Pinball Machines are Fickle but Ours Has Attitude

By: Nora Pinell-Hernandez, Exhibits Fabricator

Our giant “Journey to a New Home” pinball machine or as I call it, “Pinball V. 4.0”, is temporarily in our shop for repairs and improvements. The pinball machine works much how the housing process works for Tribal Members – confusing and slighting frustrating. Although our design includes infrared, magnetic and vibration sensors, it doesn’t always react the way it was engineered to. Someone wittingly mentioned that the pinball machine has taken the personality of the housing process because sometimes it takes a really long time to push your housing permits through and sometimes your contract gets stuck and no amount of shakes will get the ball rolling again. With this new round of improvements our sensors will be more accurate and the lights blinking as the ball rolls down the ramps will be almost dizzying – much how the real process it, but this time it will be intentional.

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Before taking down the pinball machine I made adjustments to the code of our Arduino (the micro-controller that reads and powers our lights and sensors). This is me, both frustrated and happy that I got the light bulb to light-up but not the motor.
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 “Journey to a New Home” with half the lights on. Soon it will glow with even more lights!
Inside
This is the inside of the pinball machine. Notice ALL those wires? Some deliver power and some deliver signals to and from the sensor to the Arduino. The Arduino has a set of “if/else” statements that determines when a light or motor should be turned on.
KidsPlaying
A family enjoying “Journey to a New Home”. They learned how to get the ball all the way to the end with a lot of patience and tactic.

We Are Here will be on view until the end of November 2019. Take a trip to our Museum and experience the frustration of going through the housing process on the reservation.

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To-Pee-Kee-Ke Yak-Ne Community Center: A Place to Gather

By Justin Giles, Oral History Coordinator

As we spring forward on the Big Cypress Reservation, the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum continues to grow with the seasons, as well.  Our Museum staff has participated in a flurry of Tribal events and festivals this season with the goal of being an active part of the community.  While our staff takes care of their day-to-day duties on the Museum grounds, we also have the mission of engaging directly with the Seminole community in a proactive way.  Participating in events like the annual Tribal Fair, Seminole Shootout, and the Swamp Cabbage festival is a great way to conduct outreach with our constituency.  Plus, there always tends to be great food to enjoy, as well!

In the spirit of being active community members, the museum is embarking on another initiative to bring our programs and services to the Seminole people.   We have renovated a former Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) building located on the Big Cypress Reservation that until recently operated as the local pool hall.  In the coming months we will open the To-Pee-Kee-Ke Yak-Ne Community Center as an extension of the Museum itself.  To-Pee-Kee-Ke Yak-Ne translates to “a place to gather” or “a gathering place” and has been deemed an appropriate name for this newly renovated facility.

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Specifically, the new community center will have a central focus on the oral history program and serve as a space where Tribal Members can feel welcome and comfortable to share and record their histories.  We want to be sure that the building has a feel of a relative’s living room where conversation and a natural sharing of stories can happen without having to maneuver and find space on the main Museum campus.  We will also have space to showcase our library’s large collection of photographs featuring Tribal Members as far back as the 1920’s from the various reservations.

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The building is large enough to accommodate several of our traveling exhibit pop up banners that present Seminole life and history.  Additionally, we have kept the gaming aspect of the building providing pin ball machines, foosball, and two pool tables open to the Seminole community.

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Lastly, the To-Pee-Kee-Ke Yak-Ne Community Center will serve as an additional space on the reservation for birthday parties, cook outs, Tribal community and Council meetings,  Museum staff meetings, and will be made available whenever the need to gather arises.  The center will also serve as a place to post Tribal and tourist announcements for events, programs, and other happenings.  As we finish the last touch ups to the building, please be on the look out for firm opening dates and events.  We are excited for this opportunity to extend our Museum directly to the Seminole community and to have more open doors to share the Museum with visitors.  The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki is proud to serve the Seminole people and provide an educational center to the world at large eager to learn about Seminole and Florida history.

Sho-Na-Besh-Sha/Mvto!

(Thank you)!

Seminole Chickees: Unconquered Architecture

By Carrie Dilley, Visitor Services and Development Manager

While we constantly aim to engage with and educate our visitors, we also strive to break down stereotypes and represent Seminoles as modern and diverse. We want our visitors to walk away with the understanding that although they share many commonalities with other tribes, Seminoles also maintain their unique culture and traditions.

