Minutes from the September 11th meeting–our first one of the year!

The Haffenreffer Museum Student Group’s first meeting of the year was held on September 11th, serving as a general introduction to the group and the group’s plans for the year, with a special focus on the upcoming Cameroon exhibit.

Laura began with a quick introduction to the group and what we did with a slideshow that she had put together.  We then began brainstorming for the coming semester/year.  Proposed events, some of which the group has previously held, include a gala, movie nights, a speaker series, trips to local museums/historical libraries, kids’ days, and evening open hours.  These extended hours would serve to allow greater access to the museum for those who are busy during normal opening hours, and would potentially also serve as the biweekly meetings of the HMSG.

We then got into the details of the upcoming exhibit, previously known as Rulership and Revelry: Images of Power in Grasslands Cameroon, which will be opening on November 15th.  This may seem to be far in the future (or not, depending on your perspective…), but we have a very strict timeline to follow in order to have everything be ready on time.

First, we went over changes that had been made to the plan for the exhibit since the last meeting of the group/over the summer: some objects have been changed, the theme was refined, and the CultureLab wall was added.  We then discussed how the delegation of tasks was going to unfold—whether individuals would be responsible for certain things, if panels would be the result of group efforts, etc.

Next, Laura explained the plans for each individual panel, which will be as follows:

A: Introduction

B: Geography and Regional Identity

C: Stools and Rulership

D: Pillars and Window Frames—Creating Space

E: Ndop (perhaps to be combined with Panel D)

F: Commoner’s Stool

G: Palm Wine Gourds

H: European-style Chair and Colonialism in Cameroon.

Finally, we spent some time working out what the new title will be, and ended up with “Images of Power: Rulership in the Grasslands of Cameroon”.  We also began writing a first draft of the PR blurb, which was due on the 16th.

Our next meeting will be with the museum staff on Friday the 27th at 2pm, in the museum, to talk about label guidelines and exhibit layout.

Things to keep in mind: If you haven’t already, please fill out the when2meet that Laura sent out so that we can set up an official meeting time.  Please sign up to write a CultureLab label if possible, and don’t forget to keep adding any research to the GoogleDocs. Also, get your museum membership if you haven’t yet—as a Brown/RISD student it’s free, and it gets you into over 200 museums in the US, Canada, and abroad for free or reduced admission.

Exhibits Committee Meeting, 11/27 + A Night at the Haffenreffer on Saturday 12/1!

On November 27th, members of the Exhibits Committee met with a huge endeavor: narrowing a selection of 43 objects down to just 6 to 8 for our upcoming African stools exhibit. We went through all the images Geralyn and Thierry sent us, and discussed what objects would best relate to the themes of our exhibit. We also had the option to put any additional objects we liked in the CultureLab, so we had a little more flexibility with the number of objects we could request.

We looked for stools that exemplified themes such as class and iconography. For
example, the portability of stools is a big indicator of gender: men’s stools tend to be lighter, whereas women’s stools were heavier and not meant to be moved. We chose stools that illustrate these differences clearly, and are also appealing to the eye. Stools that might not fit in to our larger themes will be put in CultureLab so visitors can see more examples of the diversity of African stools, along with smaller objects, such as a sword and a comb with stools carved on them. Another interesting addition to our exhibit will be a colorful parasol Thierry selected from the collections. It should add a nice pop of color to the whole exhibit—maybe even a color theme?

While we narrowed down the list pretty effectively, we want to do a little more research on specific objects to see which pairings make more sense. If some of the objects we intended to represent one theme are more appropriate in another pairing, we’ll switch up some of the objects to make them relate better to the larger exhibit. Geralyn left some articles and books in the CultureLab for reference, but we will also consult Thierry to see which objects make most sense for the exhibit.

In attendance:
Ana Colón
Laura Berman
Hannah Sisk
Chris Piazza
Christina DiFabio
Andrew Huckins-Noss

Also, don’t forget: tomorrow, December 1st from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m., will be our big gala, “A Night at the Haffenreffer: An Evening Soirée.” Zal and Ariana organized this lovely event, and we hope tons of people will make it! There will be music, refreshments, and interesting things to look at. We hope to see you there! Sponsored by the Late Night Fund, organized by the Haffenreffer Museum Student Group.

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Meet the Postdoc: Jennifer Stampe

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Jennifer Stampe, taking a break in North Beach during the recent American Anthropological Association meeting in San Francisco.

