Seminole Story Days

By Alyssa Boge, Education Coordinator

Hello!

My name is Alyssa and I am the Education Coordinator at the Museum. I am very excited to tell you about an upcoming program–you’re all invited!

I wish I could say that I planned everything out myself, but the truth is I couldn’t have planned everything so perfectly. The Museum has an internship program with Ahfachkee, the local Tribal school, that’s been going on for several years. Typically seniors who are able to participate visit the Museum to learn what different employees do. Depending on their personal and career interests, they decide what they would like to learn about and who they would like to work with.

This year Eden Jumper decided that he wanted to hone his skills with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator while learning about marketing principles. This is not Eden’s first time working with the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki- in the past he worked with the Exhibits Department to help create a series of interactive cases within the galleries. This year he decided to work with Virginia Yarce, our Development Assistant. Virginia let Eden drive the internship. Eden decided to market our current West Gallery exhibit “Struggle for Survival, 1817-1858” which discusses the Seminole War and features the important Buckskin Declaration, along with “Telling Our Stories” which highlights the Museum’s unique Oral History Program.

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Ahfachkee intern Eden Jumper working on his Photoshop skills

In order to showcase these exhibits, we decided the Museum should offer a variety of activities and presentations. Eden, assisted by Virginia, developed a marketing plan to promote the programming which he presented as a PowerPoint to me, Carrie Dilley, Visitor Services and Development Manager, and Kate Macuen, Assistant Director. He outlined what types of audiences we could market to, what types of marketing we would do, and what promo items we could feature. Eden did a fantastic job with his presentation and got the green light to proceed with planning the event.  Since that time he has worked to develop a program flyer and postcards to coordinate with the event. He brainstormed and wrote a VIP letter with Carrie Dilley and is currently working on the design for a promotional button. Wondering what other materials will he develop next? You’ll have to come to our event to find out!

Seminole Story Days

Postcards!

We decided on the name “Seminole Story Days” for the event, which will take place May 5-7. Each day we will have different activities that highlight topics from both our “Struggle for Survival, 1817-1858” exhibit and our Oral History Program. Tour guides will provide short tours of the exhibit throughout the day. Reinaldo Becerra, our Outreach Specialist, will provide period weapons demonstrations.  Our Oral History Coordinator, Eric Griffis, will talk about the Oral History Program and the exhibit he developed while Rebecca Fell, Curator of Exhibits, will talk about how oral histories are used in the development of exhibits. The Big Cypress Martial Arts group will demonstrate tactics Seminole warriors used against American soldiers. Finally, Eden Jumper will do a short talk about his project and his grandmother, Carol Cypress (wife of the late Museum founder Billy Cypress), will present alongside him.

We have a great line-up and we hope you’ll come out to support Eden and his internship project. Because really, this is Eden’s project and I am so excited that the museum was able to support him to make it happen.

Share about the Event! Here are some links to learn more about the event.  Also, watch for the program details on our website, Facebook and Twitter!

https://www.facebook.com/events/190902474632814/?active_tab=posts

http://ahtahthiki.com/Seminole-Story-Days.html

https://www.cultureowl.com/miami/events/view/struggle-for-survival-1817-1858-exhibit-1

 

 

THPO Comparative Collection

By Domonique deBeaubien, THPO Collections Manager

What is that?” It’s one of the most common questions we ask ourselves when working with archaeological artifacts.  Most of the artifacts that come into the Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) Archaeological Lab are highly fragmented pieces of animal bone that were left behind by human activity at archaeological sites.  We call these tiny pieces of animal bone faunal remains.

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Collections Assistant Patricia Rodriguez pondering the identification of a tricky faunal bone. 

People often wonder why we spend so much time studying what is essentially, trash.  But you can learn a great deal about an archaeological site by understanding the remnants of what was left behind.  A trained analyst (or bioarchaeologist) can look at a pile of broken up pieces of animal bone and construct an elaborate picture about the people who created it.  For example: what were people eating?  How far did people travel to get their food?  What animals were the most valuable for nutrition and tool making?

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Faunal material excavated from an archaeological site.  Can you identify any animal species?

