Tag: PIARA

A Co-created Independence Day Celebration in Hualcayán, Peru

For a Spanish language version of this post, click here

July 28th is Independence Day in Peru – and the day we presented the community copies of La Historia de Hualcayán: Contada Por Sus Pobladores the volume written by Elizabeth Cruzado Carranza based on oral histories collected by Hualcayán high school students in late 2014. I have blogged before about the project origins. In preparation for the event, Elizabeth and I thoroughly cleaned the courtyard area of the archaeology research complex and set out a long row of tables and chairs. The night before we peeled 72 kilos of potatoes and Sheyla Nuñuvero and her assistants prepared 15 chickens, salad and quite a few gallons of chicha morado.

foodThe event was a success. Eli and I were particularly happy that Leodan Abanto Alejo Valerio, who was responsible for launching the project, was able to attend and preside over the celebration. Consistent with being an outstanding educator, Leodan spoke eloquently and passionately about why such projects are important. He particularly focused on the educational role for the student oral historians in developing a sense of identity and pride in their community in both the Spanish and Quechua languages.

Leodan2

Leodan Abanto Alejo Valerio (center) with Hualcayán students

I spoke about the co-creative process. I noted that although Elizabeth and I had performed the technical publishing tasks and secured donations to fund the project, the essence of the volume was locally produced. That is, without the history verbally passed down over the years from community members, and passing that along to the student interviewers, the book would not have been possible. I also noted the uniqueness of the project – there is no other book of which we were aware in the Ancash region that tells a community’s history “contada por sus poladores.” The Hualcayán project is already viewed as model in one U.S. and two other Peruvian communities.

Elizabeth discussed her experience writing the book and presented a copy to every family in attendance. She noted that most of the copies would be placed in the school library consistent with Leodan’s expressed need for a classroom educational resource for students on their community history.

interviewees

Elizabeth Cruzado and Robert Connolly with two of the oral history project interviewees

Several community residents spoke and expressed their thanks to the Hualcayán students who created the project and to Leodan for the original concept. Elizabeth and Rebecca Bria’s (Co-Directors of PIARA) friendship and long-term commitment to the community was also recognized by all of the residents who spoke. For example, even though pressed for time as she gathers data for her M.S. Thesis on a set of Hualcayán excavations, Elizabeth welcomes community children into the research complex every afternoon from 3:00 – 5:00 PM to watch videos on a laptop, draw, or other activities. She has spent many days, weeks and months over the past several years working in Hualcayán on archaeological and community based projects.

Here are some of my takeaways from the oral history book experience:

  • The process worked. In a rural agricultural community like Hualcayán, where everyone works 7 days per week to sustain their existence (including on Independence Day) the oral history project is a small, but important contribution. “Importante” was the word most commonly used by the residents who spoke at the Independence Day event. They followed that statement up with examples on why knowing a community history is of value.
  • We had a great discussion with Professor Abanto after the event and confirmed plans and responsibilities for completing another volume by next summer for the community where he is now assigned to teach – Huallanco. Leodan is one of several Ancash residents we encountered in the last year who collect oral histories – in some cases for many years. We view the Hualcayán volume not as a completed project, but as an example of the ongoing logistical support we can provide if a community has that expressed need. We have informally discussed with cultural heritage professionals and educators in the region the possibility of establishing something like an Ancash Region Oral History Program. That may happen one day, but the impetus for moving on the project will come from the Ancash communities.
  • Oral history is something we are prepared to support at the museums Elizabeth and I visited in both Nivín and Caraz this summer. However, an expressed need in both of these museums was for Spanish language documents on collections management – not part of our initial plan. Within 48 hours we were able to use our resources and networks to acquire an abundance of these materials.
  • As cultural heritage professionals, in this way we can create value in a co-created relationship. At the museum and site at Nivín, Professor Valencia’s interest is less in our organizing field crews to excavate the Nivín site and find cool stuff for the museum. Rather the need Professor Valencia clearly stated was to train the Nivín students in the proper methods for curating materials and preserving a site that is of little apparent interest to the professional archaeological community but is being impacted by both agricultural and looting activities.

