Interview

Museum Anthropology Leaders: Boris Wastiau, Director, Musee d'ethnographie de Geneve and Tenured Professor, Department of the History of Religions, University of Geneva, Part 3 of 3

Exclusive Museum Anthropology Blog Interview with Dr. Boris Wastiau, Director, Musee d'ethnographie de Geneve and Tenured Professor, Department of the History of Religions, University of Geneva.

This interview is the seventh installment in our series, Museum Anthropology Leaders, where blog intern Lillia McEnaney interviews various anthropological museum professionals.

This interview was conducted over written email correspondence. 


This is Part 3 of 3




9. More broadly, have you seen any major changes in our field of museum anthropology over the past decade? If so, what are they? 
I might suggest breaking this down into questions for another interview! There is so much to say, and it is difficult to make general statements as the situation differs a lot from a country to another. I would say that in Europe the situation is quite contrasted, sometimes critical, sometimes promising. 

10. Where do you see the field of museum anthropology going, long term? What role do you see the Musee d’ethnographie playing in the field? 
The role of the MEG will probably be modest on account of its size and where it is located! What I would like to say in answer to this question is that if museums are to reflect the profile of the society in which they function to better serve it, as is now a credo of museum policy, anthropology museums, museums of world cultures or of non-Western art should someday be given far more importance than today. Or otherwise non-Western arts and other collections should “colonise”, so to speak, all the museums traditionally focused on pre-WWII notions of “Western culture”, society and history (in Europe, most museums of art and history). “Ethnographic” or world cultures museums should also proliferate outside the former colonial metropolises and few academic centres where they historically were founded. Also, in most case, our collections must be rejuvenated with new acquisitions and contemporary material.

11. Do you have any advice or tips for our younger readers who are thinking about going into anthropology or museum work? 
Do fieldwork and, if possible, collect in the field. Always try to know as much as you can about all collections around you, do not focus for years on a limited corpus. If you get a museum job, always volunteer to take more responsibilities, in all fields of museum practice. Try to cast an anthropological gaze at all the relationships between people and objects, all the way from the field to the exhibition. 

Museum jobs are great jobs, because museum people tend to be nicer! Anthropology museums are the best places; they are the only ones with collections that open up on such a multitude of countries, cultures, periods, fields of human activity… 

Museum Anthropology Leaders: Boris Wastiau, Director, Musee d'ethnographie de Geneve and Tenured Professor, Department of the History of Religions, University of Geneva, Part 2 of 3

Exclusive Museum Anthropology Blog Interview with Dr. Boris Wastiau, Director, Musee d'ethnographie de Geneve and Tenured Professor, Department of the History of Religions, University of Geneva.

This interview is the seventh installment in our series, Museum Anthropology Leaders, where blog intern Lillia McEnaney interviews various anthropological museum professionals.

This interview was conducted over written email correspondence. 

This is Part 2 of 3



5. Let’s change the focus to your current appointment. You were appointed the Director of the Musee d’ethnographie in 2009, with the specific mission of rebuilding and restructuring the institution. How did you go about doing this? 
In 2009 I engaged the museum staff to participate in the conception of a masterplan. Budgets were voted, but in 2010 we faced a referendum pro or against the museum. We won with a large majority of the people’s votes in September, closed the museum and moved away. By then many had been so incredulous that not much had been done in terms of exhibition concepts and planning. Also, many key employees had not yet been hired! One can say we did it all in just four years.
Restructuring the institution is eventually a very slow process. Changing an organigram (organisational chart) does not change people’s skills, or their behaviour. You have to bring in a concept of slow but permanent, guided change; co-create and nurture values with your staff, your public and all the partners in your networks. Networks and collaborations are so important! For a public institution, they are a vital necessity for growing and reaching out to ever larger circles. If you want to make something big in Geneva, you must make sure that everyone can agree, if not support you. Consensus is a must. 

Why was this a project you were interested in taking on? If you love art, cultures, interacting with people and if you love building things, then what better job could you wish to have? 
6. What goals do you have for the museum, post-reconstruction?
We are currently building new storage for the collections. Before we remove them, in 2018, I want to spend a couple of years on an in-depth assessment of the collections. That is a big job! 
I also am looking to raise the level of academic activity at the museum. Last year we renewed a convention with the University of Geneva on research and teaching. Curators should teach more and students should come more often to the museum. Recently, new teaching opportunities have just opened up. Several academic conferences are being lined up for 2015-2016, in collaboration with universities and scholarly societies.  

