Archaeologists at Work

My name is Julie Richko Labate and I am the Tribal Archaeologist here at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. The Tribal Archaeology Section, or TAS as we like to call ourselves, works with the Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) to protect and preserve artifacts and important archaeological sites on the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s (STOF) six reservations. We are responsible for the pre-emptive cultural survey of areas undergoing development on all Seminole Tribe of Florida Reservations.

Advertisements

My name is Julie Richko Labate and I am the Tribal Archaeologist here at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. The Tribal Archaeology Section, or TAS as we like to call ourselves, works with the Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) to protect and preserve artifacts and important archaeological sites on the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s (STOF) six reservations. We are responsible for the pre-emptive cultural survey of areas undergoing development on all Seminole Tribe of Florida Reservations.

 We are a team of ten archaeologists who are all college graduates with degrees in either Anthropology or Archaeology. We have had special training in archaeological field and laboratory methods through our experiences in cultural resource management work and various archaeological field schools.                                                                                             

We use the most advanced data gathering technologies to maintain an innovative and ever–evolving research design (much cooler than Tomb Raider because we DO archaeology). By using state-of-the-art Global Positioning Systems (GPS), the TAS is able to record and complete archaeology for the Tribe on both paper and in an electronic database. Our archaeological data collection and analysis database is one of the nation’s top tribal archaeological databases.

Archaeologists at Work!

The archaeological field crew excavates shovel test units in the first phase of archaeological site detection. Every shovel test is recorded and mapped using a Trimble GeoXT (GPS Device). The Trimble provides the location of the test unit at sub-meter accuracy. The maps created by the TAS aid in the writing of reports and in the archaeological research conducted on the Tribe’s reservations. The TAS, in conjunction with the THPO, is compiling an extensive and accurate research database. In years to come, a few simple clicks of a mouse will show what has been surveyed and the areas to be avoided due to the presence of the Tribe’s invaluable cultural resources.

Our goal is to maintain the cultural landscape of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. As the archaeological field crew, we pride ourselves in being an integral part of preserving the history of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.  Thanks for reading. Sho-na-Bish!

 

Conserving the Past

Hello, my name is Corey Smith and I am the conservator here at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. We are extremely lucky to have a conservation position at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, because most museums of our size do not have the ability to have this position. Since one of the main goals of our museum is to preserve Seminole Cultural Heritage, conservation is an important component to have at the museum.

Hello, my name is Corey Smith and I am the conservator here at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.  We are extremely lucky to have a conservation position at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, because most museums of our size do not have the ability to have this position.  Since one of the main goals of our museum is to preserve Seminole Cultural Heritage, conservation is an important component to have at the museum.   
Corey in the Lab
Corey Smith treating one of our historic canoes.

When I speak of conservation, I am referring to art conservation not environmental conservation, which is a very common misunderstanding. Although I do like trees quite a bit and the wildlife out here on the Big Cypress Reservation is incredible (more on this later), my job at the museum involves object and textile conservation.  Conservation, in the most general terms, is the process of stabilizing artifacts through examination, documentation, and treatment of the artifact’s internal conditions (the chemical composition and physical structure) and external conditions (the museum environment and storage conditions). 

Most materials on earth will return to dust at some point.  It is my job as a conservator to slow this process down and preserve the original material of an artifact as it exists today.  Many factors, both natural and those created by humans, can cause an artifact to deteriorate.  Insect damage, pollution, accidents and extremes in light levels, temperature or humidity can accelerate deterioration.  The conservator must recognize these issues and minimize the effects that they have upon the collection within their care. 

The field of conservation is often associated with or confused with the practice of restoration, and I think it is important to point out the differences between the two.  Conservation is the act of preserving and stabilizing the original material of an artifact.  Restoration is the act of adding or subtracting elements of an artifact in order to make it look like it did at an earlier point in time.  The illusion of an earlier time may be enhanced by changing the surface quality of the artifact or adding additional elements to create a “whole” piece of art.  There are times when my conservation treatments involve elements of restoration, but this only occurs after lengths have been taken to stabilize, identify and separate the original components and conservation treatments never involve the destruction of original material.  As we have all learned from the various antique-themed television shows, restoration can commonly devalue an artifact.  Conservation on the other hand does not devalue a piece of art, because it is not damaging any of the original components of the artifact.  Often conservation can enhance the value of the artifact because it adds to the prolonged life of the piece.

