Friday, April 18, 2014

Smuggled Cultural Valuables Returned to Bulgaria

FOCUS News Agency
14 April 2014

Bulgaria’s State Agency for National Security (SANS), in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture, returned cultural valuables, subjects of trafficking, to Bulgaria, FOCUS News Agency reporter said.
Different golden items were handed to the National Museum of History. The event was attended by museum’s director Bozhidar Dimitrov, Bulgarian Minister of Culture Petar Stoyanovich, and SANS Chairperson Vladimir Pisanchev. The returned cultural valuables are of national and world importance. They were rescued and returned to the state as a result of an operation targeting an illegal smuggling channel. “These golden findings are 1,500 years older than the Trojan War and 2,500 years older than all Thracian treasures we know,” said Professor Bozhidar Dimitrov. 

More here

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Junior Folklorist Challenge, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

What does it take to be a Folklorist?

The Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, in collaboration with ePals Corporation, is asking students to get involved in learning about the folklife and cultural heritage around them. 

The 2014 Junior Folklorist Challenge asks students to: “Discover a tradition in your community and share it with the world!”  in the 2014 Junior Folklorist Challenge. 

In the process, students will learn professional skills relating to researching (through interviews and observation), documenting (through audio/visual and written documentation), and interpreting local folklife (by creating a video, podcast, or slide show that tells a story about the tradition they researched). 

Teachers can get their classrooms involved in the project or students can work individually.

Six winners from around the world will receive prizes for projects. Prizes include an opportunity to be published by the Smithsonian, a digital video camera, Field Notes folklorist prize pack of quality field notebooks, and a CD box set from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. Entries are due May 26th and will be judged by age groups (8-10), (11-13), (14-18).  “Check It Out” at

Sunday, April 13, 2014

2014 Collection Internship Announcement, Musueum of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff, Arizona

The Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA) is offering a collection management internship that will occur between May 1st and September 30th 2014.  The first review of applications will begin April 14, 2014.  

The duration is flexible but will be for a minimum of 10 weeks and maximum of 6 months.  Housing and a stipend of $300 a week are provided to offset expenses. This internship will provide on the job experience to students that are seeking or have recently completed a certificate or masters in museum studies, biology, natural science, or other appropriate field of study.

The Natural Science Collections Intern will work with the Natural Science Collections Manager on an IMLS funded project to address environmental improvements in the Museum of Northern Arizona’s Zoology Collections (specifically the avian osteology, avian egg and nest, mammal osteology, and mollusk and entomology holdings). This internship offers students an opportunity to gain experience rehousing specimens, labeling and inventorying holdings, updating database records, testing for contaminants in the study skin collections, assisting with packing and move of collections into a new collection facility (Easton Collection Center), and participating in policy and procedure development.

Founded in 1928, MNA is an AAM accredited, private 501(c)3 museum.  Its mission is to “inspire a sense of love and responsibility for the beauty and diversity of the Colorado Plateau through collecting, studying, interpreting, and preserving the region’s natural and cultural heritage”.  The collections include cultural (ethnology, archaeology, and fine art) objects and natural science (botany, zoology, geology, and paleontology) specimens, archives and a Library. In 2009 MNA completed the construction of the new Easton Collection Center (more information at a platinum level LEED certified building.  

MNA is located in Flagstaff, AZ (pop. 61,270) at an elevation of 7000’ in the cool Ponderosa pine forests at the base of the San Francisco Peaks. The area includes several national forests (Coconino, Kaibab, Prescott), National Parks and Monuments (Grand Canyon, Wupatki, Walnut Crater, and Sunset Crater), a ski resort (Snow Bowl), Arboretum, Lowell Observatory, Northern Arizona University, and numerous other attractions.

To apply submit a letter of interest, resume, and 3 letters of reference to:
Human Resources Manager
Museum of Northern Arizona
3101 N. Fort Valley Road
Flagstaff, AZ 86001

or email in MS Word Format to 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Zuni Ask Europe To Return Sacred Art

The New York Times
Rachel Donadio, April 8, 2014

Octavius Seowtewa, an elder of the Native American Zuni tribe from New Mexico, was sitting in a Paris cafe late last month, scrolling through his iPhone pictures of Ahayuda, carved and decorated wooden poles that are considered sacred to the Zuni. They were taken at his recent meetings with representatives of major European museums, whom he is hoping he can persuade to return the artifacts.

