource. You may have strengths you don’t know are strengths. You may not feel comfortable speaking about those strengths with confidence and conviction. An outside perspective can help illuminate the things you do best and the things you are most passionate about in your work. And these conversations can also help you prepare for the interview, allowing you to practice speaking assuredly and effectively about yourself. Reaching out to my network of former colleagues and Professional Network leaders about my goals helped me structure my thoughts for my resume, cover letter, and interview. Contacts from my network graciously shared their resumes and approaches with me, and their samples helped me finesse a good format and style. Moreover, in opening up a conversation with them, these contacts were then aware of my skills, and when they heard about jobs that may suit me, passed along those opportunities. In some cases, they had the ability and inclination to put in a good word, where they had their own contacts.

The process will take a lot of hard work and time, but simply crossing off items from a resume-writing checklist is not enough. At the end of the day, your job is where you are going to spend most of your waking time. Clarifying what work you like, where you want to work, and what skills you want to develop may seem like a waste of time or too “squishy” and introspective. But doing this hard work will allow your strengths and personality to shine through in every aspect of the job application process. This preparation is the infrastructure of your career pipeline.

I couldn’t be where I am without the help of many people, who contributed different aspects to my job-seeking process. More often than not, people truly want to help you succeed. But if you don’t ask, you don’t get. So, I encourage you to speak up, reach out to your network, and ask for guidance!

You can contact Ariana via her LinkedIn Page.

Why You Need to Donate to Small Museums Now!

Two generations exploring the Muscatine city map at the Pearl Button Museum

Two generations exploring the Muscatine city map at the Pearl Button Museum, Muscatine, Iowa

Each year about this time I receive many solicitations in the mail for donations to area museums.  I should qualify that statement – from large area museums.  At best, smaller museums can afford to send email newsletters with fund appeals.  As the director of a small museum, I don’t make this statement as a complaint or grievance.  In fact, I am very pleased that I am not responsible for those mega-size electric bills and other expenses that larger institutions pay!

As might be gleaned from the last couple of posts on this blog, I am a strong advocate for cultural heritage institutions demonstrating their worth as community assets.  My experience has shown that when we do so, economic support follows.

I am also a small museum junkie.  Places like the Pearl Button Museum in Muscatine Iowa, The Santa Fe Trail Center in Larned, Kansas, and the Mennonite Heritage and Agricultural Museum in Goessel, Kansas are some of the larger of the small museums of which I have fond memories.  When traveling on backroads, my wife and I always stop at any and all county and smaller museums.  Unfortunately, these venues are often closed, have very restricted operating hours, or are open only by appointment.

As we near the end of the year and peak time of annual charitable contributions, I urge everyone to remember the small museums.  Mega-museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Pink Palace in Memphis, and the Exploratorium in San Francisco – yes, they all need charitable contributions and support too.

But here is an example of how your donation to a small museum will make a difference.  A bunch of years ago on a backroad trip to Colorado, I was driving through Baxter Springs Kansas on a rainy Sunday morning about 11:00 AM.  As I drove through the small town to see what there was to see, I came across the Baxter Springs Museum Heritage Center.  On the front door hung an open sign.  Surprised and assuming that perhaps the staff had left the sign up from the day before, I parked my car.  Sure enough, the museum was open and staffed by an elderly woman and a young teenager.  I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to that place – particularly their Civil War exhibit.   I suspect that the cost for keeping the museum open on Sundays for out-of-town visitors and residents alike is less than $5000.00 per year.  For a larger museum, like the Metropolitan Museum of Arts with a 2.5 billion dollar investment portfolio, that $5ooo.00 is a proverbial drop in the bucket.  For Baxter Springs, the $5000.00 is a bigger chunk of the small town’s discretionary funds.  (I notice on the Museum’s website they are now only open from 1 – 4 on Sundays.)

A few hundred or thousand dollars here and there will really make a difference in the visitor experience at small museums such as those reported in this post.  The same total contribution to larger museums if even noticed, will only have a negligible impact.

As we reach the end of this calendar year, consider making a donation to a small museum.  Here are some possibilities:

Regardless of where you choose to make a contribution, know that such public support for the small museum is essential for their very survival.

