October 17, 2014

The Art of the Digital Age: Sharing Photos!

By Larry McNeil

Welcome to the “Fun with Smartphones Project.” Pull out your smartphone and share your photos!

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Photographer Larry McNeil (Tlingit/Nisgaá) 

The project's formal title is “Larry McNeil and the Art of the Digital Age." The National Museum of the American Indian describes it this way:

Through the use of a camera phone and social media sites like Facebook, art photographer Larry McNeil explores the art of everyday life as perceived by a contemporary indigenous person. Presenting hundreds of his own snapshots made around Washington, D.C., and informed by his unique visual aesthetic, McNeil invites NMAI visitors—in person and virtually—to add their own commentary to his photographs and to upload their own snapshots to his Facebook page.

I’d like to make this fun and interactive, because the emphasis is having us collectively figuring out what “the art of everyday life” means to you. I have some of the sites already online, and I’ll be at the Smithsonian National Musuem of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, October 25, if you want to show up with your smartphone and smartphone photos. We could play with different ways of making photos and just see what unfolds.

At various times I’ll likely ask you to photograph something thematic and share it on the site(s). I think that this will be fun and maybe even thought provoking, but we’ll see, because this will be a group effort.

If Saturday doesn't work for you, come by on Sunday, October 26, to see how the project is taking shape.


On Facebook
just look for “Larry McNeil” to participate. Here’s what my page will look like:

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And here's the link to that Facebook page.


On Instagram
, look for “1_photographic” to participate. Here’s what the page will look like:

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Link to Larry’s Instagram page.

When sharing photos on Instagram, please use the hashtag symbol #, followed by my username 1_photographic. It should look like this: #1_photographic.


If you find yourself in Washington, D.C., between now and January 5, 2015, please take the time to stop by and see our photography exhibition titled Indelible: The Platinum Photographs of Larry McNeil and Will Wilson! Can't come to Washington? Here's the on-line version


Selfies are wildly popular
on Facebook, so I decided to make one especially for this project. It’s me at the National Museum of the American Indian in D.C., and even cooler, made with a Nokia smartphone. How cool is that?

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Please join us by sharing photographs. Thank you, and get those photos uploaded! All user agreements are between you and the companies, not McNeil or the Smithsonian NMAI. All McNeil is doing is organizing a place to share photographs on existing social networking sites. No legal agreements or any agreements are made with anyone with this project and no liabilities may be extended to any party. The legalese language is made between you and the user agreements at the social networking sites.

We want you to take an active part in this project. But even if you're not a photographer, please come by the museum's Potomac Atrium on the weekend of October 25 and 26 and share your thoughts, or just your curiosity. 

Sharable calendar links for the project Saturday, October 25, and Sunday, October 26.

Directions to the museum in Washington.

Larry McNeil is a photographer, artist, and scholar. He has been teaching photography since 1992, exhibits his work on a regular basis both nationally and internationally, and stays active as a scholar with research and published material. He has earned many awards for his photography and scholarship, including fellowships and purchase awards for various museum collections. 

The original version of this post appears on Larry McNeil's blog. It is reprinted here with permission.

Story and photographs copyright Larry McNeil, 2014. All rights reserved. 

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October 07, 2014

“So, what’s up with all those questions about treaties on columns throughout the museum?”

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What's the story behind the purple columns around the museum? We're glad you asked. They're interactive learning stations for the
new exhibition Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American
Indian Nations,
 and we hope they'll prompt visitors to keep asking questions.

American Indian treaties are a topic about which visitors have a lot of interest and curiosity. Engage them in a conversation about treaties, and they will often shake their heads and say, “Oh yeah, those,” and then begin to ask questions: “Are treaties still valid?” “Do treaties give American Indians special rights?” “Aren’t treaties bad for American Indians?” “Weren’t all the treaties just broken anyway?” Starting with such foundational questions, the exhibit team that produced Nation to Nation” Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations is using a well-known educational strategy to attract visitors to the major new exhibition on view in Washington through fall 2018.

On the Potomac level and on the 3rd and 4th floors of the museum, selected columns have been painted “wampum purple”—a Nation to Nation design theme—festooned with the flags of Native Nations, and fitted with wooden interactives that pose and answer important questions about treaties. The purpose of these treaties stations is to pique visitors’ interest in the Nation to Nation exhibit. But their content is not just typical Q & A. 

