Digital foundations for partnership: A collaborative model for indigenous communities and ethnographic museum collections
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Title: Digital foundations for partnership: A collaborative model for indigenous communities and ethnographic museum collections A collaborative model for indigenous communities and ethnographic museum collections
Physical Description: Archival
Language: English
Creator: Pies, Shawna M. ( Dissertant )
Willumson, Glenn ( Thesis advisor )
Marquardt, William ( Reviewer )
Publisher: College of Fine Arts, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2009
Copyright Date: 2009
Abstract: Museums in North America have made strides in incorporating indigenous opinions and cultural knowledge when interpreting Native American collections. However, indigenous groups continue to participate as subjects of exhibition instead of partners in explaining their own heritage. Geographic distance and a shortage of time and funding create barriers to museum collaboration with the indigenous communities they represent. My study addressed these issues by developing a digital-collaboration platform to invite collections feedback from a particular indigenous community. Information contributed online was applied to a website-planning project, highlighting a collection of nearly 300 Native American artifacts, held at a state natural history museum. Phase I required organizing museum records representing the Florida Ethnographic Collection at the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH), to contribute artifact information, images, and related resources in an online format. Planning and implementing an online interpretation of the collection contributes important ethnographic information that would otherwise require onsite research at the museum. I researched and digitized collections information related to Seminole/Miccosukee artifacts at FLMNH. This research and digitization addressed catalog card information, digital images of the artifact, records of artifact exhibition and publication, collector and donor information, and related anthropological research. Phase II required planning and implementing a prototype for building web content that would invite what museum consultant Nina Simon calls ―community co-design,‖ by using a wiki, or online group planning tool. Staff at the Seminole Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and other Seminole/Miccosukee community members were invited to join the wiki as stakeholders in the project. Thus they were able to comment on text and images, and recommend approaches to displaying and interpreting their historical material culture in a digital format. At the end of the study, the prototype was presented to the FLMNH web committee, who agreed that the contributions of the community co-design wiki may potentially be added to the museum website as a long-term online interpretive fixture. Because museums hold artifacts in the public trust, increasing digital access to their collections could significantly enhance visible relevance to generations who came of age in a knowledge economy, and expect immediate information retrieval. Furthermore, greater public access to and indigenous participation in the expansion of online indigenous museum collections information, in particular, may offer several potential benefits: 1) increasing indigenous communities‘ agency in representing tribal views of their cultural heritage in both tribal and public museums; and 2) expanding the ability of non-native scholars to represent indigenous culture in a more informed manner in publications, exhibits, and other works. My study contributes to the museum field by demonstrating the potential of inexpensive, user-friendly digital platforms for museum/Native community co-design; and by expanding public access to information on Southeastern Native American museum collections, a cultural region that comparatively lacks online resources.
Publication Status: Published
Thesis: MA in Museology conferred Fall 2009.
Acquisition: Museum Studies terminal project
Bibliography: Includes bibliographic references.
General Note: Document formatted into pages; contains 70 p.; also contains graphics.
General Note: Includes vita.
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Source Institution: University of Florida Institutional Repository
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: Permissions granted to the University of Florida Institutional Repository and University of Florida Digital Collections to allow use by the submitter. All rights reserved by the author.
System ID: IR00000048:00001


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I would like to thank my committee chair, Dr. Glenn Willumson, and my

committee member, Dr. William Marquardt, for their support and guidance, and their

generosity of time and thoughtful feedback. Thanks go to Elise LeCompte for providing

access to collections resources, for her time, and for her kind support of my project.

Thanks also go to Darcie McMahon, Jeff Gage, and Eric Zamora in their assistance in

acquiring digital images of the collection.

I thank my colleague and friend, Dushanthi Jayawardena, for joining me in my

project travels to the Big Cypress Reservation. I am also grateful for her careful editing

skills and willingness to act as a sounding board through the entire project. I also thank

my soon-to-be-husband, Joe Meiser, for acting as a pillar of support and

encouragement during the six months I developed my thesis project. I also appreciate

his help in the meticulous revising of the many drafts of my paper. I thank my parents

for their encouraging words and for enthusiastically supporting my educational goals.

Thanks go to Tracy Pfaff, Molly Conley, and Jessica Belcoure for reviewing different

aspects of the project, report, and defense preparation.

I am grateful for the warm welcome I received from the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Musuem

staff at Big Cypress, especially Greg Palumbo, Saul Drake, and Jonathan MacMahon.

Their support and recommendations for the wiki project were immensely helpful. I also

appreciate the generous wiki feedback contributed by Pedro Zepeda and Everett



ACKNOW LEDGMENTS.................................... ........... . 3

LIST O F FIG U R ES ............................................... ...... . .. ......... ............. 6

A B S T R A C T ......................................................... ..... ......................................... 7


1 IN T R O D U C T IO N ........... .................. . ................... .......... .......... . 10

2 HISTORICAL AND THEORETICAL OVERVIEW ........................ ...... .............. 12

In tro d u ctio n ......................... . ........ ... ........ .... ........ ...................... . . . 12
A Broader Ideological Shift for Museology: A Question of Societal
Relevance . ................................................. . ........... . 12
Cultural Representation in Exhibits.......................... ................ 13
Collections Accessibility .................................. .............. ..... ......... . 14
Native American-museum relationships ...... ................ ....................... 14
Museum Collections Practices Before the 1990s ........ ................................... 15
Collecting Practices for Ethnographic Collections................ ..... ............. 15
Problem s ............................ .. .... .. . ................. .......... . 16
History of Exhibition Practices Before the 1990s .............. ..... ................. 17
Issues of Representation .......................................... ...... ......... .......... 17
Public Protest: Values and Voice ....... ................ ...... ... .... .............. 19
Museum Collections Practices For Ethnographic Collections ca. 1990 to
Present.................. ............................................. 21
A Shift in Collections Practices ........... ......... . .... ..... ....... ...... 21
New Forms of Native Collections Accessibility .................................................. 22
Solutions to a Contested Past: Building Trust through Inclusive Collections
P ra c tic e s ............................ .. ............ ................ ................. .... . ..... . . 2 4
Exhibition and Issues of Representation Post-1990s.............. .................. 25
Issues of Representation......................................... .. ............... . 25
Partnership ........................................ . .......... . 26
R o le of T e chno log y ................................................... ...................... . ........... . 2 7
A Call for the Application of Technology in Museum Partnerships ............... 27
Public Expectations for Immediate Information Access ............... ........... 27
Online Collections Accessibility .............. ........ .... ........ ............... 29
Exhibition Practices through Technology.............................. .................... 31
C o n c lu s io n .............................................. ....... ......... . ....... 3 3

3 PROJECT GOALS AND METHODS ............. ................................ 34

In tro d u c tio n ................................................................................ 3 4
Project G oals ................................................................ ... ........ .................. 34
Museums and Community Co-Design ........................ .............. 35

Project M ethods ................................................. . . ........ ...... ............ . . 36
The Organization and Digitization of Records ........... .......... ..... ............. 37
"Florida M useum Project" W iki Overview ................................ .................... 39
Recruiting Participants, Building Partnerships ......... ...... .... ..... ............. 41
Project Applications......................................... ................... 43

4 DISCUSSION and CONCLUSION....................... .... ........................... 46

In tro d u c tio n ....................................................... ............ ...... 4 6
Benefits of the W iki M odel ............. .......................... .............. .............. . 46
Wiki Model Issues and Solutions ............................................ . 48
B building a P partnership ............................... .............. ........ .................. 48
Partnership-Building Recommendations ............ .................................. 49
Balancing Com m unity Agency ................................. .. ......................... 50
Recommended Considerations for Community Agency................................ 51
Verifying Native Identity of W iki Contributors............ ................................ 51
Conclusion ............................. . ..... ............ . . ........... . 52
Possibilities for Wikis as a Tool for Museum Partnerships.............................. 52


A W IK I SC R EENS H O TS .................................................... ........... 55

B PROJECT IMAG ES .............................................. ................ .............. . 62


REFERENCES ................................. ........................... ....... ......... 66

B IO G R A P H IC A L S K ET C H ............................................ .. ................. ... ........ .... 70


Figure page

A -1 F ro n t P a g e ............. ......... .. .............. .. .. ....................................... 5 6

A-2 Interpretive Page ................................. .................... 57

A -3 M ain C collections Page.................................................................... ......... 58

A-4 Thumbnail Page ...... .......... ............ ... ............... 59

A-5 Object Page ........................... ........... .................... 60

A-6 Side Bar and "The Ask"............................................ 61

B-1 Sem inole Tribune A d ...................... .......................... .... ............................ 62

B-2 Collections Access Diagram ....... ............................... .................. . 63

Summary of Project in Lieu of Thesis
Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the
Degree of Master of Arts



Shawna M. Pies

December 2009

Chair: Glenn Willumson
Major: Museology

Museums in North America have made strides in incorporating indigenous opinions and

cultural knowledge when interpreting Native American collections. However, indigenous

groups continue to participate as subjects of exhibition instead of partners in explaining

their own heritage. Geographic distance and a shortage of time and funding create

barriers to museum collaboration with the indigenous communities they represent. My

study addressed these issues by developing a digital-collaboration platform to invite

collections feedback from a particular indigenous community. Information contributed

online was applied to a website-planning project, highlighting a collection of nearly 300

Native American artifacts, held at a state natural history museum.

Phase I required organizing museum records representing the Florida

Ethnographic Collection at the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH), to

contribute artifact information, images, and related resources in an online format.

Planning and implementing an online interpretation of the collection contributes

important ethnographic information that would otherwise require onsite research at the

museum. I researched and digitized collections information related to

Seminole/Miccosukee artifacts at FLMNH. This research and digitization addressed

catalog card information, digital images of the artifact, records of artifact exhibition and

publication, collector and donor information, and related anthropological research.

