Talk about being new at something. Forgive me if this blog is too colloquial or boring or technical or anything, I am freely admitting that this is my first time “blogging”. I have been told by my much hipper and younger colleagues that I can write about pretty much anything I want, so here it goes…
I guess if I have to expound on one topic that sort of encapsulates 2010 then it would be growth. Growth here at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. There’s the obvious literal growth of additional staff, new structures, equipment, etc, and then there’s the growth that I think we’ve seen as an institution. I feel like this last year was one in which we gained a strong hold on our strategic planning and budgeting processes; and in how we operate, who does what. I get the idea that we are staring to create a “culture” of our own here and I like that idea very much. I think a good deal of what makes a job enjoyable is the way things operate. Don’t get me wrong, I also understand that there are always issues and not everyone is happy and I don’t profess to be anything even close to an excellent manager but I strive to be.
We have a lot to look forward to in 2011 and I think we are up to the challenge. We have some new staff that have just started with us and some who will join us just as the new year starts. I am excited about them joining our team and I can’t wait to see what they have to offer.
Lastly, I am excited to see what the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum can do for the Tribal community here in Florida and in the rest of the country. I suspect we will continue to grow in terms of our national exposure while still making sure that we connect with and cater to our primary audience of Seminole Tribal members here at home.
In the resonant words of my mother, “you have to be friendly to have friends.” More than thirty years after first hearing these words, I have never realized a truer sentiment or more valuable skill than playing well with others. It literally transcends all type sets and scenarios from the academic to the artistic to the entrepeneurial. In the age of cyber space and social networking, the landscape for playful and professional interaction has certainly changed, but the notion still seems to apply. It takes two (at least)… to make a thing go right. And so the premise, platform and fundamental need for partnering and collaboration emerges.
In recent years, the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum has recognized the value of being a good neighbor and has worked hard to secure working partnerships and lasting relationships in surrounding communities and among industry fellows. In a strained economy, partnering and collaboration are highly coveted commodities. Wise are the entities working together to rise to the challenge of disappearing local, state and federal dollars. Granting agencies, foundations and the ever diminishing coprorate sponsors have all re-emphasized this single most influencing criteria: who or what, apart from your organization, will these funds benefit?
Joining forces sounds so militaristic and tactical, but this is essentially the order of the day. A meeting of the minds and budgets as it were. In 2006, after learning about a collaborative effort underway in the ever cutting-edge and culturally savvy Miami, our Museum membership coordinator set about organizing and uniting a similar band of cultural outlets within Broward and Boca Raton. The concept: reciprocal admission privileges for members during one entire month, in the hope of boosting appreciation, attendance and membership among all participating organizations. In its first year, Broward Attractions and Museums Month (BAMM) brought twenty one cultural organizations together. In monthly planning meetings, such resources as media contacts, graphic designers, printers and distributors were shared, and contributions in the form of in-kind services were saught and obtained. BAMM garnered the attention of such community powerhouses as public radio, local media, the CVB, humanities councils, tourism development councils and various city and county officials.
BAMM 2010 has concluded and remains of vital interest to those who work to make it happen annually. Hours devoted by staff dedicated to the concept and compelled to move forward at the desperate urging of history, art and culture centers countywide. While a local initiative, it should be a national one, gaining recognition with each successive and successful year. If more cultural institutions united to address the dilemma facing them, big and small, known and unknown, appreciation would give rise to visitation, donation and preservation. Who, having seen a tiny beaded moccasin so deftly and intricately crafted and dating back to the early 1800s, or having read an excerpt from a letter written in 1774 before this great nation’s independence, could not be moved to give the smallest farthing?? The battle cry is clear: we must unite to further the effect and affect of our unique cultural experiences on widespread audiences. We must broaden the baseline of services, extend our reach beyond the norm, we simply must think outside the box… a tried but true turn of phrase.
Collaboration has many forms. Object loans are in essence collaboration; shared membership societies, established cultural networks, email list serves, library access, research programs, literacy programs, educational programming, artist collectives and enhanced online media are all potential avenues for partnering and collaboration. In recent years, Federal grantors such as the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Scenic Byways Program have revamped competitive grant proposal eligibility to require some measure of partnering and collaboration at the onset. And rightfully so, for operating in silos minimizes impact and sets us apart. Distinguishing ourselves from each other is not the same as setting ourselves apart. We need the distinction, and we need each other.
Over the last four years, the Museum has been working closely with such robust and active organizations as the American Association of Museums (AAM); Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums (ATALM); Florida Association of Museums (FAM); American Association for State and Local History (AASLH); American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) to name a few. Each dedicated to identifying, sharing and enhancing resources. Individuals across varied disciplines have been reaching out to one another to exchange ideas, share experiences, lend expertise, cross promote and jointly strategize ways to work together to reach more people, ignite more interest, and better utilize resources. The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum is pleased and proud to be among these vital ongoing efforts, garnering recognition, respect and support from esteemed colleagues, enthusiastic visitors and generous patrons nationwide.