The treaties stations employ an educational technique known as “inquiry-based learning.” The idea behind this approach is to engage learners in a discovery of the content, instead of just telling them everything you want them to know. The “telling” approach is not the most effective educational strategy and often results in something my mother used to characterize as “going in one ear and coming out the other.” Inquiry-based learning begins with something that is compelling—for example, an image, a question, an object, or a combination thereof—then encourages people to explore it. 

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Panels from a treaties interactive. (Click
each image for a larger view.)

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


At each treaties station, visitors are engaged with a question and image or images related to treaties (above, left). Visitors then rotate the panel manually, but instead of finding the answer on the next panel, they find a new image, quotation, or excerpt from a historical document—something that requires them to think again (above, right). Visitors then rotate the mechanism to a final panel, where the answer is revealed and a more detailed explanation is offered (right)

Each of the treaties station columns has the words “Find out more in the Nation to Nation exhibit,” stenciled on it. Our hope is that more visitors will be intrigued to learn what is inside the exhibit by interacting with these important treaty questions outside the exhibit. We plan to evaluate the interactives’ effectiveness in a formal way.

So, when you visit the museum, try them out. We hope that they’ll help you build your basic knowledge about treaties and that you’ll find yourself thinking about the history of treaties and their ongoing importance before you even reach the exhibit on the 4th floor. 

Then let us know what you think.

—Ed Schupman            

Ed Schupman is a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma and works in the museum's education department supporting exhibit teams and developing resources for K–12 students and teachers.

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October 03, 2014

Behind Every Great Object, There’s a Great Mount

By Joshua Stevens

The little things in life make all the difference, and those who work behind the scenes building the museum’s exhibitions know it all too well. Every small detail has an impact on a visitor’s experience, which translates to the success of an installation. Yet these details are also those that for many of us go unseen.

November approaches, and with it the unveiling of NMAI New York’s newest exhibition, Glittering World: Navajo Jewelry of the Yazzie Family. Staff members across the museum and outside specialists are working to ensure that each piece in the exhibition shines flawlessly, telling the story not only of a family, but of a highly refined art form. 

Kelly McHugh, an NMAI conservator, shared photos from the museum’s Mount Shop showing the custom-made brass components that will be used to support the nearly 300 pieces of contemporary Navajo jewelry the exhibition contains—rings, bracelets, necklaces, and a variety of other jeweled accessories—as well as objects from the museum's collections that provide historical context. The snapshots below show the many different mounts the exhibition requires. Specific exhibit case numbers are written alongside the mounts on the ethafoam that supports them while they are in transit from the museum’s collections, conservation, and research facility in Maryland to the museum in New York. 

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Object mounts made by master mountmaker Bob Fuglestad and his colleagues Bill Mead, Bill Bowser, and Jon Pressler, and by the museum's staff mountmaker, Shelly Uhlir, for the exhbition Glittering World: Navajo Jewelry of the Yazzie Family. The mounts were constructed at the museum's Cultural Resources Center in Maryland, then grouped by exhibit case for installation at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York. Photos by Duane Blue Spruce, NMAI.


More than 350 mounts were made for Glittering World, most by master mountmaker Bob Fuglestad and his team of Bill Mead, Bill Bowser, and Jon Pressler. The museum's staff mountmaker, Shelly Uhlir, made a number of mounts, as well. Shelly describes what the project entailed:

The majority of the mounts are crafted from silver-soldered brass, which is then covered with multiple layers of acrylic coating to make sure the objects have a safe place to rest. Each mount is custom designed and fit specifically to each piece of jewelry, then painted to conceal the work. 

They are hand-made works of art in themselves, but the best mounts are the ones the viewer doesn’t easily see!

Glittering World debuts Thursday, November 13, at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York and will run until January 2016. The NMAI blog will continue to post exclusive behind-the-scenes content as the opening nears. You can also view the exhibition trailer and join the conversation with the museum on Facebook and Twitter, #GlitteringWorld. Let us know if there’s something you want to know! 