Why Fund Museum Professionals with Public Dollars?

For the past few years, half of the final exam in my Museum Practices graduate seminar in the Museum Studies Program at the University of Memphis consists of responding to the following:

Put yourself in the position of John or Josephine Q. Public. In the current economic chaos, the bank is foreclosing on their home, they have lost their jobs, and the city just reduced their public services. In referring to the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the House Budget Committee recently argued that “The activities and content funded by these agencies…are generally enjoyed by people of higher income levels, making them a wealth transfer from poorer to wealthier citizens.” Isn’t your research or the position you aspire to a museum professional just another example of this wealth transfer? What do John and Josephine Q. Public get for their tax dollars that fund your research/position?

DStarkThis year, Deanna Stark a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology wrote a particularly compelling response that contained many excellent talking points and examples.

Why Should Governments Fund Museums?

by Deanna Stark

It is not the role of government to fund only those things that provide a return on investment; government must also fund things that provide quality of life. This basic tenet of the Keynesian approach was the prevailing thought prior to the emergence of neoliberal policies. Even in the current SRI budget model talks here on campus, President Rudd acknowledges that not every department makes money for the university. But those things—like the library—make us a university, and he has pledged to continue them. This is an excellent model from which to begin.

As a former teacher, I know with absolute certainty that cultural experiences outside the everyday routine are vitally important. They show children that there are so many possibilities in life beyond what they currently know. One of my favorite events was taking the children of Kingsbury Elementary School on a field trip to hear a symphony performance at the Cannon Center. To hear the discussion on the bus was both endearing and heartbreaking. “Where are we going?” “Are we in another state?” “Is that the ocean?” These kids, who live in Memphis, had never even been downtown to the Mississippi River.

When we walked into the Cannon Center, they were enthralled by the reflective metal sculpture outside, and had a wonderful time seeing themselves differently. Going inside was like visiting a castle; the audible ooh-ing and aah-ing was quite dear. But when it was time to get everyone to the restroom before the performance began, I understood that this was more than just a field trip. You see, the restrooms are really nice, and the children were concerned that they weren’t allowed to use them. They didn’t think they belonged there.

They reminded me of myself as a sophomore whose university choir was on tour in Western Europe. I couldn’t believe how busy Munich was or how beautiful the sound in Salzburg’s Dom Platz Cathedral was or how moving it was to actually visit the Anne Frank House. It made me truly aware of another whole world, and shaped my educational goals. Fifteen years later, I was in Germany doing research for my dissertation. Without that first experience, though, I doubt I would have really believed it was possible for me.

Later, as a mom to a brown son who was interested in dance but not in being bullied for it, I looked for ways to tend that flame. When the Alvin Ailey Dance Company came to town, I saw my chance. He saw handsome strong brown and black men dancing in a way he’d never seen before. His posture was magnificent for almost two weeks!

When my Dad got sick, he had to live in a nursing home. It was a terribly difficult time for me, but it was devastating for him. Luckily, he lived in a place with wonderful staff members who planned interesting activities for every single day of the year. The activity directors were a teacher’s dream; they presented a different theme each month, and planned all sorts of real and virtual activities. When it was France’s month, the residents got to take a virtual tour of the Louvre. (This, admittedly, wasn’t really my blue-collar Dad’s style; but the point is that it was a meaningful experience for many other people.)

Museums are unique among cultural experiences in that they teach us about human history. Immigrants who visit the Tenement Museum understand that they’re not alone. People who visit open-air museums like the Pink Palace Crafts Fair or even Colonial Williamsburg learn how things were made in the past—by hand. When visitors go to the National Civil Rights Museum or the United States Holocaust Museum, they understand a bit of what people endured.

Museums bring us great joy, allow us to wonder, and fuel our ambitions. I’ve seen children’s eyes light up when they figure out how something works at a children’s museum. (The Anchorage Museum has an amazing children’s section that spans two floors.) And if you’ve never been around an entire class of 6th graders at Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, you have missed the delight of seeing a young girl realize that she could really truly be an astronaut like Dr. Mae Jemison. Does anyone ever go to the Field Museum and not have a Jethro-in-the-big-city moment upon seeing the T-Rex skeleton?