Phase II required planning and implementing a prototype for building web content

that would invite what museum consultant Nina Simon calls "community co-design," by

using a wiki, or online group planning tool. Staff at the Seminole Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki

Museum and other Seminole/Miccosukee community members were invited to join the

wiki as stakeholders in the project. Thus they were able to comment on text and

images, and recommend approaches to displaying and interpreting their historical

material culture in a digital format. At the end of the study, the prototype was presented

to the FLMNH web committee, who agreed that the contributions of the community co-

design wiki may potentially be added to the museum website as a long-term online

interpretive fixture.

Because museums hold artifacts in the public trust, increasing digital access to

their collections could significantly enhance visible relevance to generations who came

of age in a knowledge economy, and expect immediate information retrieval.

Furthermore, greater public access to and indigenous participation in the expansion of

online indigenous museum collections information, in particular, may offer several

potential benefits: 1) increasing indigenous communities' agency in representing tribal

views of their cultural heritage in both tribal and public museums; and 2) expanding the

ability of non-native scholars to represent indigenous culture in a more informed manner

in publications, exhibits, and other works. My study contributes to the museum field by

demonstrating the potential of inexpensive, user-friendly digital platforms for

museum/Native community co-design; and by expanding public access to information

on Southeastern Native American museum collections, a cultural region that

comparatively lacks online resources.


The Florida Museum of Natural History cares for over 300 Seminole and

Miccosukee objects in its Florida Ethnographic Collection. Through my work with the

Native American objects at the museum, I saw a great potential in this collection for

creating public digital collections access. Digital collections access will foreground the

Florida Museum's role as a significant cultural resource for Seminoles and other

communities across the U.S.

For my project, I digitized information and images relating to 300 objects, built a

350-page wiki for collections feedback, and recruited Seminole/Miccosukee participants.

In short, a wiki is "online software that enables users to edit web pages" (Tapscott and

Williams 2006, 13). The participants in this project are submitting, through the wiki,

online feedback regarding artifacts in the museum's Seminole/Miccosukee Collections.

In this paper, I discuss the benefits and challenges of using an online workspace to

expand indigenous participation in the development of museum collections information.

My project has three phases (Appendix B-2) that employ exhibition, collections

management, and curatorial practices. During Phase One, I organized and digitized

museum records and photographed objects. These activities were a means of

extending researchers' capabilities for both off-site and on-site collections research. In

Phase Two, I developed a wiki to invite input from Tribal members about the Florida

Ethnographic Collection. This required building a partnership with the Florida Seminole

community and recruiting participants for the wiki. In Phase Three, the future wiki

comments will contribute to several databases: the Florida Museum of Natural History's

registrar database, the Florida Museum website, and the cross-institutional database

project, Southeastern Native American Collections Project. This project employs a

variety of museum practices in order to build and share a collection.

I argue that museums that create feedback wikis can effectively increase Native

and non-Native access to museum objects. I support the need for this type of project by

outlining historical and current Native/museum relationships, and I discuss the variety of

ways to apply Native wiki contributions. Secondly, I explore the benefits and limitations

of this type of partnership, and I consider the future possibilities for building museum

collaborations through digital platforms.

Chapter 2 explores the ideological shift that occurred c. 1990 in museum

practice; I discuss the differences in practice before and after this shift. This includes

museum collecting practices, collections management, and exhibition development.

Chapter 2 also explores the role of technology in collections and exhibitions practices

today. Chapter 3 provides a detailed account of how and why I implemented the wiki

project. Here, I first discuss the project goals as they relate to participatory design. I

outline the project methods, and I examine applications of the project. In chapter 4, I

explore benefits, issues, and solutions for employing the wiki model. I conclude by

addressing the possibilities for wikis as a tool for building museum partnerships. I

examine the wiki's intersection with the changing role of the museum in society and its

capacity for improving cultural understanding.



Do (museums) have a positive impact on the lives of other people? (If not
then) ...we are only servants to our collections and not of our fellow
humans. -Stephen Weil [1994, 32]

A Broader Ideological Shift for Museology: A Question of Societal Relevance

The museum field experienced an ideological shift during the 1990s; many

museums began revisiting their relationships with the public and integrated a new

approach as community stewards. Museums began as unquestioned sources of

authority, but New Museology proposed that the museum was obligated to act as a

facilitator of learning. While museums needed to maintain the integrity of their exhibits,

collections information, and research, they realized that the voices of diverse

communities could be integrated into these resources, as well as exhibits. The

museum's role in society has been debated repeatedly during this shift and continues to

be a pertinent issue today. New Museology recommended a modified museum

perspective: fostering civic engagement through accessibility, inclusion, and learner-

centeredness (Weil 1999). New Museology was introduced by Peter Vergo in 1989.

Proponents of New Museology advocated for integrating museums more closely with

the multicultural social groups which these critics believe museums should

represent and serve (Stam 2005). Stephen Weil (1999, 32) described the museum's

change in function to be "fundamentally driven-by-purpose rather than (only) devoted-

to-objects." Museums were hurled into the spotlight during the 1980s and 1990s by

cultural critics1 who applied a post-modern, post-colonialist lens to museum policy and

1 Examples of cultural critics include Ivan Karp (2006) and James Clifford (1988).

practice. Shepard Krech (1994, 3) describes this tumultuous process, "Before 1980

most museums were rather stodgy places where little happened but since then they

have become hotbeds of controversy and lightning rods for cultural critique."

Widespread criticism aimed at cultural institutions exhorted museums to realign their

missions away from expired colonialist ideologies and closer to "an ongoing historical,

political, moral relationship ..." with the cultures and communities the collections

represent (Clifford 1997, 192). Consequently, this new perspective led museums to

redefine their collections practices, exhibitions methods, and museum relationships with

indigenous communities and other populations represented in their collections.

Cultural Representation in Exhibits

The transformation of museum theory by New Museology resulted in some new

methods for representing cultures through museum exhibition. New Museology

proposes that display techniques should be addressed in three distinct areas: 1)

Museums should allow each population to decide how to represent themselves in

museum exhibitions and displays. 2) Exhibitions on heritage need to increase the level

and depth of interpretation on minorities' culture and history. 3) New Museology advises

that exhibits should present multiple perspectives in order to reduce biased

representations of cultural identity (Stam, 2005). As evidence of this museological

catharsis, "neighborhood museums," such as the Smithsonian Anacostia Museum,

emerged during the 1970s. Neighborhood museums arose in the U.S. as a

manifestation of diverse cultural expression after the Civil Rights movement. These

neighborhood institutions focused on diverse cultural content as opposed to the

predominantly Anglo-biased displays of older, larger museums at that time.

Collections Accessibility

New Museology calls for information on collections to be made more accessible,

relevant, and inclusive. As the use of technology and the internet increases among

museum visitors, these tools are more commonly employed to make collections

accessible to both Native and non-Native communities. Collections practices today

acknowledge the complex past in ethnographic collections and generally honor Native

requests for special care or viewing restrictions for sensitive or spiritual objects.

Museums also began considering indigenous input for storing objects according to

cultural values and practices (Simpson 1996, 71). Museums have repositioned

collections management approaches from collections ownership to collections


Native American-museum relationships

Relationships between Native Americans2 and U.S. museums have developed

stronger rapport and enhanced collaboration strategies, since the field-wide ideological

shift in museum policy and practice at the end of the 20th century. During the 1990s,

museums began consulting Native groups about the identification of objects, the

manner in which Native objects were exhibited, and the negotiation of repatriating

culturally sensitive objects. Museums began to invite Native American input regarding

Native collections and display. Instead of speaking for Native Americans, museums

2 I would like to clarify the intent of the terminology used in this paper. It is presently accepted in the Humanities
fields, including Museum Studies and Anthropology, as well as by most U.S. indigenous communities, to use the
terms American Indian or Native American. The adjective "Native" is used to refer to institutions, practices, objects,
and other elements originating from a Native American group or which is predominantly produced or managed by
Tribal members.

have become more open to collaborating with Native groups to achieve more nuanced

and culturally sensitive collections information and representations of Native culture and


To summarize, the museum field, and natural history museums in particular,

have witnessed an ideological shift that resulted in several important changes for

museum policy and practice: 1) Museums altered exhibition styles that promoted a

paternalistic perspective and adopted more collaborative exhibition methods. This

positioned the museum as a resource for all communities. 2) Museums promoted more

inclusive stewardship of Native American collections by inviting feedback on and

expanding Native access to sensitive cultural objects. This, in turn, enhanced Native

agency in maintaining cultural practices. 3) Museums and American Indian communities

began forming more mutually beneficial partnerships: these collaborations offered the

museum visitors a more informed presentation of Native culture, and American Indian

groups gained agency in representing their heritage.

Museum Collections Practices Before the 1990s

Collecting Practices for Ethnographic Collections

Museum collections practices of the late 1800s and early 1900s were

problematic for Native American communities, because the collectors' paternalistic

motives weakened 20th century Native American culture by separating the communities

from artifacts of their own recent past. Although these objects were collected in a

scientific spirit, and many ethnographers adhered to the collecting norms of the time,

certain practices of obtaining the objects were, by today's standards, unethical at best.

The Bureau of American Ethnology sponsored ethnographers such as Frank Hamilton

Gushing, William C. Sturtevant, and Franz Boas to conduct what was later termed

"salvage anthropology."3 Detailed field accounts of Native American lifeways were

produced according to region by this federal office. Past theories of cultural evolution

led the American public to believe that American Indian Tribes would be fully

assimilated into mainstream Anglo-American culture; therefore, Native ways of life

would eventually cease to exist.4 Household items, clothing, religious objects, tools, and

artworks were feverishly collected, documented, and deposited into what would become

the Smithsonian Office of Anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History.

Comprehensive Native American collections were amassed in public and university

anthropology museums such as Harvard's Peabody Museum and the Denver Museum

of Anthropology during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Even trickery and theft

were used by some of the scientists to gain certain artifacts related to burial or esoteric

activities. Ethnographers did not inform American Indian participants on how the

information and collected cultural objects would be reappropriated into the academic

and public spheres without further Native consultation.