Mr. Seowtewa, who exudes a quiet persistence and was dressed that day in a black leather blazer, dark slacks and a button-down shirt, acknowledged that he hadn’t had much luck in his meetings at the Musée du Quai Branly here or at the Ethnological Museum in Berlin, among others. But he said he was just getting started.

Since 1978, the Zuni have been more proactive than other Native American tribes in reclaiming ceremonial objects: in their case, more than 100 Ahayuda, also called war gods, from institutions and collections in the United States. The Zuni have taken advantage of federal legislation that requires all United States institutions to return objects considered sacred by Native Americans to individual tribes or risk losing federal funding. But those laws do not apply in Europe. Here, the Zuni case is a moral one. “That’s all there is,” Mr. Seowtewa said. “We believe if you listen to us about the power these objects have to our community, that these are exemplars of sacred objects, of communally owned objects,” then museums will consider sending them back, he added.

More here

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Getty Musuem to Return 12th Century New Testament to Greek Monastery

Los Angeles Times, David Ng
April 7, 2014

The Getty Museum has announced that it is voluntarily returning a 12th-century Byzantine illuminated New Testament to a monastery in Greece after learning that the item had been illegally removed from the Monastery of Dionysiou more than 50 years ago.

Officials at the Getty said in a release on Monday that the museum acquired the manuscript in 1983 as part of a "large, well-documented" collection. 

The manuscript is currently at the Getty Center in Brentwood as part of the exhibition "Heaven and Earth: Byzantine Illumination at the Cultural Crossroad." It has been featured in 14 exhibitions at the Getty, and was loaned to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1997 for its exhibition "The Glory of Byzantium." 

The Getty said it conducted research into the manuscript with the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports over the last six weeks.

"Based on new information that came to light through this process, the museum decided that the right course of action was to return the manuscript to the Holy Monastery of Dionysiou from which it disappeared over 50 years ago," said Timothy Potts, director of Getty Museum, in a statement.

More here.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Sudan Museum Looted

April 2, 2014 

Sudanese archaeological heritage site of prehistoric Naptan civilization has been looted, Sudanese official disclosed on Wednesday.

The National Authority for Antiquities and Museums (SNAAM) said that three valuable artifacts have been stolen from Jabal Al-barkal museum in Nile river state 200 Kilometers from capital Khartoum.

SNAAM director-general Ali Abdel-Rahman told APA on Wednesday that the stolen artifacts were three statues linked to royal burial ceremonies in Sudan’s ancient Napatan civilization.

More here

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Object Spotlight: Representing Tenochtitlan: Understanding Urban Life by Collecting Material Culture

We asked author John K. Millhauser to share with us some items that relate to his recently published article in the latest issue of Museum Anthropology, co-authored with Elizabeth Brumfiel, who recently passed. The article looks at the Aztec World exhibition at Chicagos Field Musuem through the lens of urbanization and how urbanization should be portrayed in the museum settings. Brumfiel and Millhauser suggest a focused and systematic approach for the Field Museum to collect 21st-century urban culture from Chicago to effectively document and represent the many voices of cities. (Brumfiel and Millhauser 6). 

Read the full article in the latest issue of Musuem Anthropology here.

How can museums best document and represent the complexity of urban life and the significance of modern cities? We consider this question through an examination of the Aztec World exhibit, presented at the Field Museum of Chicago from October 2008 through April 2009. We explain how the effort to represent Tenochtitlan, the heterogeneous urban capital of the Aztec Empire (C.E. 14281521), was affected by the acquisitions policies of museums in the United States and Mexico, and by the curators' own ideas about how urban societies should be represented. Drawing on this background, we outline how a careful and comprehensive collection program can resist poor interpretation and misrepresentation, and may even prefigure new and better understandings of cities that will be gained in the future.

Fig 1
Ceramic Figurine of a woman holding a child, from the collection of The Field Museum. Figurines such as this often adorned small altars inside Aztec homes.(Brumfiel and Feinman 2008:Figure 5).
Image credit is (c) 1992 The Field Museum, A105154c_96220, Photographer Kathleen Culbert Aguilar, FM_96220.