I’ve spent an hour staring at the intricacy of the border surrounding George Seurat’s Sunday in the Park with George in the Art Institute of Chicago, and I’ve marveled at the beauty and strength that Diego Rivera was able to paint in his large Mexico City murals. Seeing so many Van Gogh paintings in one place was a highlight of my last trip to Europe. (I know the Dutch Masters are more high brow, but Van Gogh’s paintings, especially some of the darker, starker works, appeal to me much more.) I’ve also been absolutely mesmerized by both Georgia O’Keeffe’s clean-lined cityscapes and her intricate floral paintings.

For me, the reason tax dollars should pay museum salaries is a simple one: museums enhance our quality of life. Whether they inspire us, cause us to reflect, make us laugh, or light the spark of lifelong learning, museums cannot be replaced. If museums are not good investments in a country’s population, I can’t imagine what would be.

Deanna Stark can be contacted at dmstark(at)memphis.edu

The Poverty Point World Heritage Site, a Louisiana First

NHawkins

Nancy Hawkins with plaque presented to her at the dedication.

This past Saturday Poverty Point was formally dedicated as a World Heritage Site of UNESCO. This is a big deal for the archaeology and cultural heritage in the state of Louisiana. Not too long ago I blogged about the dismantling of the Louisiana Division of Archaeology’s State and Regional Archaeology program because of state mandated funding cuts. I concluded that post by noting:

“Though the Regional Archaeology Program may be gone, the 20 years of work by Tom Eubanks, Nancy Hawkins, and all of my archaeological colleagues in the state will surely result in new and innovative directions for the preservation and presentation of the rich cultural heritage of Louisiana.”

The World Heritage designation of Poverty Point provides an unparalleled opportunity to launch such a new direction. The 45-minutes of formal presentations at the dedication on Saturday were suitably nonpartisan and enthusiastic. The proceedings presided over by Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne featured remarks by U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis. All spoke passionately about the potential the World Heritage Site designation brings for Louisiana. Special plaques were awarded to Nancy Hawkins of the Louisiana Division of Archaeology and Diana Greenlee, Station Archaeologist at Poverty Point to acknowledge their work in the nomination process.

As someone who watched the process of development unfold at Poverty Point over the past nearly two decades, I was struck by a several aspects of the Saturday dedication:

  • The politician who was and remains the most tireless and consistent champion of Poverty Point, beginning in his elementary school days, is State Senator Francis Thompson.  The Senator was not on the speaker’s platform but was invited to come forward to say a few words. Thompson is a phenomenal orator who combines the best of the stereotypical fire-and-brimstone Southern preacher and politician. His few words, which of course stretched into as long as any of the featured speakers, did not disappoint. Lieutenant Governor Dardenne spoke of the last eight years in shepherding the nomination through the World Heritage Process. Senator Thompson was able to extend and personally speak to that process going back to his childhood.
  • Nancy Hawkins and Diana Greenlee were acknowledged as the individuals who gave the Lieutentant Governor and others the raw material to even launch the process. Nancy and the late State Archaeologist Tom Eubanks were responsible for creating the Station Archaeology program at Poverty Point that ultimately allowed for Diana Greenlee to put together the nomination document.
  • The Native American tribal affiliates in Louisiana were recognized by Dardenne. Had their ancestors not built the earthwork, Poverty Point would be long forgotten today or only the name of an obscure 19th Century Plantation.
  • There were also a bunch of archaeologists and soil scientists present on Saturday such as Jon Gibson, Bob Neuman, Joe Saunders, Thurman Allen and others who provided the very grist for the mill that created the basis for knowing the prehistory of the place. I have posted before about the importance of folks such as avocational archaeologist Carl Alexander to the Poverty Point site. This group of archaeologists was the only set of individuals not mentioned by Dardenne or other speakers from the platform this past Saturday (save Senator Thompson’s brief sermon).   Somewhat fitting to this exclusion is the state funding cuts to Louisiana’s public archaeology program.
treefall

Standing with a treefall on the Poverty Point ridges that are now fully mitigated.