Hello Haffenreffer Museum Student Group members!

I am Jennifer Stampe, and I’m at Brown this year as
Postdoctoral Fellow in Anthropology, with duties at the Haffenreffer.
I have previously taught Museum Studies at New York University and
Anthropology at the University of Minnesota, where I earned my PhD.
My teaching and research interests center on the cultural politics of
indigeneity.  Specifically, I look at American Indian
self-representation in museums and tourist sites, examining indigenous
priorities and interests, on the one hand, and asking how non-Natives
respond to new representations, on the other.  I am developing an
approach that understands indigenous self-representation as an effort
to hail, and indeed construct, a new kind of non-Native subject, one
who will be a sympathetic ally of indigenous assertion.

For my dissertation, I did ethnographic fieldwork in residence at the
Mille Lacs Ojibwe Reservation in central Minnesota.  The Ojibwe are
the third largest indigenous group in the United States; the Mille
Lacs Band won a landmark Supreme Court decision in 1999, when its
treaty-reserved rights to hunt, fish, and gather on ceded lands
without state interference were upheld.  At the same time that the
Band faced the state in court, it collaborated with the state
historical society to make a “state Indian museum” located on the
reservation into something more like a tribal museum, at a time when
the recent tribal museum movement was at its beginning.  The
redesigned Mille Lacs Indian Museum presents Ojibwe history in an
Ojibwe curatorial voice, foregrounding Band members’ own words, to
tell a story about indigenous survival.  But some problems in
interpretation remain, mostly centered on the museum’s Four Seasons
Room, a lifesize diorama of the Ojibwe industrial year.  The exhibit
is an immersive and sensory experience, an account of the past, that
threatens to trump the museum’s intended message that Ojibwe people
are still here.  My research focuses on the diverse and complex ways
that museum visitors understand this exhibit, given the larger context
of contest over treaty rights.  I also examine the intersection of
this project in representation with others at Mille Lacs, including a
public relations campaign and nascent human rights movement.  The book
I’m working on about these issues embraces a broad range of concerns,
including nationalism and tribal sovereignty, identity and
subjectivity, and power and decolonizing practice.

I am really happy to be at Brown, and have enjoyed a fall term without
teaching responsibilities.  But I’m looking forward to getting back to
the classroom in the Spring, when I’ll teach Anthropology in/of the
Museum.  The class will examine the history of anthropology, moving
from ts early years and so-called “museum age” through the more recent
crisis of representation on to current efforts at collaboration.  The
class will draw on the Haffenreffer’s collections, and will to be
organized around a series of projects that will act as a museum
practicum: these will include exercises on object, photo and archive,
and visitor research.  I expect to tailor the work of the class to
students’ interests.  Please feel free to get in touch if you are
thinking about taking the class, or if there’s anything else I can do
for you.

If you’d like to get in touch with Jennifer Stampe, you can contact her via e-mail at jennifer_stampe@brown.edu.

Pictures from our trip to Bristol

Here are some of the pictures that our student group president, Laura Berman, took during a visit to the collections in Bristol! These are the images we used to brainstorm possible themes for the exhibit. All of the stools are from Africa, and the more stylized stools with a curved top are Ashanti. 

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All images taken by Laura Berman.

Making progress in our exhibit

Exhibits Committee meeting notes from 11/7, taken by Ana Colón

At our second Exhibits Committee meeting about the African stools exhibit, Hannah briefed us on what has happened since the last time we met, as well as updating people that didn’t make it to our first meeting. We’ll be setting up our exhibit in the space where the “Thawing the Frozen Indian” class exhibit is, with a soft opening date of mid-March. This presents some challenges, such as running out of space and having to build stages for the stools, as well as having an earlier deadline than we expected. We had also toyed around with the idea of creating a GISP for this exhibit, but an early opening might complicate this. Instead, we will have workshops with Haffenreffer staff in order to get a more hands-on experience in creating this exhibit.

Our next step now is to draft the proposal, hopefully in the next two weeks. This proposal should include specific pieces and general themes we want to convey with our exhibit. Our original plan was to pair stools according to themes, such as gender and status. The proposal should also include our workshop ideas and the dates we’d like to have them, in order the make sure we have someone from the Haffenreffer to lead them. Which brings us to our second big task: creating a timeline for the exhibit, a sort of mock schedule to help guide us during these next steps.

