||ICME Newsletter 33, October 2002
WORDS FROM THE PRESIDENT
ICME IN ZAMBIA 2002 - DISCUSSING THE BASIC QUESTIONS
The ICME conference in 2002 was arranged jointly with the National Museums Board of Zambia and SADCAMM - the organization for museums in the 12 countries of southern Africa.
Our theme was a basic one: how can poorly funded museums still function well and meaningfully? I have as yet never met a museum employee who does not think "his" or "her" museum is poor, but the poverty of museums in many countries is real in a way that is far beyond the conceptions of a museum employee in a rich country. How can these museums improve their lot? If meaningful existence for the museum is the goal, financial, political and personal resources are the tools.
My own personal summary from the discussions reads as follows:- The museums must become more clever in relating to the political world, their ministries and the bureaucracies "above". They must ensure a basic public funding sufficient for at least elementary upkeep of infrastructure, investments, etc. In fact: in the long run, many of the projects that donor agencies are funding, are - and will be - wasted because of little or no money for the most elementary maintenance. The tendency to look for donor agencies as more important than the ministries the museums are sorting under, is thoroughly unsound, and donor agencies should perhaps demand that their investments are met with sufficient public funding for securing their maintenance.
- NORAD (The Norwegian Development Agency - The sponsor of the conference) stated that they would primarily support long-term projects that include co-operation between several partners, and with a clearly defined - in time as well as results - goal. If this attitude nowadays is the general one for donor agencies, the potential of regional as well as thematic co-operation should be exploited more actively and creatively.
- The museums should relate themselves more strongly to the communities they are part of, and be more activity oriented. A museum that is important for the community members is a meaningful institution. Therefore, community involvement is a good thing in itself. But community involvement may also create recognition, and recognition may result in better funding. The rapidly growing cities are a special challenge. One paper asked the question: can museums be part in creating a positive city identity and be a center for visions of the present and the future, also for street kids, the poor and the unemployed?
- The museums have a greater potential for benefiting from tourism than now, but are not as yet sufficiently professional in their marketing approaches as well as in the "products" they are offering to the tourists. Quality control is vital in what you are communicating as well as in what you are selling in the museum shop.
- Tourists are important, but the local visitors are nevertheless the most valuable users of the museum. How can museums be of use for locals and tourists at the same time? Perhaps locals and tourists have many common interests?
- Ethical considerations are of the utmost importance when living traditional life is made into a tourist attraction!
All the issues above and several more were raised by speakers at the conference, and all them from representatives of African museums. On behalf of ICME and myself I wish to thank our local hosts and every participant for a week of intensive learning; very, very lively and informed debates (never before have I experienced a group of 60 persons discuss as freely as if we were 20); and a flawless arrangement, both in Lusaka, in Choma and in Livingstone! Thank you!!
THE FUTURE OF ICME - OUR E-MAIL DISCUSSION
After I started the debate called "Should ICME be dissolved?" on our discussion list, some have congratulated me on kicking off a good debate, others have worriedly asked me whether ICME is really going to be terminated. At the start, I stated that the question was asked in earnest, and I stick to this. But the issue is not so much ending something as asking: how do we see the future? What are the important issues and what should be the organizational frames for putting forward and debating those issues?
The structure of international committees within ICOM is a fantastic tool, but may also be a hindrance for taking some discussions across the committee boundaries. Oh yes, we can arrange joint meetings, but personally I see that as organizationally awkward and formalistic. The theme for the Zambia meeting concerned all poor museums, belonging to every committee you can name. In spite of the lacking specific ICME focus, the Zambia conference was nevertheless the best ICME conference I have been to since my first time in 1992 (and there have been some very good ones).
ICME/NMBZ/SADCAMM were the organizational instruments through which it was realized. Maybe we should see ICME and the other international committees as cradles for ideas to be used by all museum professionals, raising issues sometimes of wide interest, at other times for the specialists in one field, and not be so concerned with membership in this or that committee. Not contrary to the statement above, but in addition: maybe one inherent value in keeping an international committee going, in spite of unclear and inconsistent content, in spite of being created a long time ago with different goals than to day and under completely different circumstances, is having a varying group of core activists that take care of the continuity. The continuity of thought and the organizational one. And the continuity in and continual renewal of friendships, not least.