In order to answer those questions we first need to understand what we’re looking at, and that’s why we have the THPO Comparative Collection!   This is essentially a reference collection made up of many different animal skeletons that help us identify the fragmented faunal remains that come into the lab.  Since the fauna of Florida is extraordinarily diverse, we have a wide collection of creatures ranging from alligators to armadillos and stingrays to snakes; we endeavor to have an example of most of the major animal species that live in our domain.

You may currently be wondering where these skeletons come from.  I’ll be the first person to admit that you don’t go into bioarchaeology if you’re squeamish.  There is a pretty high level of ick factor when acquiring comparative specimens, and it requires a serious level of dedication from our Collections staff.  Most of our specimens come from road kill, where they are collected and then buried in a discreet corner of the museum parking lot. Most people endearingly refer to this location of our campus as the Pet Cemetery.   Burying the animal allows the organic matter to decompose naturally, while leaving the skeletal remains behind. Other researchers use different methods like dermestid beetles to clean their specimens, but this process works the best for our environment.  It is also significantly friendlier to the eye (and nose) since everything is placed underground. After a number of months (sometimes years!), each specimen is carefully excavated and all of the bones are cleaned and organized anatomically.  We’re extra careful to gather all of the smaller bones, as these are often what survive the best archaeologically.

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THPO staff Josh Ooyman and Domonique deBeaubien excavating a faunal specimen

Whenever a new specimen is brought into the lab, our goal is to ensure it becomes a valuable asset to our collection, so every individual bone is identified by skeletal element, labeled, and stored accordingly.  That way, when students or interns come into the lab who aren’t familiar with comparative anatomy, they have a vast resource right at their fingertips.

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Out of the field and into the collection
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A small sample of archaeological faunal bone from a site on the Big Cypress Reservation

Let’s take a quick look at the comparative collection in action. This photo is a classic example of what comes into the lab: tiny little pieces of mystery faunal bone!  Our job is to take those tiny fragments, and identify what they are by comparing them with intact bones from our comparative collection.  Can you tell what kind of animal bone these might be?

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If you guessed alligator, that is correct!  The archaeological fragments pictured above belong to an alligator scute.  A scute is a piece of bony armored plating that runs down an alligator’s back.  Alligators have hundreds of them, and they fit together to form a protective layer of osseous body armor.  As you can see, they are approximately the same size, and share the same markings as the alligator scute from our Comparative Collection.  Even though we just had a few tiny pieces, our amazing lab staff was able to accurately identify what animal species the fragments came from!

For us, each fragment of bone tells a different story; whether it’s a family meal shared hundreds of years ago, or how far hunters journeyed for their catch.  Each story is unique, and thanks to our comparative collection, we can help bring that story to life.

 

The Struggle of– Struggle for Survival

Writer and Meme Generator: Nora Pinell-Hernandez

Comedic Editor: Natasha Cuervo

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Our new exhibit, Struggle for Survival, is perhaps the most ambitious exhibit the team has ever developed. Walls were erected, the swamp was recreated, the back of a boat was fabricated, a backlight map interactive was engineered, a web app was developed and a Seminole camp was reconstructed.

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We installed on the first two weeks of December but began fabrication in late October. The monumental task of leading a team to fabricate the exhibit doesn’t come without a few headaches and a couple of tears. Working in the swamps means that if anything needed to be ordered from the hardware store it would take a total of 3 hours of driving, 30 minutes of waiting at the cashier, 30 minutes filling up the cart, 10 minutes to submit the PO to my supervisor and 8 hours to have the Purchase Order completed to actually pay for the items. I had to account for each wood screw, each gallon of paint, each foot of blue tape, and each square inch of plywood to create what we have in the galleries now.

Things got hectic in the sardines tin-sized shop I worked in.

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My stress level peaked when I almost cried in front of a volunteer. It was a week before installation and we still had a lot to complete. The wind was not cooperating as I was painting the 4’ x 8’ wood scrims outside with a paint gun. Everything kept clogging; the tarp kept hitting the blotches of wet paint that spewed out of my paint gun.  Heather Billie volunteered to help me sand the wood scrims –there was a lot of sanding to be done.  Her shift ended at 2 and at 1:45 seeing all the work to be done I whispered under my breadth, “I think I’m about to cry”. To my embarrassment, Heather heard me and responded, “Please don’t cry Nora. I can stay a bit longer”. “Just leave and don’t ever look back Heather. It’s over. We are doomed” – is what I wanted to say. But instead I mustered a batch of optimism and reassured her that we were going to be alright.

