Infusing identities: creating a uniquely relational database for the Florida Museum of Natural History's Seminole and Miccosukee ethnographic collection

Material Information

Infusing identities: creating a uniquely relational database for the Florida Museum of Natural History's Seminole and Miccosukee ethnographic collection
Bell, Austin J.
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla
College of Fine Arts, University of Florida
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
Project in lieu of thesis


Subjects / Keywords:
Anthropological museums ( jstor )
Anthropology ( jstor )
Art museums ( jstor )
Collection acquisitions ( jstor )
Cultural anthropology ( jstor )
Cultural institutions ( jstor )
Databases ( jstor )
Ethnography ( jstor )
Museums ( jstor )
Native Americans ( jstor )
Florida Museum of Natural History ( local )


The Florida Ethnographic Collection (FEC) at the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH) holds tremendous cultural and historical significance. Comprised primarily of Seminole and Miccosukee ethnographic materials, its size and scope rivals those of the nation’s elite museums. However, unlike the majority of its peers, the collection lacks both an effective computer management system and a publicly accessible database, thereby limiting its potential as a research hub for Florida’s Native people. Informed equally by the perspectives of Native Americans, museum professionals, and anthropologists, this project aims to create a relational database that not only incorporates the diverse values of these groups, but bolsters the FEC’s status as an indispensible research tool for anyone interested in the remarkable history of the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes of Florida. Through collaboration, consultation and a genealogical approach to material culture, this project serves as a model not only for other anthropological collections at the FLMNH, but also for any museum striving to create an effective and engaging database for its ethnographic collections.
General Note:
Museum Studies terminal project

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University of Florida Institutional Repository
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University of Florida
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All rights reserved by the submitter.


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3 To Mom and Dad


4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank my committee chair, Dr. Glenn Willumson, and my co chair, Dr. William Marquardt, for their guidance and unwavering suppo rt throughout my academic career. Thanks also to committee members Elise LeCompte and Dr. Karen Walker, for their thoughtful insight into this project and the wonderful opportunities they've provided me over the past five years. Many t hanks go to Donna Ruh l fo r he r invaluable input and for always thinking "outside the box" to help me see the big picture. Thanks to Dr. Susan deFrance as well, for always poi nting me in the right direction I am truly fortu nate to have worked with such a supportive and brillia nt group of mentors. Special thanks to Geneva Shore of the Seminole Tribe's Department of Genealog y for all her time and effort; i t was great fun getting to look at so many pictures with her Thanks to Candace Greene and Nancy Parezo of the Summer Institut e in Museum Anthropology for changing my perception of what a museum collection can be. Thanks to Tara Backhouse and James Powell of the Ah Tah Thi Ki Museum for being such w elcoming hosts Thanks to Martha Cade, Gloria Comstock, Janet Cornelius, Shawna Pi es and Amanda Rowe for their amazing collections work at the Florida Museum of Natural History ; they made my life much easier. Thanks to Steve Richardson at Re:Discovery for all his technical assistance Thanks to my Mus eum Studies cohort s Vivian Gornik, Renee Kiefer, Amanda Kimble, Natalia Marques da Silva and Hannah Soh, for being great friends and always keeping me on my toes. I would also like to thank my family for always supporting my ambitions, regardless of their lucrativeness Ally, Angie, Mom an d Dad, you guys are the best. Last but not least, t hanks to my amazing g irlfriend Erin, for her love and support throughout this process.


5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 4 LIST OF TABLES ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 7 INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 9 THE FLORIDA ETHNOGRAPHIC COLLECTION: AN OVERVIEW .............................. 12 Florida's Enduring Legacy ................................ ................................ ........................ 12 Collecting Seminole ................................ ................................ ................................ 17 The Florida Museum of Natural History ................................ ................................ ... 20 The Florida Ethnographic Collection ................................ ................................ ........ 22 THE COLLECTIONS MANAGEMENT PERSPECTIVE ................................ ................. 27 Perspective Introduction ................................ ................................ ........................... 27 The Five Characteristics of the Ideal Database ................................ ....................... 29 Intuitiveness ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 29 Flexibility ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 30 Power ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 31 Secur ity ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 32 Contextualization ................................ ................................ ............................... 32 Choosing the Right Database ................................ ................................ .................. 35 Perspective Summary ................................ ................................ .............................. 36 THE NATIVE AMERICAN PERSPECTIVE ................................ ................................ .... 37 Perspective Introduction ................................ ................................ ........................... 37 A New World Order ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 38 Protocols for Native American Archival Materials ................................ .................... 39 Consulting Native Collections Management Systems ................................ .............. 44 Perspective Summary ................................ ................................ .............................. 45 THE MUSEUM ANTHROPOLOGY PERSPECTIVE ................................ ...................... 46 Perspective Introduction ................................ ................................ ........................... 46 The Evolution of Material Culture Studies ................................ ................................ 46 Museum Collectio ns as Field Sites ................................ ................................ .......... 47 Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology ................................ ............................. 47 A Genealogy of Objects ................................ ................................ ........................... 48 The Benefits of a Genealogically Oriented Research Methodology ......................... 49 Perspective Summary ................................ ................................ .............................. 51


6 THE PROJECT: CREATING THE FLORIDA ETHNOGRAPHIC COLLECTION DATABASE ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 53 The Planning Stages ................................ ................................ ................................ 53 Dreams vs. Reality ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 5 4 Disco vering Re:Discovery ................................ ................................ ........................ 56 The Dirty Work ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 58 Applying the Collections Management Perspective ................................ ................. 59 Applying the Native American Perspective ................................ .............................. 63 Applying the Mus eum Anthropology Perspective ................................ ..................... 65 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 68 APPENDIX A ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 70 APPENDIX B ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 72 APPENDIX C ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 79 REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 80 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ ............................. 84