Let us continue to keep a critical eye upon our ICME-self, and thanks to all participants in the debate. Issues were raised that could be taken up for further discussion. It is completely up to each one of you to do or not do something about that.
Per B. Rekdal
REPORT OF ICME/NMBZ/SADCAMM CONFERENCE HELD IN LUSAKA AND LIVINGSTONE, ZAMBIA, 28TH JULY - 3RD AUGUST, 2002
The ICME conference in 2002 was arranged jointly with the National Museums Board of Zambia and SADCAMM - the organization for museums in the 12 countries of southern Africa. The theme of the conference was "High Expectations but Low Funding: How do poor museums meet their targets?" The conference was attended by over 55 participates coming from approximately 20 countries. The first session of the conference was titled Meaningful roles for museums in rapidly growing cities and was arranged at the Lusaka National Museum, in the capital of Zambia. Going from Lusaka to the next session in Livingstone, we were able to make a stop-over for some hours in the Choma Museum along the route. In Livingstone our session was: Tourism, museums and "living" traditional life as a tourist attraction.
The Deputy Minister of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources, Hon. C. Silavwe opened the conference in Lusaka. In his opening remarks, he tried to emphasize the importance of culture in national development and further said culture is a vital integral of any form of development. He referred a country without culture as a dead nation. The Minister acknowledged that international gatherings sharing experiences on cultural aspects should be encouraged and that his government was committed to supporting such gatherings.
In his opening remarks the Executive Secretary of the National Museums Board of Zambia (NMBZ), Dr. F Musonda pointed out that Zambian Museums and other African Museums have a problem of funding. This according to the Executive Secretary has lead to poor performance in museum activities. The Executive Secretary, however, expressed optimism in the African governments, Zambia inclusive that one day they will realise the importance of museums and fund them adequately.
The Chairman of ICME, Mr Per Rekdal began by marking observations to a number of problems faced by Zambian museums. It was observed that exhibitions are old, there were no resources for outreach programmes and that Lusaka Museum is operating below its capacity. Mr Rekdal further commented that money is extremely important in life just like water. He said without money no activity could be accomplished or undertaken.
Mr Mubian Luhila, Co-ordinator for Programme for Museum Development in Africa (PMDA) began by identifying other organisations that are operating in Africa for the Development of museums. He then gave statistics of funding levels and sources of income for museums in Africa and it was observed that Museums are poorly funded in Africa. Because of this Mr Luhila said that low funding has made it impossible for museums to operate in Africa.
The conference then saw the presentation of papers, which were related to the theme. Among the notable one were papers presented by Mrs F F Mangalu "High Expectation, but low Funding; How do museums meet their targets? A case of Tanzania; Mr Mudenda G S "Role of Museums in Rapidly Growing Cities, A Case of Zambian Situation.; Dr Boris Wastiau, Belgium, "Museum Collection Size; Shar Jones, Australia "Voluntarism in Museums" and many other. These papers and other highlighted a number of issues regarding the operations of museums and their programmes. There was a strong emphasis an museums working with members of the community thus involvement of community members in museum programme. This was seen as one way of reducing the currently problems in museums as some members of the community may sponsor some programmes.
In the conference delegates were told on how to obtain financial assistant from NORAD. Mr Tore Hem said that museums should try to rationalise or become cost effective in channelling funds and that they should identify the cultural areas in which Norway is interested. It was further said that if museums were to meet their targets with low government funding then there was need to place museums’ work in government departments that understand the role of museums.
The Livingstone session was mainly concerned with the tourism aspect of museums and most of the presentations had emphasis in this direction. In his proper presentation, Mr Per Rekdal said that the predominant types of curios in Livingstone were those of the Lozis and Leya people. Among the typical ones were the bow with a cover having animal on top, masks with hanging provision, drums related to traditional drums with decorations and used as coffee tables, shield with no relation to traditional area, Kenyan Masai Curios and Ila heads. Mr Rekdal observed that Livingstone Museum was selling curious which were sold even at the falls but Choma Museum had specialized. It was therefore, said that if museums were to be regarded as tourists centres, then they needed to specialize in their crafts industry to attract more tourists. The presenter also said that old buildings in tourist towns/cities like the ones in Livingstone should be marked in order to attract tourists/people to the museum.