When the celebrations die down and lawmakers get back to the business of out budget cutting each other, as seems quite fashionable in the U.S. of late, Louisiana will be faced with the hard realities of the opportunities in having the 21st World Heritage Site in North America at Poverty Point – and the opportunities will require a commitment of time, energy, and resources.  The state has had some lessons in this fact over the years at Poverty Point.  For example, during my tenure as Station Archaeologist back in 1997, I debated with architects about whether the planned curation facility for Poverty Point needed to be climate controlled.  The architects argued that all we had up there to put in the facility were a bunch of “rocks and those clay cooking balls.”  In a similar way, the World Heritage Site status necessitated the Office of State Parks dealing with the issue of treefalls on the Poverty Point ridges and mounds.  The exposed root mass of a single treefall typically exposed thousands of prehistoric artifacts and cultural features.  Back in 1997, the state considered mitigating these events as a waste of resources.  Ultimately, establishing best practices in both of these issues clearly were preconditions for the World Heritage Site designation.

If the proclamations from the podium this past Saturday of the tens of thousands of international travelers who will be flocking to view this new World Heritage site are true, then the museum and interpretive facility will need dramatic upgrades.  For the most part, museum exhibits remain unchanged from their initial installations in the 1970s and certainly do not include the extensive research program that has taken place over the last 40 years on which the World Heritage Site nomination was largely based. In addition to Poverty Point, the past twenty years research by archaeologists such as Joe Saunders at the Middle Archaic Watson Brake site, arguably the earliest example of monumental architecture in North America, complements the Poverty Point site.  Watson Brake is just some 50 miles as the crow flies from Poverty Point.

The tourism and cultural heritage bump provided by the World Heritage Site designation at Poverty Point could be used as a true launching pad for the region.  The opportunities for the private and public development of the region are outstanding. The state of Louisiana can continue on the trajectory that led to the World Heritage designation and truly organize the resources to bring the interpretive potential of Poverty Point to the World Heritage Site status for which it is now recognized, along with an abundance of other earthwork complexes in northeast Louisiana spanning over 4000 years of prehistory.  This can be the new direction that public archaeology takes in Louisiana and can serve too as a model for the nation as well.

Creative Commons and Cultural Heritage

Java PrintingI am very pleased to present a post and resource links on Creative Commons by my colleague Jason Baird Jackson.  More and more cultural heritage professionals and students are faced with questions about how to best present original documents for public access and the proper citation and use of internet files.  Jason provides a solid introduction and valuable links to Creative Commons licenses that are relevant today and will be increasingly important in the immediate future.

Creative Commons and Cultural Heritage

by Jason Baird Jackson

Do public archaeologists, heritage professionals, museum practitioners, and graduate students need to know about the Creative Commons? I think so. Robert Connolly does so as well, which is why he thought to ask me to contribute a short note to his blog. After you have learned a bit about it, I hope that you too will see the relevance of the tools provided by the Creative Commons to the work that you do. If you are already using Creative Commons licenses for your work in one of these fields, please consider leaving a note in the comments section telling us how and why.

The Creative Commons (CC) is a public interest organization that provides easy-to-use licensing tools that can help anyone who creates or communicates to specify more clearly the terms under which they wish for their work (writing, photography, almost anything we create) to circulate. When someone speaks of the Creative Commons, what is usually meant are Creative Commons licenses that the organization freely provides. There is more to the organization than its licenses, but the licenses are the focus in this short post. In a nutshell, CC licenses allow you to reserve some rights in your work rather than the full set of rights spelled out under national copyright regimes. As a maker of creative works, the licenses give you more flexibility in how you want to share the things you have made.

The best way to learn about CC licenses is to visit the organization’s website and to watch a few of the explanatory videos that the organization has created.

I am not an expert on the Creative Commons in general and I am not affiliated with the organization (except as an occasional donor), but I have tried to speak helpfully of the Creative Commons in the context of work by public folklorists and of the kinds of local communities with whom they often work. “Why the Creative Commons with Folklorist Jason Baird Jackson” was episode 22 of the Artisan Ancestors podcast hosted by my Indiana University colleague Jon Kay.

Jon is the Director of Traditional Arts Indiana (TAI) and TAI has organized a series of informative webinars, one of which I did on “Using the Creative Commons.”