Museum collecting practices for ethnographic collections removed significant

Native objects from Native communities, and over generations this resulted in the

deterioration of Native traditions. The prolific collection of Native American cultural

objects corresponded with the active attempt by the U.S. government to assimilate

3 Salvage Anthropology is a term used in anthropology to critique early anthropological practices of the 1800s.
These practices documented the language, music, arts, and cultural practices of populations that had been colonized
by or assimilated into mainstream Western society (Gruber 1970).
4 Cultural evolution, also associated with Social Darwinism, was a theory popular in the early 1900s that defined
Western society as the most evolved human society on a linear scale ranging from "primitive" to "civilized." Under
the tenets of cultural evolution, it was assumed all "primitive peoples" were destined to "evolve" into the "more
advanced" Western form of civilization.

American Indian groups into the mainstream culture. This combination of collection

practices and assimilation efforts resulted in the eventual weakening of traditional

cultural practices, thus diffusing Native American agency in retaining their own culture.

American Indian schools, run by missionaries or government associates, raised Native

children away from their families and Native lifeways. Traditional skills were forgotten

and objects from generations past had often been collected for museums or discarded

to promote assimilation. These new museum collections were housed in museums'

private storage areas or were displayed in urban centers far from most American Indian

communities. Geographic and socioeconomic distance created a barrier between

American Indians and access to valued "touchstones of memory" (Cooper 2008, 61).

Native groups had no legal recourse in the late 1800s and early 1900s, despite their

objections to collections activities. In time, museum collecting of Native American

human remains and burial objects eventually ignited a new movement toward

repatriation. By the 1980s, Native American groups criticized museum ownership of

certain cultural objects as destructive to the maintenance of Native cultural traditions;

these groups took a stand against museum collections practices through lobbying and

lawsuits (Cooper 2008).

History of Exhibition Practices Before the 1990s

Issues of Representation

Many Museums, before the 1990s, depicted Native Americans as primitive and

exotic and this exhibition style failed to reveal their participation in contemporary

society. Museums displayed Native American objects and culture in a way that that has

been criticized as alienating Native American history from the grand narrative of

contemporary American society. These displays, some of which still exist today, often

consisted of static representations in miniature and life-sized dioramas of pre-Contact

camp life amidst flora and fauna. This exhibition in a natural history setting failed to

place Native American culture in an active role in human history (Cooper 2008).

Curators sometimes projected a social evolutionary perspective onto these

representations of Native history and culture. The American Indian voice was excluded

and replaced with that of the scientist speaking about a research subject, or the voice of

the heroic frontiersman claiming his land victory. Human remains and other sacred or

sensitive Native objects were displayed without considering Native sensibilities.

American Indian communities were not consulted about exhibiting their heritage and

contemporary American Indian life was not mentioned.

Over four million Americans identify as Native American; however, many of these

people believe they were widely misinterpreted in museums, because their historical

objects were reappropriated to project images of primitive humans, or "noble savages,"5

(Lawlor 2006). Native Americans expressed opposition to these representations during

the era of major museum growth throughout the 1920s-1950s (Cooper, 2008). Native

groups presented museums with corrections to misinterpreted events, and gave insights

on how to improve upon representation of their people; nonetheless, Native American

communities felt that a number of museum curators identified themselves and other

scientists as experts on the subject of Native cultures and that their pleas were often

ignored. Frustrations over the exclusion of Native American input continued to build up

5 The concept of "noble savage" was applied by Anglos to artistic imagery of American Indians beginning in the late
18t century. This societal fear and exoticism toward Native Americans "became fixed as an element in a set of
structurally opposed categories of nature and culture, heathen and Christian, hunter and farmer, and-in larger
terms-of savagery and civilization" (Phillips, 1998:120).

until the Civil Rights movement, where American Indians found a political platform.

During the 1960s through the 1980s, American Indians expressed their long-silenced

opinions through public protests directed toward specific museums and exhibits.

Museums responded with a range of reactions. Some museums recoiled at the

questioning of curatorial and scientific authority. Other museums began to recognize the

habitual absence of the Native voice and the insensitive manner in which museums

portrayed Native Americans (Cooper 2008). Televised demonstrations from the 1970s-

1980s reminded the public that Native Americans continue to participate in

contemporary society. The news coverage exposed non-Native citizens for the first

time to the collective grievances Native Americans had with museum practices

concerning Native collections (Cooper 2008).

Public Protest: Values and Voice

Native protests against exhibitions practices led museums to consider building

working partnerships with Native communities. Past exhibition practices focused on

American Indians became a catalyst for protests against museum policy and practice.

Lenore Keshig-Tobias (Ojibwa) (Cooper 2008, 1) poignantly explains, "When someone

else is telling your stories, in effect what they're doing is defining to the world, who you

are, what you are, and what they think you are and what they think you should be." A

keystone example of Native disapproval of museum policy and presentation emerged in

reaction to the Canadian Glenbow Museum's 1988 exhibition: The Spirit Sings: Artistic

Traditions of Canada's First Peoples. The exhibit was highly anticipated by museum-

goers because it promised to display some of Canada's First Nations objects that had

never been publically exhibited. First Nations opposition was ignited initially by an oil

company, who was involved in land claim disputes with the Lubicon Lake Band of Cree,

and was also a major sponsor of The Spirit Sings. The paradoxical sponsorship acted

as a catalyst for a major public protest during the exhibit opening and the associated

First Nations arts festival. Media coverage expanded across Canada and internationally

as the issue gained public sympathy (Cooper 2008). Respected associations including

the Canadian Ethnology Society and the Smithsonian Institution supported First Nations

resistance to the exhibit. The problems embedded in The Spirit Sings, according to

protesters, were as follows:

The museum borrowed First Nations artifacts without informing or involving
First Nations people. The museum used money from sources involved in
disputes with First Nations. The exhibition ignored contemporary issues.
Non-First Nations people were employed to curate the exhibition, and the
museum pleaded political neutrality, failing to see the role it had played in
supporting one side while repressing the other (Ames in Cooper 2008, 22).

Native protests brought to light the political nature of exhibiting culture and the need to

provide platforms for self-representation. The Glenbow museum failed to recognize that

a museum can own objects, but they do not own the culture those objects represent.

The First Nations groups believed that they should have had a stake in the display of

their own cultural heritage. The case of The Spirit Sings also reveals that museum

exhibitions which have been developed without careful consideration are not neutral

displays, but instead can become highly contentious political battlefields.

This widespread opposition to the Glenbow Museum's approach identified the

exhibit as a "watershed for North American Indian/ museum relationships" (Cooper

2008, 27). The Spirit Sings initiated debate and reflection on museum practice, which

eventually led the Canadian Museum Association Council to partner with the Assembly

of First Nations. These entities produced the 1992 report, Turning the Page: Forging

New Partnerships between Museums and the First Peoples, which established protocol

for Canadian museums and First Nations groups developing partnerships (Cooper

2008). This official reaction by the Canadian government marked a new recognition of

Native peoples as communities who demand to be informed and included when others

are representing their heritage. Summarizing this tumultuous time, Cooper (2008, 172)

states, "The protests can be seen as part of a movement seeking autonomy, self-

definition, respect, dignity, human rights, and protection of religious freedom-all

necessary ingredients for a people's cultural continuation."

Museum Collections Practices For Ethnographic Collections ca. 1990 to Present

A Shift in Collections Practices

Gradually during the 1990s, most American museums discarded the robe of

paternalism and adopted a pluralistic attitude. This became a driving philosophy for

collections policy and practice. This change in perspective concerning the collection and

care of cultural-heritage objects offered new agency for cultural groups who were

previously denied any voice concerning collections involving their heritage. In the early

1990s, issues of repatriation, cultural patrimony, and transparency of object provenance

came to the fore. In recent years, a new demand for digital access to collections has

emerged: this method has increased collections accessibility which proves beneficial for

both Native and non-Native users.

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), passed

in 1990, became a turning point for museum collections practices. Before NAGPRA, the

active building of historic Native American museum collections slowed dramatically after

the 1960s, but collectors continued to purchase Native items and donate them to

museums. Looting of Native graves remained a problem, until the Archeological

Resources Protection Act (ARPA) was passed in 1979. This outlawed the unauthorized

collecting or transport of archeological materials obtained from Federal or Native land.

NAGPRA, however, opened a new era of dialogue between Native American groups

and museum collections departments. NAGPRA required all museums funded with

federal monies to abide by new collections standards. Museums were required to

inventory their collections and initiate a consultation with each tribe if the museum held

collections in one of the four categories of objects defined by NAGPRA: Native

American human remains, grave goods, ceremonial objects, and objects of cultural

patrimony. The museums then needed to consult with Tribal representatives to decide

the object's future care. Through NAGPRA, American Indians have reclaimed cultural

sovereignty over NAGPRA-defined objects. Once Native American groups were

informed of sacred objects in museum collections, a number of groups requested

access to collections storage to perform spiritual rites for the objects in the museum's

care. Registrars worked with Native groups to develop procedures for access while

maintaining the integrity of preserving conditions of the storage space. Additionally,

museums were required by the federal government to establish more transparent

collecting records which outlined the provenance of each object. After museums

regularly began to address NAGPRA's requirements involving Native collections,

cultural critics, Native groups, and the general public were reassured by additional

museum efforts to abide by more transparent and collaborative collections policies and


New Forms of Native Collections Accessibility

Museums are in the process of increasing Native collections accessibility as they

embrace their role as collections stewards; this increase in access to Native objects has

the potential to empower American Indians in reclaiming cultural practices. In the past

decade, the museum's increasing ability to share collections information in faster and

more comprehensive formats empowers both Native and non-Native members of the

public with more accessible information on Native collections. The development of

online collections access is essential for museums that wish to increase agency for

American Indians and remain relevant in a "tech-paced" society. Digitization is not a

process that can be executed overnight, but asset management systems and networks,

in addition to emerging software and freeware, such as wikis, are making it more

possible than ever to securely format collections information for public online

consumption. Museums have the opportunity to offer Native American communities

digital tools for researching and representing their cultural heritage. This expanded

collections accessibility also fosters cultural continuance in the face of historical


There is a particular need for Native American communities to gain the ability to

locate tangible pieces of their collective past, which have been scattered across the

U.S. in museum holdings and private collections. Despite the increased collections

accessibility initiated by NAGPRA, American Indian groups may continue to face

difficulty if they wish to research objects that fall outside of the NAGPRA categories.