Mr Siachoono S, Director Copperbelt Museum, Zambia presented a paper on the usage of images from local regional and national areas. He stressed the need to have a creative artist or designer. The materials or crafts that can be made with images may range from neck ties, pens, post cards, mug cups and so on. This kind of activity was observed to have a number of constraints such as the need for more capital, source of reasonable manufacturer and that it requires a lot of manpower and capacity to do the work. There is need to devise measurers for quality control and to have a link with the leaders to talk to their subjects.
Mrs. C. Mateke, Livingstone Museum, Zambia presented a paper, which was trying to emphasis on putting museums on the itinerary. Mrs. Mateke in her presentation observed some of the reasons for people not visiting the museum as lack of publicity, quality of services provided, distance from the entry points and many others. It was said that there was need to co-ordinate with tour operators to include museums on the places to be visited by tourists.
Mr. M. Sitali, Livingstone Museum, Zambia presented his paper in which he was trying to put emphasis on the need to mount attractive displays or exhibitions. He further argued that tax rebates should be awarded to financiers or funders to museums.
Mrs. V.P. Chitungu V presented a paper on Tourism and Enlivening Cultures. She sighted the advantages of making living traditions as part of tourism package in that they provide employment, identity, financial resources etc. In contrast, Mrs. Chitungu noted that making living traditions to be part of the tourism industry lead to abandoning of local industrious for example agriculture. This was in reference to Mukuni Village within the periphery of Livingstone where the local community has become crafts producing industry.
The conference from my own point of view raised a number of important issues, which are worth observing if museums in Zambia and the rest of Africa were to operate effectively. What came out of the conference is that:
- Museums are underfunded, as they are not priority areas for most governments.
- Museums have been placed in most cases in ministries with less knowledge of their operations. The German and Tanzanian experiences were two good examples of museums receiving required attention as they fell under appropriate ministries. In case of German, the lessons were that if the museum was a museum of technology, then it was under the ministry with technology component.
- Most politicians especially in Third World countries like Zambia do not really understand the role of museums and do not know the type of professionals required for such institutions though they always say culture is an important component of national development.
- Museums have failed to move with time especially when it comes to the type of exhibitions that are found in their galleries. For instance museums have maintained their old exhibitions with the uninformative captions for a number of years.
- Communities have not been identified as partners in museum programmes and as such there is a big gap between the two as pointed out in my presentation during the conference.
- Museum managers should try to influence the governments to fund them so that co-operating partners may co-operate in mutual areas.
- Museums and their professionals in Africa have not been collaborating with each other for a long time in areas of workshops, conferences, and seminars co-ordinated by museum organizations such as AFRICOM, SADCAMM.
- Museums have not attempted to specialize in their crafts in Zambia except Choma Museum thereby making it difficult to attract tourists.
- There has been no close link between operators and hotel industry that would package museums in their itinerary so as to increase tourist inflow to the museums. This point came out clearly in the case of Livingstone Museum.
The way forward in this kind of situation is to:
- Influence government to develop interest in museums and give them first priority.
- Identify areas of mutual interest with museums of co-operating partners for instance in areas of research, exhibitions, publication, exchange programmes etc.
- Co-operating partners should try to assist poor African museums by encouraging African governments to invest in museums before they could come in.
- Administrators of museums (Directors/Executive Secretaries) should pay attention to core areas of museums, which in turn will bring about activity in the institutions e.g. research, publications and exhibitions.
- There is need to encourage twinship relations between the museums in Africa and developed countries to enable exchange of knowledge and ideas in terms of technology and cultural heritage management.
- There is need to continue having interactive gatherings like the ICME conference where professionals would exchange ideas and experiences in their specialized fields.
