My shameless advertisement to let you all see the work that I am currently doing while I am working on my PhD! This week was the final class ever!!!…well, unless I want to audit! Also, I changed my dissertation! Say what?! It is going to be amazing, way for excited for this research, not that my other one was pointless or less as exciting, but this is going to shake up a lot of things!! Go big or go home, right?! Look for it in the next couple of weeks!
A career in Public History offers a wide variety of paths, and typically I would be focused on a path that includes becoming a future curator or area focused on cultural interpretation and education. Feeling that my knowledge from my past employment at Fort Edmonton Park and the Royal Albert a Museum has given me a substantial knowledge concerning cataloguing and registration, creation of interpretive briefs and programs, and working with the public, I decided to develop my skills in an area that I had very little knowledge or experience in. After taking Digital History in the Fall Semester and Interactive Exhibits in the Winter Semester, I decided to broaden and develop my knowledge in exhibitions and understand the theoretical and practical side of how to develop and produce an exhibit, while at the same time seeing how technology has impacted visitor experience and exhibition design.
The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem, Massachusetts presents art and culture from New England and around the world with the museum’s collections among the finest of their kind that showcase unrivaled American art and architecture (including four National Historic Landmark buildings) and outstanding Asian, Asian Export, Native American, African, Oceanic, Maritime and Photography collections. In addition to its vast collections, PEM offers a vibrant schedule of changing exhibitions and a hands‐on education center. PEM also features numerous parks, period gardens and 22 historic properties, including Yin Yu Tang, a 200‐year‐old house that is the only example of Chinese domestic architecture on display in the United States. Coming from a background that was entirely focused on material culture and interpretation, PEM offered me the ability to develop my skills while at the same time challenging my abilities and drawing on my education. Thus, when the Native American Fellowship program was offered for the spring and summer session, I pursued the chance and found myself emerged in an opportunity unlike any other. However, before I began my fellowship at the Peabody Essex Museum, I decided to understand how to make a past available for all to know freely and accessibly.
For two weeks I interned with the Six Nations Legacy Consortium (SNLC) supervised by Dr. Susan Hill and assisted with updating and managing their website by uploading digital documents, which makes available the history of the Six Nations people. The first week consisted of editing works from chairman of SNLC, Dr. Rick Hill, and doing so I began to understand how to approach and make available a history that is often left out of the entire public and academic narrative. Many of the writings pertain to the War of 1812 and are highly informative and direct to telling the Indigenous narrative through use of Western archives. The following week I uploaded the documents into “drafts” before they were able to be “published” and “organized” by Dr. Sabrina Saunders. The website required updates to both the website page and the plug-ins, and these needed to be performed before the “drafts” could be “published.” I was able to update the entire website, except for the internal updates, but the documents were able to be published then.
The mandate of Six Nations Legacy Consortium is to “provide for more creativity, collaboration and coordination of our community activities to perpetuate our understanding of Haudenosaunee history,” and the ability to work with works from respected authors and understand the mission that the Haudenosaunee seek and do, will help me for future projects not only back home, but in assistance to other Indigenous communities that wish to tell their stories. Sharing Indigenous past was a way that I developed my skills in relation to my long term goals of eventually creating a Treaty Six Museum that tells the story of Treaty Six First Nations from how they were before the treaties and after, through culture, trade, language, and perceptions. By working only for a short time with SNLC, I realize the impact of social media and availability of primary and secondary sources to readdress previous historical narratives and bring forth new ones. Creating a new experience for visitors is why I decided to be a fellow at the Peabody Essex Museum.
As mentioned prior, I had very little experience in Exhibition Design before I began work at the Peabody Essex Museum, but after a couple weeks, I began to become confident in the work I was doing. Supervised by Director of Design, David Siebert, and Manager of Exhibit Design, Karen Moreau Ceballos, the goals of the fellowship were to engage in a creative process of conceptualizing, visualizing and implementing museum exhibitions for PEM’s changing exhibition program. PEM is unique by their schedule of changing exhibitions, that are roughly every three months and working in Exhibition Design several key institutional objectives were reinforced: redefining design delivery to more effectively engage visitors with objects and culture, experimenting with techniques to broaden an appreciation of and engagement with the artistic process, empowering visitors to self-curate and discover new relationships between objects and ideas, and to stimulate and heighten an awareness of creativity and cultural diversity and its meaning, to be shared by all visitors. My responsibilities and tasks with Exhibit Design followed PEM’s creation of “ideations” that involved creating inspiration or visual presentations that inform design and interpretive thinking, with incorporation in design studies that focus on creating alternate approaches to communication arts and three-dimensional elements.