The above lead me to my “go to” snippets for what I mean by co-creation and applied archaeology:

Learn what aid the community needs: fit the museum to those needs. John Cotton Dana, The New Museum, 1917  

 . . . the act of engagement with others who are trying to make decisions related to particular heritage resources. Erve Chambers 2004:194

 Working together or diversifying audiences is not enough. What is needed are reciprocal, co-created relationships that connect the assets and purposes of organizations. Elizabeth Hirzy 2002

 To give voice and be responsive to the needs and interests of local community members; to provide a place for community engagement and dialogue; and to help participants develop skills that will support their own individual and community goals. – Nina Simon 2010:187

 

To this end, our field season this year in Peru is going quite well.

sheyla

 

An Archaeological Surprise at Nivin, Peru

Nivin-sign(For a Spanish language version of this post, click here.)

 

This past week, my colleague Elizabeth Cruzado Carranza and I visited Nivín Arqueologia about 25 km from Casma, on the north central coast of Peru.  We were not really certain what to expect.  We had corresponded via the PIARA and Nivín Facebook pages with Gustavo Valencia Tello a professor in the Nivín k-12 school of 50 students.  We knew that Professor Valencia established a museum connected to the school.  We also knew that Nivín is located in an archaeologically rich part of Peru’s north coast.  We knew that over the past five years Professor Valencia had convinced many area residents to donate their “looted” collections to the school’s museum.  Finally, Professor Valencia had noted that there was little interest from the professional archaeological community in the sites at Nivín.  That is pretty much what we knew about Nivín when we arrived in Casma this past Sunday.

Nivin-Museum-entry

Nivín Archaeology: Searching for our identity

On Sunday evening Professor Valencia invited us to his home for dinner and conversation.  We agreed on a schedule of going to Nivín on Monday morning to tour the museum and school and returning on Tuesday to visit the nearby archaeological sites and meet with the other Nivín teachers.

On Monday morning we headed toward the outskirts of Casma and turned onto an unpaved road for the 25 km bouncing ride to Nivín.  I have to admit that I began to wonder what Eli and I had gotten ourselves into.  Except for the town of San Rafael about half-way in, the landscape was dotted with the occasional cane thatch house, agricultural fields, scattered grazing livestock and not much else.  I wondered what kind of museum could be at the end of this road?

museum-exhibit

Exhibits in the Nivín Museum

After a one hour ride, we came to a sign that read “NIVIN” with nothing else in sight.  We then continued around the bend in the road and came upon what I can best describe as an oasis in a dusty desert.  The Nivín school is a manicured space that stands out from the landscape.  Here is what we saw:

  • the museum that Professor Valencia painstakingly put together over a five-year period.  The materials are donated by area residents who looted/collected the materials over the years, often from their own agricultural lands.  Professor Valencia uses these materials in his classes to explain everything from ceramic production techniques, cultural identity, osteology, culture change and more.  Eli and I had gone to Nivín to discuss how we might assist Professor Valencia in his project.   We quickly realized that we were the students that learned much from him during our brief visit.  The school in Nivín better incorporates archaeological methods into teaching natural and social sciences than any k-12 school I have experienced in the U.S.
  • Mango

    Young mango tree in the school garden.

    a suite of gardens maintained by the students, teachers, and the community members.  The gardens grow subsistence crops of mangoes, corn, passion fruit, chilies, alfalfa sprouts and more and are completely organic.  There are also smaller vegetable and medicinal plant gardens.  Besides providing food for the Nivín community, the gardens are meant as an instructional tool for the students, the next generation of agriculturalists in the area.  Other schools in the region are studying the Nivín model.

  • sparsely supplied but impeccably clean and well-maintained classrooms and a basketball court/soccer field.  We also saw large banners that reported the awards the school had received from the Ministry of Education.
arch-site-at-Nivin

A small portion of the archaeological site at Nivín.

On Tuesday morning we were back in Nivín with Professor Valencia for our tour of the nearby archaeological site.  Over the next 3.5 hours we hiked, walked through agricultural fields, waded across a river (this gringo was not able to negotiate the single log bridge), and traversed a rocky landscape similar to what one might expect of a lunar surface.  Here is what we saw:

  • a multi-sector and massive archaeological site that spanned the Formative through the Late Intermediate periods.  The site is not registered as an official archaeological site.
  • The site is slowly being encroached on by agricultural expansion along with huaqueros or looters.  The cemetery areas of the site contain many looter pits with broken ceramic vessels and scattered human bone.
  •  The architectural forms include domestic rooms, cemeteries, 30 m high mounds, and my favorite a boulder some 3.5 m in diameter fashioned into a metate, with multiple grinding depressions and one mano laying nearby.  Christian, a Nivín high school student, whose house is on the archaeological site recalls as a youth that there were eight manos laying on/around the metate boulder.
Eli-examine-sherd

Elizabeth Cruzado Carranza examines broken ceramics and human bone from a looters pit.