George Mudenda, Motomoto museum, Zambia
PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2002 CONFERENCE
As the ICME Newsletter 33 goes to print (and to the net), we are in the process of contacting all participants from the two sessions in Zambia, asking the presenters for permission to publish their contributions in the publications section of the ICME web-site http://icom.museum/icme. George Mudendas paper "Role Of Museums in Rapidly Growing Cities: A Case Of Zambian Situation" is the first of these. More information on publication will follow in ICME News 34.
Espen Wæhle, ICME News Co-editor
ICME 2003: THE ASTRA NATIONAL MUSEUM COMPLEX, SIBIU ROMANIA,
Make sure to mark these dates in your diary for next year, add a day or two in advance for travel, and some days afterwards for a post-conference tour. The themes is:
Cultural Traditions in Danger of Disappearing in Contemporary Society A Challenge for Museums
In one of our sessions in Barcelona we had a debate on the disappearance of traditions in contemporary society, we even discussed whether "traditional life" should be considered a valid concept or not. In Sibiu we will get an opportunity to continue that discussion if we so wish, but perhaps more important will be to discuss the consequences of rapid change in societies that hitherto has "preserved" (that is not really the word I am searching for, because it sounds so passive and static) many customs and concepts connected to what is often called "traditional societies".
Romania has wonderfully rich rural traditions that - almost uniquely in Europe - have been a living part of the daily life until the present. But today's modernization changes this with alarming rapidity. How does a museum meet this challenge? Many answers can be given to this question (perhaps we can have a pre-conference debate on the ICME discussion list?) and many other museums around the world are facing the same or related challenges. Let us meet and discuss and learn. And let us experience Romania!
The 2003-conference can also serve as a prelude to ICOMs general conference in Seoul, South Korea, where the overarching theme is "Intangible cultural heritage". In Romania, as well as in Korea, there is not only a concern about the change of costumes, crafts, etc, but perhaps more with the importance of continuity of knowledge.
It is valuable to follow up over several years such strings of discussions, from Barcleona to Sibiu to Seoul, discussions that may take us further in our understanding and in showing different aspects of related issues. Much more on ICME and Romania 2003 in the next issue!
Per B. Rekdal
National prizes awarded to Astra Museum - Host to ICME 2003 Conference
The following contribution, from the General Director of the host museum of next year, Corneliu Bucur, will give the readers some ideas on the nature of and activities undertaken in the National Complex ASTRA Museum.
Starting with 2002 the Romanian Ministry of Culture and Religious Affairs offers yearly 26 awards for the best museum programes and projects for the research, valorization, restoration and conservation of the national cultural heritage. They were developed by the most prestigious national museums, institutions and companies specialized in preserving the historical monuments and archeological sites. The awards are named after well known Romanian museum personalities.
The National Complex "ASTRA" Museum was awarded with 3 prizes:
The three awards prizes represent the absolute success and the highest official recognition for ASTRA Museum's achieviements and honour the whole staff and our community too.
Human Living Treasures -
National system for preserving and revitalization of intangible cultural heritage
Since 1990, according to the UNESCO recommendations (Paris - 1989, Venice - 1999), ASTRA Museum has initiated a package of programs concerning the active preservation of the Romanian "human living treasures". Besides the classical methods of exhibiting the tangible heritage (buildings and inventory objects) that defines the history of the Romanian traditional folk civilization, the new programs are focused on the intangible cultural heritage. They present in a demonstrative, spectacular and interactive way the contemporary folk artisans. Thus the new European paradigm "living museum" (museum vivum) had been accomplished. The new approach of the cultural heritage changes the museum from a center of conservation into a modern cultural one providing touristic, educational and training facilities.
In 2001 these programs were continually enhanced in terms of quality and quantity.
For the first time in 2001 ASTRA Museum organised the National Folklife Festival after the model of Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Four hundred folk artists are yearly invited at the Festival. They cover seven major folk culture fields: literature, music, rituals, dance, crafts, technique and cooking. The folk artists represent the three historical regions of Romania (Wallachia with Oltenia and Dobrogea, Moldavia with Basarabia and Bucovina, Transylvania with Banat, Crisana and Maramures). The Festival also gathers 50 folk artists from Republic of Moldavia, as well as 50 representatives from a foreign country
The Traditional Folk Civilization Museum (Open Air Museum) - Major achievements
The project of a new thematic group was designed and developed in 2001. Traditional storages for depositing and preserving the cereals, food and fodders are for the first time systematically presented together in a Romanian open-air museum. ASTRA Museum dispalys one of the richest collection of mills of the world, that was enlarged last year as the collection was enriched with the typological group of hand-mills.
