Session 3: Digital Repatriation: A New Historical Era (APS Native American Conference)


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This is part of the conference “Building Partnerships Between Archives and Indian Communities,” held at the American Philosophical Society (APS) in Philadelphia, May 2010.

Session 3: Digital Repatriation: A New Historical Era
Because digital technology can be reproduced so precisely and transported so inexpensively, it has created exciting new possibility for moving materials from archives back into indigenous communities.

This session focused on two groups: Pueblo Isleta developing a traveling exhibit, and Pimachiowin Aki, a proposed UNESCO World Heritage Site in Canada.

Time Exposures

Time Exposures: Picturing a History of Isleta Pueblo in the 19th Century, is a traveling exhibit developed by Isleta Pueblo traditional leaders.

The Isleta Pueblo recently developed the photo exhibit “Time Exposures: A Photographic History of Isleta Pueblo in the 19th Century.” [PDF]

They faced the challenge of telling the history of the Isleta people from their point of view, without revealing information that would diminish the privacy or integrity of their lives, practices and beliefs, said Stephanie Zuni, from the Isleta Pueblo Cultural Affairs Office.

The exhibit of 300 photos is divided into: the cycle of the traditional year, the arrival of Americans and how it disrupted Isleta life, and examining the photographs themselves as products of white culture.

“We live as Americans in the outside world and connect with our ancestors in our village,” the exhibit guide says. “This exhibit is about the transitional period and way of surviving that defines who we are today — people living in two worlds.”

Pimachiowin Aki is a proposed UNESCO World Heritage Site, a partnership between four First Nations (Pikangikum, Poplar River, Pauingassi and Little Grand Rapids) and the governments of Manitoba and Ontario, Canada. Its boundaries would contain 40,000 sq. km of vast boreal forest, rivers, lakes and wetlands.

Pimachiowin Aki Map

Map of the proposed Pimachiowin Aki UNESCO World Heritage Site, a partnership between four First Nations and the governments of Manitoba and Ontario, Canada.

“The Poplar River Ojibwe are using APS photographs to preserve 40,000 acres of land, on the east side of Lake Winnipeg,” said Sophia Rabliauskas, spokeswoman for the Pimachiowin Aki Corporation.

“Developers wanted the land for logging and hydro-development, but the community was against it,” Rabliauskas added. “The elders knew we had been there for thousands of years, but we needed to document that. Archaeologists showed that we been there for 6,000 years.

“When we stand up for our rights, we are called ‘hostile’ or ‘in the way of development,'” Rabliauskas continued. “But we are preserving our history for future generations, saving ecosystems and giving a future for our children. Ten years ago, we didn’t have our customs, and now there is dancing and singing. The land gives us a way of life, language and teachings.


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Session 2A: A Federated Future: Exploring Partnerships Between Cultural Institutions (APS Native American Conference)


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This is part of the conference “Building Partnerships Between Archives and Indian Communities,” held at the American Philosophical Society (APS) in Philadelphia, May 2010.

A Federated Future: Exploring Partnerships Between Cultural Institutions
How can federated searches can be realized on a national, local or internal scale? This discussion focuses on the technical dimensions of archival data storage and retrieval, and how technology can integrate the knowledge of Native elders and help build digital libraries in indigenous communities.

Omeka Logo

The main presentation was on Omeka, a free, open source online content management system that allows scholars, museums, libraries, archives, and enthusiasts to create complex narratives and share rich collection, according to its Web site.

Bracero History Archive

Omeka powers the award-winning Bracero History Archive, a project to tell the stories of the Mexican guest workers in the Bracero Program of the 1940s-1960s.

“With Omeka, Native Americans wouldn’t need to create their own digital infrastructure,” said Tom Scheinfeldt, Omeka’s executive producer and the managing director of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, which is partially funding Omeka.

“Physical objects may never go around, but digital objects are infinitely replicable,” Scheinfeldt continued. “Omeka could be criticized for not having archival standards, but it’s a whole lot better than what’s out there. This leads to comparative scholarship, easier discovery, and with Omeka(mu), for multiple users, can keep stewardship local.

“Thanks to digital formats, things can exist in multiple uses and places. This is a better way to tell the world traditions. We want […] a way to put objects into the APS workflow for possible preservation.”

Currently APS uses Archivist Tool Kit for its collection, Content DM for individual items and XTF for re-creating subject guides. But APS agreed that Omeka would be a powerful tool.

Omeka would work great for tribal leaders to save their own digital images and form relationships between repositories for long-term preservation,” said Richard Shrake, APS’ assistant librarian for technology and security.