I let a little tear go after she left.

After letting my internal walls collapse I reorganized myself and had a talk with Rebecca Fell, Curator of Exhibits. “We need more souls.. I mean people – to help out”. Thanks to many people from all departments we were able to fabricate and install the exhibit. Fabricating is my favorite part of my job and I was not going to let my anxiety get in the way of enjoying what I love to do. Along the way the team took photos of the process. I decided to create a couple of memes to remember these wonderful experiences even if it means poking fun of myself because once you cry in front of a volunteer you don’t have much to lose.

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But now that the mayhem is over, it’s time to enjoy the result!  Come out this Saturday, January 16, from 1-3pm to enjoy our exhibit, refreshments, and entertainment!

 

Have you searched our Online Collections yet?

by Mary Beth Rosebrough, Research Coordinator

Cataloging is a major activity here in the Collections Division of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. We do it almost all day, every day.  Cataloging means we record in our database, PastPerfect, all the information we have on the item in hand.  Who donated that newspaper clipping? Oh, it was William Boehmer of Brighton Reservation fame!  Did anything else come with it? Yes, as a matter of fact, it came with some black and white photos.  Right – all noted in the record. Recording the information keeps our accreditation with the American Alliance of Museums current and makes those materials available for research.  To access this blog page you clicked on a button at the top of our web page. But did you know you can access much of our collection from our website?  You can! – if you go to the dropdown menu under the Collections tab (right under the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki  logo), click on Online Collections, and then scroll down the page to “Online Collections connection”.   I’ve made it easy for you today:  our “Online Collections” search page is here:

http://semtribe.pastperfect-online.com/34687cgi/mweb.exe?request=ks

Because of the diligent work done daily you have access to a large percentage of our collection and can research or “visit” our collection from your favorite comfy chair.  I hope you are sitting in it right now with your laptop and perusing a bit.  Try searching “patchwork” and you will get over 1300 hits.

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That ought to keep you or any student, maybe a homeschooled high schooler? – busy for most of the afternoon.  Not only are you able to view a very good scan of the object BUT you can also read the information that accompanies it in the database – the description, the size and what it is made of.  Have a look:

http://semtribe.pastperfect-online.com/34687cgi/mweb.exe?request=record;id=8016704B-A69E-40F5-8054-560520439956;type=101

Interested in document research? How about this historic newspaper dated August 18, 1921?

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http://semtribe.pastperfect-online.com/34687cgi/mweb.exe?request=record;id=CDC46080-403A-4171-8D54-221031109362;type=301

Not only can you read the synopsis to determine the article is about a scouting expedition for the building of the Tamiami Trial, but you can actually read the clipping itself.  Great, right?  And you find out it was part of a notebook belonging to Francis Frost White, a BIA employee in Dania (Hollywood) in the 1930s and 40s. Our collections assistant, Tennile Jackson, very carefully took apart that notebook, page by painstaking page, wearing purple latex gloves, and cataloged each one, recording all the important details.

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And so, because of that attention to detail, we deduce that Francis can provide us with some interesting history. We can use Francis Frost White as our search term and find what else she collected.  Let’s try it and see what comes up:

http://semtribe.pastperfect-online.com/34687cgi/mweb.exe?request=keyword;keyword=francis frost white;dtype=d;subset=300

What we get is 145 hits providing an interesting walk through time and the history of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Now you try it!  What are you interested in – guns, the War, beadwork, bandolier bags, baskets, dolls?   All are major holdings that can be searched and researched.  When you put in your search term, look to the right and see the different modules available:  All content (for searching all the modules), Objects (artifacts, not paper), Library (books, journals, and periodicals), Archives (paper documents), Photos, and People.  To refine your search check the most applicable one(s) so you aren’t having to wade through pages of items that don’t suit your purpose.