7 LIST OF TABLES Table page Table 1 1. The Ten Largest Collections of Seminole/Miccosukee Ethnographic Objects ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 20 Table 1 2. The Ten Most Common Object Types in the Florida Ethnographic Collection ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 23


8 Summary of Project in Lieu of Thesis Presented to th e College of Fine Arts of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts INFUSING IDENTITIES: CREATING A UNIQUELY RELATIONAL DATABASE FOR THE FLORIDA MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY'S SEMINOLE AND MICCOSUKE E ETHNOGRAPHIC COLLECTION By Austin J. Bell December 2012 Chair: Glenn Willumson Co Chair: William Marquardt Major: Museology The Florida Ethnographic Collection (FEC) at the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH) holds tremendous cultural and hist orical significance. Comprised primarily of Seminole and Miccosukee ethnographic materials, its size and scope rivals those of the nation's elite museums. However, unlike the majority of its peers, the collection lacks both an effective computer management system and a publicly accessible database, thereby limiting its potential as a research hub for Florida's Native people. Informed equally by the perspectives of Native Americans, museum professionals, and anthropologists, this project aims to create a rel ational database that not only incorporates the diverse values of these groups, but bolsters t he FEC's status as an indispensi ble research tool for anyone interested in the remarkable history of the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes of Florida. Through collab oration, consultation and a genealogical approach to material culture, this project serves as a model not only for other anthropological collections at the FLMNH, but also for any museum striving to create an effective and engaging database for its ethnogr aphic collections.


9 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION In the Information Age, museums are scrambling to digitize their collections. During a time in which information consumption is immediately and gratuitously accessible, museums have been quick to adopt an ideology that counteracts historical notions of insularity and overprotectiveness. Excitement over advances in comput er technology (Bearman 2010, 48), coupled with public and academic demand for increased accessibility and engagement with museum collections (Weil 1 999), has afforded museums a unique opportunity to share the roughly 95% (Edwards 2010, 413; Swain and Buck 2010, 293 ) of "hidden assets" not normally seen by outsiders. However, before museums are completely swept away in the "digitization frenzy," they m ust first consider what it really means to "digitize" a collection. Is it simply a matter of reallocating old information into new formats for internal use? Is it photographing objects and publishing them in online galleries? Is it parsing out a collection 's metadata line by line and creating an intricate relational database? Is it making that database publicly searchable online, or even turning an entire collection into a virtual exhibit? In some cases, it may be one of those things; in others, it may be a ll of them (or more). A collections database should be tailored to meet the needs of a specific department or collection, yet still serve the best interests of the m useum as a whole ( Chenhall and Vance 2010, 42 ; Malaro 1994, 1 36) Museums must be carefu l t o avoid the "technology trap (Parry 2010, 454) digitizing collections no t just for "digitization's sake. They must also approach the subject with explicit objectives in mind that result in a beneficial and ultimately sustainable product.


10 The Florida Mu seum of Natural History (FLMNH) in Gainesville, Florida has been grappling with these issues for years. With more than 34 million specimens of staggering diversity ( Florida Museum of Natural History 2012 ), the formation of an institution wide database that equally addresses the needs of all divisions and collections has proven elusive. Despite significant progress in many divisions 1 the task is ongoing for the Anthropology Division, where cultural materials are less easily characterized in systematic terms than specimens of the biological world. In fact, many instances call for anthropological objects to be treated more as works of art tha n scientific specimens The difficulty in bridging this divide has prompted some programs of the Anthropology Division t o seek external solutions at least for the time being, to address the immediate needs of bringing their renowned and important collections to their full potential. The Florida Ethnographic Collection (FEC) is one of these renowned collections, comprised primarily of ethnographic materials from the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes of Florida. The unique dilemmas inherent in attempting to "digitize" a living people, coupled with a manageable sample size of 644 object records, make it an ideal "guinea pig" for database trials both in house and through commercial vendors. Inspired not only by the opportunity to assist FLMNH's Anthropology Division, but also to create a collections database that might engage Native communities, researchers and the general public alike, I received permission to pursue this objective as my project in lieu of thesis. 1 Access any of the current FLMNH online collection databases at the following web address:


11 The results of this project form a multifaceted product of nearly two years of collaboration, research, and collections work. In developing a relational database for ma terial culture of the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes of Florida, I have attempted to manifest the insights and best interests of Native Americans, the general public, museum anthropologists, and FLMNH faculty and staff in a single comprehensive database. T he narrativ e for this process, perhaps un surprisingly, is not entirely linear. It is informed by experiences both formal and informal, and perspectives both Native and non Native. From conferences and Museum Studies seminars to candid conversations with f riends and colleagues the sequence of events that influenced the outcome of this project is not necessarily chronological. The FEC database is truly an amalgamation of inferences and perspectives but its construction is explained most clearly by first di stinguishing the differences between the sources of those perspectives. In this paper, after an overview of the history and significance of the FEC, I examine the three perspectives that, in no particular order, most influenced the FEC database project: (1 ) the collections manager's perspective; (2) the Native American's perspective; and (3) the museum anthropologist's perspective. It is only after exploring these viewpoints that the actual details of constructing the database make sense. This project is a synthesis of teamwork, theory, ethics, and practicality, all with the primary objective of making the FEC database an indispensible research tool for anyone interested in studying Seminole or Miccosukee culture.