I am excited to be able to use this blog to explain conservation treatments that are going on at our museum.  Visitors to the museum can see the conservation lab through the observation hallway on our boardwalk.  Sometimes we feel a bit like animals in a zoo on exhibition, but it is a great opportunity for our visitors to see the museum work that happens behind the scenes.  There is also a small exhibit in the observation hallway featuring tools and equipment that I often use in conservation treatments.  It was in this observation hallway my very first week of work here that I realized that our museum was not going to be like any museum I have worked in before.  As I was sitting at the table in front of the hallway I looked up to see a large bobcat trying to come in through the observation hallway exterior door.  The bobcat had been peacefully walking on the boardwalk through the swamp when the sound of visitors frightened him and he was trying to run away but had come up against the glass door.  As I watched he leaped off of the boardwalk onto an adjacent tree and jumped to the ground.  Since that point I have seen bears, bobcats, snakes, turtles, and other creatures out on the boardwalk.  In fact this morning we created a screen cover to help protect three small eggs of a pond turtle that were buried in front of the curatorial building.  Hopefully in 80 to 150 days they will hatch and we will have baby turtles here at the museum!
Turtle laying eggs
Turtle laying eggs outside of our Curatorial Building

AIAC 2009-Welcome to the Craft Corner!

Hi, I’m Diana Stone, Education Coordinator at the Museum. During the American Indian Arts Celebration (AIAC), Education staff provides a Craft Corner tent to allow the visitor to take part in the festivities.

 

Hi, I’m Diana Stone, Education Coordinator at the Museum. During the American Indian Arts Celebration (AIAC), Education staff provides a Craft Corner tent to allow the visitor to take part in the festivities.  The Craft Corner started in 2007, as a way to engage the youth during the three-day festival and a place to reflect on the inspiring world of Native American art.

AIAC 2008 Craft Corner
AIAC Craft Corner – Transparencies

At any time during the festival you will find staff, parents, teachers, chaperones, etc. sharing and helping children with their crafts. These crafts tap into the aspiring artist in all of us. These crafts, much like the actual Seminole art sold at AIAC, are inspired by the traditions of the Seminole people. Crafts in years past have ranged from Woven Paper Fans shaped like palm fronds fans to painted transparencies of archival and collection images. This year we are creating patchwork bookmarks inspired by the famous patchwork clothing of the Seminoles. While you’re in the tent you will learn about how the patchwork designs have changed of over the years.

AIAC Craft Corner
AIAC Craft Corner - Paper Fans

It is interesting to see how each child makes the craft their own work of art. My favorite part of the Craft Corner is sitting down and talking with the children learning about how they experience AIAC.  I would also like to take this opportunity, to promote a new children’s activity brought to AIAC by the Tribal Historic Preservation Office (or THPO) who will be teaching children about archaeology. The THPO studies the objects left behind by Ancestors of Seminole and other Native Florida Tribes.

This is also my opportunity to mention all the great and wonderful activities for children, ages 1 to 100, to experience at our Museum.  All performances at AIAC and the Museum are family friendly. The performances come from the Seminole Tribe and tribes from across the nation. There will also be an alligator demonstration and a critter show. And if this blog is not enough to convince you to come, email me at dianastone@semtribe.com and I can tell you about the many other reasons you and your family should come to this event.
 

AIAC 2009 it’s almost here…

AIAC, it’s almost here…You can feel the excitement grow as the tents and stage are being set-up, the artists arrive on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation and set-up their booths filled with arts and crafts for your consideration and purchase.

AIAC, it’s almost here…You can feel the excitement grow as the tents and stage are being set-up, the artists arrive on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation and set-up their booths filled with arts and crafts for your consideration and purchase.  Some artists sell only what they make and some come with goods representing their broader Native community.

This year we have 39 artists from 6 states and 10 tribes (including many Seminole artisans) making the trip to join in the American Indian Arts Celebration.  As I look at the photographs of their work, I just can’t wait to meet the artists and see their artistry in person.

I sincerely hope that you are planning to be there.  From the first year I ever attended, I was impressed with the music, the dance, the beautiful art, the great food, the beauty of the Everglades and the blue November skies.  It is simply amazing! There will be fantastic musical performances daily from a variety of Seminole and other Native performers.

This is our 12th year presenting the AIAC and it remains such bargain entertainment and fun at only $9 per adult and $6 for students/seniors.  Engaging activities for all ages include a Craft Corner, Critter Show, Alligator Wrestling, Archaeological Information Tent, Raffle Tickets and of course the Museum itself.  You can view photos of previous AIAC events at http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/photo_search.php?oid=46484093517&view=all

Friday, November 6 at 9am it all begins.  So come by and see me for I will be on the festival grounds in the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum tent.