After visiting the site we returned to the school and met with several of the teachers to discuss possible collaborations.  We gave the school a laptop computer (from Rhodes College in Memphis) and a flip camera (from the WriteMemphis literacy program) to help launch an oral history program in the village and school.  The program will complement other oral history projects we have worked on such as those carried out in both Hualcayán, Peru, and Memphis, Tennessee, US.

After discussing with the teachers possible collaborative/co-creative efforts and mutual needs, on Tuesday evening Eli and I met again with Professor Valencia and agreed to pursue the following projects over the next year:

  • Partnering the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa in Memphis, TN and the Municipal Museum in Caraz, Peru, with the Nivín Museum around oral history projects.  The three institutions are at different stages in their oral history processes and can learn from each other.  We will seek additional funding to support this work.  (An Engaged Scholarship Research Grant from the University of Memphis funded a portion of our oral history work in Caraz and Hualcayán, Peru this summer.)
  • Gustavo

    Professor Gustavo Valencia Tello with some of his teaching materials.

    Elizabeth Cruzado and Gustavo Valencia will co-author a book chapter for a recently contracted volume on museum/community collaboration efforts to be published in the Summer of 2016 by Rowman and Littlefield Press.

  • We will discuss forming an expanded range for the type of collaborative projects now carried out by PIARA.  This will ideally allow for greater collaboration among Ancash cultural heritage projects and expand access to resources.
  • We will investigate returning to Nivín in July or August of 2016 to provide instruction to students in the best practice cataloguing and curation of the collections in the Nivín Museum. (Any museum studies students fluent in Spanish interested in an internship?)

Elizabeth and I have commented several times that we certainly covered a lot of ground and lined up several co-creative projects in just a couple of days!  We are excited both about learning from and working with Professor Valencia, his colleagues, students, and the Nivín community in this model program.

Why Co-Creation in Archaeology Works

food-and-drink

At the modern cemetery in Hualcayán, Peru, food and drink offerings are made to the deceased as in the prehistoric period at the site.

As a blue-collar kid, I grew up a trade union activist, believing that I had the vision for what the workers of the world needed. However, I was told more than once that all of my book-learning and vision might be great for speeches, but there was also the need for the real world bettering of lives, today – perhaps one of the reasons I ended up an applied anthropologist.

In 1990 I quit my industrial job and became a non-traditional higher education student, ultimately earning a doctorate in anthropology, then working as an archaeologist, college professor, and museum professional. I am pleased at how lessons I learned early in life transferred well to my postgraduate career.

In the same way I got my comeuppance as a trade union activist in the 1970s and 80s, I vividly recall as the Director of the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa in Southwest Memphis, US, attending a neighborhood meeting in 2008 and being told “Don’t tell me what your university is going to do for my community. The last time you were here for two years doing your research and all we got was a map on the wall.” Through my earlier life experiences, I came to appreciate that community outreach at Chucalissa could not be based on what I believed the community needed, but must start from the listening to the expressed needs and interests of the community. Nina Simon popularized this understanding of co-creation in the Participatory Museum. My colleague Carol McDavid traced this co-creation concept back to marketing strategies in the 1980s.

This August, Co-Creation and the Archaeological Record, co-edited by Elizabeth Bollwerk and I, will be published as a thematic issue of the Society for American Archaeology’s Advances in Archaeological Practice. The issue contains a dozen papers, including one by Carol, that explores the background and presents archaeological case studies of co-creation. The volume includes my article that discusses how a co-creative approach transformed Chucalissa’s relationship with the surrounding community. A highlight of the transformation was the creation of an African-American Cultural Heritage exhibit based on a community expressed need. The 2010 exhibit was co-created with nine area high school students. This summer students from Freedom Prep Charter School, just down the road from the Museum are updating the exhibit created by their peers five years ago.