12 CHAPTER 2 THE FLORIDA ETHNOGRA PHIC COL LECTION : AN OVERVIEW Florida's Enduring Legacy The Seminole and Miccosukee tribes are synonymous with Florida history and their enduring legacy is a testament to both their rich cultural heritage and status as two of the United States' best recognized and influential Native groups. Their story, however, actually originates far from the State of Florida, both in time and space. Though problematic to postulate the "beginning" of a culture, the story of the Seminoles most commonly starts with the Creeks of Ala bama and Georgia in the 18th C entury (Milanich and Root 2011 3 ). By 1760, after European colonization had essentially eradicated all of Florida's original inhabitants (Milanich 1998a) the open Spanish territory beckoned to Native groups fleeing oppressio n from the north (Milanich and Root 2011 3 ). Within twenty years, the Creeks who had migrated into the Florida territory became known as the Seminoles and were joined by member s of other tribes, including the Choctaw, Hitchiti, Mikasuki, Oconee, Yuchi and Yamasee (Milanich and Root 2011 4 ). Escaped African slaves, with whom an intimate and cohesive relationship gradually developed, joined them on the frontier in the late 1800's (Downs 1997, 34). In fact, their close relationship probably introduced Africa n influences into Seminole artwork such as "applique, bead embroidery, and coil ed basket making (Downs 1997, 3 4). Of course, what was desirable land to the Seminoles soon became equally desirable to settlers of the newly formed United States of America. F lorida was relinquished from Spain in 1822 and after a series of skirmishes with the Seminoles, newly elected president Andrew Jackson and the federal government made it a priority


13 to relocate all southeastern Native Americans to Oklahoma with the Indian R emoval Act of 1830 (Milanich 1998 b ). Many Seminoles refused to leave and their resistance is what ultimately culminated in the Second (1835 1842) and Third (1855 1858) Seminole Wars (Milanich 1998 b ). Their l ifestyles forever changed, the roughly 200 (Downs 1997, 64) Seminoles who evaded capture or death were gradually pushed further south into the untamed Florida Everglades (Milanich 1998 b ). Despite this tremendous persecution, they never surrendered or signed a peace treaty with the government, giving them the distinction of being the only "unconquered" Native American tribe in the United States (Seminole Tribe of Florida 2012a). As the Seminoles grew accustomed to life in the Everglades, they made the most of their surrounding environment. They established reciprocal relationships with traders, who supplied them with essential goods and craft supplies in exchange for alligator hides and oth er raw materials (Downs 1997, 72). Hunters from the Northeast would often hire them as guides through the treacherous Everglades (Schreuder 1989), indicative of the respect held for their ecological prowess. The Seminoles lived in relative isolation until about 1880, when the American government refocused its efforts on assimilating Native groups through educational and religious acculturation. Consequently, the Florida Seminoles were observed by individuals such as Reverend Clay MacCauley, who in 1880 and 1881 reported to the Smithsonian Institution on, among other things, the number of Seminole camps and individuals loc ated in South Florida (Downs 1997, 67). MacCauley also took copious notes on Seminole dress and material culture (Downs 1997, 68), essentially making him one of the first "anthropologists" to study Seminole culture 2 Naturally, as anthropology 2 For more information on Rev. Clay MacCauley's work with the Seminoles, see his 1887 book titled The Seminole Indians of Florida ," Fifth Annual Report of the Bure au of Ethnology to the Secretary of the


14 began to flo urish as a discipline around this time, the institution of programs such as the Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE) in 1879 made the Seminoles ideal subjects of ethnographic studies. In an effort to document and "salvage" what was thought to be the last of a vanishing race (Glass 2002), prominent BAE anthropolo gists such as Frances Densmore 3 and William C. Sturtevant 4 researched the Seminoles extensively in the early and mid 20 th C entury. The emergence of museums and cultural anthropology in the early 20 th C entury overlapped with the so called "Indian craze" that saw public interest in Native American material culture skyrocket (Downs 1997). Considering that the Seminoles had been living in "abject poverty" for decades by this point (Milanich and Root 2011; S eminole Tribe of Florida 2012b), it is no surprise that the Florida land and tourism booms of the 1920's were the tipping points for large scale production and consumption of Seminole material culture. The Seminoles adeptly took advantage of their economic opportunities, many choosing to live in South Florida tourist villages such as Coppinger's Tropical Gardens (est. 1914) or Musa Isle (est. 1917), where they were the exhibits (Downs 1997, 85; West 1998, 14) Though their cultural lifestyle in tourist vill ages actually did not differ greatly from those of the Everglades settlements (West 1998, 32), a greater emphasis was placed on the production of clothing and crafts. "Traditions" such as alligator wrestling and totem pole carving were also invented to pla cate public Smithsonian Institution, 1883 84, Government Pri nting Office, Washington, pages 469 532 3 For more information on Frances D ensmore's work with the Seminoles, see her 1956 bulletin titled "Seminole Music," Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 161, Government Printing Office, Washington. http://ufdc.uf 4 For more information on William C. Sturtevant, see Jason Baird Jackson's 2007 remembrance on the Museum Anthropology blog. http://m c sturtevant 1926 2007.html