Based on the initial work plan, I would be oriented and instructed on graphic output and exhibition production standards, as well as presentation techniques needed to communicate with other PEM departments involved in the design planning process. Using basic skills in computer programs for documentation and research and creation of basic 2-D and 3-D designs, I was assigned to complete certain tasks through use of programs such as Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator, as well Microsoft Word and Excel working independently. This experience with Exhibit Design with PEM will allow me to create and design exhibits through interactive technologies and programs. Additionally, learning and experiencing how to work as a team and create an exhibit that highlights my experience and talent.
After landing in Boston and doing a little sight-seeing of the North Shore Area and being welcomed to the PEM family (http://connected.pem.org/morning-circle/), I began my fellowship with Exhibit Design. However, to understand how Exhibit Design works and develops their designs, we need to know how the museum upholds its reputation and stature. PEM is unique by its ability to transform its 11, 000 square feet (that will eventually become 25,000 square feet in 2019) every six to eight times a year with changing exhibitions. With that said much of these traveling or “package” exhibits (see fig 1) are not physically in the museums possession till ten days before the show opens.
Figure 1. Traveling Package Exhibition of “NDN Style: Native Fashion Now” curated by Curator of Native American Art, Karen Kramer. Traveling Packages are sent to various museums to see if they are interested in the exhibit.
Therefore, a lot of imagination and understanding of the exhibits concept are taken into consideration. Since the museum has six to eight exhibits in one year, Exhibit Design is working at three to four shows at a time, with a lead designer on each exhibition who work effectively and efficiently with other departments, such as Curatorial, Exhibit Planning, Marketing, and Education, to name a few. Depending on the exhibit at hand, the exhibit will have a curator that has a considerable amount of knowledge in the subject area and will assist both Exhibit Design and Education in creating an experience unlike any other or to go away from what the audience is expecting.
Over a ten week period, I began to develop my understanding of exhibitions and how to develop, create, and design an exhibition that resembles those found in PEM. My first week began with understanding and researching future exhibitions that are coming to PEM this fall. Through my findings I learned to think outside my normal thought process towards research and took into consideration how to incorporate design and visitor experience, which I had only known theoretically. The first exhibition project I was assigned to was Future Beauty: Avant-Garde Japanese Fashion that presents four main concepts of Japanese fashion during the 1980s to the 2000s. In Praise of Shadows, Cool Japan, Flatness, and Tradition and Innovation, were the four main concepts that tell the story of Japanese fashion and what was happening in Japan at the time. In Praise of Shadows draws on the essay by the same name by the Japanese author and novelist Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, who in 1933 presents his theories on Japanese aesthetics. Simply, Tanizaki’s concept goes against what Western society deems as beautiful and argues that we as a society have been given a definition of beauty that does not include the dark or shadows. With that said, the outfits in the section are black or white to represent Tanizaki’s concept (Fig. 2). Cool Japan, or Kuru Japan, is emblematic of Japan’s rise as a super power during the early 2000’s, and the rise of the Japanese products and technologies. Much of the designs from Cool Japan, are similar to Lolita fashion, or products similar to that of Hello Kitty, Manga Comics, etc. (Fig. 3). Flatness is a concept that plays with simple geometric designs and basic colours that create fashions that are bright and vibrant (Fig. 4). With Tradition and Innovation concluding the exhibition, this section focuses on presenting traditional Japanese fashion such as the kimono through a new and innovative design (Fig. 5).