Along the years 2000 and 2001 many field researches were done in several counties (Arges, Gorj, Hunedoara, Maramures and Salaj). 7 buildings were discovered and purchased to complete the new thematic groups. Since now 5 of them were transferred and rebuilt in the museum. The other 2 are going to be transferred in 2002. The thematic group of traditional agriculture was enlarged with 3 farmer's homesteads that were finished last year. 2001 was also the year when the inside mural-paintings restoration of the Bezded Church, Salaj County was finished. This is the first church in a Romanian open-air museum that has the whole inside mural paintings finished.
In 2001, "ASTRA" Museum's Educational Department systematically developed its special programs in new established locations, two classrooms with special facilities. Every week pupils and students are taught about the Romanian cultural heritage and the importance of museums. They are also accustomed to using computer and encouraged to explore and discover the world patrimony by internet.
The Departament of Information and Documentation "Cornel Irimie" had finished the data base that records all the 133monuments and the 17,000 inventory items. "ASTRA" Museum is the first in Romania that has a complete data base of its patrimony.
"In situ" restoration of the molinological complex (22 water-mills) from Rudaria village, Caras Severin County
Twenty two watermills with horizontal wheel and radial scoops, located on the Rudaria Valley, in the South West of Romania, have been miraculously preserved in Rudaria Village. Strung like pearls downstream the river for almost three kilometers, inside and outside the village, the watermills stand for a great experience and ingenuity, reflected in their technical conception and construction. They proved to be remarkable creative in using the poor flow of the river Rudaria and its shallow ( as the difference of level is not significant). Seizing the topographical conditions, the villagers cleverly corrected the disadvanteges of their land by penetrating tunnels in the hard rock obstructing the river by lumber dams and also placing the watermills on both sides of the river and thus the admission of water being realized through both sides of the hydraulic wheel-shaft. The watermills in Rudaria are still the joint property of the community, formerly a solid social structure, economically very efficient that was specific for the villages located at the foot of the mountains and for the intracarpathian plateaus area. Due to the political and economical changes in Romania 1989, many watermills were abandoned and the ruins are threatening the entire molinological site. The owner's very limited financial power made the restoration and or the maintenance of the watermills almost imposible. The ASTRA Museum's project for restoring and putting back into function the watermills from Rudaria was validated and finaced by the EUROART Program. The villagers ( millstones carvers, shingle splitters and carpenters) offered a great support, making thus possible the fulfillment of the project at a low cost in a short time. The watermills from Rudaria may become a highlight of cultural and rural tourism in Romania.Corneliu Bucur Ph.D.
General Director, National Complex "ASTRA" Museum, Sibiu, Romania
"Rethinking Hopi Museum Representation"
A Getty Research Grant Project
As I have just come back from my first period of field research among Hopi in Arizona, thanks to a Getty Curatorial Research Grant, I would like to share my project with you and I would be glad to hear your opinions, experiences, suggestions.
The aim of the project was to provide with scientific documentation and fieldwork information over the indigenous peoples of Arizona in order to exhibit and publish the museum Hopi collections in the new permanent exhibition of the City Museum Castello D’Albertis in Genoa (Italy), taking into account the contemporary international debate related with the display of ethnological artifacts and the Hopi point of view. For Italian museum curators it is always very difficult to spend time on research and to be able to deconstruct and decolonize historical museum installations, both for financial and for ideological reasons. Moreover, as Italy is far apart from areas inhabited by the makers of the artifacts possessed by our museums, exhibitions tend to be based on traditional criteria according to historical assumptions. Reflexive museology rarely does affect mainstream exhibitions, which only recently are starting to be more critical and less authoritative. It is much easier to put up exhibitions which confirm and reflect the dominating myth of the "vanishing Indian", of the "noble savage" or of the "new age" ecosystem representative or which repeat classificatory chains and typological distinctions. For these reasons it was extremely challenging for me to try to avoid the usual pattern, as I believe that if anthropology museums want to go on playing a role in today’s society it is necessary for them to dismantle their colonial foundations and change their register towards a more fully recognition of their moral implications and their role as contact zones.