In the same issue of Advances in Archaeological Practice my colleagues Rebecca Bria and Elizabeth Cruzado Carranza report on their multi-year move toward greater co-creation in the activities of the organization they co-direct Proyecto de Investigación Arqueológico Regional Ancash (PIARA) in Hualcayán, Peru. For the past three years I have worked with Rebecca and Elizabeth on these co-creative projects. (In fact, I write this post at 10,000 ft in the 400 person village of Hualcayán.) An example of this co-creation will occur on July 28, Independence Day in Peru, when the community will receive 100 copies of the La Historia de Hualcayán: Contada Por Sus Pobladores. The 50-page book by Elizabeth is based on a co-created oral history project launched last summer. I have posted before about the origins of that oral history project.

Eli and I met with Leodan Abando Alejo Valerio this past week to deliver advance copies of the book. As discussed in that earlier post, Leodan is ultimately responsible for the project. He was very pleased with the book and had a half-dozen projects in mind he wanted to work on in other small villages of the Huaylas Province. First, he wants to repeat the oral history book project in Huallanca the nearby small village where he is now assigned to teach. We agreed to play the same role as we did for the Hualcayán volume.

In Hualcayán, there is quite a buzz about the July 28th event. This past Thursday evening, Eli and I met with the Hualcayán President, Angel Hueza, who outlined the agenda for the Independence Day activities. The book presentation will occur after the singing of the Peruvian National Anthem but before speeches by the President and other community members. At the suggestion of the President, all the students who participated in the project will receive a diploma for their work. (I will post the details of this event in the near future.)

What does all of this co-creation have to do with archaeology at sites like Chucalissa and Hualcayán? I am completely convinced that all folks value knowing their past. For example, the boom in ancestry.com and genealogical research in general support this statement. In Southwest Memphis, at the annual Veterans Day events we host at Chucalissa, current and deceased area residents dating back to World War II are prominently featured on banner exhibits honoring their military service. This is a big deal as I have posted about before. As well, when I showed a Southwest Memphis community leader the mock-up of the Hualcayán oral history volume and noted that the students at Freedom Prep summer camps could launch a similar project, he enthusiastically approved – as did the Freedom Prep students and school administrators. In the same way, both Leodan and President Hueza see the oral history book as a central piece of a July 28th Independence Day celebration and a reclamation of Hualcayán history.

Such projects, based in an applied anthropology/archaeology provide a ready link for demonstrating the true cultural value of the archaeological record, and counter the PBS Antique Roadshow formula of “Is it real, how old is it, and how much is it worth.” In Southwest Memphis, the link extends to the remnants of a 1930s African-American Civilian Conservation Corps camp responsible for discovering the Chucalissa in the modern era.  The remnants are located at the adjacent T.O. Fuller State Park.  The link is also made in the current drive to reclaim abandoned historic cemeteries in the Southwest Memphis community. In Hualcayán, a link is formed from the modern community’s cultural heritage to the archaeological site with 4000 years of human occupation.

When we met with the Hualcayán President he noted that it was good the oral history book was not linked directly to archaeological research that can be contentious because of land access and preservation concerns. While seemingly at odds with archaeological research interests, I believe the President’s comments actually provide an opening for dialogue about the link between the modern and prehistoric periods. PIARA excels in this approach, sponsoring pop-up museums, site tours, a library, and opening a community museum. All of these projects continue to take on an increased co-creative component.

Co-creation allows for projects that truly meet the needs and interests of all participants and show the value of cultural heritage. There is room for growth and attitude adjustments from both the archaeologists and the neighborhood communities. The perspective of the student who commented “Hualcayán was so great in prehistory, but look at it today” is as problematic as the looter who reduces the archaeological record to an economic resource whether in the highlands of Peru or the US.

At my very first field school in 1986, my former mentor the late Dr. Patricia Essenpreis threw out the challenge that if we could not explain to the public why their tax dollars should support the archaeological research we were conducting we might as well go home. That is, did our work have value on the public land where we excavated or to the taxpayer who funded the research? At both Chucalissa and Hualcayán, I can answer Pat’s mandate with a strong yes. For me the genesis of that yes, began as a trade union activist when I learned to appreciate the value of listening and learning from the people in whose interest I wished to serve. That affirmation is found in working with the community and not for the community, a cornerstone of co-creative projects.