Of course we have no greater partners, collaborators and benefactors at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum than the Seminole Tribe of Florida, its Council and its members. The Tribe and its constituents have placed historic and cultural preservation at the forefront of most of their individual or collective endeavors locally, nationally and globally. They have been good neighbors, trusting partners and generous donors. The Tribe itself has long been living true to the words and sentiments echoed herein, “you have to be friendly to have friends.”
Written by Dorian Lange. Dorian Lange is the Development Officer for the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.
So, have you ever been confused in a library? You know, you want a specific book and all you have is a string of numbers and letters that don’t make sense, and that’s supposed to help you find the book? Instead, it makes you wander around and randomly scan the shelves in the vain hope of just coming across the book you seek? Well, that’s the kind of confusion I plan on bringing to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum Research Library! Seriously, those confusing call numbers are actually tried-and-true descriptive systems that make logical sense if you get to know them, and they do make locating a book much easier than other forms of library organization. For instance, the Research Library at the Museum has over 5000 books, magazines, journals, and newspapers. Currently, these materials are organized in a mixture of ways. Some are organized by type: newspapers and magazines are together, journals are together. Some are organized by subject matter: reference books are together, books on the museum profession are together. However, most of the books are organized alphabetically, by author. This means you have to know the author in order to find a book. If you only know the title, then you have to look up the title in our database in order to find the author. If you want to browse a particular subject, you are generally out of luck. In a library organized by traditional call numbers, books are generally grouped by subject matter. This makes browsing much easier!
My name is Tara Backhouse, and I’m the Registrar at the Museum. Part of my job is to spearhead the re-organization of the Research Library in order to make it more accessible to our patrons. This is a multi-year process that was begun in early 2010. First, we are covering the books with polyethylene covers, in order to protect the books during use, and to provide a surface for affixing spine labels to the books. Next we assign Library of Congress call numbers to every book in the collection. This is the number that will be on the spine label of each book. After that, the books will be re-organized according to Library of Congress shelving standards. Then the library will be browse-able, and more accessible to the researchers and staff members who use it. Finally, the library database will be made accessible through our website.
The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum Research Library collection contains material on Seminole history, but also on Native American history in general, Florida history and archaeology, and Museum Studies. The Library is open to the public, but it is open by appointment only. Only one appointment for research can be made at a time. In this way, every researcher gets the personal service of a library staff member. Having the library database online should make it easier for researchers to investigate our collection before they get here. It should also show researchers that making a trip to the Big Cypress Reservation is worth their time. If you would like to make an appointment to do research in our library, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, in order to set up an appointment. We will remain open during the re-organization process!
I am Pedro Zepeda and I am the Traditional Arts Coordinator here at the Ah-tah-thi-ki Museum. I am also a member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. I am very proud to be working for the museum preserving the traditional arts of our people. My duties as Traditional Arts Coordinator are three-fold. First, I spend much of my time here at the museum doing demonstrations for the general public such as wood carving, beadwork, and basket weaving. Secondly, I give presentations to civic groups and other public venues on Seminole traditional arts. Lastly, and I feel most importantly, is holding classes and teaching other tribal members how to create these traditional arts. I teach many of the classes I facilitate, but often time I will use other Seminole artists who are highly skilled in one or more particular arts.
Most recently I finished a one-on-one class with William Cypress, who now resides on the Big Cypress Reservation. He learned how to craft stickball sticks for our traditional game of stickball, from collecting the green wood, to bending the hoops of the sticks. He said that enjoyed the experience, and always had an idea of how the sticks are carved, but learned a lot from making them first hand. Other classes on sweet grass baskets and moccasins have also proved to be successful.
There has been a small but influential Seminole Renaissance among the tribe. Tribal members have taken an interest in both contemporary and traditional arts. Recent Seminole artists have had their arts displayed in various fine art galleries across South Florida. The growth of native art is exciting and slowly becoming more popular and collectible as art and not just a native craft. Many wonderful art works have also been produced mixing traditional and contemporary materials and ideas.
Although some of the traditional arts have change little over time, many others have. Seminoles have always been an adaptive people changing as needed with the times, and the Seminoles are no exception to that today. Even 150 years ago Seminole were using European metal tools to create canoes and stickball sticks. So today it is no surprise to see Seminoles using chainsaws and plastic clamps alongside hatchets and drawknives. I have always liked to say that we are modern by tradition, and so it remains today.