Figure 2. In Praise in Shadows
Figure 3. Cool Japan
Figure 4. Flatness
Figure 5. Traditional and Innovation
Working on Future Beauty: Avant-Garde Japanese Fashion took me out of my typical area of research in Indigenous history but at the same time I implemented on main factors that Indigenous historian tackle every day; how do we represent the people and culture to the fullest without drawing on stereotypes. Thus, Dave and I went and researched the four concepts and presented them the best as we possibly could that was respectful and informative. From there, Dave and I took the concepts of the show and came up with an idea for the exhibitions opening experience. Since much of the fashion is elaborate and most likely the visitor may never have to opportunity to try it on, we took the outfits in the exhibit, drew out their silhouettes, and placed them against mirrors so that the visitor could manipulate their body into the pose and shape of the design (Fig. 6.).
Figure 6. Silhouettes from the outfits in Future Beauty: Avant-Garde Japanese Fashion created using Illustrator
In order to see if this was what we wanted to create for the opening of the exhibit, we tested the silhouettes we created, however, as miniatures (Fig. 7.).
Figure 7. Test of Future Beauty: Avant-Garde Japanese Fashion Introductory Experience
As to whether the introductory experience we created will be in the final design, it aided in understanding how PEM’s Exhibit Design team tests and conceptualizes an exhibit before the space is available for installation, and I was able to create a 3D walk-through of the test, available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCuNmsI69MU&feature=youtu.be. Working hands on with the designs from Japanese designers Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo, to name a few, it allowed me to further understand how the four concepts of Future Beauty are seen in the outfit designs of the exhibit.
Understanding the four concepts and working with the Japanese designs assisted me further when I was assigned to research, contact, and select Japanese furniture that will be incorporated into the exhibition. The ability to contact Japanese designers and manufacturers was an experience that I could use in future scenarios and situations that involve me connecting with international museums, designers, artists, and suppliers, and was a great learning experience and allowed me to learn some Japanese. The furniture that was selected was to tell a narrative about Japanese design and how futuristic and elaborate the designs, whether it is in fashion, or even architecture, are and how Japan has proven its strength and ingenuity on the world market. The furniture selected were then given to the James B. and Mary Lou Hawkes Chief Curator of PEM, Lynda Hartigan, for final selection and from the list of elaborate chairs, she decided on an additional four to our original four selections, an example can be seen in the Re Bon Bon chair designed by Ben Ryuki Miyagi, that is receiving world-wide recognition and will be the first time the chair will be showcased in an American museum (see Fig. 8). Future Beauty: Avant-Garde Japanese Fashion opens November 26, 2013 and knowing I had a little part in the exhibit is an amazing feeling.
Figure 8. Ryuki Miyagi’s Re Bon Bon Chair
The next exhibition I worked on was Impressionists on the Water with Karen Moreau Ceballos, and I began research on what “Impressionism” is and the factors behind the 19th Century art movement. Reading the histories of Gustav Caillebotte, Johan Barthold Jongkind, and Claude Monet, we found that majority of the impressionist artists had urban backgrounds and some direct connection to boating. This research on the artists’ personal lives answeres why we witness many of the impressionist works reminiscent of Parisian rivers and sea fronts that follow didactical realism. Didactical realism is how the artists were taught how to paint the sea and landscapes with giving the work a real sense of presence and emotion. For Exhibit Design, the fact that the impressionists were the first to paint rail roads and train stations led us to using grey and black tones indicative of industrial France and contrasts the romantic feeling that many associate with impressionism. Working alongside Russell W. Knight Curator of Maritime Art and History, Dan Finemore, Karen and I began to conceptualize what we wanted to create for an interactive portion of the exhibit. Drawing on the works of Claude Monet, Édouard Manet, and Charles-François Daubigny we decided to create an interactive studio boat.