After total refurbishment and restoration, Castello D’Albertis is going to reopen to the public in the year 2004, when Genoa is going to be the European Capital of Culture. Castello D'Albertis originates from the donation by Captain Enrico Alberto D'Albertis (1846-1932), a Genoese seaman and traveller deeply rooted in his own culture and open to the discovery of the others. At his death in 1932, he left to the city the neo-gothic castle he built on medieval and renaissance fortifications where, as a strategy to build his identity and a world that could be classified and possessed, he had gathered his archaeological and ethnographical collections from his countless journeys to Africa, the Americas, South East Asia and Oceania. Starting from the Captain’s Wunderkammer approach of "his" museum, the visitors will come to develop a new understanding of the peoples the captain met, through today’s point of view of the indigenous cultures, which will connect the past to the future, thanks to the awareness recently acquired by indigenous communities facing the radical changes of society and coping with the needs of adaptation in the effort not to loose their cultural and ethnic identity. The Castle will be a place for both the local and the international communities, a place for the self and the other, a place to understand other cultures starting from our own, a place facing the port, historically always open to foreign peoples.
If the reopening of Castello D’Albertis meant only the proposal of the restored captain’s mansion house, without making the visitor reflect over the unbalanced relationship between "the West and the rest", I would consider it a failure. The Hopi collections seemed to offer me an occasion to exhibit this kind of dilemmas, allowing me to provide documentation of an important collection of the museum, aiming also at shedding light over the possibilities of new museological practices and over the ideological implications implicit in the display of ethnographical artifacts.
The museum Hopi material is made up of two different collections, the first dating back to 1896 from the founder and donor of the museum, Captain D’Albertis, and the second to 1953 from a Genoese children psychologist, whose collection of artifacts and drawings reached the first lot in 1998 through an acquisition by the Friends of the Museum.
Together with the oldest collection, consisting of nearly 50 pieces such as baskets, rabbit sticks, clay tablets, one tablita, one kachina doll, pottery and several utensils for daily use, Captain D’Albertis left us the pictures he took during his trip in New Mexico and Arizona, on his first tour of the world in 1896.
The more recent collection consists of 17 cottonwood kachina dolls, rattles, baskets, pottery, combs, drawings and paintings by Kabotie, Loloma and their schools, besides hundreds of drawings by Hopi children and paintings by unidentified Hopi teenagers, that the Genoese doctor accurately ordered according to the places, names and age.
I had planned to spend one month in Arizona, New Mexico and California to visit museums, archeological sites, tribal cultural centers and libraries, to collect information for a complete catalogue of both collections and for a proper exhibition of the artifacts from a museological and ethnological point of view. This would have also allowed me to have a grasp of the contemporary debate over exhibiting cultures in the U.S.A, over cultural appropriations, commercial values and marketoriented productions of the area. Another month stay in the Hopi reservation could help me establishing relationships with Hopi, to try to collect interviews and voice/sound recordings, to try to identify the children of the 1953 drawings, to show them our collections and to ask them to be involved in their museum exhibition, for example in the decoration of the wall of the area devoted to them.
I believed that only from working together with the now adult "authors" of the drawings and paintings many hypothesis of projects should crop up: I did not want to plan the details of this part of the project in advance, as much room had to be left to negotiation in order to find an agreement over the accessibility of the collections and over the needs of the community itself.
After my stay in Hopi, I wanted to spend some time visiting some ancestral Hopi sites, apart from some Rio Grande pueblos, whose dances have some similarities with Hopi ones and are more accessible. These visits to the cliff dwellings in the Four Corner Area would be an important conclusion, considering Hopi relationship with their land and their ancestors, whose traces tell us so much about them and to them. To Hopi people the Canyon is the genesis and the final destination: they are the canyon.