15 preconceptions and generate income (West 1998, 56) This new entrepreneurial focus on tourism resulted in not only greater economic prosperity for the Seminoles, but the widespread distribution of what are now considered "museum quality" ethnog raphic artifacts such as dolls, textiles and wooden carvings (Downs 1997 ). Most of these early tourist trade items wound up in the hands of private collectors, but a great many went to anthropologists such as Sturtevant, Alanson B. Skinner of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) or William F. Stiles of the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation (MAI). The "Florida Seminoles," as they were known generically u ntil the mid 20 th Century, spoke two primary languages : Mikasuki and Muscogee (Wes t 1998, 2). These terms were associated with the original bands of Mikasuki speaking Seminoles and Muscogee speaking Creeks who settled in Florida in the 18 th and 19 th centuries (Downs 1997, 5). In 1957, the Seminole Tribe of Florida became a federall y re cognized tribal government, and after the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida was formally recognized in 1962, linguists decided to change the language's spelling to "Miccosukee" to reduce confusion (Downs 1997, 5). 5 Members of both tribes still speak t he Miccosukee language though English is now taught in tribal school alongside it (Downs 1997, 5). The Muskogee or Creek language, spoken less prevalently, is taught and practiced at the Brighton Seminole Indian Reservation near Lake Okeechobee, Florida ( Downs 1997, 5). T he Independent Traditional Seminole Nation of Florida who did not 5 The Florida Ethnographic Collection contains ethnographic materials relevant to the histories of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida and the Independent Traditional Seminole Nation of Florida. Throughout this paper, the generic term "Seminole" is often used as an adjective, referring simultaneously to all three of these related groups. However, the independence of these three groups is importa nt to recognize. Research conducted for this project in lieu of thesis focused primarily on individuals predating the formation of federally recognized tribal governments, however, any collaborative work was conducted in concordance with an affiliate of th e Seminole Tribe of Florida.


16 agree to certain principles of federal tribal recognition and withheld from joining either tribe, also speak the Miccosukee language. Today, the Seminole Tribe of Florida i s one of the most recognized Native American groups in the United States. Their commercial ventures, such as the establishment of the first tribal casino in the United States and purchase of the Hard Rock CafÂŽ restaurant and casino chain (McCoy 2006), have been extraordinarily lucrative. However, beyond their claim to being the only "unconquered" tribe in America, much of their fascinating cultural history remains relatively unknown to the general public. This is something the Seminole Tribe of Florida's Ah Tah Thi Ki Seminole Indian Museum (hereafter Ah Tah Thi Ki) near Clewiston, Florida is trying to change. In another historic milestone in 2009, the Ah Tah Thi Ki Museum became the first tribally owned museum to be accredited by the American Alliance of Mu seums (AAM), a feat accomplished by only 776 (AAM 2012a) of the estimated 17,500+ museum s in the United States (AAM 2012 b). The advent of the tribal museum has given Seminoles and other Native American groups unprecedented authority over the stewardship an d interpretation of their cultural heritage. Still, as Ah Tah Thi Ki emerges as a world class institution, an untold number of Seminole artifacts remain housed in various museums throughout the world. Some, like the FLMNH, have gone to great lengths to ens ure collaborative roles in exhibit design (Marquardt 1996). However, with the rapid evolution of computer technology, the re is opportunity fo r more intimate participation Access to wikis like th e one created by Shawna Pies ( Pies 2009 ) offers Seminole trib al members a connection with FLMNH collections on the individual object level. However, as a standalone entity not maintained by FLMNH, it is superficial in the sense that any


17 contributions made by tribal members are not necessarily detected and added to c ollection records. This is certainly no fault of the user(s) or the creator, but rather is indicative of the need for a comprehensive collections database on par with that of the National Museu m of the American Indian (NMAI) 6 Collecting Seminole The proli feration of Florida Seminole and Miccosukee material culture in museums across the world is remarkable. The museums that collect Seminole artifacts vary in scope as much as the types of artifacts they collect. A brief inspection of online collection databa ses confirms this fact. For example, the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, England possesses two Seminole artifacts, 7 while their more famous neighbors at the British Museum in London hold no less than seventeen 8 The Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, Briti sh Columbia po ssesses three Seminole objects 9 though their database incorrectly identifies a long shirt as a "dress." An understandable deduction given the shirt's form, this error is partially attributable to the geographic distance between the object an d its original home. It seems, however, that a majority of Seminole and Miccosukee ethnographic materials are housed in United States museums. 6 The collections database for the National Museum of the American Indian can be found at the following link: llections/home.aspx 7 The collections database for the Pitt Rivers Museum can be found at the following link: The two artifacts are 1949.3.20, a wooden spoo n and 196 7.42.7, a Seminole doll. 8 The collections database for the British Museum can be found at the following link: 9 The collections database for the Muse um of Anthropology in Vancouver, British Columbia can be found at the following link: http://collection D3.212 is a long shirt, 379/26 is a skirt and D3.185 is a silver spoon.