Publication of a Co-created Oral History For Hualcayán, Peru

oral-history-book-coverWe are almost there!  On July 28, Independence Day in Peru, we will deliver the first copies of the La Historia de Hualcayán: Contada Por Sus Pobladores (The History of Hualcayán: In the Words of Its Residents) to the people of Hualcayán.  I am particularly excited because from inception to final production, this book stands as the proverbial poster child for co-creative projects.  Although I blogged about this project before and the sponsoring organization PIARA, here is the bullet point summary:

  • Last summer the Peruvian co-director of PIARA, Elizabeth Cruzado Carranza, and I met with several teachers from the village school located in the rural Andes of Peru.  An “expressed need” of the teachers was a resource that documented the history of the local community.
  • We proposed and the teachers agreed that compiling an oral history project of the community leaders and elders was an important first step. We provided the teachers with video flip cameras and a laptop.  Elizabeth gave the secondary school students a crash course in oral history methods and helped them create a questionnaire.
  • Over the fall, the students carried out the oral history interviews.  This past January, Elizabeth and I returned to Hualcayán and collected the interviews.  Although we were not certain of what to expect, the students did an EXCELLENT job.  In total they collected about 20 ten-minute interviews with their parents and community leaders.
  • Back in Memphis where Elizabeth is living for two years as a graduate student at the University of Memphis and the Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program, she transcribed the oral histories and created the text for  La Historia de Hualcayán: Contada Por Sus Pobladores.  We are now selecting photos and laying out the book that will go to the printer in the next two weeks.
  • On July 26th, we will deliver a first press run to families in the village to get their feedback to assure a balanced representation of points-of-view.  Armed with that additional community input, we will print a revised and expanded edition and produce a Quechua/Spanish language DVD.  The community can then decide if they wish to use sales from the books as a source of income from trekkers and other visitors who pass through their community on their way to the Huascarán National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

We aim for this model to be replicated in other small villages throughout the region.  In fact, the school teachers who initially expressed the need for the local history have asked that we follow them on their teaching assignments to the other 30 or so small villages in the Huaylas Province to assist in similar oral history projects.

If you agree with me that the oral history project is an exciting and innovative means to inform and educate rural communities about their rich cultural heritage, I ask that you consider making a donation to PIARA to help fund this stage of the project.  We are optimistic about future funding, and have received some grant support already, but are in need of immediate contributions to complete this first stage.  Your consideration of making a donation to PIARA in any amount, large or small, is greatly appreciated.

Implementing Co-Creative Projects

In my last post I talked about projects co-created during the Fall Semester by students in my Museum Practices graduate seminar at the University of Memphis.  This week I report on implementing those project in Peru.

This past January, my colleague and a student in the graduate seminar, Elizabeth Cruzado Carranza and I traveled to the Hualcayán, Peru to deliver several of the products from the student projects.  Below is a report on some of the products discussed in last week’s post that we delivered during our January visit:

  • SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis and Strategic Plan for cultural heritage development in the Hualcayán community – We delivered thirty copies of the document written byElizabethCruzado Carranza andClaudiaTullos-Leonard to community leaders and other interested residents oftheHualcayán community.  The five goals in the strategic plan addressed the cultural heritage needs the community expressed over the past several years.  The plan lists objectives under eachgoalto be accomplished in the first year or by the fifth year of the proposed Strategic Plan timeframe, set to
    install2

    Timeline Banners installed in Museo de Hualcayán.

    begin on July 1, of 2015.  In delivering the documents, we suggested that the community discuss the content between now and the July 1 timeframe start date to refine and amend the Plan’s content.  In this way, the Strategic Plan’s co-creation extends beyond the content but to include the implementation – an important step for the community’s ultimate role in administering a sustainable cultural heritage program in Hualcayán.

  • Museum Timeline Banners – We mounted and installed the six banners requested by Hualcayán teachers that present a linked local, regional, and international timeline.  U of M students Christian Roesler and Mariah Selitsch researched, designed, and printed the banners.  The products are of a professional quality, address specific topics raised by the Hualcayán teachers – all for under $75.00 US, thanks to the Museum Practices students.
  • oralhisthual

    Delia, a Quechua woman interviewed by students for the oral history project.