 Some of the ideas we had for workshops were:

  1. Exhibit construction
  2. Printing labels
  3. All-day workshop during President’s Day weekend in Bristol
  4. Audience/Voice/Tone, to develop our text and what we want to say in our exhibit
  5. Research, taught by subject librarians at the Brown University Library

We’re hoping to have the last two before we leave for winter break. Tentatively, we’ll have the research workshop on December 3rd in the morning. We will go to the Rock as a group with a general idea of what themes we want to explore, and then speak with the librarian about what kind of resources are out there before we each conduct research individually over break. Then we can meet with Kevin a week later, on December 10th, to have the Audience/Voice/Tone workshop, so we can get a sense of what to look out for while we conduct individual research.

Hannah will create a Google Doc so we can all collaborate on the proposal. Our next in-person meeting will be on December 3rd, but we will continue to be in contact through e-mail to iron out some of the details before then. For now, our tentative exhibit schedule looks something like this:

  • 12/3 Meet with research librarian at the Rock
  • 12/10 Group meeting, “Audience/Voice/Tone, Part 1” workshop, informal exhibit design and construction talk
  • 12/22-1/22 Winter break (individual research)
  • 1/28 Exhibit design workshop, decide on color theme/font
  • 2/1 “Writing Workshop,” everyone brings in rough draughts of their assigned text to edit and finish in workshop, text finalized
  • 2/8-2/19 Long weekend, all-day workshop in Bristol
  • 3/4 “Lighting Practices” workshop
  • 3/11 Installation of exhibit
  • Mid-March Exhibit opening

Of course, this schedule is subject to change once we submit our proposal and speak with museum staff to coordinate. However, it is the only concrete part of our proposal that we are submitting.

New semester, new projects!

Exhibits Committee meeting notes from 10/26, taken by Ana Colón.

The Haffenreffer Student Group is currently planning a new exhibit, slated for the end of the Spring semester, at the Haffenreffer. In order to brain storm, Laura and Hannah headed down to Bristol to visit the Haffenreffer collections with Thierry. At the meeting, they showed us some of the pictures they took during their visit. We focused on pictures of African stools that Thierry had pulled out for them, and Hannah and Laura gave us a bit of background about their use and tradition in the Ashanti culture.

After speaking with Thierry and looking through the collections, the students that visited Bristol narrowed down our ideas for the exhibit. The final three were:

  1. Janks Museum (the history of the objects)
  2. Ashanti materials (a more in-depth focus on a single culture, focusing on the portability of the objects that are part of their dance rituals)
  3. African stools (objects from the collection organized thematically, but that cover a large geographic range)

The students present decided on the African stools exhibit, and we began to plan the next steps. First, we would need to inform Thierry and Nathan as soon as possible of our idea, so we can pick around four to five objects to put on display. Once we select the objects with their help, we will begin drafting the proposal.

As far as the space for the exhibit, we are hoping to get a fourth of the gallery. Ideally, we would want to set up our project where the Taiwan exhibit currently is. If not, we are also looking at the space where the Chinese scrolls are currently set up.

The group decided to meet again to discuss what types of objects and themes we’d like to present as part of our exhibit. We could pick objects that are distinctly different from each other, such as dance stools next to large stools, our we could create a larger theme, such as gender and the stools, to create the narrative. We can sit down to talk with Thierry about the stools, so he could advise us on what makes more sense.

After we choose the objects and have a better idea of what we’ll be working with, we will divide up the information and conduct research independently. For the proposal, we hope to have already decided on the themes for the exhibit, as well as have the preliminary background research done.

We are looking to have this exhibit up by April. This is the largest exhibit the group has ever undertaken, so we have our work cut out for us. We discussed some of the potential problems we might face with such a large project, such as running out of exhibit space, but we will confront these issues as they present themselves. Lets get the ball rolling on this new and exciting project!

End of Year Meeting

Hi all,

Thank you to all who came to the end of year and elections meeting.  The group accomplished a lot this year!  We’ve selected officers for next year and came up with a few new ideas.

New officers are:

President:  Laura Berman ’14
Treasurer:  Allison Iarocci ’13
Secretary/blog: Ana Colon

And Committee leaders:

Exhibits Committee:  Hannah Sisk ’13
Programs Committee:  Zal Shroff ’14

Some new ideas for next year include  hosting a round-table panel for jobs/internships/experiences in archaeology/anthropology, hosting a workshop about ethical and legal museum manners (contracts, acquisitions, communities, etc.), and hosting workshops about practical exhibit skills like design and building.