18 The whereabouts of Seminole artifacts have consistently occupied the minds of those who study them. In August 19 59, John M. Goggin, a prominent anthropologist at the University of Florida, compiled a list of thirteen "major museum collections" in the United States. Among the eight collections designated as having "major significance" are the Chicago Museum of Natura l History (now the Field Museum), AMNH, the Florida State Museum (now FLMNH), the Milwaukee Public Museum, MAI (now the National Museum of the American Indian), the National Museum (now the National Museum of Natural History), the Peabody Museum of Archaeo logy and Ethnology at Harvard University and the Yale Peabody Museum. Goggin, who by then had collected a majority of the Seminole ethnographic materials at the Florida State Museum, described the collection at MAI as "the finest and largest S eminole colle ction in existence (Goggin 1959) ." Sturtevant, then an Ethnologist for the Bureau of American Ethnology and a good friend of Goggin's (Sturtevant 1964), also took interest in this research. During his tenure at the Yale Peabody Museum, Sturtevant collected what Goggin described as "the broadest collection of recent (emphasis added) Seminole materials," though ultimately his contributions to the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) were even more substantial. Sturtevant's handwritten notes regarding the 1959 report, now housed in the National Anthropological Ar chives (NAA) in Washington D.C. 10 further elucidate his knowledge of Seminole material culture, listing several additional museums not mentioned by Goggin. Most are unexpected, such as the Brooklyn 10 Stur tevant's notes are on file in the National Anthropological Archives and were referenced in June and July 2012 as part of a research project conducted under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution's Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology. At the time, Sturtevant's notes on Goggin's inventory were filed in a folder titled JMG: Sem bibliog '59 in Box 1 of the William C. Sturtevant Seminole documents, which had yet to be completely archived. This particular folder was accessed on July 6, 2012.


19 Museum 11 the Montclair Art Museum 12 and the Moravian Historical Society 13 Clearly, the popularity of Seminole ethnographic materials transcends both geographic and disciplinary boundaries. Of course, there are more museums today in the United States tha n there were in 1959 and with 53 additional years to collect and grow, those that existed in Goggin's era have expanded their Seminole holdings. In order to account for the proliferation of small and private museums since 1959, a statewide survey of Florid a museums was conducted by the author via e mail in November 2011, revealing fourteen additional museums with known Seminole and Miccosukee artifacts (Bell 2011 12 ). Though not all of the nearly 200 solicited museums elected to respond, the results of the survey projected as many as 39 additional Seminole or Miccosukee collections in Florida museums alone (Bell 2011 15) T he primary obstacle to conducting a more accurate survey is a lack of access to collections online. The absence of a searchable online database is certainly understandable for small museums with limited staff and tight budgets, but to be a collection of "major significance" in 2012, an online database is a virtual necessity. Today, five of Goggin's original eight "significant" museums hav e a publicly searchable collections database: AMNH, NMAI, NMNH, Peabody Harvard and Yale Peabody According to independent research conducted by the author, these five museums also remain among the ten largest Seminole collections in the United States 11 The home page for the Brooklyn Museum can be found at the following link: 12 The homepage for the Montclair Art Museum can be found a t the following link: http://www.montclair native american.php 13 The homepage for the Moravian Historical Society can be found at the following link:


20 i n terms of sheer number of ethnographic objects (Table 1 1) In fact, only two museums rank in the top ten that were not on Goggin's original 1959 list: Ah Tah Thi Ki, owned and operated by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and an anonymous Florida m useum. Whil e the "significant" collections of 2012 are clearly similar to those of 1959, there is a clear distinction between those with online collections access and those without. The largest Seminole ethnographic collection (excluding images as objects ) in the Uni ted States without a publicly searchable database is FLMNH, which ranks only behind Ah Tah Thi Ki and the Smithsonian Institution's NMAI and NMNH in size. Table 1 1. The Ten Largest Collections of Seminole/Miccosukee Ethnographic Objects Museum Number of Objects Online Database Ah Tah Thi Ki Museum 1800 Y Nationa l Museum of the American Indian* 673 Y National Museum of Natural History 471 Y Florida Museum of Natural History* 388 N American Museum of Natural History* 288 Y Field Museum* 150 N Anony mous Museum 148 N Milwaukee Public Museum* 123 N Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History* 118 Y Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology Harvard University* 91 Y *Described by Goggin in 1959 as having a Seminole collection of "major significance This table shows an approximation of the ten largest collections of Seminole/Miccosukee ethnographic materials in the world as of November 2012. Estimates were ascertained through searches of online databases ( for those museums that have them ) and persona l c ommunication All eight o f Goggin's "significant" 1959 collections rank among the ten largest Seminole collections of 2012. The Florida Museum of Natural History Despite the lack of a publicly accessible database for their Seminole collection, FLMNH is among the nation's elite natural history museums. Founded in 1891, the museum moved to the University of Florida in 1906 after spending 15 years in Lake


21 City Florida In 1917, the Florida State Museum was designated the official natural history museum of the State of Florida 14 a responsibility it continues to uphold nearly 100 years later. In 1988, the Florida State Museum officially changed its title to the Florida Museum of Natural History in an effort to more accurately reflect its mission, which is "u nderstanding, preserving and interpreting biological diversity and cultural heritage to ensure their s urvival for future generations." 15 With more than 34 million specimens, most of the museum's collections rank in the top ten nationally and internationally ( FLMNH 2011, 5). FLMNH recently received its largest grant ever, $10 million from the National Science Foundation to establish a national center for biological collections digitization. In fact, many of the museum's collections are already digitized and p ublicly accessible online, with ten different divisions offering at least partial access 16 The museum has also been pursuing an institution wide collections management system for several years, potentially providing even greater accessibility. However, wit h such diverse collections, equally addressing the various digitization needs of all divisions is an enormous challenge. For the Anthropology Division, the difficulty lies in organizing and classifying cultural collections within a structure primarily suit ed for the scientific nomenclature of biological specimens. The unique properties of archaeological and ethnographic collections have thus far prevented their successful integration into a museum wide database. 14 A brief history of the Florida Museum of Natural History can be found on their webpage at the following link: us/overview/brief history/ 15 Read the entirety of the Florida Museum of Natural History's mission statement on their webpage at the following link: us/overview/mission and impact/ 16


