2009 in Review

2009 has been a banner year for the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. Not only have some major milestones been met by the Museum, but we have kept on going with special programs and exhibits that have helped to highlight the history and culture of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Here is a quick review of what happened in 2009.

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2009 has been a banner year for the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.  Not only have some major milestones been met by the Museum, but we have kept on going with special programs and exhibits that have helped to highlight the history and culture of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.  Here is a quick review of what happened in 2009:

In February the Museum, along with Heritage Ft. Lauderdale, AutoNation and RM Auctions, participated in the Wheels fundraising benefit.  The benefit was held at the Broward County Convention Center and included live entertainment provided by “The Fabulons” and a silent auction with all proceeds benefiting Heritage Ft. Lauderdale. 

March found the Museum hosting Kattle Kids Day, a weekend long event for school age children in the surrounding area.  The day was a resounding success with both Tribal kids and kids from across the region learning about the importance of the cattle industry for the Seminole Tribe of Florida.  In fact the event was such a success that another one will be held March 2010, so stay tuned for more information on this popular event. 

Roping up some cattle at Kattle Kids Day 2009
April was an extremely busy month for the Museum.  Unconquered Imagination opened at our facility in Okalee at the beginning of the month. The exhibit featured contemporary native artists from across the country and ran at that facility through October 2009.  Another exhibit, Native Words, Native Warriors, opened at our Big Cypress facility at the end of the month.  This exhibit, produced by the Smithsonian Institutions Traveling Exhibit Service, was met with much excitement by both the staff and community. 
Native Words, Native Warriors Opening April 2009
The other big news from April was the Museum finding out that it had earned national accreditation from the American Association of Museums (AAM).  This made the Museum the first tribally governed museum in the United States to receive official certification from the AAM.  It took four long years to earn this distinction, but with it the AAM verified that the Museum met national industry standards of excellence in all aspects of its responsibilities including governance, staffing, sustainability and stewardship of the collection entrusted to its care.
Chairman Mitchell Cypress and Historic Resources Officer Tina Osceola at Accreditation Press Conference

June found staff from the Museum attending the Smithsonian’s Affiliation Conference held in Washington DC.  Because of the long standing relationship the Museum had with the Smithsonian, the Museum became an official affiliate member in April of 2009, which allowed staff to attend the conference.  Affiliate museums from across the country also attended, which allowed for some excellent opportunities in networking. 

In July, Native Words, Native Warrior closed at our Big Cypress facility which allowed for a new exhibit to open in the space.  The Randle/Sheffield Collection: Life Along the Tamiami Trail in the 1940’s and 1950’s was loaned to the Museum by the South Florida Community College Museum of Florida Art and Culture for exhibit until January 2010.  This exhibit is based upon the photography of Florence Randle who was a commercial photographer with a studio in Coconut Grove in the 1940’s. She and her niece, Phyllis Sheffield would often spend their weekends photographing the Seminole people who lived along the Tamiami Trail.  The exhibit shows some excellent images of the Seminole people which have never been shown before in the Big Cypress facility. 

Randle Sheffield Opening July 2009

Fall of 2009 continued to be a busy time, with the Museum celebrating the one year anniversary of the exhibit, Cattle Keepers:  the Heritage of Seminole Cattle Ranching.  Because of the popularity of this exhibit, it will remain open until September 2010.  Staff also represented the Museum at various conferences including the Florida Association of Museums conference, held in Sarasota, Florida, and the Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums conference in Portland, Oregon.  At both of these conferences Museum staff presented on various aspects of the Museum, including disaster planning, the accreditation process, and the oral history program.  

In November the Museum was proud to host the 12th annual American Indian Arts Celebration (AIAC).  The event took place from November 6, 7, and 8 on the festival grounds across from the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum on the Big Cypress Reservation.  During the festival the Museum hosted an authentic American Indian market, food vendors, children’s craft corner, dance demonstrations, story telling and alligator wrestling.  Also special performances by the award winning Yellowbird Apache Dancers, featuring Kevin Duncan the current world champion teen hoop dancer. The event ended each day with a musical performances by renowned Native American reggae artist and singing sensation CASPER and the 602 Band.

This was just a quick review of some of the larger events that occurred in 2009 for the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.  Stay tuned to our website, blog, and Facebook page for what we have planned in 2010!

And now a word from the front of the house…

Hi folks! My name is Van and I’m a tour guide here at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum in Big Cypress. I’m thrilled to share with you, briefly, about my exciting life as a tour guide.

Hi folks! My name is Van and I’m a tour guide here at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum in Big Cypress.  I’m thrilled to share with you, briefly, about my exciting life as a tour guide.  

What does a tour guide do? I’m so glad you asked!  Along with the normal day to day responsibilities, such as extensive & extremely intensive facility maintenance (vacuuming/dusting), being a tour guide can be challenging, yet fulfilling as well.  As I like to say, it’s not just a job, it’s an adventure! 

For instance, much of our time is focused on researching historical and cultural information.  Being a tour guide involves “person to person” skills, interacting with the public and providing customer service.  It also involves presentation, or public speaking, skills in being able to convey the unique, fascinating, and true story of the unconquered Florida Seminoles. 

Van leading a tour on our boardwalk.

 

The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum also offers a unique 1.5 mile scenic nature trail, an elevated boardwalk that spans through an actual cypress dome.  So in addition, life as a tour guide can be physically challenging and adventurous, as we get plenty of exercise and sometimes we can see wildlife in its natural setting.  For example, on rare occasions (just a few months ago) our staff has experienced black bear and bobcat sightings on the boardwalk, indeed it was very exciting!  But most of all, we observe different varieties of birds and smaller animals. 

So as you can see, there are different aspects, as well many others, to being a tour guide here at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.  There’s so much to tell, but I will save that for a later date.  Hope to see  you soon!

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.

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.