Figure 9. The Studio Boat
Figure 10. The Studio on the Boat
Figure 11. Claude Monet in his Studio Boat
The Studio Boat by Monet (Fig. 9), The Studio on the Boat by Daubigny (Fig. 10), and Claude Monet in his Studio Boat by Manet (Fig. 11) were the pieces I used to create a 3D model and walk-through for the Executive Leadership team to view and decide whether they wanted to go ahead with the concept. After viewing the walk-through video, the Executive Team gave our project the go ahead and was then taken from its 3D SketchUp file and put into a VectorWorks file to create blue prints for construction. After the blue prints were created, the studio boat was then “bid” to one of the many outside contractors that the museum uses for eventual production. The SketchUp file (Fig. 12 & 13) incorporated a multitude of 19th Century aspects from its design to how it would be created, and since Exhibit Design primarily works with VectorWorks, a program that renders 3D images similar to Google SketchUp, it was outstanding to present them with my capabilities and offer to teach them something I learned while in Digital History. The interactive walk-through can be seen at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gf4yFB_L35Y&feature=youtu.be and Impressionist on the Water opened November 9, 2103.
Figure 12. Front View of 3D Studio Boat
Figure 13. Inner View of 3D Studio Boat
While I was able to share what I had learned at Western University to PEM, I learned a great deal by working and shadowing Dave and Karen, whether it was to meetings to get an understanding of how intricate each department works together or how to create a simple outline of an animal to be printed for example 500x the actual size. Karen gave me hands on training with InDesign, a program that is useful for creating labels and texts and has the ability to manipulate the text to do whatever you would like, and by doing this she gave me the foundation to take what I learned back with me and use it for future use. Though it was only a short run through each time because majority of everyone in Exhibit Design is moving at a fast pace, I enjoyed the ability to understand how much work goes into an exhibit. Working with Exhibit Design was eye-opening in understanding how much detail goes into the visitor experience, from selecting what shade of paint or carpet to what angle to light should shine on the artifact or object, it made me think outside the box and focus on what the visitor will experience after they have gone through the exhibit.
In addition to working with Exhibition Design, I together with three other Native American fellows attended weekly workshops every Friday. These workshops brought in various departments and staff to give us an in-depth look into how the Peabody Essex Museum focuses on its mission:
…to celebrate outstanding artistic and cultural creativity by collecting, stewarding and interpreting objects of art and culture in ways that increase knowledge, enrich the spirit, engage the mind and stimulate the senses. Through its exhibitions, programs, publications, media and related activities, PEM strives to create experiences that transform people’s lives by broadening their perspectives, attitudes, and knowledge of themselves and the wider world.
Our first workshop focused on Curatorial Exhibitions Practice at PEM and gave us insight into how PEM develops their exhibits from the collaborative work that is involved between the Curatorial department with Exhibit Design and Exhibit Planning. Exhibit Planning is always working two to three years ahead of the Exhibit Design team and they focus on bringing exhibitions to PEM and work out the contractual obligations that other institutions may have before they send the exhibit to PEM. Take for instance, Faberge Revealed, it was only able to come to PEM if it never left the possession of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and so based on the contractual agreements, only those who worked at the VMFA were able to install the exhibit when it arrived at PEM, though Karen Moreau Ceballos was still able to design the exhibit. As well, our first workshop opened our eyes to understanding how PEM works and manages its yearly operating budget. The operating budget as we can suspect is substantial and ranks well above average, but is nothing in comparison to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Art Institute, MET or MOMA whose budgets are two to ten times that of PEM’s based on 2013 Art Museum Directors Association’s study. However, this budget is the reason why PEM is able to rotate six to eight exhibitions a year and allows its members and guests to have experiences unlike any other.
In total we would have nine workshops, with one Friday off in lieu of the fourth of July, and we were greeted by many of the Executive Leadership members, Directors, and Curators, that in turn developed and enhanced areas of the museum that we would never experience. One crucial workshop that I thought was extremely helpful was Museum Administration & Management that introduced us to Chief Financial Officer Anne Munsch. Anne presented us with the heavy realization and understanding of how a museum must be able to provide for itself financially year after year, and broke down how PEM focuses on enhancing and growing their endowments and how Administration works closely with Development to ensure that PEM continues its mission. The fact that Anne broke down the logistics of PEM’s financial approach through the operating budget, operating expenses, operating revenues, and the difference between endowment gifts and expendable gifts, put into perspective that a museums survival comes down to a multitude of factors that are in everyone’s mind. While I was at PEM I witnessed how each department had to budget themselves every six months to ensure they are on track or if they require finding endowment gifts or expendable gifts from sponsors or preparing a grant proposal. I think experiencing that aspect of museums will help substantially down the road, and was great to learn even though I was not expecting it.