The research period has been extremely successful, more than I could hope. It has provided me with a deeper knowledge of our Hopi collections thanks to the sharing with museum directors, Hopi museum assistants and the Hopi in Hopiland, and with a practical plan on the collections’ permanent installation that copes with today’s contradictions of museum cultural representation and with the respect for Hopi rules and codes of conduct.
Among the museum visits I would like to mention the Southwest Museum and Fowler Museum of Cultural History (there was a stimulating temporary exhibition under the name "Kachina/Katsina: Tradition, Innovation and Appropriation), the Heard Museum in Phoenix, the Arizona State Museum in Tucson, the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology in Albuquerque and the Wheelwright Museum and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe, during the Indian Market.
Extremely important during the museum visits was to meet Delbridge Honanie in LA lecturing for the Fowler exhibition: we arranged a meeting in his studio in Flagstaff, where I met him and Michael Kabotie, the two artists who had painted a mural in the Kiva gallery at the museum of Northern Arizona of Flagstaff and who were working on some more paintings for a travelling exhibition on the Southwest tradition of murals. Incredibly enough, Michael Kabotie was the author of one of our paintings, together with a Fred Kabotie’s sketch - which I already knew. This made things much easier for his involvement in the project: he had such a surprise that he could not help recalling his childhood in Hopi. He totally shared the scope and nature of my proposal, giving a tremendous impulse to the feasibility of the whole research. We planned to meet again after my stay in Hopi, to check Hopi reaction together and to discuss about the meaning and content of our possible cooperation.
To my astonishment, on my very arrival in Hopi, I had the chance to find myself in the middle of Hano social dances, which was a real enrichment for the eyes, the spirit and the mind.
This lucky and casual introduction was the leading thread of the whole stay in Hopi: I had made less plans as possible, without trying to fulfill my curatorial desires and western eager to know, to discover, to ask, to loot and to use. I had tried to keep in mind that I was going there to inform them about what we had, to give them a copy of the drawings to the "children" of 1953, to accept their reactions and proposals: the aim was "to make a bunch of friends" thanks to the longstanding relationship between Genoa and Hopi. I wanted to listen to them and not merely to explain "my" project: my project had to become their project.
This allowed me to be ready to anything that would crop up and to have surprises everyday, with the contradictions and doubts of today’s anthropological field research together with Hopi complex restrictions and rules. I could not forget that the opening showcase at the Fowler exhibition in LA, for the impossibility of putting on display sacred masks and spirit representations, was empty to respect the privacy of Hopi beliefs. In fact, at the base of my research there was the strongest contradiction: my curatorial perspective aimed at shedding light on Hopi culture whil Hopi are not interested in explaining it to non- Hopi. They are against it tout court, they protect their lives by not giving information, their way of learning is by not asking questions. As I had read in the permanent exhibition of the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe, the guide of silence among Hopi is still very strong: they survived by withdrawing and remaining silent. How could I be successful and how could I measure the degree of my success?
During the meeting with the Cultural Preservation Office, I was confirmed it was not necessary to repatriate any museum item for their sacredness and received help in tracing the "former" children. But the dialogue started to be more stimulating when I showed them our 1896 photographs and I realized it was possible to give back the enlarged copies for them to use in their museum: recognizing the places, the people, the activities represented was a pleasant surprise that involved them directly, bringing their past back to them and assuring their direct interest. But this was just the beginning: day after day I started meeting with the "former children" of 1953, whose names became real faces thanks to the smile and the recalling of one or the other member of the Tribal Office or of the "school-friends" and the schedule for the first week was immediately very tight and busy. They all accepted to be recorded and everyone gave his/her opinion and testimony of his/her life. By the end of the last week all video-camera cassettes I had brought were over and a wide range of human activities and reactions was accessible: katsina carvers, priests, goldsmiths, potters, librarians, teachers, radio speakers and even the Tribal Council Vice President and the Governor of Kykotsomovi! Showing them their drawings or letting them recognize their paintings revealed as the starting point of a renewed relationship, hopefully different and long-lasting, of mutual knowledge and exchange.