APS Native American Sound Recordings

Listen to songs, folkloric stories and the last speaker of Wampanoag dialect on the APS Native American Sound Recordings page.

“We have 1,200 hours of recordings, which are most in need because many are endangered languages,” Shrake added. “We also have recordings on R-DAT (digital mini-cassette tapes), reel-to-reel tapes and wire recordings.”

Larry Aitken, the tribal historian of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe in northern Minnesota, also endorsed the technology.

“This sharing of knowledge wasn’t available to use before. It brings wisdom keepers and elders together,” Aitken said. “We couldn’t pronounce dictionaries and handouts. Now the Turtle Mountain [Band of Chippewa Indians] are learning their own language. Eventually we can study, write and use our own language.

“We have been neighbors for 500 years, but you weren’t listening to us,” Aitken added. “Now APS has opened its doors. We have been waiting for this for a long time.


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Session 1A: Developing Protocols for Native American Materials (APS Native American Conference)


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This is part of the conference “Building Partnerships Between Archives and Indian Communities,” held at the American Philosophical Society (APS) in Philadelphia, May 2010.

Developing Protocols for Native American Materials
Because of the value of the 1,200 hours of endangered Native American language recordings, the APS is interested in making these songs, stories and linguistic studies available in digital form to strengthen language preservation and cultural revitalization. To do so will require the development of protocols, which we hope to develop with other cultural institutions.

Browse the APS digital collections of Native American Images and Native American Sound Recordings.

Spiritually the artifacts are alive,” said Larry Aitken, tribal historian of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. “Some historical societies have objects that were stolen, for example religious artifacts. Those things are so powerful, you need protection for you and your family.”

This panel highlights the larger collections of American Indian artifacts in U.S.

National Museum of the American Indian

National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. / Wikipedia

National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI)
“The museum has a collection of 825,000 ethnographic and archaeological items, spanning 1,200 cultures,” said said Jennifer O’Neal, the museum’s head archivist. “We have 12,000 audio-visual materials from North and South America, and a film and video center. We also have 325,000 images, which show how colonialism took away the life ways and traditions.

“The NMAI’s main goal is stewardship, of indigenous cultural property. We have a ceremony room for seasonal blessings of the collection and staff, we have received no problems with our strict protocol, we restore and distribute media like films and then repatriation and we have recognition of knowledge keepers.”

Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center
“We have 300,000 hours of recordings, 400,00 photographs and several million pages of manuscripts,” said Judith Gray, the center’s coordinator of references. “Permission searches are changing – now researchers need the community’s consent. Protocols maintain a conversation with the communities.”

Smithsonian’s National Anthropological Archives
“For the Smithsonian, we carefully screen the materials then try to put up as many as possible until objection,” said Robert Leopold, director of the archives. “If materials are not available to scholarship, it is a loss to the historical record.”

Newberry Library’s D’Arcy McNickle American Indian History Research Center.
“Now our collection is too big to digitize everything,” said Scott Stevens, director of the center. “So we invite the community leaders to identify our collection’s most important holdings. Twenty years ago there was a fear that this would lead to evacuating the public collection, but those are completely unfounded.”


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Overview: Building Partnerships Between Archives and Indian Communities Conference at American Philosophical Society (APS)


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“Building Partnerships Between Archives and Indian Communities” was a conference held May 20–21, 2010 at the American Philosophical Society (APS) in Philadelphia. (Short URL: http://tinyurl.com/APS-Ind-Conf)

Larry Aitken Pipe Ceremony (2 of 6)

Larry Aitken, tribal historian for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, performs a pipe ceremony in the Jefferson Garden next to the American Philosophical Society on May 20, 2010.
Photo by Frank Margeson/APS.

The Mellon Foundation sponsored the conference, and also provided a grant that allowed APS to build a digital archive of endangered Native American languages, including 1,000+ hours of language materials from 54 indigenous languages, Miller added. APS also recently received a Getty Foundation grant that enabled the institution to review its collection of more than 110,000 images of American Indians and to digitize more than 1,000 images. APS worked with a Native American advisory board on both of these grant projects.

The conference “illuminated the ways that tribal and Indian interests can benefit from a new openness on the part of archives and museums, and demonstrated how modern-day Indian societies can benefit from collections held by institutions far from their communities,” writes Hon. Robert Miller, Chief Justice of the Grand Ronde Tribe and conference presenter, in the Indian Country Today newspaper.

Read more coverage in the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s article, “Trying to Save Vanishing Languages.” (also available as a PDF).