From procedures for donations to writing condition reports and acquisition forms to understanding how crucial security and management of collections are to seeing the expansion of PEM itself, these weekly workshops, including a meet and greet with the Native American fellows at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Ethnology and Archaeology, enhanced my overall knowledge of museums and how they operate and function. The only workshop that I had a difficult time was with Museum Leadership with Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Director and CEO of the Peabody Essex Museum, Dan Monreoe, where he would present us with one facet of museum leadership then contradict it. After our session with Dan, I was not entirely sure what to take out of it, but maybe the teaching is in the ability to see all aspects of the scenario and situations that you may face in leadership. Overall, the workshops allowed the ability to see the practicality of what we were taught over the year in Public History.
My internship and fellowship overall followed my work plan submitted in May and for my fellowship it evolved greater than my expectations in the tasks and responsibilities I was given. It felt like I was a permanent team member in the department and it an unforgettable feeling to be given a project and to develop it. Initially during the start of the fellowship, I did feel out of place because the Exhibit Design team are all graphic artists who have numerous years of experience so I felt like I did not get my footing until two weeks into the fellowship. Especially after Karen and I had a meeting about Impressionists on the Water where she asked me what I wanted to take out of the experience here at PEM and I told her I want to be able to one day do what they do back home at our own museum or cultural center. Karen kept what I said in mind and she gave me the opportunity to learn, even if it was a massive InDesign guide to read through and learn from (Fig. 14). Communication was a big aspect of the summer and my ability to present my research and work effectively along PEM employees opened up countless opportunities.
Figure 14. InDesign Tutorial Guide alongside my PEM hard hat
From being welcomed the first week to giving presentations of ourselves to PEM staff and then Salem State University Freshman who are first generation post-secondary students, allowed me to develop my personal speaking skills and gave me a greater confidence in my work. The only downside to the fellowship sadly was in the actions of my other fellows, where I learned age does not always include maturity or professionalism. What started as a feud between two other fellows continued throughout the summer and no matter how much you tried to stay away it seemed that everyone was consumed into the problem. I handled that concern and challenge as professionally as I could and was a learning experience of how to work out problems within staff members, but given that I was the youngest with the other three ranging between the ages of 30-42 it was difficult some days at home and I think that is why I found sanctuary within Exhibit Design.
In conclusion, working with Six Nations Legacy Consortium and the Peabody Essex Museum enhanced my abilities and developed my skills as a Public Historian by giving me knowledge of specific design programs that will be used by many historic institutions and museums. I sought out an internship and fellowship that would develop my skills and knowledge and after this summer I feel that I not only know a substantial amount about Exhibit Design and digital documentation, but those qualities incorporated with my experience with curatorial work and interpretation has prepared me for any project that may come my way. Being in New England itself was an experience and I will never forget from visiting Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, the Mashentucket Pequot Museum, Plimoth Rock and Plymoth Plantation, the Gardener Museum, Cape Cod, Harvard University, Brown University, Yale University and so much more, that this summer opened my eyes to my future goals and aspirations. I meet and made friends with the Wampanoag tribe who are infamous for their role in “Thanksgiving,” learned first-hand accounts about the creation of NAGPRA by Dan Monroe, and created numerous relationships for the years to come. The summer months began with uncertainty but in the end, I grew and became a public historian.
