2019 CMA Michael M. Ames Prize for Innovative Museum Anthropology

The CMA is extremely pleased to announce the winner of the 2019 Council for Museum Anthropology Michael M. Ames Prize for Innovative Museum Anthropology: Aaron Glass, of the Bard Graduate Center, for the exhibition and broader project, "The Story Box: Franz Boas, George Hunt and the Making of Anthropology."  Thanks to all who submitted nominations for consideration, and congratulations to Aaron and all associated with “The Story Box.” 

“The Story Box” explores the hidden histories and complex legacies of one of the most influential books in the field of anthropology, Franz Boas’s “The Social Organization and the Secret Societies of the Kwakiutl Indians” (1897). This groundbreaking holistic portrait of a Native North American society resulted from Boas’s fieldwork among the Kwakwaka’wakw of British Columbia and collaboration with his Indigenous research partner, George Hunt. Although Boas recognized the dynamism of Indigenous cultures, the book conceals three important historical conditions of its own making: Canada’s assimilation policy, which outlawed potlatch ceremonies; the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, where Boas and Hunt conducted much of their fieldwork; and Hunt’s status as a full co-author. Hunt later corrected and expanded the book, in part by reconnecting hereditary treasures to the families to whom they belong. Hundreds of pages of unpublished revisions, consigned to archives after Boas’s death, have been reunited with the book for the first time.

An innovation in reflexive museology, “The Story Box” lays bare the collaborative relationships and modes of creative labor that have always made possible the production of anthropological knowledge itself. Attending to the ways that Boas and Hunt mediated Kwakwaka’wakw culture in early ethnographic text, photography, sound recording, and illustration, the exhibition is also transparent about its own remediation of this material in the present, and in dialogue with Indigenous ways of knowing and being.

Digital interactives, multimedia displays, and projected film and images are integrated with loan objects, interpretive texts, and Corrine Hunt’s contemporary designs to reveal nested layers and temporalities of cultural representation. Not only does the exhibit reveal some of the hidden histories behind the 1897 book’s production and influence within anthropology, it demonstrates the lasting impact of the book within the Kwakwaka’wakw communities.

Exhibition content and interpretation is drawn from, and showcases, a larger collaborative research project to produce a new annotated Critical Edition of Boas and Hunt’s 1897 book. The exhibition ends with a “Behind the Scenes” look at the Critical Edition project itself, which pulls back the curtain on the exhibit’s own collaborative mode of production. Curated by Aaron Glass with the participation of students at Bard Graduate Center, “The Story Box” was co-developed with the U’mista Cultural Centre, a Kwakwaka’wakw museum in Alert Bay, BC, to which it travelled.

All CMA awards will be presented at the CMA reception on Friday 22 November at the AAA meetings in Vancouver. The reception will be at the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, 639 Hornby Street. Come and celebrate!