7. Could you provide the readers of the blog with a brief description of your day to day job - post-reopening - as the Director of the Musee d’ethnographie de Geneve?
The only thing that changed after the opening is that we have all been relieved from the weight of the big deadline we had all been obsessed with for years. Everyone is happy to be able to take the extra time required to do things very well. But there certainly is not less work. 
On a daily basis, my main job is to make sure that everyone has a clear picture of his or her duty, that they are properly informed and that they have everything they need to work. 

8. Do you have a favourite object in the collections of the museum? 

I have a few favourite objects in each of the five continents collections! The more you know your collections, the more you find treasures. Mine tend to be those important objects that were mislabelled sometimes for one hundred years, completely ignored because misplaced in the wrong collection, and that turn out to be historically significant objects (see history section of our permanent collection at http://www.meg.ch). I found out for instance that one of our False Face Society masks had been registered in 1825, making it one of the oldest known in a collection!

Museum Anthropology Leaders: Boris Wastiau, Director, Musee d'ethnographie de Geneve and Tenured Professor, Department of the History of Religions, University of Geneva, Part 1 of 3

Exclusive Museum Anthropology Blog Interview with Dr. Boris Wastiau, Director, Musee d'ethnographie de Geneve and Tenured Professor, Department of the History of Religions, University of Geneva.

This interview is the seventh installment in our series, Museum Anthropology Leaders, where blog intern Lillia McEnaney interviews various anthropological museum professionals.

This interview was conducted over written email correspondence. 




This is Part 1 of 3

1. When in your education did you decide to pursue the anthropology of art and museum anthropology? Why? 
Truly, until after my Ph. D. fieldwork had I only considered becoming an academic. I liked museums a lot, but I had never given a thought at working in one, thinking they were reserved territory for art historians. It happened one day that a curator I had met at the RMCA (Royal Museum for Central Africa, Belgium) faxed me a job vacancy. I applied and got it. That was in 1996. I never wanted to work outside the museum field ever since! We are so lucky to be doing what we do!

2. While working as the curator of ethnography at the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Belgium, you worked on the exhibition ExItCongoMuseum. Many have cited this exhibit as a pioneering foray into critical curatorship. Can you explain on this project for the readers and discuss how you went about structuring it? 
I was the author and curator of that exhibition. I had never worked on the topic of colonial appropriation of African art and ethnographic collections, but it was clear that many members of the public were in demand of explanations about the provenance of the collections. At that time the RMCA was a superb example of denial. A panel with a text signed by the then director stated that every single artefact, like every natural history sample, was the product of scientific research and that everything had been paid for to the former owners! A blatant lie! Harsh criticisms of the museums revisionist attitude had been voiced already, in Belgium and elsewhere, like in Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost. I realised that all I knew about colonialism was what I had been taught during my M. A. at the Sainsbury Research Unit for the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, University of East Anglia. When the director asked me to become in charge of the re-display of our 125 masterpieces that were back from a tour in the US and Europe, I accepted with the demand to publish an essay on the collection. He knew too late what was coming up! I invited a guest curator, Toma Muteba Luntumbue, an artist, to produce some installations. He himself called for the collaboration of another half dozen artists, regardless of their origin, to work on, around, and in the museum. That came as a blow. There appeared cracks in the walls of the institution, disbelief, sometimes a glimpse of hope for change... I for myself started researching the provenance, the means of appropriation of the masterpieces and their “social lives” ever since they had left Congo. How they had subsequently been used, abused, interpreted, described, etc. I worked on the contrast between the free movements of artworks from the colony to the metropolis, while the artists were debarred from following up their creations, so to speak, to travel to Europe. I showed that only a tiny fraction of objects had been collected in a scientific context. The vast majority of objects collected in the colonial period, there as in most ethnographic museums in Europe, were brought by the military, the missionaries, administrators and civil servants, traders, collectors and artists, not scientists. The museum in this field had never been scientific, only colonial.