A link from PEM’s Connected Blog: http://connected.pem.org/blue-sky-woman/
Peabody Essex Museum. “Mission & Vision Statement.” Accessed August 12, 2013. http://www.pem.org/about/mission_vision
Figure 9: My Studio. “The Studio Boat, 1874. Oil on canvas 50x64cm.Kroller-Muller Museum.” Accessed August 14, 2013. http://www.mystudios.com/art/impress/monet/monet-studio-boat.html
Figure 10: R. E. Lewis & Daughter: Original Prints. “The Studio on the boat –Charles-François Daubigny (1817 – 1878).” Accessed August 14, 2013. http://www.relewis.com/daubigny-bateau.html
Figure 11: Impressionist Art Gallery. “Cluade Monet in his Studio Boat by Manet.” Accessed August 14, 2013. http://www.impressionist-art-gallery.com/claude_monet_in_his_studio_boat.html
I have been at the Peabody Essex Museum on fellowship for the last 7 weeks and have learned an extensive amount of knowledge concerning how the Exhibit Design team along with Curatorial and Education create a visitor experience unlike any other. Initially, I began working on researching Japanese concepts of fashion for the future exhibit “Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion” and where I went on to use Photoshop to create silhouettes of some of the designs. I learned how Japanese fashion works against the Western model of form fitting clothing and acts as a way to complement and work with the human body. With this exhibit still in the back of my mind, I went on to assist in finding more research in regards to Impressionism, for our future exhibit titled, Impressionists on the Water.
Karen Moreau Ceballos, one of my lovely supervisors, sent me on a mission to find research that would assist in designing the exhibit and enhancing the visitors experience. Though very early on in the process we are looking at how this romantic idea concerning impressionism is also beautiful in how the artists incorporated technological change and painted for the first time in many instances the Parisian landscape of industrialization.An aspect of impressionism that does not come to mind, and Karen’s vision is quite remarkable, and if you have seen Faberge Revealed at PEM, you would agree. I will admit I felt like a little kid when I realized that I was working with paintings from Monet, and I got super excited, because as a child I would pretend I was Monet and even created my own rendition of the “Edge of the Cliff at Pourville,” so I was starstruck with out doubt.
From there Karen has been guiding me through Photoshop and I have begun to learn how to create and adapt font in InDesign and my guide to everything that there is to know is the manual!
It is actually quite nice to have a guide to understanding Photoshop and all the features it comes with. So my creative interests have been peaked at PEM and along with shadowing Karen in meetings I created a 3D model for the Interactive experience of Impressionists on the Water of an artists Studio Boat. Below are some pictures of what we have planned, and I was impressed! I feel more confident working with Google SketchUp and realize why a visual model is necessary for exhibit planning. A sketch on paper is a thing of the past!! An realistically this is a better way of understanding and conceptualizing an exhibit that you will not have in your hands till a mere 1-2 weeks before opening (though not all museums are like this, but is good to have!).
It was fun and I was able to provide them with a Walk-Through Video! It was nice to know that what I was taught could be utilized! Haha! Other than that, I titled this post “Prepare to have you minds blown” because together with the other fellows we presented short presentation on our selves and I opened with the phrase, and it has become a phrase many at PEM have associated me with, and I am fine with that!
Impressionists on the Water opens November 9, 2013.
Last week we had the privilege to visit and explore Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology for our weekly workshop. Here we were introduced to Allison Meadows McLaughlin, who is Curatorial Assistant at the museum, and the Peabody’s current interns. As well, we met with Shelly Lowe, the Executive Director of Harvard University Native American Program, who presented us with valuable insight into the Newberry Library, and fellowship and internship opportunities. From there Allison took us on a Behind-the-Scenes tour of the storage spaces that holds the museum’s collection.
Now the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology was founded in 1866 by George Peabody and is one of the oldest museums in the world devoted to anthropology and has one of the most comprehensive collections of North American archaeology and ethnology in the world.
Such examples include (from Museum History):
- The largest collection of artifacts known to have survived the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804–06.
- Important collections from South America, including more than 5,000 ancient Peruvian textiles.
- The finest archaeological documentation of the Maya, as well as the most extensive and varied collection of Mesoamerican artifacts and sculpture outside Mexico.
- Early and rare historical collections from the Pacific Islands, especially Hawaii, Fiji, and Tonga.
- One of the ten largest photographic archives, documenting the cultures of indigenous peoples across the world.
- A strong relationship to indigenous communities whose histories and cultures are reflected in the collections.
With that said, much like PEM, there are artifacts that are rare and have been in the museums possession before NAGPRA’s inception.
So while on the tour I can not help but browse the massive storage area…
…till I come to the area that says, “Plains.” And of course, interest is peaked.
