Thursday, May 25, 2017

Museum Anthropology Futures, Day 1: Conference Ethnography Report

Written by Haley Bryant and Emily Cain 

Conference ethnographers here, to report on what we've seen, heard, and experienced during day 1 of the inaugural CMA conference! The program today offered a broad range of presentations focusing on student and emerging professional experiences, in addition to panels led by established professionals and academics.

Participants in Dr. Erica Lehrer’s 10 day critical museology workshop, which concluded yesterday, presented their posters and talked with conference attendees about their experiences. The posters will be available for viewing through Saturday, though their creators may not be present. There are also two fascinating exhibits on view in the pop-up gallery for the duration of the conference. “Dead or Alive: Animal Bodies in the Museum” by Jacob LeGallais explores the intersection of nature and culture, focusing specifically on the presentation of animal bodies within museum spaces. He was on hand to discuss his interest and background in museum education, and how he hopes to push the boundaries of common conceptions of museums and museum objects through innovative educational approaches, including fine arts. “Museum as Platform for a Speculative Experience: A Lesson of a Cree Walking Stick”, by Ika Peraic, is a multimedia experience examining the concept of design as a speculative medium to reflect upon its engagement with cultural difference and to explore the performative dimensions of Indigenous cultural heritage via a review of a Cree walking stick. Also on view is the ongoing collaborative mural guided by artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas (Haida).

Molly Kamph, a recent graduate of George Washington University’s anthropology Master’s program, lead a roundtable discussion focused on student perspectives of the field. The participants discussed their academic and professional journeys and discussed their visions for the future of museum anthropology. Discussions of mentorship, how to choose the right graduate program, and career building were particularly enlightening. Students and emerging professionals also had the opportunity to attend a career advising workshop lead by Dr. Joshua Bell and Dr. John Lukavic. Topics of discussion included maintaining a healthy work-life balance, the best ways to network with professionals and academics, and what type of experience is best for various career goals.

The Curatorial Dreaming workshop led by Dr. Shelley Butler offered a space to explore the limits and possibilities of curation within museum anthropology. In addition, there were four closed or limited sessions in which participants shared papers in progress. This was an opportunity for established professionals to elicit feedback on their work from their peers in a more private setting. 

The evening concluded with a tour around the neighborhood for “Libation Anthropology”, a chance for attendees to continue conversations in a more casual atmosphere. We are looking forward to tomorrow’s conversations about radical engagement, object-centered narratives, and the history of the discipline.

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