Joshua Stevens is Public Affairs specialist at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York.

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September 22, 2014

Let’s Begin a New Chapter in NMAI History


This week marks an important milestone for the community of the National Museum of the American Indian —the 10th anniversary of the opening of the museum in Washington, D.C. I’m proud to say NMAI has helped redefine the way our visitors understand the Native American experience and Native Peoples, thanks to the generous support of numerous Native Nations, members, trustees, and staff. More than 25,000 Native Americans gathered for the museum opening in 2004—the largest gathering of indigenous people in Washington, D.C., to date—and we look forward to greeting thousands more over the next decade.

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Kevin Gover, director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the America Indian.

This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the museum’s landmark founding legislation; the 20th anniversary of the opening of our first location, in New York City at the George Gustav Heye Center; and the 15th anniversary of the opening of our Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Maryland. These are fine accomplishments, and we are proud and grateful for what we all have done together.

There’s still important work to be done. Most Americans have been taught a limited—and often mistaken—version of Native American history. I still remember the stereotypes that defined my childhood: Indians were figures of the past, often pictured on a rocky hillside dressed in feathers and buckskin. It was images like these that made growing up as an Indian child harder than it had to be.

The true story of our heritage is so much more nuanced, complex, and fascinating. Understanding this complexity can help us understand our present and prepare for our future as a multicultural nation. This is where NMAI can play a vital role in the coming decades, and we are committed to taking on this role with greater focus and intensity. 

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Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations, on view at the museum in Washington from September 21, 2014, through fall 2018. A more detailed caption for these photographs appears below.


Over the next quarter century, we’re committed to telling the authentic history of the Western Hemisphere and Native Peoples to citizens, policymakers, and policy influencers nationwide.  We’re embarking on this new effort in a number of ways, including through groundbreaking exhibitions such as Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations, which is now open to the public. We’re also accelerating our efforts to work with educators, providing classroom materials designed to instill a richer understanding of our history as Americans. And we’ve launched an ambitious campaign to fund more than $75 million in projects that will sustain the next generation of our work.

We understand that this kind of change cannot happen overnight. It will take time and resources. But it’s my hope that our work over the next 25 years can begin to correct the deep-rooted stereotypes, inaccuracies, and omissions that defined my childhood and continue to contribute to the challenges faced by Tribal Nations.

Please join me as we retell America’s story and build understandings upon which the Indian Nations can achieve their highest aspirations.

                                                                                                —Kevin Gover

 

For more information on ways you can support NMAI, visit http://nmai.si.edu/support or email NMAImember@si.edu

Kevin Gover is the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and a citizen of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. 

 

Photo block above: Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations, on view at the museum in Washington from September 21, 2014, through fall 2018. 

Top: Examples of early diplomacy between include (left) the 1682 Lenape Treaty with colonist William Penn and (right) the 1794 Treaty of Canandiagua between the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and the United States. The Treaty of Canandiagua, one of eight original treaties that will rotate on exhibit to preserve fragile documents from light damage, can be seen now through February 2015. 

Center: A display of pipe bags, represents both the importance of ceremony to diplomacy and the northern Plains Nations that were party to the Horse Creek Treaty (1861). From left to right: Tsitsistas/Shutai (Cheyenne) pipe bag, ca. 1851 (NMAI 8/8037); Sahnish (Arikara) pipe bag, ca. 1880 (NMAI 20/1400); Yankton pipe bag, ca. 1880 (NMAI 16/7255); AssiniIoine pipe bag, ca. 1880 (NMAI 12/7393); Numakiki (Mandan) pipe bag, ca. 1851 (NMAI 8/8088); Northern Inunaina (Arapaho) pipe bag, ca. 1885 (NMAI 23/1176); Apsáalooke (Crow/Absaroke) pipe bag, ca.1870 (NMAI 14/828); Minitari (Hidatsa) pipe bag, ca. 1880 (American Museum of Natural History 50.1/5350B); Shoshone pipe bag, ca. 1870 (NMAI 2/3294). 

Bottom: From the mid-19th century unti the present day, generations of Indian leaders have traveled to Washington, D.C., to remind successive administrations of the United States' nation-to-nation treaty obligations.