22 The Florida Ethnographic Collection The Flori da Ethnographic Collection at FLMNH is one of largest and most comprehensive collections of Florida Seminole and Miccosukee materials in the world. The faculty and staff of the Anthropology Division's South Florida Archaeology and Ethnography Program, esta blished in 1983 17 actively maintain the collection with assistance from graduate students, undergraduate students, volunteers and interns. As of November 1, 2012, there are 644 individual catalog records in the FEC, accounting for 825 total objects 18 Of t hese 825 objects, 307 (37%) are images in the form of photographic prints, photographic slides, postcards, posters, glass plate negatives and an oil painting. While some museums do not catalog photographs and other archival documents as part of their ethn ographic collections, FLMNH has practiced this since its inception. As a contrast, a majority of the thousands of Seminole photographs at the National Museum of Natural History are now part of the National Anthropological Archives another branch of the Sm ithsonian Institution. Nevertheless, when compared to other museums nationally, FLMNH ranks fourth in the number of individual Seminole or Micc osukee object records with 388 (Table 1 1), consisting of 518 total objects Among the objects present are bandol ier bags, baskets, beadwork, dolls, moccasins, rattles, silverwork, tools, woodcrafts and patchwork clothing (Table 1 2) However, what makes the collection truly valuable is not its size, but its scope (Figure A 2) 17 More information on the Anthropology Division's S outh Florida Archaeology and Ethnography Program can be found on their webpage at the following link: 18 It is important to note that prior to this project, previous object tallies of the Florida Ethnographic Collection did not include photographs as part of the estimate. For example, Pies in 2009 estimated the collection to hold "over 300" objects. This estimate is accurate yet conservative, with 388 known "object" catalog records as of November 1, 2012. However, including photographs, postcards and other forms of imagery, the collection contains 644 individual object records and 825 total objects.


23 The first two objects that would later become a par t of the FEC were donated to the museum in February 1920. By 1930, the Florida State Museum had already a ccumulated 67 Seminole objects thanks largely to L. Winternitz, whose photographs and postcards can also be found in the Smithsonian's collections. How ever, t he true foundation of the FEC occurred in 1955, when John Goggin purchased more than 150 objects that had been collected over a number of years by a variety of people, including William Sturtevant. Not only does this accession still comprise more th an twenty percent of the entire collection, but the quality of the objects and their accompanying documentation make it the "backbone" of the FEC. Goggin was conscientious enough to document not only the physical characteristics of the objects, but importa nt biographical information such as names of artists or previous owners as well. Table 1 2 The Ten Most Common Object Types in the Florida Ethnographic Collection Object Type Number of Objects Silver Bangles 80 Dolls 71 Baskets 27 Shirts 14 Rattles 13 Skirts 12 Spoons 12 Stickball Sticks (Pairs) 8 Bandolier Bags 6 Canoe Carvings 6 Of the 388 non photographic objects in the FEC, these ten types are the most prevalent. Since Goggin's contribution in 195 5, the museum has not gone more than five years (1962 1967) without making an addition to the FEC. Several curators and collections managers have overseen the collection during this time, but the accumulation of objects has been relatively consistent throughout, save for a lull in the 1960's. Tech niques and approaches to collecting have changed, with less emphasis on


24 field expeditions and more on donations from private individuals, but the collection continues to grow after nearly a century (Figure A 1) Perhaps more impressive is the span of histo ry covered by the collection. For example, seventeen objects are known to have been collected after a battle of the Third Seminole War on December 3, 1857. Thirteen objects are estimated as early or mid 19 th Century, while seven others are circa 1830 1840, placing them before Florida's statehood or the Second Seminole War. Much of the Seminole silverwork likely dates to the 19 th Century as well, though only collection (not manufacture) dates are known precisely. The FEC has a long and storied history that is exhibited in its contents. Its importance to the museum, the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes of Florida, the State of Florida and the genera l public is undeniable. More than 100 objects from the collection are currently on exhibit in at least seven museu ms across the state. The FEC's continued growth and potential as a primary resource on Seminole and Miccosuk ee culture make it an indispensi ble research tool. However, some of the FEC's significance is undermined by the lack of an online database or approp riate in house data management system. The absence of a collections management system or online database for the FEC is not from a lack of effort. Prior to the initiation of this project, the FEC already had a relatively substantial digital "footprint." The FLMNH database homepage currently provides a link to a dedicated web gallery for FEC, which delivers images and brief captions for 44 Seminole objects 19 While visually appealing and important for public awareness and recognition, the gallery represents only seven percent of the entire 19


25 collection and fails as a true research tool, with no search options for visitors. A more comprehensive representation of the FEC was created in 2009, when Shawn a Pies created a 350 page wiki 20 to encourage feedback and par ticipation from Seminole and Miccosuk ee tribal members (Pies 2009, 10). The undertaking was highly successful, garnering significant information to be incorporated into FEC collection records. However, while still operational with feedback as recent as Jun e 2012, the wiki was crea ted on a stand alone network not associated with FLMNH. Its maintenance is dependent on individuals no longer affiliated with the museum and it is not referenced or linked to the official FLMNH website. It also displays less than h alf of the current collection, again with no search options for visitors, only br owsing and comment capabilities. It is stuck perpetually in its 2009 state, as none of the dozens of objects omitted or added to the collection since then are available for co mment. While its existence has provided a significant ethical and information al boost by raising awareness and encouraging interaction with the FEC the wiki remains a separate enti ty. The collection is even featured on the museum's Pinterest page 21 though this is more of a novelty than an effective educational resource While the FEC has made an impact with its online presence, the fact remains that no publicly searchable collection database yet exists, thereby limiting its true potential as a research too l. While the current public digital "footprint" of the FEC remains important if not entirely effective, the lack of an online database can partially be attributed to the status of its private digital "footprint." Prior to the completion of this project, t he most advanced 20 21 museum collections/