One place where I use CC licenses to advance museum anthropology is in Museum Anthropology Review, the journal that I edit. For most of its history, MAR content was published under the Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-Alike license (by-nc-sa 3.0). Reflecting an upgrading of the license set, we now use a 4.0 license. Reflecting growing consensus among open access journal publishers, we now default to the more liberal attribution-only (by) license. Authors can request a different license, but this is now the journal’s default.

Compare these two licenses here:

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

In closing I want to point to a few more related tools that might prove useful to readers of this blog.

If a work is in the public domain, it is possible to signal this with resources comparable to the CC licenses. It is also possible for a creator of a new work to unambiguously dedicate her or his work to the public domain, thereby asserting no author’s rights in it. These two sets of tools are described here.

Those working in, or in partnership with, local or indigenous communities with special cultural property concerns, should be aware of the Traditional Knowledge licenses and labels being developed by the organization Local Contexts. This is a great effort designed to address important and related, but different needs from those addressed by the Creative Commons. The Local Contexts website and associated videos and documentation do a great job of introducing these tools and the contexts that motivate them. I expect that museums and other organizations stewarding cultural heritage materials will be using these TK licenses and labels more and more in the years ahead.

Thanks to Robert for this chance to share a bit of information about licensing and labels for heritage folks.

Jason Baird Jackson is Director of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures and an Associate Professor of Folklore at Indiana University and can be reached at jbj(a)indiana.edu and visit his blog Shreds and Patches

Cultural Heritage Co-Creation from the Bottom Up

quipu

Student adding her string to the class quipu as their History Professor Leodan Abanto Alejo Valerio looks on.

I just read a volume of papers on creativity in museums, visitor experiences, and so forth. Despite the plethora of measurement outcomes for visitors touching pieces, engaging with staff, talking among themselves, voting for their favorites, and so forth, I found no mention of a visitor being asked “what are your needs and wants from this institution.” That is, the papers reflected what professionals determined as an appropriate set of goals and then a set of measures of how well the visitor experience achieved those goals.

The papers reflect the trend that to prioritize the visitor experience is often simply making a decision to value the visitor on an equal or greater level than the object.  The museum staff then generate a set of proposals on how this engagement might occur. This approach seems the antithesis of John Cotton Dana’s 1917 mandate in The New Museum to “Learn what aid the community needs: fit the museum to those needs.” Explicit in this mandate is engaging directly with the community to determine those needs.

I had a couple of interesting lessons recently on Dana’s point. I previously posted how an article published on the engagement between the Southwest Memphis community and the C.H. Nash Museum along with printed banners honoring military veterans were highly valued by the community members. In conjunction with faculty from the University of Memphis, this summer our Museum conducted another round of oral history interviews that will be archived at southwestmemphis.com.  The important point about these projects is that they resulted from the expressed needs of community members.

I emphasize here that I do not mean to take a holier-than-thou position on our community outreach.  I am consistently surprised at which projects resonate with the community.  But through experience, I am coming more and more to act on the direct community input at the very start of project development.  We then filter the community input through the mandates of our museum mission statement.

This process holds true in my recent collaborations in Hualcayán, Peru. On the PIARA Team, my primary responsibility this summer is beginning the process for the development of a cultural center or museum for the small village of 400, a 2-hour drive on an unpaved road from the next larger community. To that end, I have scoured the literature on small indigenous museums and cultural centers for models and have found very few. One of the better resources is Sustainable Cultural Tourism: Small Scale Solutions by Susan M. Guyette, a rather encyclopedic approach to the concept.

Last year I asked Rebecca Bria, the founder and co-director of PIARA, if the Hualcayán community really wanted a museum or were they really more interested in economic, educational, and health care development. She emphatically responded that through her five-year engagement with the community, they expressed that a museum, a physical structure to showcase their heritage was a primary need. Rebecca’s assessment came through quite clear in the discussion with the Hualcayán teachers I posted about last week. The teachers want a written record of Hualcayán generated.