3. Which book, project, or exhibition have you worked on that you are most proud of? Why?
My Ph. D. thesis (Mahamba. The transforming arts of spirit possession among the Luvale-speaking people of the Upper-Zambezi), subsequently published in 2000 at Fribourg University Press. This is the most researched and elaborate text I ever produced, based on an incredible fieldwork experience among the Luvale people of Northwestern Zambia. Traditional fieldwork in small-scale societies is out of fashion now and our academic culture has turned monographs into decorative items on study shelves for some. With no experience whatsoever of communication then I completely failed to make my work known, but I am very proud I contributed, if modestly, to classical anthropology. Having just been offered a tenured position of professor at the University of Geneva in the department of History of Religions, I am glad I will start teaching about it next September (2015). 

4. What was the most challenging book, project, or exhibition that you have worked on? Why?  

The same, I guess: years of fieldwork and writing at an age when it is very difficult to foresee where your work will take you –a very individual work too. Most meaningful for a broader audience, ExItCongoMuseum, the exhibition and the essay, about which I still receive frequent correspondence. The most challenging project: the MEG!

MUAN 38.1 "Continued Conversations" Web-Exclusive Content: James Dixon Interview Part 1

In Musuem Anthropology 38.1, co-editors Maxine McBrinn and Tony Chavarria conducted interviews with museum anthropologists working within the university setting. This web-exclusive content adds to their collection of interviews published in the journal. 

This interview is with Dr. James Dixon, Director, Maxwell Museum of Anthropology and Professor of Anthropology, College of Arts and Sciences at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This Part 1 of 2

1. Describe your job.
As director of the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology and Professor of Anthropology at University of New Mexico (UNM) I provide administrative leadership for the Museum.  I am responsible for the management of all aspects of the Museum’s programs, resources and services including fiscal management and personnel.  In my role as professor I also serve on a variety of academic committees, teach courses, mentor graduate students, conduct research, and publish.

2. How does being associated with a university assist your job and institution?
One of the great benefits of being at a university is interaction with students, particularly graduate students. They are a great asset to the Museum and its programs.  Their enthusiasm and talent improves the quality of what we do.

3. Does being associated with a university add challenges to your job?
Yes, administrating a museum within a state university system is challenging.  University administrators are not familiar with museums.  Many do not understand their relevance to the university mission.  Because they are familiar only with methods that measure success based on classroom instruction and enrollment statistics, it is takes constant effort to educate them to ensure they understand the essential role of museums in institutions of higher education. 

4. How do university students interact with the museum?

The Museum provides unique educational opportunities in terms of experiential learning in both anthropology and museum studies.  Faculty and staff facilitate these learning opportunities and as a result work closely with many students on a daily basis. Museum and non-museum faculty teach formal classes, offer practica, and provide independent study opportunities for a wide variety of students.  Students also interact by participating in museum programs, events, and exhibitions.

MUAN 38.1 "Continued Conversations" Web-Exclusive Content: Jill Minar Interview Part 2

In Musuem Anthropology 38.1, co-editors Maxine McBrinn and Tony Chavarria conducted interviews with museum anthropologists working within the university setting. This web-exclusive content adds to the collection of interviews published in the journal. 

This interview is with Dr. Jill Minar, Instructor of Anthropology/Archaeology in the Anthropology, Economics, and Geography Department, Social Sciences Division at Fresno City College in Fresno, California. This is Part 2 of 2. 

5. Do you think students take full advantage of having museums on campus?  
No.  On our campus most students are not aware of the museums on campus and so do not frequent them.  In trying to resolve this issue, we had a mural painted on the outside of our building space, added two large signs, one on the campus mall side of our building and one on the museum wall.  Since then we have had an increase in the visitors to the museum.  

6. Does the university have a Museum Studies program? If so, how does that influence your answers to the above?
No, we do not have a Museum Studies program.  Fresno City College has tried to have some museum courses (in anthropology and art) as we have several museums/galleries on campus.  The need to have very small class sizes (low interest combined with hands-on instruction) made this impossible in these days of strict budgets.  

7. Do you reach out to students outside the university?
Fresno City College has an active outreach program to the school districts in Fresno and the surrounding communities, working to bring young people from preschool through high school to the college campus.  We are in a community that suffers from high dropout rates in high school, families who have no experience with college education, and high poverty levels.  The goal of the outreach program is to give young people a chance to see what a college is like and to become acquainted with the campus with the hope that they will see a college education as part of their future.  As part of this outreach, various departments on campus provide tours to the visiting students.  The Museum of Anthropology participates in this outreach by providing tours of the museum to visiting school groups throughout the school year.  Currently, given our lack of paid staff and low budget, these school group tours already stretch our ability to meet the need and so no further outreach is done by the museum to the community on a regular basis.  The museum has held open house events, workshops, and tours for special occasions for which we do advertise to the greater Fresno area.  We have been featured in the local paper and had a television program broadcast from the museum in the past few years.