Chickees Are Not Tipis

We get excited when our visitors ask us questions. In particular, the one we hear quite frequently is “did Seminoles live in tipis?” Most visitors, especially if they are from Florida, would be able to look at a chickee and say, “Yes, I have seen those before!”  Often confused with a tiki hut or other open-sided thatched structures, the chickee (or Seminole home) was traditionally constructed of palmetto and cypress. Over time, chickees adapted to incorporate the use of more readily available materials such as pressure-treated pine for the structural components.  While similar in appearance and materials to other thatched dwellings, a structure can only be called a chickee if constructed by Seminoles or Miccosukees.

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Who Needs Air Conditioning?

Our visitors are sometimes astonished when we tell them that Seminoles lived in chickees year-round. Most people who live in enclosed homes cannot picture living in a home without walls.  However, we ask our visitors to imagine the temperature difference when you incorporate beautiful cross-breezes versus trying to stay cool in the middle of August in an enclosed structure with no air conditioning.  The temperature beneath a chickee is 10-15 degrees cooler than the outside air.  As a result, the chickee is comfortable in less than ideal temperatures.  In addition, the open sides enhance structural stability during hurricanes as the winds blow straight through it.  Chickees fare quite well during inclement weather and typically suffer only from some ruffled palm fronds.

For the most part chickees are not primary homes for Tribal members. However, they are still a prevalent and critical part of Seminole culture. Today, chickees are as unique as their owners.  They have adapted with time yet remain a hallmark of Seminole tradition.

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Cultural History Beyond a Simple Internet Search

When I Googled “Seminole chickee,” the Tribe’s website surprisingly does not come up as the top result. As more people come to know and understand the unique architectural and cultural history of indigenous peoples, we hope that researchers, students, and the interested public will come to the tribes themselves for information.  If you would like to come visit the museum and utilize our amazing library for research, feel free to call us at 877-902-1113 to set up an appointment with our research coordinator.  Also, be sure to check out our online database, as well as Florida Memory’s wonderful collection of images and information. You will be glad that you did!

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Agents of Change

By Kate Macuen, Assistant Director

I recently returned from a two day retreat with the Florida Association of Museum’s Board of Directors.   It was a productive couple of days where we discussed strategic planning for the organization.  As with any strategic planning session, we addressed some hard questions, such as: If the organization stopped existing tomorrow, would anyone care?  Breakout groups and brainstorming sessions during the retreat generated a lot of discussion on the value of museums within our communities.

At one point the facilitator threw out another tough question: Why are museums vital? We began to point out the more obvious reasons—museums are educational, they preserve our heritage, and they help drive the economy.  Someone then added, “Museums are vital because they are agents of change.”  This struck a chord.

Museums are agents of change because they challenge us with diverse perspectives.  They put the history that they work so hard to preserve into context with current social, political, and economic issues.  They connect us with new ideas and information.

Museums are agents of change because they can change people’s lives.

The value of museums is simple- they impact our lives.  Looking back at my own experiences I can see how the simple act of visiting museums has changed my own life.  Some experiences have been dramatic, while others have sparked a quieter, introspective moment.  I have visited exhibitions and had a powerful shift in perspective, giving me a new understanding of a historic event.  I’ve stood in front of a favorite painting and recalled memories from my past.  I’ve connected with people I may have otherwise never met through a shared experience at an interactive display that showed the ins and outs of the human nervous system.  How amazing to have places like this in our world that give us spaces to learn from one another’s heritage and knowledge.

I am so glad to be part of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum team, who strives every day to be change agents. Our team shows me how their dedication to sharing the Seminole story translates into meaningful and impactful experiences for our community and visitors.  Being an agent of change is no easy task, but 2019 is looking bright as we march ahead with the courage and conviction in knowing that the work we do can leave a lifelong impression.

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How have museums impacted your life?  Share with us in the comments below!

How can you plan a group visit to the Museum?

By Alyssa Boge, Education Coordinator

Did you know the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum offers special programs for groups? Whether you have a group of students or a family reunion, we’d love to host you!

What is a group?

A group is any gathering of 10 or more people. You can bring your family, a club, scout troop, students, or any group of people who want to be a part of a shared experience.

