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!

 

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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!

 

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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.

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Join us November 6-7, 2015 for our annual American Indian Arts Celebration!

AIAC Line-Up Announcement

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Who Cooks for You?

by Gene Davis, Museum Facilities Manager

A large bird of prey named the Barred Owl has been found in the early morning light perched in and sometimes on top of the traditional chickee huts at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. This owl has been nicknamed the hoot owl because of its distinctive and powerful vocalization that sounds like someone saying, “Who cooks for you?”

Owl at chickee hut

Our institution is situated right on the edge of a dense cypress dome. Reinaldo Becerra, our animal specialist, told me that Barred Owls nest in large trees, but sometimes have been spotted roosting in human-occupied spaces as long as they are adjacent to fields or an open area in the forest canopy that the bird uses as a dusk-till-dawn hunting ground.

One September morning just after 8:00am, Rei walked me over to one of the chickees situated directly behind the curatorial building on our campus. He pointed out what he called a young Barred Owl perched up in the rafters under that open-sided chickee. It just sat up there about eight feet above the floor on a cypress wood cross beam staring down at us through its large brown eyes. Rei told me that this species of owl is the only typical owl in the eastern part of our country that has brown eyes. He said that all others have yellow eyes.

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Rei went on to say that the Barred Owl is nocturnal making it easier to be heard than seen. However, the individual bird that has been visiting our campus does not have any fear of humans. It also prefers to perch up inside of the manmade traditional chickee huts rather than trying to find a hollowed out tree trunk.

Just recently I spotted the same owl on the ground during the daytime by a small pool of water in the cypress dome that had been created by recent torrential rains. The owl was feeding on crayfish that were cowered in the now receding water level. Although it was facing away from me; the attractive bird swiveled its head around to look directly at me. But just for a short while. It then silently fluttered off to the supper table while clutching one of the captured crustaceans in its beak.

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This same bird was spotted in the early morning just one day later lurking around on the ground directly in front of one of the village crafters’ work areas. Any owl is considered as a bad omen to the tribal members that create and sell their hand crafts back in the traditional Seminole village on the museum grounds. Luckily, peace of mind was restored when the owl didn’t linger long flying off to somewhere else where we might hear it again asking, “Who cooks for you?”

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Exciting Changes in the Museum!

by Rebecca Fell, Curator of Exhibits

It is very rare for a museum to completely shut down and de-install their exhibits. One good reason is to make renovations and updates. We recently had our ceiling and rafters re-stained and re-painted and new carpet installed. Both of these items were original to the building’s opening in 1997. For the long-term maintenance of the museum, these were redone.

More visible changes were made to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki including opening up the museum shop by adding another doorway. And, replacing the visitor services desk – this new desk makes it easier for wheelchair bound visitors to purchase tickets and receive information from our visitor services staff and tour guides.

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A new opening is made into the gift shop wall, adding accessibility and space.

The process for closing the museum required us to remove all of the objects, mannequins, and other items out of the galleries for safekeeping in our vaults. Not everything in our exhibits is moveable. Items, like our large canoe and trees, were covered In plastic so any paint drops wouldn’t ruin them.

Teamwork Ensures Safety

Working as a team ensures that large items, like this Noah Billie painting, are moved carefully.

Taking down and putting up exhibitions require a lot of help and careful coordination. We worked in teams and started with the most important items first: the historic objects on loan from other institutions such as the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, historic objects from the Museum’s own collection, and finally the mannequins. As many of you know, the mannequins are life-castings of tribal members. Because of this, we value them very highly and their take special care in moving and storing them.

Binding the Necklaces to keep them Safe

One step to keeping the mannequins safe is to wrap the women’s necklaces with plastic – this way they won’t break or get lost along the way.

Uncovering the Trees

Once the painters and carpet-layers are done we uncovered all the trees and other non-moveable backdrops.

As we gear up to re-open the museum on September 25th, we have begun to put the exhibitions back together. All of our permanent galleries will be exactly as they were prior to renovations. We will put back two temporary exhibitions: It’s Not a Costume – Modern Seminole Patchwork and Guy LaBree: Painted Stories of the Seminoles. We will also feature a new exhibition: Seminole Spirit, which highlights a couple of photographs by noted photographer Russell James, of Nomad Two Worlds.

The re-opening on the 25th coincides with National Indian Day and is part of the Tribe’s series of event occurring throughout the week and on various reservations. At the museum we will feature food tastings, guided tours, presentations, and a talk and film premiere with Russell James. The museum is open from 9-5 and events will run from 10-4. Come and join us!

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You Stay Classy San Diego: A Vlog from the Esri Conference

By Juan J. Cancel, Chief Data Analyst and Roberto Luque, Geospatial Analyst

Figuring out how geography can be applied everywhere was the theme for this year’s Esri User Conference. This is a conference with attendees from all over the world, that gather to help advance spatial understanding. We wanted to create a unique experience for our blog readers, so we decided to do a daily video blog to capture our trip. I hope everyone enjoys this and understands that our attendence represents more than just ourselves, it represents where we stand as an office and a Tribe amongst GIS professionals from around the world. We also want to thank Dennis Zielstra our videographer and Kate Macuen our video editor, we would not have been able to make this vlog without them. To view the vlog, please follow the YouTube link.

PS – Shout to all our peeps we forgot in the video: To Anne, Moe, Brad, Beck, all THPO Staff, all Museum Staff, Seminole Tribe and anyone else we forgot to mention! :)

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