8. What do you see in the future for university associated museums?

In my opinion, there is a very strong and vibrant future for university/college associated museums especially if museums focus on engaging students in the functioning of the museum.  Important connections can be made when students are able see their academic studies in action and where they can actually participate in making that happen. Even given all the administrative headaches, I see that our museum provides something that is lacking in other areas of our campus: it provide a place where students connect with each other and with faculty.  They are engaged in, are connected to and are part of, a community.  According to our campus basic skills faculty, these are important to student success.  On the museum side, having a steady stream of engaged students who want to work or volunteer keeps things lively.  In recent years when budgets were slashed, our student docents pitched in and helped to keep the museum open many more hours than would have been possible otherwise.  They had learned the value of their contribution to our campus community and gave of their time and talents to keep it going.  I expect that these students will carry their passion for museums on into the places where they end up living and working after college – they represent the next generation of museum advocates in our communities. 

MUAN 38.1 "Continued Conversations" Web-Exclusive Content: Jill Minar Interview Part 1

In Musuem Anthropology 38.1, co-editors Maxine McBrinn and Tony Chavarria conducted interviews with museum anthropologists working within the university setting. This web-exclusive content adds to their collection of interviews published in the journal. 

This interview is with Dr. Jill Minar, Instructor of Anthropology/Archaeology in the Anthropology, Economics, and Geography Department, Social Sciences Division at Fresno City College in Fresno, California. This Part 1 of 2

1. Describe your job.
I am primarily a community college instructor of anthropology.  At our college, the normal teaching load is five classes per semester.  Because I am also responsible for our small museum and archaeological curation facility/archives, I am relieved of one class per semester. 

2. How does being associated with a university assist your job and institution? 
Mission – associated with education – having a built in community of learners every semester. Facility bills are paid by the college:  we don’t have an electric, water, or trash bill for example.  We can hook in to the campus outreach programs and advertising.  
Museums associated with colleges can provide a unique setting in the academic world.  Our museum, and I would assume most others associated with colleges and universities, provides a physical place where our community of learners can interact with each other and with faculty outside the classroom.  This extracurricular contact provides a connection between students, their peers, and their teachers that stimulates engagement.  Students find that their museum experiences are where the classroom meets the outside world.  They see their studies actually applied and they see the results that happen with visitors to the museum.  Students who participate as docents also have an opportunity to learn time management, collections management, educational tour development, as well as other job and life skills.  In our department, we see that students who are engaged in this way have better success in the classroom and stick around to complete their degrees with actual plans for further education and career paths.  

3. Does being associated with a university add challenges to your job?  
The college is my employer and my primary job is to teach introductory level anthropology courses.  It was assumed, when I was hired, that I would also be responsible for managing the Museum of Anthropology and the associated curation facility and archives.  I was given release time from one class for one year to bring the museum and curation facility and archives up to modern standards of exhibit design and curation practice while at the same time revamping the college’s archaeological technician program.  After one year, my teaching load returned to five classes per semester.  It took seven years for the college to realize that this was unrealistic and I was given release time from one class every semester to manage the museum, curation facility and archives.  Given that the museum, curation facility, and archives were very much ‘behind the times,’ the process of completely stabilizing collections, organizing the archives, and improving the museum exhibits is still on going.  
It would seem that having a museum associated with a college or university would be beneficial to the museum and to the college.  However, in our situation, the college has not recognized the financial and staffing needs required to run a museum and we struggle to keep the doors open.  The college took federal monies to create the museum as part of constructing a new building in the 1970s and so realizes that it cannot “get rid of” the museum (though they tried to turn the space into a computer lab one year without even talking to the anthropology faculty), but there is little actual support.  
In addition, the college staff, including senior administrators, do not understand the security requirements for museum and archaeological curation spaces.  We have an alarm system, but the campus police regularly turn it off for anyone who asks.  Recently, technology support staff entered the curation space without supervision and removed the computer with our collections data base on it to upgrade the operating system.  It was not thought necessary to discuss this with me first.   I simply received an email telling me the computer had been removed.  Fortunately, I was able to stop the upgrade until we could make sure that our data base program was compatible with the new operating system.  This could have been a disaster but was a blessing in disguise as it made me much more aware of how vulnerable our data and our collections are in the college as opposed to museum environment.  Meetings with administrators and some changes to access policies will hopefully help.  