What are the perks of being a group?

Admission for groups starts at $5/person. Groups can also sign up for additional programs such as tours and games!

How do I sign up?

In order to receive the group admission rate or set up a tour program for your group, all you have to do is call me (Alyssa Boge–Education Coordinator) at 863-902-1113 x12225 or send me an email at alyssaboge@semtribe.com.  I’m more than happy to work with you to customize your visit!

What types of programs are available?

There are many different programs available. Select the program that works best for your group.

Tours

Museum Film + Guided Gallery Tour (1 hour)

Start your visit with our panoramic film that provides an overview of Seminole history and culture. Next, explore our diorama style exhibits that transport you back in time as you discover Seminole culture. Our experienced guides will share the Seminole story with you and answer any questions during this interactive tour.

*Perfect for all ages

Marty Tour

Guided Boardwalk Tour (1 hour)

Explore our boardwalk which takes you through the Cypress Dome with a knowledgeable guide. As you walk our mile-long boardwalk, you’ll discover the Florida Everglades and how Seminoles used the ecosystem’s resources to survive and thrive.

*Perfect for all ages. Wheelchairs are available for those who wish to use them.

Boardwalk

Crafts

Beaded Bracelet (30 minutes)

Be inspired by Seminole beadwork to create your own beaded bracelet.

*This activity is great for all ages.

Beaded Keychain (45 minutes)

Create your own beaded keychain using Seminole colors.

*This activity is best for 4th grade and up.

Everglades Watercolors (45 minutes-1 hour)

Discover Seminole artists and how they’ve been inspired by the Florida Everglades. An instructor will show you how you can create your own Everglades painting using watercolor pencils.

*This activity is best for adults.

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Games

Knee Bone (20 minutes)

Toss the knee bone of a cow into the air to see where it lands and how many points you can get!

*This activity can be played by preschoolers and up.

Tools of Survival (30 minutes)

Would you survive the Seminole Wars? Find out with this card based game.

*This activity is best for 4th grade and up.

Tools of Survival

We Are Here (30 minutes)

Piece together a puzzle showcasing how Seminole Tribal government functions while exploring our newest exhibit that highlights the many Tribal departments.

*This activity is best for 4th grade and up.

How much does it cost?

Rates vary for student versus adult groups and all group packages start at just $5 a person. Check out our website for a detailed breakdown of package prices, or call/email us today for a personalized quote!

Through our Culture Access Program, we also provide gallery and boardwalk tours free of charge for Title 1 Schools and non-profit organizations serving low income, disadvantaged youth, or at risk persons.

Are meals provided?

The Museum doesn’t offer concessions. However, you are more than welcome to bring your own lunch and use our picnic area. You may also consider scheduling lunch at the Swamp Water Café inside Billie Swamp Safari.

Does the Museum have a Gift Shop?

The Museum does have a store where you can find custom Native American keepsakes to help you reminisce about your visit. If you are limited on time, consider purchasing our Museum Store Goodie Bags. Simply complete an order form in advance of your visit and pick the items up when you come. You can also order anytime online at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum Store.

Museum Store Goodie Bag

What else should I know about visiting?

Make sure to give yourself enough time to get to the Museum as we are located on the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation. You can find directions here: https://www.ahtahthiki.com/downloads/AhTahThiKi_Map_2016_prf2.pdf.

You may wish to a bring a sweater since it can get cold in the Museum.  For boardwalk tours, consider bringing along bug spray, sunscreen, and cash for purchasing items in the village.

Review the rules with your group before visiting. No food or drinks besides water are allowed inside the Museum. Photography is allowed, but flash photography is not permitted inside the galleries.

On your trip out to Big Cypress, we highly recommend making a day of it by also visiting Billie Swamp Safari.  Our Everglades Adventure Park, also owned and operated by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, is only 3 miles away!  Call them at 863-983-6101 to schedule your experience which may include an airboat and/swamp buggy ride, along with wildlife presentations.

Where can I stay overnight?

For overnight visits, we have two major options.  You can rent private chickees or chickee dorms at Billie Swamp Safari. You can also rent a cabin, tent space, or RV spot at the Big Cypress RV Resort by calling 863-983-1330.

We hope to see you soon!