And there in a collection of over a million artifacts I find a small section of a handful of drawers dedicated to Plains Cree.
But as much as I would like, it ends there. The artifacts in possession are remarkable, however, three of the artifacts stand out, one that looks like a knife but is either a bear claw or eagle talon, and would most likely have been used in ceremonial practices that I have only read and heard of but never attended, and then two “dolls” with actual human hair, most likely an enemy of the Plains Cree, i.e. probably Blackfoot.
Which brought me to the question of what happens with repatriation to international communities or acknowledging that you have an Indigenous cultures artifacts who are not federally recognized. Karen Kramer, who is the curator of Native American Art at PEM, expressed that though not legally bound to repatriate internationally, there lies the hope that the message and significance of NAGPRA will live on without legalities. Such as in April of this year, PEM repatriated masks to the Maori of New Zealand, it was a long process but the artifacts are back home.
However, the “dolls” are another interesting predicament, if repatriated, where do they go? The Plains Cree community? or the enemy nation? An interesting and yet difficult predicament faced by those in the museum and heritage profession.
We were however, able to explore further and the following images are from the storage collection at the PMAE:
PMAE even has colonial garments from after contact
The following image of a shield that presents a leopard like animal and interestingly while I interned at the Royal Alberta Museum we had a similar ledgar painting. We could not figure out what is was and I had no idea but based on this artifact that is found in Cambridge, MA, I think we might just have found a lead.
For more information about PMAE and HUNAP see:
In 1799, the sea captains and explorers of the “New World” established a place where they could easily access maps and other means of navigation for their personal and work use, and so the East India Marine Society was created and through those explorations and journeys created personal lavish and diverse cabinet of curiosities. Eventually, the society became the Peabody Academy of Science in 1867 and was named after Philanthropist George Peabody in order to enhance the “promotion of science and useful knowledge” through natural history. The academy’s name would change in 1915 to the Peabody Museum of Salem that presented natural history, ethnology, and maritime art and history.
In 1821, the Essex Historical Society was formed and provided access to the social history of Essex county, and in 1833 would become the Essex County Natural History Society. In 1848, the Essex Institute was established and contained regional art, history, and architecture.
In 1965, Captain Robert Bennet Forbes House Museum in Milton, MA was established and comprised historic houses and family histories with much of the collection devoted to Asian art, and so in 1973, the Museum of the American China Art was formed and later in 1980 would change their name to the China Trade Museum.
In 1867, the Essex Institute merged their natural history and archaeology collections to the Peabody Academy of Science and in 1984 the China Trade Museum would merge with the Peabody Museum of Salem, and in 1992, all three of these separate institutions and societies would become the Peabody Essex Museum.
In order to sustain such a large base of priceless historical artifacts and objects, PEM has established numerous policies to ensure that their integrity, condition, and if entrusted to PEM on loan, etc. can be returned. With that said, the policies also include an copyrights where applicable, and abide to state and federal laws, including NAGPRA. As old as each institution and society we read earlier, PEM like many institutions do have in their hands, Native American remains. PEM however, was one of the first institutions to repatriate human remains to descendant communities in the early 1990s and much is that is accredited to PEM Executive Director and CEO Dan Monroe, who assisted in writing and promoting the act.
This weeks workshop was led by:
- Karen Kramer (Curator of Native American Art & Culture)
- Will Phippen (Director of Museum Collection Services)
- Alyssa Langlais (Assistant Registrar)
Who presented valuable insight into the registration, collection documentation, and acquisition processes that PEM and it’s staff endure. PEM’s collection is stored physically and virtually through an extensive database, which as we speak is currently being updated. Within every artifact and objects “file” there is not only an extensive description, age, etc. but also where the item comes from. Karen was able to show us one of the recent acquisitions that she obtained from Navajo artist Armond Lara, that was initiated by a proposal, presented to the Chief Curator, Lynda Hartigan, and Executive Director, Dan Monroe, and then is presented in front of a selection committee. A long and tedious task that broadens and enhances PEM’s collections.
This workshop overall aided in understanding the process of acquiring and managing a collections that are hundreds of years old and have an extensive depth and range cross culturally and historically.