The need to visit multiple museum sites to study artifacts from one's own heritage may

deter many American Indians from seeking access to this information. However, the

increase in development of online collections databases may ease this challenge for

Native communities. Online collections offer the opportunity for Native American

communities to conveniently browse through the objects to research which institutions

hold historic objects related to their heritage.

Increased collections accessibility benefits Native Americans because it

enhances their ability to learn about and carry on traditions. Collections have come into

use by indigenous groups as reference resources for reviving lost or waning traditional

arts (Simpson 1996). The well-known Northwest Coast artist, Bill Reid (Simpson 1996,

250), speaks to the relevance of museum collections for the revival of heritage

practices, "The museum (University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology) has

provided a training ground for native artists. I unlocked the secrets of traditional designs

by studying carefully the old carvings kept there." Moira Simpson (1996, 254) calls for

museums to "improve the physical accessibility of the collections and the storage of

data, in order to equip non-specialist visitors with the means to make better use of the

vast wealth of information that museums hold ... (it also) involves the evolution of the

methods of access which enable those who cannot physically visit the museum to

access the collections and databases from afar."

Solutions to a Contested Past: Building Trust through Inclusive Collections

NAGPRA's revision of museum collections practices has started to restore

Native Americans' confidence in the museum's role as collections steward. Today,

museums are assisting Native groups in regaining or strengthening their cultural

traditions by respecting requests for physical access to collections and by simplifying

information access through digitization of Native American collections records.

Accessible cultural information has the potential to instill pride in one's heritage, thus

encouraging cultural preservation. Secondly, museums have developed working

relationships with American Indian communities through the process of collections

consultation. This exchange of information informs the museum of Native preferences

for storage and handling of the objects. When museums adhere to these requests, they

discard their past role as "owner" of Native collections and instead adopt a stewardship

role. These changes in collections practices have the potential to act as a foundation for

more involved museum/Native collaboration.

Exhibition and Issues of Representation Post-1990s

Issues of Representation

Since Native protests erupted in reaction to past museum exhibition methods,

museums have increasingly sought out Native participation in exhibition planning. The

National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) has provided a valuable model of

Native representation for all museums. After Native American lobbying efforts were

aimed at the Smithsonian's exclusive exhibition and collections management policies, a

bill was signed to reposition the Smithsonian's Native artifacts, through the creation of

the National Museum of the American Indian. The first location opened in New York City

in 1994, and ten years later the NMAI opened on the National Mall in Washington D.C.

Its placement is powerful; one can view the Capitol dome from the north windows of the

museum resource center; likewise, the U.S. officials entering the Capitol Building have a

constant reminder that American Indians are an active part of the American

constituency. In addition, NMAI is a significant destination for the American people; it

legitimizes the Native American experience and gives Native voices agency and power

in the narrative of American history.

The post-1990 movement had a goal to include significant levels of Native input

in the exhibition of Native collections and culture. Such goals are embodied in NMAI.

These initiatives include providing a platform for Native self-representation, enhancing

Native agency in the articulation of objects, and addressing contemporary Native issues

and contributions. Moira Simpson (1996, 169) highlights the strides NMAI has made in

the spirit of Native/ museum partnership: "The National Museum of the American Indian

is forging links with tribal museums, native organizations, and individuals throughout the

Americas. This strategy has been called 'the fourth museum' and will extend the

Museum's work beyond its (east coast) facilities, into communities across the country

and throughout the continent." Other museums can follow NMAI's lead in developing

meaningful partnerships for more empowering exhibitions of Native collections.


Over the past twenty years, museums have increased Native voices in the

design of exhibitions and sought to expand Native access to collections. This is a result

of the previously discussed American Indian protests and legal suits, as well as the

ideological shift of New Museology. The passing of NAGPRA was an impetus for

museums to begin engaging Native groups. The law required partnership despite

resistant museum staff, limited time and resources, or other hurdles to improving Native/

non-Native museum relations. Media coverage of Native protests and cultural critiques

in academia placed public pressure on museums to redefine their relationship to the

communities they represent in exhibitions. Indigenous outcry against exclusive

interpretation practices has urged museums to "ensure that the collections and activities

of museums address the needs of the communities who have given so much in the

past" (Simpson 1996, 248). Common methods of promoting community authorship in

museum exhibitions include consultation, advisory boards, guest curatorship, and

community exhibitions.

Role of Technology

A Call for the Application of Technology in Museum Partnerships

Web 2.0 technology has the ability to enhance the museum/ Native partnerships

that have been developing over the past two decades. Very simply stated, Web 2.0 is a

form of internet communication that promotes user-generated content and "act(s) as a

content platform instead of content provider" (Simon 2009). Web 2.0 embraces online

communities, participation, and collaboration that are all developed through user-

friendly online tools. There are several tools museums commonly use, including

Facebook, Twitter, interactive online collections databases, and wikis. On-site

collaboration and consultations continue to benefit collections and exhibition projects;

however, the process requires a great deal of time and financial resources. The

increase in interactive web technologies leads some museum professionals to

anticipate growth of future digital collaborations. Ruth B. Phillips (2003, 160), director of

the Museum of Anthropology in British Columbia states, "It seems probable that new

electronic media will play a major role in sustaining these (museum/Native)

relationships." For example, the Royal Ontario Museum presented digital object images

to the First Nations Tr'ondek Hwech'in in Yukon Territory. The Tr'ondek Hwech'in

community, which had little previous knowledge of the museum's holdings, became

interested in a deeper study of historic clothing manufacture, and a loan agreement was

made between the museum and this First Nations community (Peers and Brown, 2003).

Public Expectations for Immediate Information Access

Museums are currently investigating how younger generations will interface with

museum information, considering the dramatic changes in communication technologies

and the corresponding tech-lifestyle that has developed since the 1990s. The

widespread use of online tools such as Wikipedia, Google, and Twitter has developed a

need for rapid information retrieval; simultaneously, museums care for some of the most

valued resources that represent human heritage. It is essential that museums insert

themselves into the digital equation in order to refute the notion of museums as dusty

showrooms of stuff. Paul F. Marty (2008, 33) observes one aspect of public

expectations for online content: "(There are) a growing number of museum visitors,

donors, researchers, and other constituents who now expect museums to provide

access to their collections in digital formats."

Vision 2030, a 2007 report produced by the Smithsonian Office of Policy and

Analysis, examines emerging generational needs and expectations which are

anticipated to increase in the next twenty years. The Millennial Generation (Millennials),

those who are currently ages 9-19 have come of age using cell phones, computerized

library catalogs, and wireless internet. Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet &

American Life Project, sums up the average "Millennials" and projects how these future

visitors will imagine themselves interacting with museums:

Millennials are immersed in a world of media and gadgets. They expect to
be able to gather and share information in multiple devices in multiple
places. Their information and communication needs are contextual and
contingent ... The way they approach learning and research tasks will be
shaped by their new techno-world-more self-directed and less dependent
on top-down instruction, better arrayed to capture new information inputs,
more reliant on feedback and response, more tied to group knowledge, and
more open to cross-discipline insights, creating its own "tagged"
taxonomies. (Rainie in Smithsonian 2007, 9-10)

A museum's ability to match the quickening pace of information exchange likely will

determine its level of societal relevance as an institution. Maxwell Anderson (2007, 328)

justifies this need by explaining his observations on visitor expectations: "The online

museumgoer promises to become more transactional than a traditional visitor. He or

she will expect that queries will be answered. ... He or she will not be patient with a

delay or a generic auto-reply. As public institutions, museums will have to develop

protocols and mechanisms to cope with increasing expectations on the part of end-

users worldwide." With museum critics condemning the museum's recent turn toward

"edu-tainment," it is essential for museums to redefine new ways for presenting their

institutions as indispensable tools for learning. As the museum is transforming its former

"voice of authority" to engage diverse audiences, providing online collections access is

one method of inviting a personal connection and demonstrating the utility of the

museum beyond its exhibit halls.

Online Collections Accessibility

Since the widespread use of computer collections databases in the late 1990s,

museums have increasingly offered online access to collections information and

images. Growing opportunities for access to information and chances to interact with

museum collections have the potential to impact public learning through emerging

technologies. Online databases most commonly appear in the form of a representative

sample of objects where web viewers can get a sense of the type and range of objects

in a museum collection. As resources become available and demand continues to grow,

museums are beginning to compile more comprehensive online collections databases,

such as the Smithsonian Collections Search Center (,

which includes over two million records.

Ivan Karp (2006, 13) describes the growth of online museum databases as a

"democratization of access," which reaches audiences who might not have the

capability to examine the collection otherwise. "Democratizing" museum collections on a

virtually universal scale offers significant implications for reaching underserved

audiences and instituting visual repatriation (Karp 2006). Online collections overcome

geographic distance and the limitations of museum business hours, thus opening the

door to 24-hour global collections access.

Indigenous cultures can benefit greatly from the opportunity to locate and

research culturally significant items to which their community no longer has physical

access. Non-Native museums can now utilize online technology, including wikis, to

invite Native feedback on museum collections information. Online collections may also

remedy some of the challenges that emerged as museums tried to address NAGPRA

requirements in communicating collections descriptions to distant communities.

