Let’s Ask the Pros

Hello, readers. It’s been a while since I have contributed to the Museum’s blog, but alas here I find myself pounding away at the keyboard yet again, this time with a request. You may have noticed recently that we have been making a concerted effort in the Collections Office to engage our readers in conversations that will benefit us and hopefully, by default, make it easier for us to record the Tribe’s history. This time I am in need of some advice from the museum professionals who may be reading about policies (I can already feel your eyes glazing over and ready to open another tab).  


Lately, I’ve been working on a project that will hopefully establish a more meaningful relationship between the Collections Office of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and the diverse and disparate Seminole communities that we serve. We are trying to establish a sustainable dialog with Tribal Members to gather opinions and suggestions on how they would like to utilize our collections. In other words, we are trying to find ways of making our collections more accessible to the Tribe, which is challenging considering the distances between all the reservations (we are in Big Cypress).

We’ve received some good feedback from other museums and cultural centers in the field and we already deal with broader museum/community related topics by other internal means. For example we have recently formed a Museum Advisory Council (MAC), composed entirely of Tribal Members of varying backgrounds and ages, whom we ask for advice on a number of general museological and ethical issues. Eventually our goal is to create a task force similar to the MAC but whose focus will be on advising us strictly on collection matters.

Senior tours are one offering that is beneficial to the communities and the Collections Office

So here is where I need a little help. If you have had any experience with community collaboration involving Native people and collections departments, in any context, either positive or negative, please let us know. In our ongoing mission of serving our host community we are always looking for new ideas and thoughts from our readers. If you have anything to add to the dialogue please chime in below or you can reach me by email at jonathanmcmahon@semtribe.com.


Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum Exhibit Promotes Healthy Eating

Through the Eyes of the Eagle is a national traveling exhibition currently on view at the museum that promotes healthy eating and exercise for children.  Organized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Diabetes Translation, Native Diabetes Wellness Program, and Global Health Odyssey Museum, the exhibit is designed to raise awareness of Type 2 diabetes using the traditional story-telling method common in Native American and Alaskan Native cultures.  The exhibition is based on the four-book series written by Georgia Perez.  It features human and animal characters to tell the stories. 

One of the four books depicted in the exhibition is called Knees Lifted High.  In the book, one of the main animal characters Mr. Eagle shares the knowledge that inadequate physical activity contributes to development of Type 2 diabetes.  Mr. Eagle encourages children to find ways of being active just as their ancestors did.  He elicits ideas from children on ways to get their bodies up and moving.


The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, in collaboration with the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Health Department, recently hosted over 40 students from the Ahfachkee School with a tour of the exhibition and engaged them in a dancing exercise activity.  Students also received nutrition information from health department representatives.


Because many children and families visit the Museum, it is especially fitting to have such a great exhibit featuring children as a main feature in the artwork.


The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Staff Attends the National Association of Interpreters Conference

From Emily Kubota, Lead Tour Guide

In Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki’s Education Division, we find ourselves ending conference season. This year I had my first opportunity to attend several conferences, including FASA (Florida Association of School Administrators) and FRA (Florida Reading Conference).  I attended both of these as a vendor and learned all the tricks of the trade when it comes to preparing a booth, building our background displays, and setting up our table of freebies. Thanks to Florida’s wet season, I also learned how to rain-proof an open bed truck (or attempted to at least). Going into it, I wasn’t sure what to expect and was nervous. There is a lot of planning, packing, and unpacking that goes on, as well as meeting some really interesting people and getting the word out about our museum and the opportunities we provide for schools with different needs.