Fig 2
An Aztec woman. She kneels, a position that would enable her to grind maize or weave cloth on a back-strap loom. This is a conventional pose for women in art commissioned by the Aztec state, although household figurines more often depict women in a standing position.(Brumfiel 2008:Figure 1)
Image credit is (c) 2007, American Museum of National History, Division of Anthropology 30.1/1201.

Both Figure 1 and Figure 2 likely date to the period of the 14th to 16th centuries A.D. The ceramic figurine was mold-made and figurines like it are common finds in archaeological contexts in the Basin of Mexico. Stone sculptures were uncommon outside of palaces, temples, and important public or community spaces.

The figurine in Figure 1 was in the collections of the Field Museum and was available for the exhibit. A good part of the paper is about how previous collection strategies emphasized rare and extravagant  items that only tell a fraction of the story of a society. The small figurine in the collection of the Field Museum is one of the  more every-day objects, those kinds of objects that would have been typically found in commoner households, that Liz and the other curators had difficulty finding for their exhibit. This figurine is an exception to the rule that previous collection strategies made it hard to find certain kinds of objects to tell the story of the Aztec World. 

One of Dr. Brumfiels main points in the paper and her part in curating the Aztec Worlds exhibit was that previous exhibits had either intentionally or unintentionally emphasized the perspective of men, male leaders of Aztec society, or an ideology of male superiority and violence. Even the larger sculpture below reflects this tendency, according to Liz. In more monumental art, women were often presented as subservient. Dr. Brumfiel states in the chapter from which the images are drawn: This [state] ideology glorified male warriors and portrayed women as agents of cosmic disorder and enemies destined for conquest (87). To get a more complete picture of life in Aztec cities or societies, you need to look at a wider range of items than are typically presented in exhibits.

Female figures show up in ceramic figurines and in sculpture as deities and religious figures as well, but the dichotomy persists even for these subjects. Several famous female deities in sculpture reflect their defeat, dismemberment, and destruction by their male counterparts. In ceramic figurines, which were part of household ritual rather than state religious propaganda, female deities are not presented as defeated or dismembered.

In the article, Dr. Millhauser discusses the importance of the presentation of the objects in the display. The ceramic figurine does not have a single meaning, and its meaning is not obvious. We'll often see groups of figurines displayed in exhibition cases with little context or meaning attributed to them -- they are interesting for their aesthetics, as fetishes, or in their range of variation or repetition of form and content. To make a small figurine of a woman stand out as key example of life in commoner households and the experiences of many Aztec women gives it a different voice, meaning, and significance that it would have grouped up with a bunch of other objects.

The figurine is also important from the perspective of our goal of providing guidance to the Field Museum as it developed a strategy to collect material culture from the modern city of Chicago. We recommended that the Field Museum ask people what was important to them (and why), but not to do so in a haphazard way. Asking men and women of different statuses and backgrounds could provide access to the kinds of objects like that little figurine, as well as the explanation of their importance, that can guide and enrich future exhibitions.

The text above was provided by and written by Dr. John Millhauser in private correspondence and edited for the blog by Lillia McEnaney. 


Brumfiel, Elizabeth M.
  2008  Aztec Women: Capable Partners and Cosmic Enemies. In The Aztec world. E.M. Brumfiel and G.M. Feinman, eds. Pp. 87-104. New York and Chicago: Abrams, in association with The Field Museum.
Brumfiel, Elizabeth M. and Gary M. Feinman
  2008  The Aztec World in Historical Context. In The Aztec world. E.M. Brumfiel and G.M. Feinman, eds. Pp. 1-4. New York and Chicago: Abrams, in association with The Field Museum.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Native Statue Named "Sandy" Becomes Tennessee State Artifact

Indian Country Today Media Network
27 March 2014
“Sandy” is an 18-inch sandstone statue of a kneeling male figure that was carved between 1000 and 1350 A.D. during the Mississippian period. The statute is on permanent display at the University of Tennessee McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture. As of March 21 it is now the official state artifact of Tennessee.

“The McClung Museum is thrilled to receive this recognition of Sandy and our museum,” McClung Museum Director Jeff Chapman said in a press release. “Sandy is such an important example of prehistoric Native American art, and we are proud to be the stewards of this piece of Tennessee history.”

Sandy was found in 1939 along with a companion female statue at a farm in Wilson County at the Sellars archaeological site. The museum purchased both statues in 1940.