Online collections accessibility opens collections review and research to a public

of all ages, education levels, and socioeconomic status. Some cultural institutions offer

web users the opportunity to manipulate online objects to create personal collections or

construct interactive projects such as collages or online exhibits.6 In the past, museums

typically invited only academic professionals to research collections in storage. This

required making an appointment with museum staff, and short research visits severely

limited the number of objects a researcher could peruse. Online collections have altered

previous barriers to collections information. Increased accessibility may potentially

attract unconventional users by offering free educational resources in the familiar format

of the web. This means schoolchildren, amateur collectors, low income web-users, and

other non-academics now have the ability to engage museum objects and information

despite their inability to visit a museum in person.

6 One example of interactive online collections is the National Archives Experience:

Increased collections accessibility directly supports broader institutional

relevance to both Native and non-Native members of the public. Maxwell Anderson

(2007, 296) argues, "A marginal investment in an online visitor could repay the museum

handsomely-not in immediate cash return, but in demonstrating the value of the

museum to a greater number of people." When museums offer online collections

databases, this reveals to the public the prolific number of objects museums continually

maintain and preserve. Additionally, a museum's website acts as the face of the

museum outside of the physical location; therefore, the more visitor interaction with

either physical or digital museum resources, the more likely the public will value and

support museums.

Exhibition Practices through Technology

Technology has made it possible for museums to create exhibitions that are

highly interactive and inclusive of diverse communities. Exhibits are not only accessible

at the physical museum location, but also online. Online exhibitions appear in many

forms: blogs, wikis, and social media software; and some argue that online collections

can serve as web exhibitions. These exhibitions usually display images of museum

objects, object information, multimedia, and related contextual or historical information.

Viewers are often invited to share experiences, thoughts, or questions in comment

boxes, and are even encouraged to contribute their knowledge for the production of

upcoming online exhibitions.

Twenty-first century web technology also makes it possible for members of the

public to contribute to onsite museum exhibitions in new and mutually beneficial ways.

For example, in preparation for the 150-year celebration of Minnesota's statehood in

2008, the Minnesota Historical Society developed the visitor co-created exhibit, MN150.

The museum invited Minnesotans to submit both web and paper nominations for "the

people, places, things, and events that make Minnesota Minnesota" (Simon 2009).

Head exhibition facilitator, Kate Roberts (in Simon 2009), explains the drive for the

visitor co-created approach: "What made sense was to put out the public call and find

out: what does everyone think is interesting and important?" The exhibit facilitators

received thousands of entries from Minnesotans representing a wide variety of regions

and ethnic groups; the 150 winners were invited to contribute related artifacts for the

final exhibit. After the exhibit opened, the Minnesota Historical Society created a wiki

where all the entries could be viewed and members of the public could add their

comments on these topics.

Projects such as MN150 demonstrate how online forms of collections

accessibility and exhibitions create opportunities for collaboration among cultural

institutions and various communities that might not otherwise become engaged. Maria

Economou (2008, 150-151) discusses the impact technology has had on museum

collaboration: "The digital revolution has led to an increase in the number of

partnerships and joint projects ... and combating social exclusion and marginalization of

various groups." As museums employ inclusive, web-enabled methods, there is

potential to enhance Native American agency in the exhibition process. Current

technology allows museums to share potential exhibit content with Native groups using

a process that is faster and easier for both parties. For example, the Florida Museum

Project wiki asks Seminole and Miccosukee Tribal members which terminology they

prefer for the historic objects and whether they find any object inappropriate for public

display. Within a few minutes on their home computers, Native Americans can add their

voices to the museum's collections information and future projects that use this



In summary, this chapter illustrates the historic forces within the museum field

that drive the direction of my project. This chapter also identifies the problems the wiki is

trying to resolve, and highlights the growing potential for online collaborative platforms

in strengthening museum/Native partnerships. The description of New Museology

clarifies how relatively recent is the museum institution's shift in focus on diversity,

inclusion, and pluralism, and how much opportunity there is for engaging diverse

communities. The examples of Native protest in this chapter demonstrate the need for

improving relationships between museums and Native Americans. Finally, the

discussion of technology and museum partnerships demonstrates new opportunities for

Native agency in collections and exhibition methods.

My project contributes to several post-1990 museum goals: improving Native

American/ museum relationships, including Native-generated content, and increasing

information accessibility to Native and non-Native audiences. Museums' recent efforts

to engage Native communities in partnerships have carved a new path for both

exhibitions development and collections management practices. It is my hope that

museums with Native American collections implement additional online platforms to

increase Native agency in collections and exhibitions practice.



Project Goals

This project's central goals were to invite feedback from Seminole and

Miccosukee Tribal members and to increase public and Native American and non-

Native accessibility to the Florida Ethnographic Collection. The primary objective of "The

Florida Museum Project" wiki, was to provide an additional tool for museums to include

Native American voice in the interpretation of Native American collections. Typically,

Native American collaboration with museums is initiated by an exhibition plan, and

involves years of consultation; however, the wiki creates a platform for more immediate

feedback, where multiple perspectives are encouraged. Native American participants

have the opportunity to influence how their community and culture are displayed and

discussed. The project accomplishes this by expanding conventional on-site

museum/Native American collaboration methods into a digital format. This approach is

low in cost and requires relatively fewer resources than conventional onsite meetings.

My project uses a wiki, which offers simultaneous online viewing and commenting on

text and images by multiple parties. The wiki interaction is not intended to fully replace

in-person consultations and the rapport these meetings build between Tribal members

and museum staff. Instead, the wiki model can act as a supplemental tool for improved

Native American/ museum collaboration, while also providing online access to the

collections for American Indian groups. The inclusion of Native American feedback on

collection interpretation can lead to better informed exhibits, programs, and works of

scholarship. Additionally, enhancing the access Native Americans have to Native

collections is important because it can help overcome longstanding barriers between

Native peoples and the artifacts that embody their heritage.

The project's second goal is to increase the digital access for both Native and

non-Native researchers, because providing online access to Native American objects is

an important step in maintaining the museum's relevance to society. Museums prove

their relevance by providing services that meet the public demand. Studies show that

upcoming generations view technology and the internet as the central conduit for their

research needs; therefore, museums can demonstrate the effectiveness of their

collections information by making it available in the medium with which the public is

most connected (Smithsonian 2007).

Museums and Community Co-Design

Nina Simon, an active voice in the museum field, advocates for the application of

technology in museums with the goal of engaging the public in active participation in

informal learning. Simon writes her blog, Museum 2.0 to more than 5000 subscribers

( Museum 2.0 encourages museums to question their

institutional methods and to embrace the tenets of Web 2.0. Simon proposes that

museums use a strategy she calls community co-design in program and exhibition

development. This strategy is a grass roots approach that embraces the perspectives,

ideas, ingenuity, and skills of the community it serves with the goal of producing

programs and exhibitions of a more inclusive and perhaps more authentic nature

(Simon 2009). The concept of community co-design is an exciting prospect because it

takes the standard process of collaboration and expands the perimeters of involvement.

Community co-design often challenges members of the public to perform real research,

and contribute to museum projects in a meaningful way. The work is viewed as

worthwhile by public contributors when their input is tangibly applied to an exhibition,

program, or online database. Museums gain user-content and the users experience a

sense of accomplishment and contribution to the larger community. Community co-

design is a symbiotic relationship between museums and the communities they serve. I

apply the notion of community co-design in my project goals and methods, because I

agree with Simon's belief that museums can better serve the communities they

represent by providing new platforms, digital or otherwise, for information sharing and

community contribution (Simon 2009).1

Project Methods

The Florida Museum Project wiki initially grew out of a budding partnership with a

larger collection database initiative titled The Southeastern Native American Collections

Project (SNACP), overseen by Dr. Jason Baird Jackson at Indiana University. Through

his research as a Folklorist and Material Cultural specialist, Jackson has identified an

absence of online representation of cultural materials from Southeastern Native

American groups, including the Florida Seminole and Miccosukee Tribes (Personal

Correspondence August 13, 2009). Simultaneous to Dr. Jackson's SNACP project, I

was working on several projects at the Florida Museum of Natural History, and I wanted

to create a thesis project that would increase access to the Florida Ethnographic

Collection (FEC) for Native and non-Native researchers alike. At the outset, I planned

to expand access to Florida Ethnographic Collection information by organizing

collections information that exists in the form of catalog cards, accession files, loan files,

1 This notion of engaging communities as museum partners was originally articulated in Mastering Civic
Engagement (1992); however community co-design fleshes out the general proposals set forth by the AAM
Museums and Community Initiative and discusses hands-on approaches to realizing successful community

unpublished research, publications, and archival materials. Then I planned to produce

an "ethnographic monograph" or comprehensive descriptive report on the Florida

Ethnographic Collection. The monograph would have acted as a research reference for

the Seminole/Miccosukee objects at the Florida Museum of Natural History. The report

would have also contributed information on the Florida Museum's holdings to Jackson's

SNACP project, a multi-institutional database. As I thought more about the issues of

accessibility and the need for inclusion of Native voices, it became clear that the project

would be best realized if it included an interactive, online component that could

simultaneously offer digital collections access, and invite Native input into the object

interpretation process. After I made this decision, I changed the project format from a

research paper to an interactive wiki.

The Organization and Digitization of Records

Before the Florida Museum Project wiki could be realized, the various sources of

object information needed to be researched, collected, organized, digitized, and

formatted for the web. The Florida Ethnographic Collection includes more than 300

objects, many of which are on exhibit or on loan to other museums. Different sources of

object information could be found by examining an array of separate museum

resources: the Registrar's Microsoft Access collections document, a paper catalog card

and accession card, an object inventory location document, a paper accession file, and

sometimes a paper loan file.

The objects had various forms of visual documentation. Approximately ten of the

objects had been professionally photographed for publication and had color prints.