I see him around all the time!
Ed Rodley is the Associate Director of Integrated Media at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem, MA, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Museum Computer Network (MCN). At PEM, he manages a wide range of media projects, with an emphasis on temporary exhibitions and the reinterpretation and reinstallation of PEM’s collections. He’s worked in museums for his whole career and developed everything from apps to exhibitions. Incorporating emerging technologies into museum practice has been a theme throughout Ed’s career, and he is a passionate believer in the potential of digital technologies to create a more open, democratic world.
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Understanding how a museum continues to function and operate relies on two main areas that I have seen so far, granted you would not have a museum without artifacts and fine pieces of exceptionally beautiful art such as those found in PEM, but how a museum works and operates depends highly on the Museum administration and management teams.
Our workshop was led by:
- Nancy Hammer – Director of Human Resources
- Anne Munsch – Chief Financial Officer
- Bob Monk – Chief of Facilities and Security
- Dan Lohnes – Loss Prevention & Risk Manager
All of these individuals play an integral role in PEM’s operations and longevity. Anne Munsch began our workshop presenting the long range financial plan of PEM and how this is closely linked to a strategic plan. From dynamic strategies to ambitious and engaging exhibitions and programs to careful financial management, and to greater financial stability of PEM’s endowment are at the forefront of the museum, and any museum for that matter. Museums such as PEM operate on staggering budgets, as seen in my previous blog, and can be seen at the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) Statistical Survey. The operating expenses of PEM, based on the Art Museum average is 2-3% higher in regards to Exhibitions and Publications, and Program Services, while the Support Services are below the average, but from what is presented, there is give and take when operating any museum, or historical/heritage institution. The one thing that stands out about PEM is their operating revenues, which are based substantially on endowments and contributions with a small fracture based on government grants.
Which brings us to endowment gifts and expendable gifts; often when you hear about how art museums operate you hear a lot about “endowments”, etc., etc., but endowments offer financial stability which creates a perpetual stream of financial support that is easy to predict than grants, membership, and so on, and aids in long term support. As well, it is attached to a legacy, which will often outlive the donor and subsequently influences future generations support. An endowment, to clear up between an investment are resources that are donated to tax-exempt organizations with the stipulation that only the income earned by the assets will be used while the original gift remains intact. We will see two types of endowments, a true endowment or a quasi endowment, where a true endowment has the resources contributed with the stipulation by the donor that only the income earned by these assets can be used while the original gift is kept intact. Quasi endowments are resources that are a received by an organization where the governing body has designated that the gift will be treated as an endowment (i.e. the original gifts will be held in perpetuity). At the same time, these endowments are within an individual larger endowment fund that is broken down into operating endowments, acquisition endowments, and restricted endowments. Operating endowments are earnings used to support operating budget activities, while acquisition endowments are earnings used to support art acquisitions, and restricted endowments are earnings used to support other specific activities not included in the operating budget.
Often, an organization will designate only a portion of the cumulative investment return from its endowments for the support of current operations with the remainder retained to offset the effect of inflation on the operations of future years and potential market declines. PEM is governed by state law, and so no more than 7% can be spent without being imprudent. When working with endowments there will be an investment committee that is responsible for establishing an investment policy, hiring/firing investment consultants, making investment decisions, monitoring investment performance, and monitoring compliance with investment policy. Now I could go on with non-compliance legalities, but the underlying point to get across is that a museum is bound to compliance and agreements to ensure it functions, or simply to “Live by the Budget.” However, over half of PEM’s operating expenses fall into personnel, or HR.
Nancy Hammer presented that in order for PEM to grow it is essential to hire individuals that want to grow. From training other employees to one day take over your own job to building healthy and assertive relationships, there is a lot of factors to take account of. Realistically it comes down to understanding the big picture, and understand what the goals of the organization are. Our focus then turned to Bob Monk and Dan Lohnes in regards to maintaining the museum through facilities overseeing the museum’s humidity levels, the conservation of structures, etc., and the overall security and protection of the museum. These departments are an integral component of the longevity of PEM, especially when the museum expands!