All photos are by Paul Morigi/AP Images for the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian.

September 11, 2014

Haudenosaunee–U.S. Treaty of 1794 Comes to the Museum


Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations
, opening September 21, offers people a rare opportunity to see documents that have shaped our history and still define our mutual obligations. The treaty between the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and the United States is one of the earliest negotiated between Native Americans and the U.S. government under the Constitution. 

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From left:
Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Oren Lyons, PhD; Tadodaho of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chief Sidney Hill; Suzan Harjo (Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee), guest curator of Nation to NationKevin Gover (Pawnee), director of the National Museum of the American Indian; and Jim Gardner, executive for Legislative Archives, Presidential Programs, and Museum Programs at the National Archives, unveil the Treaty of Canandaigua of 1794, on loan to the museum.


In 1794 representatives of the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and an American delegation led by President Washington's ambassador, Timothy Pickering, met on treaty grounds near Canandaigua, New York, to negotiate an accord. The two parties wished to confirm the peace between them and to secure their respective interests. Working together, the Six Nations—Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, and Tuscarora—sought to recover lands in New York State they had lost to the United States following the Revolutionary War. The United States wanted Native lands in Ohio and assurances that the Haudenosaunee would not ally themselves with the Ohio tribes against the U.S. Army. 

More than 1,600 Haudenosaunee people gathered for the treaty council. Cornplanter (Ki-On-Twog-Ki), a Seneca war chief, and Red Jacket (Sagoyewatha), a distinguished Seneca and speaker for his fellow chiefs, took the lead, although others joined the talks as well. In the end, after 23 days of negotiations, the United States ceded back more than a million acres of Haudenosaunee lands and agreed to an annual payment of goods. The Haudenosaunee ceded all claims to Pennsylvania and the Ohio Valley. 

This week, the National Archives lent the Treaty with the Six Nations to the National Museum of the American Indian for the opening of the exhibition Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations. Haudenosaunee Faithkeeper Chief Oren Lyons and the Tadodaho of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, Chief Sidney Hill, came to Washington to welcome the treaty to the museum. 

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AP953247871443_7 AP364887375351_6Top left: Gail Joice, collections manager at the museum, and Terry Boone, exhibits conservator for the National Archives, prepare to move the treaty to the exhibition gallery. Top right: Chief Lyons and Director Gover study the treaty after installation. Center: Chief Hill and Chief Lyons scan the names of the leaders who signed the treaty for the Six Nations. Bottom: The signature and seal of Ki-On-Twog-Ky, also known as Cornplanter, and the signatures of President George Washington and Secretary of State Edmund Randolph; Washington often had a secretary add his signature to documents, but the president signed this treaty in his own hand.

Nation to Nation represents one of the rare times the treaty has been exhibited. James Zeender, senior registrar in the Exhibits Division of the National Archives, describes the document's journey to this point:

After its signing on November 11, 1794, the treaty was brought back to the seat of government in New York City. President Washington obtained the Senate's advice and consent and ratified the treaty on behalf of the United States Government.  Washington's ratification is visible as two smaller pieces of parchment attached to the treaty at the top and bottom of the original, signed on lower piece by Washington and Secretary of State Edmund Randolph. In the years to come, the treaty was kept with other treaties at the State Department until they were moved to the new National Archives Building on the Mall in the mid-1930s. At the beginning of this century, the treaty and other highly valuable records were relocated temporarily during a major renovation of the building downtown and returned a few years later.

Historic documents are fragile and sensitive to light, so original treaties can be displayed for only a short time. The treaty kept by the Haudenosaunee is held in the collection of the Ontario County Historical Society in Canadaigua, where it is shown once a year on Treaty Day, November 11. The treaty on loan from the National Archives will be on view at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., from September 21, 2014—the opening of Nation to Nation and the tenth anniversary of the museum on the National Mall—through February 2015. 


The transcript of the Treaty with the Six Nations originally appears in Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, compiled and edited by Charles J. Kappler, 1904. 
Digitized transcript made available by the Oklahoma State University. 

The photos above were taken September 8, 2014, at the National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C., by Kevin Wolf/AP Images for the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. 

 

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Thank you for reporting these issues, I was looking for some time what they were going to do with this museum.