Many of the catalog index cards had a small black and white reference photo glued to

the reverse side. Some of the index cards had pencil drawings or tracings of the

objects. There were also black and white slides of these photos in the collection records

in the Registrar's department. About half of the objects are on exhibit at FLMNH, in

Powell Hall. These objects had been documented in slide form for condition reports in

2001, and the slides were stored with the exhibits department at the exhibits building. I

am providing this information on the variety of locations for FEC information in detail,

because it highlights the difficulty a Native American or non-Native researcher might

face in trying to gather all the information on Seminole/Miccosukee objects at the

Florida Museum.

To organize the information, I created an Excel document to combine the various

facets of information a researcher may be interested in.2 The first step in gathering and

digitizing the FEC information was to scan 279 index catalog cards. The catalog cards

have the greatest amount of information on each object including descriptions,

materials, maker, donor, dimensions, place and date collected, history of provenance,

and some Native consultation comments. Next, I examined the accession files, entering

information on object collection and donor history to the Excel document. Then I verified

the objects that were out on loan, by referring to loan documents and physically

confirming their location in storage, so that the onsite objects could be identified and

professionally photographed. I examined the objects onsite for descriptions and

measurements, and arranged for the museum photographer to photograph the objects

in a high-resolution digital format, resulting in 169 new group and single-object photos.

Next, I scanned 170 slides to obtain digital images of the Seminole/ Miccosukee objects

2 The categories of information included in the Excel Spreadsheet: Catalog Number, Listed Provenience, Typology,
Basic Description, Full Description, Condition, Measurements, Materials, Date Made, Loan Status, Storage
Location, Donor, Additional Notes, Publications, Photography Sources.

on exhibit at the Florida Museum's exhibit building. Finally, the scanned image files for

the slides and catalog cards needed to be cropped and edited using Photoshop

software, and were resized from 6.8MB to 78.3KB for use on the web. The files were

then individually uploaded to the wiki website.

"Florida Museum Project" Wiki Overview

I was surprised by the length of time it took to compile and digitize the object

information from the various museum sources. This challenge reinforced my realization

of the wiki's importance, because it would organize the data in a central online location.

The central online location materialized as a Web 2.0 tool, a wiki, for inviting community

participation. While there are a number of sources for free, user-friendly website- or

wiki-building software, I chose to use because of its ease of use,

comparatively large amount of free storage (2GB), range of security, and adjustability of

contributor editing levels. With no prior experience in creating webpages, I researched

the approaches used by other museum websites for elements of attractive design and

intuitive organization. Two strategies I found helpful on other websites were color-

coding sections of the collection for easier way-finding, and displaying only a small

number of objects on each page to avoid overwhelming the viewer. The complete wiki

can be accessed at

I produced over 350 pages for the wiki, highlighting more than 300 Seminole/

Miccosukee artifacts in the Florida Ethnographic Collection. The following is a

description of the types of pages and site organization from specific objects to general

information. On the wiki, each artifact page (Figure A-5) includes a comment box at the

bottom, an image of the object and a datasheet displaying information organized into

ten categories:

* Object Name(s) * Dimensions
* Cultural Source * Date Created
* Location * Collection History
* Materials * Catalog Number
* Techniques * Additional Information

My main goal for designing this site was to achieve clarity and simplicity. In order

to keep the design simple, I tried to present links and information with intuitive

placement. Ease of navigation is key to maximizing participant contributions over

hundreds of wiki pages. The individual artifact pages can be accessed by clicking on

thumbnail-size photos categorized by object-type (Figure A-4) . In this form, viewers

can visually navigate a large number of artifacts and comment on objects that interest

them. The "Main Collections" page (Figure A-3) displays all eight object categories,

which link to the thumbnail pages.1 To assist navigation through the site, I also designed

a Side Bar (Figure A-6) with links to pages including the home page and the main

collections page, and links to other important resources for contributors. I organized the

Side Bar so it could present additional entry points to the collections information and

other page options.

Nina Simon emphasizes "The Ask" in her writings on successful collaborative

projects. "The Ask" concisely informs potential participants about what would be

required of them, how their contribution will be used, and why their input matters (Simon

2009). By developing a clear "ask," the project ought to not only entice more

participation, but should offer transparency on what the museum's ultimate objectives

are. In developing Native American/museum partnerships, it is especially important to

conduct the project in the most honest, ethical, and inviting manner possible. My wiki's

1 Categories include Silverwork, Basketry, Clothing & Adornment, Tools & Food Processing, Dolls, Woodcarvings,
Toys & Games, and Miscellaneous Objects

"ask" is articulated on the "How to Participate" page (Figure A-6). I focus on using

conversational wording so the site has a friendly and inviting tone, and the directives are

easily understood by a wide variety of community members. I offer clearly stated, open-

ended questions that invite a wide range of input, allowing every tribal member to feel

that his or her insights are valid and valuable to the museum. I also explicitly list how the

comments may be used by the museum. I provided this information with the intention of

letting the participants make an informed decision when choosing to contribute.

Recruiting Participants, Building Partnerships

The collaborative aspect of the wiki required me to introduce the project goals

and methods to cultural heritage advocates in the community and to initiate a

professional relationship with interested individuals. The input aspect of the project is

essential in order to provide accurate, culturally sensitive information on the Seminole

and Miccosukee objects in the collection. Each page of the wiki includes a comment

box, where Tribal members are encouraged to add corrections, additional information,

and personal stories related to the artifacts. To persuade Tribal members that the

project was beneficial to the community and worthwhile to contribute to, I needed to

recruit participants and build partnerships with individuals and the community at large.

My first interaction with the Seminole Tribe of Florida was through the staff at the

Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum at the Big Cypress Reservation in southern Florida. The Ah-

Tah-Thi-Ki Museum is a Tribal museum operated by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The

staff invited me to tour the museum and discuss my project with them in person. I met

with the Curator of Exhibits, Exhibits Manager, and Research Coordinator who all

demonstrated support for the wiki project. Each offered insights into recruiting

strategies, namely advertising in Facebook and the Seminole Tribune newspaper. The

Seminole and Miccosukee Tribes of Florida have a multitude of perspectives:

Seminoles and Miccosukees share material culture and most of their historical

background, but identify their groups by the different languages spoken, and the groups

have separate reservations. The Seminoles reside on six reservations that span both

coasts of the Florida peninsula as well as the Everglades. Within each Seminole

Reservation there are Members who embrace traditional practices more fundamentally,

and there are others who have adopted Christianity and hold different viewpoints on

how objects related to traditional cultural ceremonies should be addressed. For the

objects on the wiki, this means that one Seminole contributor may deem certain objects

as inappropriate to display to the public on the museum website. Simultaneously,

another contributor could comment that the same object needs to be displayed to

understand the past. If I came across this situation on the wiki, I would err on the side of

caution and respect, so would remove the object from display and note the comment in

the object's file. This multiplicity of perspective and voice is both a challenge and a

benefit to the wiki project. The challenge lies in recruiting participants and including

voices from each Tribe and each separate Reservation location. I chose to recruit

through The Seminole Tribune (Figure B-1), which is circulated on all Seminole

Reservations, and I also advertised through the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum's Facebook

page. Additionally, I made a second visit to Big Cypress during the annual American

Indian Arts Celebration, where I spoke with Seminole Tribal members about the project.

I was met with mixed responses at this event. Individuals under 35 seemed to be more

receptive to the project than Tribal members over 35. This is not surprising because the

under-35 age bracket across U.S. society shows more interest in Web 2.0 technologies

than older generations who did not grow up with computer technology.

One unexpected request by the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki staff was that I submit my project

protocol to the University of Florida Institutional Review Board for official University

approval.2 I believe the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki's request for this official paperwork reflects Native

distrust rooted in past hegemonic interactions with multiple non-Native institutions.

American Indian communities require explicit and transparent project goals and

methods as a means of protecting themselves. The request for the protocol approval

highlights that, despite the increasingly casual view by the general public of sharing

information in a Web 2.0 format, providing cultural information in the form of a wiki

comment may be approached with caution by Tribal members. Because cultural

information has been appropriated by museums in the past, wiki input is likely to be

viewed by Tribal members as both personal and political, and needs to be treated by

the museum with care and respect. In my protocol submission for the Institutional

Review Board, I developed an "informed consent" document outlining how the

participants' wiki comments would be used and explaining the overarching goals of the

Florida Museum Project (Appendix C).

Project Applications

In addition to the availability on the website, the digitized collections information

and images will be added to the Florida Museum collections files in the form of a CD

with all digital object images and catalog cards, as well as the complete Florida

Ethnographic Collection (FEC) Excel document. These files can be applied to a number

2 The Institutional Review Board is a University entity that inspects all methods used in research projects involving
human subjects. The purpose of the review is to prevent research subjects from harm.

of future projects to increase access to, and organization of, the FEC information. The

enhanced documentation of the FEC and increased access to this information will also

support current efforts to expand the FEC and to secure additional storage for existing

objects. To provide a productive length of time for feedback, I plan to monitor the

responses contributed to the Florida Museum Project website from October 30th, 2009

through December 31s, 2010. In this timeframe, I anticipate a variety of comments and

questions will be posted by Tribal members. After presenting my project to both the

Florida Museum Informatics Committee and the Anthropology Staff, it has been

determined that the Seminole/Miccosukee wiki comments will be directly applied in

multiple areas of the Florida Museum of Natural History. The new information gained

from the wiki will contribute to the records of the Florida Museum of Natural History's

Anthropology Department and the Office of Museum Technology, and will therefore add

information to the Florida Ethnographic Collection files and to the public online

collections database, which is presently under development at the Florida Museum.

Currently, there is a very brief treatment of the Florida Ethnographic Collection on

the Florida Museum website. The digitized images and information which I produced

during this project will make it possible for the public and Seminole/ Miccosukee Tribal

members alike to access more of the FEC information, and to research the holdings

despite geographic distance. The wiki project will have also allowed Tribal members to

become stakeholders in the information posted on the museum website. The wiki's

digital format for inviting input allows a broad group of Native Americans to invest their

knowledge in the collections records, therefore building their direct involvement. The

shared voice encouraged through the wiki's participatory platform has the potential to

build a partnership between the Florida Museum, the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, and the

Seminole and Miccosukee communities for future collaborative projects. Within the

broader platform for southeastern Native American collections, this wiki will allow the

Florida Museum of Natural History to share its collections with the future multi-

institutional database, the Southeastern Native American Collections Project, currently

being developed by Dr. Jason Baird Jackson at Indiana University.