4. How do university students interact with the museum?
The Museum of Anthropology has a docent program in which any student who has successfully completed at least one anthropology course may participate.  Docents go through some basic training about housekeeping and maintenance, exhibit content, interacting with the public, and providing tours to visitors.  The docents provide tours to visiting college students, faculty, and staff as well as visitors to the campus including grade school field trip groups.
Our anthropology majors have begun to use the museum as a meeting point since many of them volunteer as docents.  This has created a space for community to develop and as such has been extremely important in our efforts to improve student success and retention.  
Some faculty (anthropology, history, American Indian studies, among others) utilize the museum, having students come to visit the museum to complete various assignments.  

Museum Anthropology 38.1: Web-Exclusive Content

In the latest issue of Museum Anthropology (38.1), journal co-editors Tony Chavarria and Maxine McBrinn co-authored an article of interviews with anthropologists that work in university museums. 

Over the next few weeks, we will be posting previously unpublished interviews as web-exclusive content. 

Keep an eye out for this exciting addition to the blog! 

Museum Anthropology Leaders: David Delgado Shorter, Professor & Vice Chair, Department of World Arts and Culture, University of California - Los Angeles, Part 2 of 2

Exclusive Museum Anthropology Blog Interview with David Delgado Shorter, Professor & Vice Chair, Department of World Arts and Culture, University of California - Los Angeles.

This interview is the fifth installment in our series, Museum Anthropology Leaders, where blog intern Lillia McEnaney will be interviewing various anthropological museum professionals. This interview is very different than the rest, for Dr. Shorter is the first interviewee who is not a classical museum anthropologist. 

This interview was conducted over written email correspondence. 

This is Part 2 of 2

Q: What collection-based project have you worked on that you are most proud of?
A: I’m quite proud of the digital curation I did for NYU’s Hemispheric Institute in 2009,
a module called “The Indigenous Americas.” It took years to develop a digital interface
for their collection of materials related to indigenous performance and politics.
Unfortunately they only allow their member institutions to see the result of that curatorial
work. For your readers who belong to a member institution, they can visit that collection here. If your readers are not institutional members of the Hemispheric Institute, perhaps this will be an enticing invitation. I don’t want to imagine a world without the Hemispheric
Institute, their director Diana Taylor, and their amazingly global team of activists,
scholars, performers, artists, and technicians.

Q: What challenges have you faced as a curator who has not been trained in this practice?
A: The greatest challenge is one of recognizing the expertise of collaborators. I don’t
know about restoration and archiving practices. I wouldn’t dare tell someone doing that
work how I think they should go about storing or hanging something based on best
practices for preservation. And yet I have encountered museum staff telling me what to
write or not write in the text, literally down to word choices. To be sure, the best editors
for my representations of an indigenous community are going to be people with decades of experience in the community being represented. And I don’t know if professionally trained curators take business and economic classes, but I haven’t. So while I want to be careful to respect the expertise of the people working hard to keep museums in the black, I am also dismayed by the small amount of money museums want to invest in shows including the reimbursement of their staffs’, curators’, or artists’ time and energy. The result is not necessarily “lip service,” but a type of interest in representing indigenous art in ethical ways up to a point; and that point seemed to be defined by “up until it costs too much money.” I have seen that what then counts as “too much” could symbolize most settler colonial attitudes towards Native people. Museums and galleries might, for example, have a public face of reconciliation and repatriation, but an actual practice of tight proprietary control of everything down to the color of the font used in the advertising. It’s important to add, though, that as in all collaborative work, we must find a way to see how things look to everyone around the table. I find that gratitude helps immensely in the moments of disagreement. I do not have to excuse myself from critical engagement in order to be grateful for the opportunities to work on projects that bring me joy.

