Ask a Curator Day 2013: Wednesday, September 18
On Wednesday, September 18, 2013—Ask a Curator Day—the National Museum of the American Indian and museums around the world invite you to engage directly with curators and other staff. Using Twitter and the tags #askacurator and (for our curators specifically) #SmithsonianNMAI, share something you’ve wondered about. Curators from 561 cultural institutions (and counting) in 34 countries (ditto) will be standing by to reply to your questions.
This year, Joe Horse Capture will be coordinating Ask a Curator Day at NMAI. His particular area of interest is Native North American Indian Art, especially the art of the peoples of the Great Plains and Great Lakes/Woodlands regions. Joining Joe on the Ask a Curator team are Kathleen Ash-Milby and Cécile Ganteaume. Kathleen hopes to field questions about contemporary Native artists—particularly those working in non-traditional art forms such as new media, painting, sculpture, installation and photography—and the museum’s contemporary art program. A member of the curatorial staff of the Museum of the American Indian when it became part of the Smithsonian, Cécile is well-informed about the history, breadth, and depth of the museum's collections.
Joe is new to our curatorial staff, but an old hand at Ask a Curator, having taken part in the day at the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts (MIA), where he was Associate Curator of Native American Art in the Department of Arts of Africa and the Americas. Joe cites as his mentors Evan Maurer, director emeritus of MIA, and his father, the late George P. Horse Capture, a special assistant at NMAI who played a key role in community consultations leading to the design of this museum. Joe and his father collaborated on the major NMAI exhibition and book Beauty, Honor, Tradition: The Legacy of Plains Shirts (2000–01, 2004). Joe’s other major projects include Art of the Native Americans: The Thaw Collection (2010–11), organized with the Fenimore Art Museum, and an exhibition about his tribe, A’aninin (Gros Ventre), titled From Our Ancestors: Art of the White Clay People (2009–10). Joe also serves on the board of the Otsego Institute for Native American Art History.
Kathleen’s contributions to the museum date to her student days, when she worked as a research assistant in the museum’s former Research Branch in the Bronx. Her credits from that time include work on the exhibition and book Woven by the Grandmothers: Nineteenth-Century Navajo Textiles from the National Museum of the American Indian (1996–97). After serving as gallery curator of the American Indian Community House in New York City, Kathleen returned to this museum as curator for contemporary art at NMAI–NY, where she curated and edited Off the Map: Landscape in the Native Imagination (2007) and, with Truman Lowe (Ho-Chunk), Edgar Heap of Birds: Most Serene Republics (2007), a public art installation for the 52nd International Art Exhibition/Venice Biennale. Kathleen is the recipient of a 2011 Excellence in Research Award from the secretary of the Smithsonian for her exhibition and publication HIDE: Skin as Material and Metaphor (2010–11). She is president of the Native American Art Studies Association and a founding board member (2006–12) of the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective. Kathleen is a member of the Navajo Nation.
Cécile is curator, most recently, of two exhibitions on view at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York: Circle of Dance presents Native dance as a vibrant, meaningful, and diverse form of cultural expression. Infinity of Nations: Art and History in the Collections of the National Museum of the American Indian—a major, permanent exhibition of some 700 works of Native art from throughout North, Central, and South America—calls attention to the complexity and interconnectedness of the Native cultures of the Americas. Cécile's work on Infinity of Nations and the companion book of the same title was recognized with a 2011 Excellence in Research Award from the secretary of the Smithsonian.
The Smithsonian offers a few tips for participating in Ask a Curator Day:
- If you’d like to follow the full conversation and see questions and answers between other individuals and museums, use a website such as TweetChat to view all talk using the hashtag.
- If you’re new to Twitter, there are many helpful guides to get people started.
- Not sure what a curator is or does? Ask! Questions about what it’s like to work in a museum, how curators got where they are today, and what a typical workday is like are most welcome. Our curators appreciate the opportunity to reflect on their work and increase awareness about the jobs they do.
- Curators are passionate about their specific topic areas and love to discuss them. Just like any professional with a specialized expertise, they sometimes hesitate to speculate on questions outside their scope. If you have a question they can’t answer, we’ll do our best to point you in the direction of a resource that may be able to.
- First, best, most valuable, biggest, tallest, oldest—superlatives are fun, but they can be hard to establish. If you ask more open-ended questions, you may get more interesting answers!
- Some questions can’t be answered in 140 characters, the limit Twitter puts on tweets. If that’s the case, we’ll save your question for the museum’s blog and let you know when we post a reply.
- Another option for those longer-than-a-tweet sized questions is to Ask the Smithsonian through Smithsonian Magazine. Unlike the short questions common on Ask a Curator Day, Ask the Smithsonian encourages you to "think big" as they’re seeking “complex questions that will generate new ideas, new visions, and new conversations."
- If you’re not on Twitter, you can always reach the museum through Facebook, email, or the NMAI blog.
Book cover credits: Beauty Honor, Tradition: Hunkpapa Lakota (Sioux) shirt (detail), about 1885. Collected by Gen. W. P. Carlin at Ft. Yates, Standing Rock Agency, North Dakota, about 1890. 12/1. Photo by Katherine Fogden (Mohawk), NMAI.
Hide: Sonya Kelliher-Combs, Red Reindeer Brand, 2009. Reindeer fur, acrylic polymer, cotton fabric, metal grommets, 61 x 45.7 cm. Collection of the artist. Photo by Kevin G. Smith.
Infinity of Nations: Muisca ceramic head, Colombia, AD 1200–1600. Clay, paint; 26 x 15 x 29 cm. 23/920. Photo by Walter Larrimore, NMAI.