One of the many possible ways of explaining museum artifacts with the many human lives behind them was becoming a reality and Michael Kabotie’s mural painting would have synthesized the stories giving them a universal frame.
But there was something that left me uneasy, which I became aware of only in the end. A few days before my departure I was suggested to contact a person working with school-students, that could probably open my horizon further: when I met him I realized how few words were necessary to him to understand what was going on. Not only did he find two paintings he made in 1953, but he immediately offered to act as a field - liason with Hopi High School students to have them make the central part of the mural. He felt that the students had to become the leading thread of the project: as starting point in 1953, as main museum audience, as initiation is a universal process in all cultures of all times. Two powerful gigantic murals that reigned in the school buildings guaranteed for the good quality of the work, together with our field- liason’s idea to make the students paint their world vision, according to the knowledge acquired by the different age grades. These scenes would merge in the dome-like vaulted ceiling hosting Michael Kabotie’s vision. Only then did I understand my previous discomfort. Apart from giving us the chance to speak to our younger visitors and to making this audience have an exchange experience with other cultures and ways of life, the students’ contribution assured us a community perspective on and from Hopi. Knowledge transmission by initiation rites and age classes can moreover provide a clue to approach all cultures in the museum, the care of a society for making its members into adults is universal. This surprise that cropped up out of a sudden in the end gave the final touch to the project, allowing us to maintain a systematic contact and to have Hopi participation in its very sense. The interaction between Michael Kabotie and the school-students will make it even clearer that the museum is simply trying to offer a place in the world to Hopi where their voice can be heard. Through objects’ descriptions given by themselves and their murals, what we will come to know about Hopi will be what they want us to know. Spreading this information in Europe won’t be a violation of their secrets and tendency: they appeared proud to be known in Italy and happy to maintain the relationship with Genoa. The primary contradiction dissolved and Hopi will have a stage for their rights. Some have even offered to take pictures of Hopi and send them to us as their perspective and point of view: one of the future activities could also be a temporary exhibition of Hopi photographs of themselves and their land, as some suggested, together with artifacts prepared for Genoa itself by katsina carvers and potters.
After 10 years activity in the museum aiming at listening to the Other and at establishing a dialogue with the makers and producers of the artifacts exhibited, to be able to accomplish this plan will represent for me and the museum audience a good starting point for the new life of the museum.
Maria Camilla De Palma, Castello D’Albertis, Italy
November 4: 'Ethnography and Social History: Two Approaches?' The Museum and Art Gallery, Nuneaton, UK. This is a joint meeting between the Museum Ethnographers Group and the Social History Curators Group For the full programme and registration please contact Jill Hasell +44 2073238083. http://www.shcg.org.uk
November 4-7: ICOM-MPR annual meeting. Mexico City.http://www.anbg.gov.au/icom-mpr/conf-mex-2002/Conference_Program_final.html
November 20-24: American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, Hyatt Regency hotel, New Orleans, LA, USA.
November 25-29: Museum Training in a Globalising World. Annual ICTOP Meeting. National Museum Institute, Janpath, New Delhi, India. http://www.city.ac.uk/ictop/
December 5-6: 2002 Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association. Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, Washington, DC, USA.
December 5-6: "Comparação, Competição e Contestação: Nós e os Outros". IV Jornadas Sobre Cultura Saloia, Museu de Cerâmica de Sacavém, Portugal.
March 17-23 2003: 22me Bilan du Film Ethnographique. Musée de l'Homme, Paris, France. http://www.comite-film-ethno.net
March 19-22, 2003: Museums and the Web. Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. http://www.archimuse.com/mw2003/index.html
June 18-20, 2003: "Accented Cultures. Deterritorialization and Transnationality in the Arts and Media". Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, Amsterdam, Netherlands. http://www.multicultureelplein.nl/mcplein/pagina.asp?pagkey=22238
ICME - International Committee for Museums and Collections of Ethnography
Editors: Espen Wæhle & Daniel W. Papuga
Mailing address: ICME, Ethnographic Collection, The National Museum of Denmark,
Last updated: October 31, 2002.