26 inventory of the FEC existed in a 40 column spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel, a cumbersome table with limited options created in 2011 by the au thor. Previous Anthropology Division inventories existed in Paradox and were later migrated into M icrosoft Access, Excel or Word when Paradox became outdated (Elise LeCompte, personal communication ). However, t he incompatibility of Paradox and Microsoft made data conversion a time consuming process, especially when considering that the FEC is only a fr action of the overall Anthropology collection. Much of the original FEC data remains either unconverted or un entered While Microsoft Office inventories ar e sufficient as basic reference tools for staff members, most substantial contextual information is still gathered from the physical catalog and accession records These primary sources often yield more comprehensive object information because programs like Microsoft Excel either don't have room for, or cannot effectively manage such large datasets How ever, t hese resources are not available to the public and with more than a half million database queries in 2010 2011 alone ( FLMNH 2011, 2 ), interest in FLMNH collections continues to grow Should the museum provide Internet access to the FEC in its curren t digital state, online visitors would unknowingly face a dearth of contextual information vital to its relevancy. As home to one of the largest and most important collections of Seminole and Miccosukee ethnographic materials in the world, the FLMNH has an obligation to disseminate any associated knowledge to its constituents in a more effective manner. The installation of a relational collections management system would not only facilitate accessibility and the distribution of knowledge, but it would also allow the FEC to relinquish its title as the largest Seminole collection in the world without a publicly searchable online database.


27 CHAPTER 3 THE COLLECTIONS MANA GEMENT PERSPECTIVE Perspective Introduction For younger generations of museum professionals, imagining a career in museums without the Internet or personal computers is either unmanageable or simply unpleasant. While it is true that these days it is "virtually impossible" to maintain museum collections without t hem (Chenhall and Vance 2010, 39), a quick tour through most any museum's storage facility delivers a sobering reality. At some of the most established and venerated institutions, there are decades upon decades of hand and typewritten records, all produced without computers, many of which ar e still the sole sources of documentation for associated objects. While tremendous strides in museum collections management have been made since the incorporation of computers, simply not enough time has elapsed to catch museum databases up to decades of p re computer collecting. Suffice it to say that some seasoned museum professionals have, in the span of their careers, witnessed the dawn of the computer age, debated its applicability, accepted its inevitability, and ultimately become reliant on the vast a rray of opportunities it affords. The rapid evolution of computer technology during that time has led to countless upgrades and improvements, often rendering certain programs hardware, and software packages obsolete after only a few years. For many museu ms, which are tasked with preserving the treasures of humanity in perpetuity on a limited budget, this can be an exasperating and relentless cycle that leaves staff members feeling frustrated and out of touch. Nevertheless, the explosion in computer techn ology has benefited museums greatly over the past three decades. From the wondrous exhibits never before imagined


28 to the unprecedented accessibility offered by "virtual museums," computers have been a catalyst for the transformation of museums from insular and "stuffy" to cutting edge and exciting. Perhaps not coincidentally, the introduction of computer technology into the museum field coincides with a general shift in museum ideology that has seen the primary role of the museum change over the past twenty years (Weil 1999) from that of "collector" to "educator Many museums have revised their mission statements and hired specialized staff members to accommodate these new roles, with job titles such as "Director of Education" or "Social Media Coordinator." In an ever shrinking world, these positions are an absolute necessity for keeping museums relevant and facilitating connections between museums and their audiences However, as focus has shifted away from collections, some museums are funneling more techn ology into exhibits and public programming than the actual databases required for successfully maintaining the fidelity of their collections. Increasing financial reliance on public support makes an attractive and sophisticated public "product" a virtual n ecessity. However, as iPads and interactive videos fill exhibit halls in an effort to proactively engage modern audiences, museum collections managers often operate on archaic computers and software that are o nly replaced when they fail. N o matter how well an art or natural history museum educates its audience, that education is impossible without the objects in its collections. Objects are the very foundation upon which these types of museums are built and the importance of successfully managing and preser ving them cannot be over stated. Their very existence as museum property dictates the content and focus of exhibits and public programming. Now, as time has allowed for some of the earliest museum collection databases to be improved, a plethora of options e xist for museums of all types. As


29 stewards of cultural heritage and institutions held in the public trust, most museums have a responsibility to develop a collections database that not only addresses the growing demands for education, engagement and acces sibility, but also effectively manages objects in a manner that will keep them available for future generations. The Five Characteristics of the Ideal Database Intuitiveness A variety of fact ors determine the effectiveness of a collections database, but p erhaps none is more fundamentally importa nt than being user friendly No matter how powerful a database may be, its existence alone does not manage a collect ion (Chenhall and Vance 2010, 39). Without a competent human operator the database is useless (Mal aro 1994, 137). This is an obvious yet important consideration when measuring the lifespans of objects against the relatively frequent turnover of database users. A database should be intuitive not only to its primary users, but any non primary or future u sers as well. After a reasonable introductory period, independent users should feel competent managing the complexities of a relational database in order to achieve their desired results. A relational database is, by definition, structured to recognize sim ilarities between information stored in different tables and provide links between them. However, without a basic understanding of its structure, a user may underutilize the capabilities of a relational database. Users should also have access to a system m anual (Quigley and Sully 2010, 181) or live technical support continuously throughout their period of use D isconnects however, sometimes occur between database programmers and primary users, especially when programmers do not have collections management exper ience (Quigley and Sulley 2010, 164). If a museum chooses to construct an in house system rather than purchase one from a commercial