In conclusion, it is my hope that the Florida Museum Project wiki offers a

contributory model that can be applied by other museums holding Native American

collections. Many museums strive to increase online collections accessibility and

inclusiveness, but they are met with limited resources to realize their goals. By applying

Web 2.0 technology to the challenges experienced by museums, the wiki model offers

an inexpensive and user-friendly tool to meet these demands. Additionally, the wiki

model encourages Native American communities to rejoin their voices with their

culture's historic objects, and share the story of their own heritage with the community

and the public.



Museums that apply wikis to their Native collections are likely to experience new

benefits and meet complex issues in pursuing the museums' collaborative goals. The

collaborative wiki platform presents a number of opportunities for enhanced information

exchange not as readily available through conventional museum methods. With

increased information exchange, there are several issues museums should proactively

address to actualize museum goals through the wiki model.

Benefits of the Wiki Model

Collaborative museum wiki projects can benefit multiple groups: American

Indians, museums, and members of the Native and non-Native public. Each group

benefits from the creation of new platforms for free, fast, and user-friendly information

sharing. This is a mutually beneficial partnership that increases each group's access to

new information concerning Native collections.

In the application of this wiki model, American Indian groups benefit from

enhanced digital access to Native objects and collections information. This increased

access to Native collections provides potential resources for Native Americans to

research Native cultural practices. After discovering which Native objects the museum

holds, Native communities may also form object loan agreements with a museum, so

that Native American communities can gain further understanding from viewing the

objects in person.

Wikis can assist museums in building more culturally informed collections

records. Information received from wiki consultation is also less resource-intensive than

conventional consultation, which gives museums the opportunity to foster more Native

partnerships. Because the wiki brings a digital replica of the objects to the community, it

increases access to the objects, without causing additional object deterioration through

repeated handling of the materials. This approach to museum-Native collaboration

allows the museum to embrace its role as facilitator by sharing Native voices with its

museum visitors and audiences on the web.

In the case of my project, the public benefits from the three end-user applications

that the wiki information contributes to: the registrar's database, the museum's public

collections database, and the multi-institutional Southeastern Native American

database. The wiki information added to the registrar's database will assist researchers

with the sorting of collections information, and the wiki contributions will provide

valuable primary source material for their collections research. On the museum website,

the public can gain a more comprehensive understanding of Native cultures by

accessing Tribal members' input. The Southeastern Native American database will offer

both Native and non-Native scholars access to Native collections information from

multiple museum repositories. The wiki could also potentially add Native input to be

applied to public programs and future exhibits. Consequently, the wiki provides

collections information that can benefit the public for generations.

Overall, the wiki model provides a valuable supplemental tool for museums that

seek to include Native input in their collections records, but which have not previously

been able to initiate a conventional collections consultation. This additional platform for

building partnerships is important because it may allow museums to pursue

collaborative goals with limited resources. The wiki may also provide valuable resources

to Native communities at a much faster rate than the time frame of a typical consultation

end-product, such as an exhibition or publication.

Wiki Model Issues and Solutions

As with any form of technology, there are issues in the wiki's approach to

communication, and its corresponding ability to facilitate collaborative projects. While

implementing my project, I recognized that partnerships are, first and foremost, about

developing professional relationships. Several issues arose during the project that

derived from different aspects of museum/Native community relationships. The project

clarified the limitations of digital communication for building partnerships. It also

highlighted the challenges of balancing increased community agency with maintaining

the integrity of existing museum records. Another issue in the project is the verification

of the wiki contributor's Native background, in order to prevent non-Native contributors

from adding erroneous information to the wiki. Lastly, there is the question of how

multiple community voices should be represented in the end-product databases. All of

these issues need careful consideration by museums that may consider using the wiki

model for building collections partnerships.

Building a Partnership

It became clear to me throughout this project that wiki technology cannot replace

face-to-face human interaction. Web 2.0 tools assist in faster communication, but offer

very little for building initial rapport with Native communities. Forming professional

relationships and developing trust are both key to building partnerships. Museum

collaboration with Native communities initially requires more personal interaction than

exchanging email messages. Initial on-site visits to the Seminole reservation and

telephone conversations with the staff of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki became essential forms of

communication for building rapport with the community. In recruiting participants for the

wiki, I placed newspaper advertisements in the Seminole Tribune and visited one of the

Seminole Reservations and the Seminole Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. I expected that these

efforts would provide enough valuable Tribal contacts to form a pilot group for

participation. Yet, this progress emerged at a much slower pace than I anticipated. The

five-hour commute to the Big Cypress Reservation prevented frequent visits on my part.

There are staff policies at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum that restrict the dissemination of

Tribal member contact information without project approval by senior Tribal member

museum staff; therefore, I had to recruit individuals on my own. However, I found that

by spending the day with staff members at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum I was able to

explain my objectives for the project and convey my respect for the cultural knowledge

which the Seminoles would share on the wiki. On my second visit, during the American

Indian Arts Celebration, I had the opportunity to speak with one wiki contributor and to

meet other community members and artisans. These visits proved essential for

encouraging community buy-in for the wiki project.

Partnership-Building Recommendations

In retrospect, I can see that more face-to-face interaction would have provided

the chance to develop stronger rapport with a wider range of community members, thus

enhancing participation in the wiki project. To offset the limited amount of on-site

contact I had with the Seminole community, I decided to extend the length of the wiki

comment tool from two months to fourteen months. I anticipate that the extended

timeframe will allow for richer feedback, because of word-of-mouth advertisement

through the community. I recommend that future wiki administrators initiate contact with

the community early in the project. I also propose that frequent interaction, either

through phone conversations or visits, may allow for the most productive partnerships.

Balancing Community Agency

As a museum attempts to increase community agency while simultaneously

"gate-keeping" museum records, there are a number of issues a museum must consider

to promote a healthy relationship with contributing communities. Daniel Spock (2009,

10), Director of the Minnesota History Center Museum, explains, "Museums will still

have to negotiate thorny mergers and challenging relationships, in effect balancing the

desire to engage a wider community while maintaining some core sense of institutional

selfhood." Throughout the project, I have continued to struggle with this seeming

paradox between the facilitation of power-sharing and the maintenance of the

museum's informational integrity. While inviting participants to share their knowledge,

questions arose concerning how much agency I should foster in the wiki. I needed to

consider the preservation of the Florida Museum's records and the technical integrity of

the wiki site. I originally planned to assign "writer" wiki access to each participant. This

would have allowed participants to not only make comments, but also to add and delete

images and information on each page. Instead, participants do not have editing

capabilities, but are invited to comment on the page content by typing into a comment

box. While one objective of the wiki was to increase Native agency in defining the

collection, I feared that the hundreds of hours I had invested in formatting the wiki pages

would be altered or erased. This issue underlines the need for trust and relationship-

building not only for Native contributors, but for wiki administrators as well. Had I

established a relationship with a small group of community members who I felt would

take the time to heed specific editing procedures, I may have increased editing

privileges. Collaboration is a popular buzzword in museum work and many other fields;

however, this project revealed practical aspects of risk-taking involved in facilitating

outside communities' contributions.

Recommended Considerations for Community Agency

I learned through this project that museums should approach wiki partnerships

with a clear and pragmatic strategy for inviting participation. The museum needs to

identify what level of compromise they are willing to embrace. Some of the questions

museums need to ask themselves when initiating this type of project are as follows:

What form will the participation take? How will the museum deal with requests for

additional editing privileges? How will the comments be used? Which information will

be given precedence in the final form: the comments or the original museum records?

Native contributors will appreciate transparent project expectations and outcomes,

making the partnership stronger for future projects; therefore, it is important for

museums to try to anticipate collaboration issues and form thoughtful strategies to

address them.

Verifying Native Identity of Wiki Contributors

The Florida Museum Project wiki strives to include a wide range of community

voices, but this inclusive strategy opens the project to contributions from potentially

erroneous sources. The wiki software offers several levels of privacy for viewing and

participating in the site, and I chose to open the site to be completely "public," removing

all viewing restrictions. This choice opens the wiki to anyone with internet access so that

they can view the pages and sign up for an account to make comments. Since the site

is public, individuals are able to view it, become interested on their own terms, and this

in turn will hopefully lead them to participate. Because of the public settings in my

project, it is difficult to have absolute certainty that the comments come from a

Seminole/Miccosukee source; therefore, verification of a contributor's identity is an

important issue to be addressed.

There are several ways to gauge the validity of the comment source. For

example, each comment is sent regularly to each site member's email and can be

viewed by many other Seminoles and Miccosukees on the site. This may lend itself to

self-regulation because other participants who are invested in the project will likely feel

compelled to challenge any questionable comments (Saul Drake, Personal

Correspondence October 28, 2009). Secondly, if a person was very active in adding

questionable comments, the wiki administrator may engage them in email conversation

or, in extreme situations, delete their comments. Museums need to verify the sources of

the wiki contributions when deciding how to apply the information to collections records

or exhibits. In light of these issues, I would recommend that future museum wiki

managers contact the Tribal Government Office or other official community hub in order

to recruit participants by invitation only, on a members-only site. This option is likely to

require more time and relationship building with the community, and may reduce the

range of participation. Limiting access in this way also risks the exclusion of Tribal

members who are not on Tribal government list-serves.