Q: In a large sense, what role do you see digital humanities playing in the museum field in the future?
A: In my two most recent shows, I was surprised by how disengaged the museums and
galleries were from the digital outlets. In one case, they created only one single webpage that had black text on a square white screen with one banner image from the show. I’m not a programmer and even I could have created a visually stimulating and intuitively sharable site in about an hour. They sent Press Releases but spent very little time approaching the show as an opportunity to show the works in the advertisements or in some digital form. When we consider how art gets kept from those people challenged in terms of mobility or transportation, we have all the more reason to have people come in, or on staff, who can create at least truncated but equally engaging digital versions of shows and collections. The reality is that we have talented web designers, photographers, videographers, designers and college-educated people ready and waiting for these sorts of jobs. It would take two days to make some gorgeous, smart digital form that represents the exhibit to those unable to get to the physical show.
As to the question being framed in terms of 'digital humanities,' I'm not a huge fan of linking digital modes of engagement with only the 'humanities,' versus the 'arts' or 'social sciences,' so I’ll not speak too much about the hermeneutic aspect of digital projects. But across multiple disciplinary approaches, the digital era invites us to think of our work bidirectionally, not simply as showing or telling, but also as listening and changing intersubjectively.

Q: Do you see any of your digital linguistics-focused projects (ex: the Wiki for
Indigenous Languages) fitting into a museum context?
A: Without a doubt; and it’s such an insightful question. The Wiki for Indigenous Languages (WIL Project) is a labor of love that is getting attention internationally right now. At its heart is a commitment to building community around the value of language learning, which of course entails biological, cultural, environmental, and religious knowledges. The arts are inseparable from that, both in terms of indigenous art practices but how we shape the website in aesthetically appropriate and enticing ways. Just that level alone is what we are working on now for the second version, coming out in the new year. 
In terms of your question about bridging this work with the museum work, I have begun sketching out a museum show that is driven aesthetically by not only the texture of language, but also the content of the indigenous languages. Knowing that communities are losing, and fighting for, and revitalizing languages, helps us find ways of assisting those people from whom we’ve taken so much. For example, when we consider that many indigenous languages are generative rather than representational, the opportunity arises to imagine museum collections more socially since indigenous art then reaches beyond simply symbolizing an objective world. We can imagine then a museum populated and embodied, offering social presence. All of this would proceed by understanding how language works as both the result of and the seminal creation of cultural production. The problem is that such thinking gets at the heart of NAGPRA claims for repatriation. Until museums acknowledge their colonial legacies and make amends, then most of their work on indigenous peoples will remain “on” and not “with.” The question is if whether I can find a large enough gallery space with the sound and video capabilities. The mission is clear enough. 

Museum Anthropology Leaders: David Delgado Shorter, Professor & Vice Chair, Department of World Arts and Culture, University of California - Los Angeles, Part 1 of 2

Exclusive Museum Anthropology Blog Interview with David Delgado Shorter, Professor & Vice Chair, Department of World Arts and Culture, University of California - Los Angeles.

This interview is the fifth installment in our series, Museum Anthropology Leaders, where blog intern Lillia McEnaney will be interviewing various anthropological museum professionals. This interview is very different than the rest, for Dr. Shorter is the first interviewee who is not a classical museum anthropologist. 

This interview was conducted over written email correspondence. 

This is Part 1 of 2

Q: Can you please explain to the readers how your familial and cultural background impacted your decision to study culture?
A: I grew up in Alamogordo, New Mexico, near where the first atom bomb was tested. My father worked out in the desert on top-secret projects and I spent my years before preschool living with my great grandmother in the housing projects. My mother made sure that I was very connected to her family’s history. We regularly visited my great, great grandmother (whose brother ran with Billy the Kid) up in Lincoln County. Because my father was of German-mixed ancestry, and my mother of mixed Hispanic/Mexican/Indian ancestry, and because I spent my weekdays in the projects but weekends living in the wealthier subdivisions of the city, and because we lived near an air force base with many people moving in and out from different countries, I think I was quite early aware of cultural differences in term of ethnicity, class, and nationality. We were often traveling through the Mescalero Apache community up the highway as well, so early on I was fascinated by religious differences as they could be discerned through ritual and self-representation. Of course, at the time we are not consciously strategizing these factors into what we call our drives or motivations; looking back, I can now see how these environments and communities shaped me.