On another topic, in my first blog, I mentioned our pending Direct Mail. Well it has mailed, so if you have gotten our mail, please join Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum today.  If you did not get the appeal, you can contact me for member information marybirch-hanson@semtribe.com or visit me during the 12th Annual AIAC.

Exhibits, Collaboration, and the Museum as the Third Space

Greetings, name is Saul and my title within the museum is Curator of Exhibits. But for anybody who has experience within the museum world knows that titles can be somewhat misleading. It might be more appropriate to list my title as Collaborator of Exhibits!

Greetings, name is Saul and my title within the museum is Curator of Exhibits. But for anybody who has experience within the museum world knows that titles can be somewhat misleading. It might be more appropriate to list my title as Collaborator of Exhibits! Throughout my professional career I have always tried to strive for collaboration. This approach incorporates the best of what museum professionals and partners have to offer.

 Collaboration is especially important when building exhibits. While, we have our own internal exhibits team, I consider all departments within the museum as contributors to the team. This concept is important for two reasons. First, it is essential to have most, if not all departments represented within a museum exhibit. Obviously collections and education elements are key, but aspects such as oral history, research coordination, marketing, development, traditional arts, and community outreach are also essential. Second, the more people involved in the development and ultimately the final product of an exhibit the better. When individuals feel that they have an important stake in the process the outcome will be that much stronger.

 Tribal museums are unique in the sense that most often they are located within and are an integral part of the tribal community. It is our job as employees of the Seminole Tribe of Florida to tap into and tailor our activities at the Museum to reflect and/or incorporate many tribal partners internally (Seminole Tribe) and externally (Native America). I feel that we meet this priority in numerous aspects of our museum projects. However, it is imperative that we do better! One Museum wide plan that we are working on is the Interpretive Plan, which I think has incredible potential for building internal tribal partners. Through this plan we are creating ideas to build an even stronger base of Tribal support and involvement when developing exhibits and programs. Another collaborative program that I am excited about is STEP (Seminole Travelling Exhibits Program). One of our goals is to share STEP with other tribal museums in a reciprocal or low cost manner. This is extremely important for building external collaborative relationships with other tribal museums across the country.

 I would also like to take a moment to comment on the changing face of museums, especially tribal museums in the 21st century. I first heard of the theoretical idea of museums and libraries as being a “Third Place” during a keynote address by the great museum thinker Elaine Heumann Gurian during a recent Florida Association of Museums conference. Elaine described this concept as neither work nor home, the Third Place is a neutral community space, where people come together voluntarily and informally in ways that level social inequities and promote community engagement and social connection. She cited Ray Oldenburg’s 1989 book The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community as the inspiration behind Third Place, and can be directly related to the idea of museums as civic space in her book Civilizing the Museum: The Collected Writings of Elaine Heumann Gurian. Both writings seek to explain the critical importance of these Third Spaces within a community and how socially engaged places strive to positively improve social relationships. I feel that the museum industry should trend towards the Third Place concept in the future, especially since all communities are becoming more fractionalized due to technological advancements. It will be important for museums to become increasingly active in the social engagement arena and to become the best alternative in the tech vs. human interaction divide. I believe emerging and established tribal museums are in a unique position to become Third Places. I also believe that entrenched and quite possibly dated notions of what museums are can be transformed to meet new and challenging concepts such as Third Place. However, as I stated before, it is imperative that we as museum professionals and institutional leaders have the wherewithal to incorporate new ideas and think outside the box!

Thanks for letting me bend your ear!

Food for thought:

“What would happen if we almost for the sake of argument said it is neither a library nor a museum, but it is a third place. Not just a third place, but a third force if you will. I think our institutions inevitably are going to be forces as well as places.”
Harold Skramstad, President Emeritus
(Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village)
(from Pastore 2009)

“Many subtle, interrelated, and essentially unexamined ingredients allow museums to play an enhanced role in the building of community and our collective civic life.” (Elaine Heumann Gurian 2001)

Join Us:

The Randle/ Sheffield Collection: Life Along the Tamiami Trail in the 1940’s and 1950‘s, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum Big Cypress, July 17th 2009-January 18th 2010

Postcards and Perceptions: Culture as Tourism, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum Big Cypress February 12th 2010-November 28th 2010