Possibilities for Wikis as a Tool for Museum Partnerships

Through implementing my project, I have come to realize that wikis offer wide-

reaching possibilities for museums in collaborative projects. As museums continue to

work in more participatory ways, the wiki model can serve as an effective tool for

partnership. It seems likely, considering recent growth in public use of social media, that

museums and a tech-savvy public will find the wiki format familiar and attractive. It may

soon become easier to gain meaningful contributions from older generations as well,

especially as Web 2.0 software becomes increasingly user-friendly. Currently, wikis are

used by museum professionals to connect multiple institutions or facilitate

interdepartmental projects.1

However, there is an emerging trend in building wikis to invite community-

contributed heritage content.2 For example, Now & Then,3 an Australian heritage wiki

produced by the Mallala Museum, was recently launched in September 2009. Now &

Then invites community members to submit photos and stories of objects they view as

important to Mallala's community heritage.

Using wikis for museum collaboration is a strategy consistent with the changing

role of the museum in society, and leads to improved cultural understanding. It is also

important to consider the institutional implications for museums that embrace

participatory projects and the wiki's intersection with the museum's changing role.

These issues that my project raises are currently gaining momentum in the museum

field today. The Fall 2009 issue of the AAM exhibits journal, The Exhibitionist, focuses

its content entirely on "Visitor-Generated Content and Design." In this issue, Daniel

Spock revisits some of the questions raised nearly a decade ago by Stephen Weil.4

Spock (2009, 10) extends Weil's arguments for civic engagement, and proposes that

1 One example is
2 MN150 is a recent example of this contributory trend 50/index.php?title=Main_Page
3 This heritage wiki Now & Then can be viewed at
4 Weil, Stephen."From Being about Something to Being for Somebody. "Daedalus 128 (1999):3.

museums embrace Web 2.0 platforms as a tool for shifting from a position of authority

to that of "mediator." Regarding specifically indigenous participatory projects, he points


What any museum professional involved in such a collaboration will tell you
is that these projects challenge all sorts of conscious and unconscious
institutional assumptions, sometimes about the meaning of things, but also
just what the facts really are and what kinds of documentation have real
validity. What takes place is a new, negotiated meaning, or a multiplicity of
meanings in contrast to one another. (Spock 2009, 9)

Daniel Spock posits that the application of Web 2.0 technology in museum/Native

collaborations is necessary for museums to grow in their effort toward embracing the

role of community stewards. I see collaborative wikis as a supportive tool for assisting

museums in their enhancement of their civic engagement.

As I conclude this project, I am left with many questions regarding the future

implications of wiki projects, especially regarding the wiki's influence on the alteration of

museum authority, its impact on the museum's Native relationships, and effects on the

museum's relationship with the public. What would it mean for the museum's role in

society if these institutions maintained active wiki conversations with each indigenous

community that their collections represent? How would this affect the role of the curator

and the registrar? Will this approach prove useful for end-users as they access the

information online, or at on-site exhibitions? The museums' use of wikis can enhance

the public's participation in the preservation of their own cultural heritage, and is a

potentially promising means of increasing indigenous voice in the museum. The wiki's

contribution in turn helps position the museum to become more clearly recognized by

the public as integral to the continuity of cultural heritage.


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The Florida Ethnographic Collection holds nearly two hundred pieces of Seminole
silverwork. The categories of work include: cold chiseled silver pendants, bodice pieces, a
bracelet, a turban band, a comb back, and silver finger rings. The types of Seminole
silverwork not represented are silver crescent gorgets, armbands, and earrings. Most of the
silverwork was collected in south central Florida during the 1920s to the 1950s by John M.
Goggin, Curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History and Anthropology Faculty at the
University of Florida, and by William F. Stiles, Curator at the Museum of the American
Indian, NYC.

Seminoles produced silverwork during a period of about 150 years, but archaeological
evidence from the Mississippian Culture in the form of copper discs, personal ornaments,
and ritual objects, points to broader native metalworking traditions prior to European
contact. These pre-contact artifacts are also decorated in the same manner as 18th and
19th century Seminole silverwork: pierced, embossed, or incised. Silver was relatively
uncommon to Seminoles before Spanish importation during the 1500s.l]The Calusa, a
Floridian indigenous group present during early Seminole migration to Florida, produced
silverwork including pendants, gorgets, and beads with Spanish coin silver in 1700s.[21

a View Silverwork

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92880 Pierced Pendant

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Object Name(s):
Cultural Source:
Date Created:
Collection History:
Catalog Number:
Additional Information:

Pierced Pendant
Cow Creek Seminole
Brighton Reservation, Florida
Silver, glass, twine
hammered silver, cold-chisel
5cm diameter, 5.5cm long with beads
Early 20th century
Collected by John M. Goagin at Brighton Reservation in 1944. Purchased by the Florida Museum in 1955.
92880 View Catalog Card
On Exhibit at the Florida Museum of Natural History, in the South Florida Peoples Hall, 2001-Present.

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1. Look for the comment box at the bottom
of each page.
2. Add yourfeedback thoughts, or questions
in the comment box.
3. Click ADD COMMENT in bottom left corner.

Take Me To:
The Front Paoe
Main Collections Page
Silverwork Home
Dolls Home
Basketry Home
Toys & Games Home
Tools Home
Clothing Home
Woodworking Home
Miscellaneous Home

More Links:
How to Participate
About the Proiec
About the Collection
Museum Links

R -c. Achivity

Figure A-6 Side Bar and "The Ask"

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The Florida Museum of Natural History
holds over 300 Seminole/ Miccosukee I
historic artifacts. We are interested in
getting YOUR feedback on artifact ,
descriptions and preferred terminology
before the information is made avail-
able on the museum's website. Your
contribution will increase collections
accuracy and offer a Seminole/
Miccosukee perspective.

Input is invited from all Seminole/
Miccosukee Tribal Members.
Comment as little or as much as you I
like. It's easy to participate, just go to:


Figure B-1 Seminole Tribune Ad


*Add Wiki Feedback to:
1. Florida Museum Website
2. Florida Museum Collections Records
3. S.E. Native American Collections Project

Increased Collections Access

* Creates More Informed Scholarship

* Increases Public Access to Collections
Information and Seminole Contributions

* Build Wiki Pages
PHASE 2 * Initiate Partnership with Seminole Community
* Recruit Seminole Wildki Participants


Organize Collections Information
Digitize Collections Information
Photograph Objects & Scan Slides

* Enhances Native Agency in Context and
Terminology for FEC Objects /

* Creats Online Access for Seminoles

* Simplifies file searches
and transfer of info ion

Project Phases

Corresponding Collections Access in Each Project Phase

Figure B-2 Collections Access Diagram



University of Florida Institutional Review Board Required Document for Proiect Protocol

Certification of Informed Consent (Online Participants)

My name is Shawna Pies and I am a graduate student in Museum Studies at the
University of Florida. I am conducting a thesis project titled Digital Foundations for
Partnership: A Collaborative Model for Indigenous Communities and Ethnographic
Museum Collections. Geographic distance and a shortage of time and funding create
barriers to museum collaboration with the indigenous communities they represent. This
thesis project addresses these issues by using an online workspace. This project invites
Florida Seminole and Miccosukee Tribal Members to share information and
perspectives relating to the collection of nearly 300 Seminole/ Miccosukee artifacts held
at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Baskets, palmetto dolls, silverwork, wood
carvings, and patchwork are some of the object types represented in the collection. The
participants in this project will help to expand the descriptive and contextual information
regarding artifacts in the museum's Seminole/Miccosukee Collections by contributing
online feedback. Through this project, I plan to discuss the benefits and challenges of
using an online workspace to expand indigenous participation in the development of
online indigenous museum collections information.
If you choose to participate in the online workspace, you will have the option to
comment at the bottom of each webpage where images of Seminole objects with
related information will appear on each page. During the months of October and
November, 2009 participants are invited to add their knowledge about such topics as
the history, use, community importance of the object, or other comments. The
information that you share in the comment box will be public. You are free to comment
on as many pages on the website as you choose, or choose not to comment at all. The
administrator of the site (Shawna Pies) has the right to delete offensive or inappropriate
comments. Shawna may also initiate unstructured interviews with Seminole and
Miccosukee museum staff and their associates on the general topic of museum
collaboration and methods of artifact consultation. There is no compensation for
participating, and there are no risks associated with participation in this project. There
are no direct benefits to you for participating in the study. Your participation is voluntary
and may withdraw your consent at anytime without consequence.
Participants will aid in producing more accurate and culturally sensitive
collections information. The information that the comments provide may potentially be
added to the museum's records, and the museum website. These records are
sometimes shared with researchers and members of the public who make requests to
the museum for information. The comments submitted on the website may also be used
in my master's thesis paper and future publications. The thesis paper will be available
(in pdf format) on the University of Florida website and on the "floridamuseumproject"
website in January, 2009. The project website is

My faculty advisor is Glenn Willumson. He can be contacted with questions or concerns
at or 352-273-3062. I can be contacted at with questions about the project.

By clicking "I ACCEPT" you are agreeing that you are at least 18 years old and
that you read, understand, and accept the above information.


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Lynch, Clifford."Digital Collections, Digital Libraries and the Digitization of Cultural
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Shawna Pies was born in Cincinnati, OH. She attended Ohio University in Athens,

OH, where she earned her B.A. in cultural anthropology (2007). While at studying at

Ohio University, Shawna worked as a curatorial research assistant at the Kennedy

Museum of Art in Athens, OH, where she researched Southwestern Native American

art. She conducted a senior honors thesis titled, Silver Strategies: Implications of

Advocacy and Authenticity of Zuni Artists. In 2007, Shawna joined the museum studies

graduate program at the University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. While working toward her

master's degree, she worked at the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH) in the

Anthropology and Ethnology Division. She also planned the annual juried student art

show as Vice President of the Fine Arts College Council. As Vice Chair of Programs for

Museum Nights, Shawna organized monthly public museum events at the FLMNH. In

2008, Shawna interned in the curatorial department of the Smithsonian Center for

Folklife and Cultural Heritage in Washington, D.C., where she helped evaluate the

Bhutan Program at the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Upon graduation, Shawna

plans to continue exploring topics of digital access to museum collections and Native

American/ museum relationships

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