Smithsonian Institution Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology
SIMA faculty as well as students will be carrying out independent research projects over the summer. Their proposed work is included here to give student applicants ideas of the types of projects might be possible. While the faculty have more in-depth knowledge of Smithsonian collections than is expected of students, applicants should use our online resources to identify potentially useful collections.
SAMPLE PROJECT PROPOSALS
Proposed Project: Candace Greene
Much scholarship in recent decades has focused on collectors and how their motivations and attitudes are revealed by the collections that they made. Less attention has been paid to the motivations and attitudes of the individuals from whom the materials were acquired. Recovering information on source communities, which often left few or no written records, must rely in large part on a close examination of artifacts. I am studying three sets of drawings by the Hunkpapa leader Sitting Bull, produced in 1883 while he was a prisoner at Fort Randall, Dakota Territory, following his surrender to the U.S. Army. The largest one of these sets (22 drawings) is in Smithsonian collections – NAA MS 1929B.
I will be comparing three sources of information and considering the disparate messages that they convey: the drawings themselves; the associated texts explaining each picture, reportedly provided by Sitting Bull; and the narratives provided by the collectors concerning their acquisition of the drawings. I expect to present a paper on this at the Native American Art Studies Association conference and to prepare it for publication in an appropriate journal such as Museum Anthropology Review. The Sitting Bull study is part of a wider research on how Plains men of the 19th century used pictorial art to negotiate position within their own societies. More generally, it will contribute toward an exploration of how objects presented in cross-cultural exchanges (whether by sale or gift) are selected by members of source communities.
Proposed Project: Nancy J. Parezo
I am interested in the ways that anthropologists have used objects as well as words to represent cultures, as well as the way that object-based representations have affected Indian cultures. During the 2009 Summer Institute I intend to study the collecting activities of James Mooney, an anthropologist with the Smithsonian's Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE).
Mooney worked primarily in Indian Territory with the Kiowa and groups in the central Plains. However, in 1892-3 the BAE sent him to Arizona to collect materials from the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, and Western Apache for dioramas being constructed for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair by William H. Holmes and Frank Hamilton Cushing. On this trip Mooney collected 1,194 items. I will concentrate on the Navajo collections (230 items) because this is the first Smithsonian collecting expedition to concentrate on the Navajo and the dioramas represent the first attempt by a museum to display Navajo lifestyles, work, art, and technology to the public. In addition to the artifacts, I intend to look at Mooney’s documentary materials in the National Anthropological Archives, as well as incoming and outgoing correspondence in the BAE files, information about the exhibits (Holmes’s diary, annual reports, SI and USNM correspondence, etc.), photographs from the collecting trip, and the dioramas. My goal will be to write an article to be submitted to the Museum History Journal and to present a paper at the Navajo Studies conference in fall 2009.
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