Emily Kubota, Pedro Zepeda, Greg Palumbo

                I also got to attend NAI (National Association of Interpreters) but I went as a member, not as a vendor. It was held in St. Paul, Minnesota during the month of November. As a girl from the north, I didn’t think the cold would get to me. But Florida’s climate was definitely something I had gotten used to.  For this conference instead of packing collateral, I packed sweaters, scarves, and boots. We spent the first day at the pre-conference workshop where my co-workers Diana Stone, Pedro Zepeda, and Greg Palumbo were presenters. They discussed what it was like working for a Native American tribe and some of the unique challenges we face here at the museum. We heard from other people who work with Native cultures and also from some of the local tribal members, like David Larsen, a Dakota elder.  It was a great experience and I learned about the contemporary problems tribes face today. Throughout the conference, I was able to attend a wide variety of workshops, like how to interpret slavery, interpreting nature, and even how to interpret Johnny Cash’s hometown.  There were lots sessions going on throughout each day, so attendees could pick and choose which sessions to attend.  NAI was unlike any conference I had been to before and I am definitely excited to go again next year.

Scene from Minnesota

                As conference attendees, we took several field trips. We went to historic Fort Snelling, which is located just outside of the city. This fort was built in the early 1820’s and was later site of an Indian concentration camp where they kept the Dakota people waiting to be moved to reservations further west. We also went to the Science Museum of Minnesota, where we got to see dinosaur skeletons and learn about natural disasters. They offered a trolley tour of historic St. Paul where we learned all about the city’s past and its people. Last but not least, we had time to squeeze in a trip to the Mall of America, where I got a head start on some Christmas shopping.

Pedro Zepeda, Greg Palumbo, and Diana Stone presenting at the NAI Conference

                Luckily for me, I am back in the warm Florida weather and have put my heavy coat away for now. Life at the museum has been busy, with hundreds of kids coming every week. Going to conferences is good way to explore ideas and hear about how other museums do things a little differently, which can help us expand our programming and grow as a division. And with all of our visitors this time of year, there is no better time to improve as interpreters.

Happy Holidays!

Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum will mark its 15th anniversary on August 27, 2012.  Whether you are an original member, one of our first guests or a virtual guest; we hope that you join us in celebrating this important milestone.  For fifteen years Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum has been a bridge to the past and a beacon for the future. The Museum’s journey of innovation, collaboration, and accreditation has been exciting and fulfilling.  The early vision and hard work of so many talented and dedicated individuals, laid the ground work for a beautiful and informative Seminole and Florida experience. 

Our newest exhibit is: Mosaic: The Art of Ahfachkee Students, Big Cypress Reservation; currently featuring works of the K – 2nd grade students of Ahfachkee School in Big Cypress. The school’s art teacher Ivette Lopez used the work of Paul Klee and El Greco to inspire her students.  The beautiful, colorful results are framed and hung in the Museum.  The student art exhibition is an ongoing, collaborative project of the Museum and Tribal students from the Ahfachkee School and the Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School on the Brighton Reservation.

Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum tour guides were all recently certified as interpretive guides from the National Association for Interpretation.  The 4-day CIG training was equal to a college level course in museum studies. Having staff that have gone through this training moves us toward our goal of providing you, and all our guests a more informative and fulfilling museum experience.

Let’s Move, Museums & Gardens – 489 museums, zoos and gardens have signed on to include and promote healthy lifestyle choices in their exhibits and programs. Let’s Move is a program instituted by First Lady Michelle Obama and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) – a federal agency.  The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum is a Let’s Move institution. An upcoming exhibit at the Museum, Through the Eyes of the Eagle, comes along at just the right time as it coincides with the Let’s Move initiative.  The exhibit is a series of large watercolor paintings based on a series of children’s books written by Georgia Perez and illustrated by Patrick Rolo (Bad River Band of Ojibwe, Wisconsin) and Lisa A. Fifeld (Oneida Tribe, Wisconsin). It was originally developed by the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in collaboration with the Tribal leaders Diabetes Committee and Indian Health Services. The exhibit runs February – April 2012.  We hope you can visit.   

Museum Store: In addition to our selection of Seminole patchwork, books, CDs and jewelry; we have just received our holiday ornament. A red ball with a band of patchwork, it comes boxed, ready for gifting. It’s just $12.95.  You can order this ornament by emailing rebeccapetrie@semtribe.com or calling the Museum Store at 877.902.1113 ext. 12224.