     

    Oral History Project — A true highlight of Elizabeth and my visit was meeting with Hualcayán high school teacher Leodan Abanto Alejo Valerio whose class collected community oral histories over the Fall Semester of 2014 (Spring Semester in Peru).  I posted before about the genesis of this oral history project.  Leodan’s student interviews exceeded our expectations.  We were somewhat concerned if the notoriously shy Hualcayán students and area residents would be able and agreeable to having their stories recorded.  However, because of the co-creative nature of the project their hesitancy was for the most part avoided.  Some interviewees preferred only to have their voice recorded, but overall the students collected nearly twenty individual 10 to 20 minute histories from community elders.  Elizabeth will synthesize those histories into a book form that will report the founding and history of the village and discuss the natural and cultural resources of the Hualcayán community.  By July of 2015, we will print 200 copies of the history for distribution to community families and for use in the school.  By the end of 2015 we intend to produce a DVD of the recordings in Quechua and Spanish.  At the suggestion of one community resident, the DVD will also contain published articles, written reports on the archaeology of the area, along with a copy of the virtual exhibit in the Hualcayán Museum opened in August of 2014.  (If you would like to make a much-needed donation to this project, please visit the PIARA website.)

  • In January, Elizabeth and I also met with the Women of Hualcayán artisans who are creating woven, sewn, and embroidered crafts that are currently sold at two locations in the United States.  The project was launched in the summer of 2014.  Alicia Anderson, one of the Museum Practices students, thoroughly researched fair-trade and other similar small start-up projects to determine best practices toward a sustainable operation for the women artisans.  In January, we were able to discuss a range of options with the women on how they wished to move forward. The conversation assured that community expectations aligned with the actual possibilities for the project.

An important aspect of our trip to Hualcayán in January was for two archaeologists to make the trek to the rural community, located a 12-hour commute from Lima, for purposes other than those directly related to their archaeological research.  The sole purpose of our January visit was to respond to the community’s expressed needs.  We went to Hualcayán in response to John Cotton Dana’s (1917:38) prophetic co-creative call nearly one century ago to “Learn what aid the community needs: fit the museum to those needs.”  I suggest the same call is applicable for outreach work in applied archaeology as well.

Museum Practices and Co-Creation

I just returned from a quick trip to Peru to update work on a couple of projects. While in transit, I completed a paper that summarizes the past 7 years or so of co-creative work at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa. The paper is part of a volume that Beth Bollwerk and I are editing for the Advances in Archaeological Practice journal based on a session we organized for the Society of American Archaeology annual meeting this past Spring. All of the above help solidify in my mind some lessons on co-creation.

My regular snippet quotes I use on co-creation include:

To give voice and be responsive to the needs and interests of local community members; to provide a place for community engagement and dialogue; and to help participants develop skills that will support their own individual and community goals. – Nina Simon 2010:187

Working together or diversifying audiences is not enough. What is needed are reciprocal, co-created relationships that connect the assets and purposes of organizations. Elizabeth Hirzy 2002

. . . the act of engagement with others who are trying to make decisions related to particular heritage resources. Erve Chambers 2004:194

Learn what aid the community needs: fit the museum to those needs. John Cotton Dana, The New Museum

That was the perspective taken by the 15 students enrolled in my Museum Practices graduate seminar this past semester at the University of Memphis as  they worked on projects for the Museo de Hualcayán, Peru that opened just this past summer. The students based their projects on the Peruvian community’s expressed needs. Some of the products included:

  • Strat plan

    SWOT and Strategic Plan

    A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis and five-year Strategic Plan created by Claudia Tullos-Leonard and Elizabeth Cruzado Carranza. The plan responds directly to the community expressed need for cultural heritage, educational, and tourism opportunities in the rural Andean community. Claudia brought her considerable business expertise from the private sector and Elizabeth her five years of work in Hualcayán to create the plan.  The Peruvian community will take the next step to assess and refine the proposal.

  • A series of timeline banners for the newly opened Museum created by Christian Roesler and Mariah Selitsch. This past summer Hualcayán high school teacher Leodan Abanto Alejo Valerio expressed the need for a resource that linked local, regional, and international events from prehistory to the present day. Christian and Mariah used their graphic and archaeological abilities to produce a series of six banners.
  • In a meeting this past summer, Leodan also expressed the need to document the history of the Hualcayán village.  He noted that the government issued textbooks covered national and even regional Peruvian history but contained no information on the local community. (This situation is very similar to my experience in Southwest Memphis that prompted an oral history project in that neighborhood.) For Hualcayán, Lacy Pline and Merrileigh Rutherford created a proposal to install a complete oral history program and station to both record and view collected interviews – all at a cost of under $1500.00! They drew on their research interests coupled with internships at the National Civil Rights Museum where a similar program was conceived. I have posted before about the oral history program launched this past fall in Hualcayán.
  • huarasfinal-spanish

    One of six Timeline Banners

    The website and other social media outlets for Proyecto de Investigación Arqueológico Regional Ancash (PIARA) were completely revamped and upgraded to reflect current best practices by Remi Chan and Brooke Garcia. Although not an expressed community need, the upgrade does allow for a more effective communication of activities in Hualcayán and prepares for anticipated internet capabilities for village residents.

