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.

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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.
 

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.