Q: You mentioned that you got your start in digital curation. Can you please elaborate on this?
A: After graduating from the History of Consciousness Department at UCSC in 2002, I
was noticing how the Internet seemed to be a game changer. (See a comparison here). For example, the now bankrupt Borders Books, Inc. had stores in almost every city. I wanted to test the waters of new modes of publishing, so to speak. I applied to the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics at NYU for one of their small grants to develop an online research project. With their, I think it was $3,000.00, and some of my own monies, I realized that a website could meet multiple purposes at once. If done well, a website could attract non-academics and teach them some things about a culture or tribe without playing into ethnic voyeurism. A site could help academics by providing them research, field notes, and media. For the community being represented, such a site could also include archival materials not easily seen elsewhere as well as language tutorials. And unlike a book, the site could be revised, be free, and have a discussion blog. That site was my first opportunity to not only think about what should be used to represent, but how the act of representation might best be accomplished through the graphics, design, and dynamics of the represented culture. The color choices, the movement between screens, and the primary language were all from Yoeme (Yaqui) practices. The result ended up being a product that enabled my tribal collaborators to recognize that I had been paying close attention for the previous, at that point, ten years. Since they were primarily not literate, seeing and hearing my representational work meant a lot to them. Kids enjoyed seeing their language on something as cutting-edge as the Internet.

Q: Seth [Schermerhorn, Hamilton College, Religious Studies Department] informed me that you worked closely with the Yaqui collection at UCLA. Can you reflect on your experience curating this collection at the Fowler?
A: The Fowler Museum told me in 2013 that they had a collection of Yaqui masks
contributed to them by Carlos Castaneda. I was immediately interested in working with
them since supposedly Castaneda had contrived all of his fieldwork among the Yoemem
(Yaquis). Before this experience, I had primarily worked only with intangible materials or
original works by indigenous artists, so this was the first time I “put on the gloves” as a
curator of objects. I went into their collections with their specialists and we examined
what they had been given and the condition of the masks. They also had some incredible rattles made from moth cocoons. From their larger collection, there were a few that would have been quite exciting to show but tribal codes of conduct do not allow for their display. It was an easy decision to exclude them since their absence would not have detracted from a still very exciting display. And we are quite fortunate that in the Yoeme case, the particular mask genre we displayed, the pascola or pahko’ola masks, do not have any ontological status in and of themselves. While the masks ceremonially have and instill much power, Yoeme artists also make them to be displayed on walls as crafts of incredible skill and beauty.

Museum Anthropology Leaders: Paul Tapsell, University of Otago, New Zealand, Part 2 of 2

Exclusive Museum Anthropology Blog Interview with Paul Tapsell, Professor, School for Maori, Pacific, and Indigenous Studies, University of Otago, New Zealand. 

This interview is the fourth installment in our series, Museum Anthropology Leaders, where blog intern Lillia McEnaney will be interviewing various anthropological museum professionals. 

This interview was conducted over written email correspondence. 


This is Part 2 of 2. 


Generally, what is your favorite thing about anthropology or museums?
Celebrating diversity and difference; negotiating cultural boundaries; providing source communities opportunity to co-produce/narrate their own exhibitions in nation spaces; providing a new generation of scholars opportunity to critically engage museums as places of co-production; and seeing museum-held dead released home, healing cross generational hurt and bringing museums one vital step closer to being places of vitality where the living really matter.  

Do you have any pieces of advice or tips for our younger readers who are perhaps thinking about going into anthropology or museums? 
I was raised in a community where your usefulness was measured by service to others; where ancestors were not owned; and respect was earned, never demanded. These same values continue to underpin our cross-cultural discipline of Museum Ethnography. It is uniquely grounded in the very essence of our humanity, which physically manifests in the cultural objects of identity found in museums throughout the world. As I explain to my students: it's all about boundaries: Museum Ethnography will provide you the reflexive toolkit to recognize and negotiate these complex boundaries. Be prepared to serve those communities you study, demonstrate trust and in turn they will serve you, your career and your future descendants. 

Have you seen any major changes in our field over the past decade? If so, what are they? 
Recognition of source communities as co-producers; developing field of museum ethics; realization that museums in colonized countries rest on a local kin group landscapes who should be engaged as partners in governance/management of cultural property held in museums; willingness of curators to engage indigenous communities again, but as equals!  

Where do you see the field of museum anthropology going? 

Current museum trends - past two decades - have been toward user pay commercialized business models. Sadly this has been at the expense of research and community service/engagement. In museums' rush to capture market share due to ever increasing operational constraints I fear museums will lose their vitality, becoming glorified tourist attractions where research based curatorship will disappear and museums once unique academic based point of difference will be lost. I believe the key is for museums to focus strongly on their collections and find innovative ways to engage in new research that is demonstrably useful to wider their wider communities and national well being. 