Opening Ceremonies
1) “Greeting,” APS President Baruch Blumberg.
2) “Welcome Song,” Elder Watie Akins, Penobscot Nation.
3) “Greeting,” Chief Glenna Wallace, Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma.
4) “Prayer,” Elder-in-Residence Tom Belt, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
5) “Pipe Ceremony,” Tribal Historian Larry Aitken, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. Includes a Photo Gallery.

History of APS Native American Collection
1) “Introduction,” APS Executive Officer Pat McPherson.
2) “Native American Languages as a Core Tradition of APS,”
Regna Darnell, Director of the First Nations Studies Program at the University of Western Ontario.
3) “Preserving American Indian Languages and Cultures,”
Robert Miller, Professor of Law at Lewis and Clark Law School.
4) “Building Partnerships: Collaborative Projects Between the APS and Indigenous Communities,”
Timothy Powell, Director of Native American Projects at APS.

Conference Notes:
Session 1A: “Developing Protocols for Native American Materials.”
Session 1B: “Linguistics, Language Teaching, and Cultural Revitalization,” (Restricted Access).
Session 2A: “A Federated Future: Exploring Partnerships Between Cultural Institutions.”
Session 2B: “Viewing the APS Archives Through Indigenous Eyes,”
(Restricted Access).
Session 3: “Digital Repatriation: A New Historical Era.”
Session 4: “Where Do We Go From Here?”


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Field Trip to New York City: Day One (24-Hour Travel Guide to NYC)

New York is the largest city in the U.S., and one of the most exciting, fast-paced, diverse and expensive cities in the world. If you only have one day, skip the major museums and travel through Downtown and Midtown New York.

Arrive (10 am)
Bolt Bus and Amtrak/NJ Transit/LIRR stop at Penn Station, Mega Bus a little farther south, Greyhound Buses at Port Authority and Metro-North trains at Grand Central. This tour starts at 34th St. and 8th Ave.

Bathrooms
Walk east on 34th St. to Broadway, and go to the glass-clad Manhattan Mall on 33rd St. Take the escalator to the top floor and walk down the hall. On the right are clean and convenient bathrooms. Back outside, stop in Macy’s — “The World’s Largest Department Store.”

Chinatown and Little Italy
Take the subway’s yellow N/Q/R/W line downtown (towards Brooklyn) to Canal Street. Buy a MetroCard with $4.50 for each person or one MetroCard with $9 ($2.25/fare).

Canal Street is packed. Walk south on Broadway (traffic goes south) for 3 blocks and turn left on quiet White Street and continue to 65 Bayard Street: Chinatown Ice Cream Factory.

Walk back to Mott Street, the original heart of Chinatown. Wander around the small shops, then walk north on Mott back to Canal. Walk left for a block and turn right onto Mulberry Street.

Mulberry Street is the traditional heart of the rapidly shrinking Little Italy. Eat lunch. Walk north on Mulberry and turn left on Grand Street, then right on Broadway. Shop in Pearl River Mart at 477 Broadway (Grand/Broome).

SOHO and The Village
Continue north on Broadway, you’re in SOHO — a shopping district with clothing stores and upscale galleries.

Relive your childhood in the Scholastic Store at 557 Broadway (between Spring and Prince). Keep walking north on Broadway to Houston Street, cross Houston and to your left there’s an entrance to the Silver Towers complex, designed by I.M. Pei; in the middle is a Picasso sculpture.

Walk diagonally-left to Bleecker Street. In the 1960s this was Downtown’s music scene, and The Bitter End is a famous music club. Walk north on the quiet LaGuardia Place to Washington Square Park. Enjoy the buskers, street performers, chessplayers and pot dealers.

You’re in Greenwich Village — the center for bohemian culture in the 1920s, the Beats in the 1950s, Hippies in the 1960s-70s and Punks in 1970s-80s…now it’s the campus for New York University. Eat dinner on MacDougal Street, Waverly Place, 8th Street or Astor Place. Hop on the subway at 6th Avenue and West 3rd or West 8th Streets.

Rockefeller Center and Times Square
Ride the orange B/D/F/M uptown to 47th-50th Streets Rockefeller Center. On 50th Street, pass Radio City Music Hall and walk east and go inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral for a quick tour. Walk south to 47th Street — New York’s Diamond District — and then west over to Broadway.
*OR*
Columbus Circle and Central Park
Take the orange B/D or blue A/C uptown to 59th Street-Columbus Circle. Walk quickly through the corner of Central Park, peek inside The Plaza of Eloise fame, and sit inside Columbus Circle.

Times Square
Walk south on Broadway to Times Square. Many New Yorkers hate Times Square, but I love the crowds, the mixing of ethnicities and languages, and the larger-than-life attitude. It may be becoming a giant Disneyfied mall, but it’s also much safer than ever before.