We hosted our first Birdwalk on the Boardwalk during AIAC. Hendry County Audubon Society and its members led the morning walks. Here is our AIAC bird list: Northern Perula, Grey Catbird, American Redstart, Blue Grey Gnatcatcher, Phoebe, Great Crested Flycatcher, Wilson’s Warbler (#255 on one watcher’s life list), Palm Warbler, Yellow Bellied Sap Sucker, Red Bellied Woodpecker, Red Shouldered Hawk, Magnolia Warbler, White Ibis, Anhinga, Great Blue Heron.  Heard but not seen: House Wren and Indigo Bunting.  Pictured at right is a Red Shouldered Hawk I saw on Sunday morning.

The Museum has introduced our first volunteer program; providing unique opportunities for members and interested individuals willing to lend a hand and interact with staff in such exciting areas of the Museum as Collections, Membership and Education. Volunteers will help to fulfill the mission of the Museum and work to create a strong collaborative, community environment, as well as garner a deeper, first-hand knowledge and understanding of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. More information about the volunteer program is available by contacting the Museum Administrative Assistant at (863) 902-1993 and we hope to hear from you soon!

Add this to your calendar: Battle of Okeechobee – reenactment: February 4 & 5, 2012, hosted by Battle of Okeechobee Battlefield Friends.  This event commemorates the largest and fiercest battle in the Seminole Wars, fought on Christmas Day 1837.  We will have an informational and retail booth at the event so we hope to see you there. Visit http://www.okeechobeebattlefield.com/index.html for additional information.

To enhance your Museum experience we offer free tours on most days, check the calendar on our website for times and days.

Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum members are always admitted free.  If you would like Museum membership information, please email marybirch-hanson@semtribe.com or call 954.364.5205.

I look forward to seeing you at the Museum. 

Mary Birch-Hanson

Membership Coordinator

AIAC and Museum Happenings

Hard to believe it is mid-October already. Preparation for our 14th annual American Indian Arts Celebration (AIAC) is in full swing as the first weekend in November draws near. While excitement revs up for the event, Development continues to work to bring awareness and support to the Museum and its related events. The deft art of fundraising in stressed economic times provides the perfect learning curve for our Museum as we embark on a multi-tiered approach to expanding our membership base and other opportunities for community, corporate and philanthropic investment. Essentially a newcomer to this arena, the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki is slowly albeit dedicatedly building a platform for recognition and support.

Working closely with cultural and community partners to design programs of interest at the Museum and elsewhere, including birdwalks, archaeological days, collections workshops, traditional arts demonstrations as well as exclusive store sales, we have enhanced our profile and brought more awareness to the Museum, its mission and the importance of preserving cultural heritage.

During AIAC weekend we will be hosting an early morning Birdwalk on the Boardwalk. For the price of admission to the festival, birding enthusiasts are welcomed and will gain access to the Boardwalk before the Museum officially opens at 9am. Beyond AIAC, the Museum plans to hold these early morning Birdwalks quarterly throughout the year. So in what appears to be a successful model, specific event planning can lead to overall programming thereby broadening the Museums reach, role and recognition.

Early November is sure to bring long awaited and celebrated cooler temperatures, typically the perfect backdrop for our annual fall event. Several meet-ups have been organized for birders, bikers and photographers. This year we welcome Native American performer Kevin Locke (http://www.kevinlocke.com/kevin/about) and a group of Native Hawaiian dancers called the Aloha Islanders (http://www.wehula.com) ; as well as the usual excitement of Seminole Stomp dancing, alligator wrestling, Critter Show, sensational Seminole and other foods. GET YOUR FRY BREAD HERE!


Expect weekend-long fun for all ages with Raffles, the Children’s Craft Tent, the Archaeology Tent and the digital Scavenger Hunt. Be sure to stop by the Museum Information tent to visit with Museum staff and learn about current and planned exhibitions, programs, events and membership opportunities.

Look for more event details on the Museum website and the AIAC Facebook Page. And remember to set those clocks back on Sunday, November 6. We wouldn’t want you to miss a thing in our exciting lineup!  See you soon.

-Dorian Lange