Another example of meeting a community expressed need came last week in a classroom project with Hualcayán high school students carried out by Karissa Deiter and Hannah McAllister. They adapted the quipu exercise from Archaeologyland for this project. After introducing the importance of artifacts in telling the stories of the past, Karissa and Hannah used quipus as an example of how past societies recorded information. Each student then created their own quipu string that recorded their age, numbers of siblings, and so forth.  The project was originally designed so that each student would create their own quipu, yet the teacher and students decided that the individual strings would be tied to a unified class quipu. Minimally, the quipu will live on at the school and ideally will become in “artifact” in the community’s museum set to open on August 2nd. After the quipu demonstration, the history teacher decided that the next project was to develop a timeline of the entire Hualcayán community. To that end Karissa and other members of the PIARA team will lead the high school students on a tour of the archaeological site, the research lab, and more.

As I noted in last week’s post, from the very inception, the in-class presentations developed for this summer in Hualcayán were based on the previously expressed needs of the teachers and community.  The PIARA team put together projects that were then modified and further developed on the spot by the community members.  Ultimately, the product is tailored to the needs of the visitor/student/community member and not the museum.  This approach strikes me as a method that emphasizes a bottom-up method for co-creation.

What are your experiences with this type of co-creation process?

A Lesson Learned in Cultural Heritage Co-creation in Hualcayán, Peru

teacherblog

Meeting with Hualcayán teachers

I am in Hualcayán, Peru through the first part of August as a part of the Proyecto de Investigación Arqueológico Regional Ancash (PIARA) Team that conducts archaeological research, cultural heritage, and economic development in this small 400-person village in the Andes highlands. I first became interested in PIARA several years ago when I posted an interview with the founder and current Co-Director of PIARA, Rebecca Bria. I now have the opportunity of joining with PIARA and leveraging resources, building relationships and providing educational opportunities in my capacity as Director of the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa and professor in the Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program at the University of Memphis.

I consider the very essence of co-creation to be the process by which all parties approach an issue on equal footing to address a need. To that end, this summer PIARA is partnering with teachers in the Hualcayán school to create educational resources based on their specific requests of the community. The expressed needs center on health care, global warming, education, cultural heritage and economic development.

This past Monday evening members of the PIARA team met with six teachers from the Hualcayán school about our participation in classes over the next three weeks.   The meeting was very productive in laying out a strategy for our work. At one point, the history teacher for the high school Maestro Leodain noted that he had textbooks on the history of Peru, but there was no resource on the history of the Hualcayán community itself. He identified such a resource as a true need for the community.

The discussion then turned to using the Flip video cameras donated to the Hualcayán school by WriteMemphis in Tennessee, U.S. as a tool for collecting oral histories about the community. All agreed that a 50-page or so small paperback book would be ideal to present the synthesis of the oral history interviews. Elizabeth Cruzado Carranza PIARA Co-Director noted that a book format would exclude many elderly in the community who did not read and only spoke Quechua. A video available on DVD and electronically could help disseminate the history beyond the printed page.

The consensus of the meeting was to move forward with the oral history project. The planned class presentations for the next three weeks to the high school students were modified to include training on the use of Flip cameras to record oral history projects. The students will be guided in creating a set of questions to ask their parents and elders about Hualcayán history. The students will also consider other materials where historic information on the community might be obtained. When Elizabeth and I return to Hualcayán this coming January for a brief visit, we can assemble the information obtained by the students in a book form for publication. The final draft will be sent to the teachers of the Hualcayán school for their final editing. We project publishing the book and DVD by the Third Annual Cultural Heritage Festival in August of 2015.

I often quote John Cotton Dana who wrote nearly 100 years ago in The New Museum, “Learn what aid the community needs: fit the museum to those needs.” In the above example, the community needs a documentation of their history. PIARA is being fit to co-create that product.

The meeting was a learning experience for everyone. For the PIARA Team, we learned that our practice of listening and being responsive to the expressed community needs continues to be an effective tool to live into our mission. The teachers attending learned that the obstacles of creating a resource on the community history could be overcome. PIARA could not create a history of Hualcayán book without community input. Prior to the Monday meeting, the community had not identified a way to create such a product. Together, both parties will co-create the history. Stay tuned to see how this project develops.

 

For more information visit the PIARA website, subscribe to PIARA’s blog the Ancash Advocate, sign up to receive the PIARA newsletter, or friend PIARA on Facebook.

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