Now that Broadway is an incredible pedestrian plaza, gaze at all of the video billboards. Take your photo while on the amazing new TKTS Staircase.

Go inside the Toys ‘R Us at 44th and Broadway (Sun-Thu until 10 pm, Fri-Sat until 11 pm). The main attraction is the 60-foot-tall indoor Ferris Wheel ($4/ride), though there are also an animatronic T-Rex, lifesize Barbie house and a mini Legoland. After this, walk south to Penn Station, west to Port Authority or east to Grand Central. [End of Day One]


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New on Phillibustering: Wakefield Baffles Phillies, as Halladay Loses to Red Sox; Mitch Williams’ Autograph War?

Two new posts up on my colleague’s blog Phillibustering, a Phillies fan transplanted in Washington D.C.

Tim Wakefield Montage.

Tim Wakefield Montage. © Stephen Baron / Skyline Stories.

Wrote about the Philadelphia Phillies losing to Boston Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield on Sunday, and former Phillies closer Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams signing his new book “Straight Talk From Wild Thing” — possibly to start an autograph war with fellow Phillies alum Greg “The Bull” Luzinski.

Mitch Williams Book Signing

Mitch Williams Book Signing. © Stephen Baron / Skyline Stories.


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Philadelphia’s Colonial-Era Portraits were the Facebook Profile Pictures of their Time

Read the related Skyline Stories post on Verplanck’s presentation.
View The Library Company’s exhibit on daugerrotypes.
Browse books on early American photography at partner Diane Publishing.


OLD CITY, Philadelphia — When was the last time you had your portrait taken? I don’t mean by a cameraphone or digital camera, but actually sitting down, in a pose and wearing a suit or dress. College graduation or high school prom?

Miniature of Isaac Newtown, APS

Miniature of Isaac Newtown, ca. late 1700s. / American Philosophical Society.

But in colonial-era Philadelphia, portraits in the form of miniatures, silhouettes and early photos were popular, especially among the wealthy to maintain group identities, said independent scholar and curator Anne Verplanck at her recent lecture co-sponsored by the American Philosophical Society and The Library Company of Philadelphia. (Disclosure: I manage the APS’ Facebook page.)

From 1790-1810, miniatures were fashionable in Europe and the newly formed United States, she said. Artists such as James Peale, Charles Wilson Peale and Benjamin Trott painted tiny portraits, mostly of the “mercantile elite,” who put these in lockets, bracelets and necklaces.

“Miniatures needed proximity for viewing, so they expressed private sentiments,” Verplanck said during her lecture “Philadelphians’ Uses of Silhouettes, Miniatures and Daguerreotypes, 1760-1860” on February 24. “Some were embellished with a signature or locket of hair.”

Silhouette of Thomas Jefferson, APS

Silhouette of Thomas Jefferson, ca. 1800? / American Philosophical Society

Wealthy, urban Quakers tended to separate themselves from other groups, usually buying silhouettes and photos instead of miniatures. “Quakers preferred plainness and not having to interpret an artist’s work,” Verplanck said. “Physiognomy was popular too, it was being able to tell a person’s character by their body or face.”

In contrast to miniatures, silhouettes did not require an appointment or a long sitting time, as the images were not exposed. A small machine traced the person’s outline.

In the early 1800s, as the United States celebrated its founding and French General Marquis de Lafayette visited the country, Quakers collected one another’s silhouettes. “Quakers preserved and interpreted their identity and role in early United States history before genealogy became popular in the 1850s-60s,” she said.

After an early photo method called the daguerreotype was invented in France in 1839, Philadelphia (along with Boston, New York and Wilmington) became hubs of professional and amateur scientists experimenting with the new medium.

Daguerreotype of Paul Back Goddard, APS

One of Philadelphia's first daguerreotypes, of Dr. Paul Beck Goddard, 1839. / American Philosophical Society

Daguerreotypes provided an exact likeness, and were novel and inexpensive, Verplanck said. It took only 10-15 minutes to sit for a daguerreotype, and the top galleries in Philadelphia were on Market, Chestnut and Arch Streets. While miniatures cost $100-200, daguerreotypes cost $3-6.

Colonial-era sitters had to choose options that are familiar to anyone who changes their Facebook profile picture: what outfit should I wear? serious or fun pose? for a background, do I want the mountains or space lasers?


Read the related Skyline Stories post on Verplanck’s presentation.
View The Library Company’s exhibit on daugerrotypes.
Browse books on early American photography at partner Diane Publishing.


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