  • Other completed projects by the Museum Practices students included a marketing plan for the Women of Hualcayán craft artisans, a short video on the importance of archaeology preserving cultural heritage, a follow-up to the successful quipu project from this past summer, and several school lesson plans for use in the coming year.

My takeaway on why these projects have value are several:

  • The activities foster reciprocal relationships where the needs and interests of the community/students/archaeologists/museum professionals are equally supported and valued. Creating the noted products is not possible without the full participation of all partners. All partners expressed needs benefit equally.
  • As an applied anthropologist, I seek to address real world concerns beyond the walls of the academy and present that perspective to my students. In end of the semester evaluations, Museum Practices students consistently report that creating something that lives in the real world is a highlight of the class.
  • Coupled with the above, the created products follow best practices for the rural Peruvian context. The completeness and professionalism the students brought to their projects was no different from had they created products for a major metropolitan museum in the U.S.
  • Co-creation enhances the stakeholder role of all participants for a long-term commitment to the process.

Next week I will post on the January trip to deliver the products to the community in Peru.

 

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.

Cultural Heritage Co-Creation from the Bottom Up

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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

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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.

Day of Archaeology in Hualcayán, Peru

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Hualcayán students in line for Santa Cruz Anniversary Parade.

For the past 24 hours of this Day of Archaeology I spent the early morning in Caraz, Peru where I had arrived the night before after a 24-hour plane/bus trip from Memphis, Tennessee, US via Lima, Peru. I will be in Peru for the next month or so collaborating on several projects (cultural heritage and education development, lithic analysis of excavated materials from the Hualcayán archaeological site) as part of the Proyecto de Investigación Arqueológico Regional Ancash (PIARA) Team.

After breakfast at the La Terraza in Caraz, changing money, and marketing for supplies, my colleagues Elizabeth Cruzado Carranza, Co-Director of PIARA and Caroline Havrilla, a PhD student in the Biology Department at the University of Colorado rode to the village of Huaripampa for the Anniversary of the District of Santa Cruz celebration. Besides the opportunity to watch a parade, something that happens here in Peru and in New Orleans U.S., with equal regularity, we came to cheer on the students and faculty of the Hualcayán school in their participation in the celebration.

PIARA is active with the local Hualcayán school in the village of 400 (here are some details). This year we adapted several of the programs from the Archaeologyland on the Society for American Archaeology website and also archaeological presentations for student group visits to the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa where I serve as Director.

Elizabeth got a phone call that my one piece of luggage lost in transit had been found and would make it to Caraz in the next couple of days. I was quite relieved as all of the archaeological educational materials I brought were in that luggage.

 

 

 

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Hualcayan parade banner carried by the school teachers.

After the celebration we rode back to Caraz, had lunch, did some more marketing, and then visited the Municipal Museum in Caraz. Elizabeth has been quite active with the Museum since its inception and last year organized an exhibit on the past five years of research at Hualcayán. Carlos, the lead staff person at the Museum. Besides seeing what was new in the exhibit since visiting last year, Elizabeth and I wanted to set up meetings with museum representatives to discuss a Museum Connect grant possibility with the Chucalissa Museum. The Museum Connect grants are facilitated through the American Alliance of Museum as true collaborations and equal partnerships between a U.S. museum and an institution outside the U.S. This perspective fits very well with PIARA’s approach to applied archaeology. We made arrangements with Carlos to return just before the July 22nd re-opening of the Museum to further discuss the possibilities.

After a bit more shopping for supplies, PIARA Co-Director Rebecca Bria arrived from Huaraz and we all prepared for the two-hour ride up the road to Hualcayán. We had a great conversation as Rebecca filled us in her recent 7-day trek with the American Science Climbers Program and a PIARA team. The trek surveyed some higher elevations in the Province recording information relevant to global warming and unrecorded archaeological sites.

We arrived in Hualcayán as the sun set. I spent the rest of the evening unpacking, catching up with folks and getting ready for tomorrow.

I enjoy that today was a fantastic mix of activities in how I have come to envision applied archaeology.

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A full moon as we arrive to Hualcayán.

 

 

 

 

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