Museum Anthropology Leaders: Paul Tapsell, University of Otago, New Zealand, Part 1 of 2

Exclusive Museum Anthropology Blog Interview with Paul Tapsell, Professor, School for Maori, Pacific, and Indigenous Studies, University of Otago, New Zealand. 

This interview is the fourth installment in our series, Museum Anthropology Leaders, where blog intern Lillia McEnaney will be interviewing various anthropological museum professionals. 

This interview was conducted over written email correspondence. 


This is Part 1 of 2. 

When in your education did you decide to pursue museum anthropology? Why? 
I grew up in a museum family. My Irish grandmother married into my tribe in the early 1920s. Our tribe is famous for weaving and carving with over 50% of all museum-held taonga (Maori ancestral treasures) having originated from our Bay of Plenty region. In the early 1960s my grandmother became really concerned at the continuing loss of our taonga to outsiders or being abandoned by a new generation more focused on surviving colonization. She established the Rotorua Museum, inviting my wider tribal elders to loan our taonga (long-term) as a way of protecting them for future generations to access. The support was overwhelming and to this day these taonga are still actively used in our culture, especially during life crises, like mourning rituals or tangihanga. As a grandchild I grew up surrounded by these taonga. I was unaware of the uniqueness of our museum: taonga still belonging to the community, but available for visitors to view. Having grown up in such an environment I struggled to engage with "normal" museums where my people were objectified. After a sheltered life I remember visiting the BM as a young adult and being horrified with the apparent licit displays of the dead and their possessions. 

Thereafter, I avoided museums because they made me feel uneasy. Back then the last thing I ever imagined was that I would end up in a museum career! Through my 20s I internationally pursued competitive sports and enjoyed engaging other cultures, reflecting on my own kin community values in a globaly exciting context. It were these cross-cultural interactions that framed my future academic leaning toward Social Anthropology, complemented by Archaeology, Maori Art History and Psychology. In 1990, as I completed my BA the Curator position opened up at Rotorua Museum, which by now was a New Zealand recognized professionally-run institution. I was reluctant at first to apply, but my tribal elders had other ideas and convinced the Mayor, District Council and not least me (!) that the time had arrived to begin traveling the pathway set by my grandmother. Three years and a bucket load of experiences later I dared to imagine a career in museums, but it had to be inclusive of source communities, exhibiting cultures in alignment with originating values. 

I completed my MA in Social Anthropology, focussing on a museum-held taonga, names Pukaki and in 1994 was invited by Schyler Jones to read for a doctorate in Museum Ethnography at Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford. Greatest influences on choosing/maintaining an academic framed path in museums were my mentors, Sir Hugh Kawharu, Sir Raymond Firth, Dame Anne Salmond, Karen Nero, Harry Allen, Peter Gathercole, Peter Ucko, Howard Morphy, Chris Gosden and Nick Thomas. 

Could you provide the readers of the blog with a brief description of your day to day job at as a professor at the University of Otago? 
Although I am currently on sabbatical my work day continues similar to term time - lots of field research, reading and writing - but without teaching (although I am still supervising a couple of post grads and serve on a couple of committees). Most difficult part of my job is balancing tribal responsibilities (kin) with my work priorities (office). Fortunately my fieldwork takes me from
Dunedin (University of Otago) to my tribal homelands in the North Island twice a month. This provides opportunity for me to fulfill tribal duties as well as sitting on local and national government appointed committees.   

What project have you worked on are you most proud of? 
In the 1990s the return home of Pukaki tommy tribe was special, fulfilling my elders' dream to see their revered taonga home;
In the 2000s it was the Ko Tawa exhibition, touring museum-held taonga back into communities of origin; and
Currently, the Maori Maps project, assisting reconnection of Maori youth to their home tribal communities. 

4. What was the most challenging project or aspect of a project that you have worked on?
The Ko Tawa Project presented multiple challenges, not least museums' reluctance to release taonga to visit communities of origin in an exhibition that had no glass cabinets. This project demonstrated to museums - yet again - that Maori communities remain worthy Treaty partners and are committed to bettering Nationhood on the basis of inclusion, recognizing it is Maori culture that provides NZ's international unique point of difference.