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I hope you have enjoyed our walk through the online collections on the Museum’s website.  And hopefully you will enjoy the collection from the convenience of your own home – in preparation for your visit to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki  Museum!  Our exhibits highlight collection pieces to tell the story of the Seminole Tribe of Florida you won’t find in history books.  This month we have an exquisite exhibit, Struggle for Survival, on Seminole removal and survival in the Everglades being installed in the Museum.  It tells a story that has not been told before in this way.  Come and see how our Exhibits team has used our collection to tell the Seminole side of the constant conflict of the 1800s and learn the real story of the Unconquered!

 

The 2015 American Indian Arts Celebration

by Carrie Dilley, Visitor Services and Development Manager

The American Indian Arts Celebration, or AIAC for short, has taken place each year at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki since the Museum opened in 1997.  The event has always featured an exciting line-up of performers, demonstrations, and vendors, and this year was no exception.  This was my second year as the overall event planner, but I have either attended or participated in every AIAC since 2008.  I might sound a little biased here, but I feel confident in saying that the 2015 event was the best AIAC yet!  Why was it the best?  Let’s take a look…

Visitation: The most obvious detail that set this year’s event apart from the rest was our overall visitation.  We were up 40% from last year! If we take a look back over the past few years, we see that we were up 55% from 2013, 144% from 2012 (no, that is not a typo!), 59% from 2011, and 35% from 2010.  We had a ton of schools come out and take advantage of our “education day” on Friday.  For the $5 group rate, AIAC is the biggest bargain of the year!  Most of our visitors came from surrounding areas but we also saw people from Canada, Italy, New York, Colombia, France, Germany, Connecticut, and Belgium.  Not only did visitors enjoy the festival, most also took advantage of visiting the Museum galleries and boardwalk for the full Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki experience.

Museum Parking Lot full of buses

Vendors:  At AIAC, there is truly something for everyone.  This year we had 44 arts and crafts vendors, three traditional Seminole food vendors, and two food trucks (three on Friday).  While many of our arts and crafts vendors were Seminole, we also had vendors from other tribes represented– Turtle Mountain Chippewa, Lower Muscogee Creek, Inca Ajibwa, Navajo, Miccosukee, and Dineh (Navajo). For something unexpected, TV-Head Co. joined us with a booth of wooden watches, bow ties, wallets, and sunglasses.

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The Main Stage:  We had six different performers or demonstrations on Friday and seven on Saturday.  Tribal elder Bobby Henry provided the opening ceremony both days and engaged the audience with his traditional Seminole dances.  Billy Walker and Paul Simmons awed guest with their alligator wrestling shows.

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The Warriors of AniKituhwa joined us from Cherokee, NC and provided a riveting dance performance.

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Rita Youngman, Jerry Mincey, and Cypress Billie sang songs that told tales of Florida life.  Saturday’s patchwork fashion show showed visitors a contemporary take on a traditional Seminole dress and the Martial Arts demonstration put a whole new spin on a traditional reenactment.

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Other Offerings: On top of visiting vendor booths and watching exciting performers, visitors could stop by the information booth for a food tasting featuring Seminole fry bread and sofkee. New this year, Museum and THPO staff acted as gallery docents to provide additional information to visitors inside the museum.  Saturday morning kicked off with a bird watching nature walk, where over 20 different species of birds were seen or heard!

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An outdoor exhibit installation featuring Seminole Spirit photographs, an archery station, Elgin Jumper painting “en plein air,”  a demonstration tent with three booths featuring Seminole weaponry, the Florida cow-whip, and Cherokee traditions, and a craft tent with three different (free) craft options rounded out the experience.  Last but not least, we partnered with Billie Swamp Safari to offer free shuttle rides to take our visitors to their park, where visitors could receive 50% off any attraction just by showing their AIAC wristband.

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TEAMWORK:  How did we make it all happen???  Teamwork!  The Museum and THPO staff came together and unified as one group to provide an exciting event to our visitors.  Even though the event took an incredible amount of planning, coordination, and hard work, we left with a huge smile on our faces.  We all went home Saturday evening knowing that we created an event that made the Tribal community and all of our visitors proud to be in attendance.

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The only negative of the event was knowing this was the last time we will have our MVP on staff, Mr. Gene Davis.  Gene, it it impossible to express how much we will all miss working with you!  Good luck in your future endeavors.