30 vendor, the process must be a collaborative effort between programmers and potential users. Otherwise, a great deal o f time and money can be wasted on an unintuitive system that could have otherwise been invested into a n intuitive commercial collectio ns management system 22 Flexibility A second characteristic of an effective collections database is flexi bility (Quigley an d Sully 2010, 162). The ability to easily and efficiently import and export existing records from the program in a variety of formats is a necessity. This is especially vital to the long term fidelity of collections records because at the rate computer tec hnology is developing, the likelihood of museums using the same database system for more than a decade or two are remote. Investing in a highly stable company's commercial collections management system can assuage this to an extent, as future updates and u pgrades wil l undoubtedly be available However, regardless of the brand name attached, no museum database should be thought of as permanent. History has shown that something bigger and better will come along, especially when there is a profit to be made. T herefore, it is imperative that any metadata entered into a collections database system be easily extractable in multiple formats. Flexibility also entails an opportunity for customization, as museums must be able to manipulate directories and user fields to meet their specific needs. The option for user customization offered by some commercial vendors is enticing, as in house cu stomization may result in a "tr i a l and error" process rather than a proven and user friendly metho d. After all, a museum should no t invest in a database for the sole purpose of filling it with existing data. 22 This ultimately became one of the primary reasons for investing in Re:Discovery Proficio, as discussed in Chapter 6, "The Project: Creating the Flor ida Ethnographic Collection Database."


31 Instead, a database should be maintained with expectations for its future use, including the types of information that will be gathered or attributed in the future. Flexible stru ctural options allow data managers to anticipate the interests o f future users and leave research clues" in the database; much the way many anthropologists do in scientific publications affording the opportunity to build upon prior research Power A user friendly and flexible database will only take a museum professional as far as its technological limits. Though many commercial products have advanced tremendously in recent years, some are more powerful than others in terms of their management capabilitie s. T his factor should weigh heavily in to investment decisions. At a large institution like FLMNH, part of that management power derives from a database with network capabilities. A network of computers linked to the same database yields greater communicati on and standardization between users (Quigley and Sul ly 2010, 167), resulting in a more organized and holistic museum. Increased productivity is also a natural derivative, as the possibility for concurrent users means data can be input simultaneously from multiple sources and locations. In a division as large as Anthropology, there is a potential demand for double digit concurrent users The database must not only be powerful enough to handle a network of users, but the museum must also have the technologi cal capabilities to host such a network. Museum information technologists must be consulted throughout the decision making process, because they possess the knowledge necessary to determine how powerful a database can ultimately be. Of course, with an incr eased netw ork of users comes an increased security threat another important factor in determining the effectiveness of a collections database.


32 Security Due to the historic significance of the information housed in many collections databases, as well as t he often sensitive nature of it, security must be a priority for an invested mus eum (Quigley and Sully 2010, 179). A database that allows administrators to edit specific authoring rights of subordinate users protects the fidelity of museum collections and helps preserve them for posterity. Unauthorized changes or deletions are crippling to the process of digitization and can either force primary users to start over or, far worse, go unnoticed and result in the permanent loss of metadata. Confidential inform ation, such as donor records, storage locations or collection sites must also be safeguarded for legal and ethical reas ons (Quigley and Sully 2010, 179). Exceptional regard for the security of Native American collections is also imperative, especially tho se materials of a sensitive nature 23 In the case of the FEC, sensitivity to privacy concerns raised by Seminole or Miccosukee tribal members must be respected to prevent unauthorized access to sacred or tribal only knowledge. Thus, if a hierarchical networ ked system with concurrent users is the product of choice, its security features must not only be sophisticat ed and powerful, but exercised whenever possible. Contextualization Finally, perhaps the most contemporary necessity of a collections database is t he ability to effectively contextualiz e a collection (Cameron 2010, 82). For museums in a digital era, this means breaking away from previously linear narrative formats in documentation and harnessing the power of the technology at thei r disposal (Cameron 23 See Chapter 4 of this paper: "The Native American Perspective."


33 2010, 82). Not only does digital technology allow for the incorporation of images, audio recordings, three dimensional objects and a variety of other media into collections databases, but also the relational capabilities of some management systems enable o bjects to be "contextualized with people, places, events, periods, classification and mult imedia content (Cameron 2010, 82)." Naturally, the context surrounding an object's origin (Keene 1998, 16) or "pre museum life" is vitally important, but so too is l ife at the museum that follows, whether it be on a storage shelf or in an exhibit. In this respect, "context" should not be thought of as merely a chronological list of proper nouns, but a continuing narrative of the relationships (emphasis added) between the objects an d! proper nouns (Bearman 2010, 55)." Dates, names, and places should be elaborated upon and related via text whenever possible, even (and especially if) they are obvious to a user Sometimes subconscious associations in the minds of users are actually important contextual clues that can be lost if they are not recorded. After all, with the specialized knowledge that accompanies managing museum collections, there may be only a handful of people that possess the k nowledge to effectively piece to gether an object's history without substantial research. This influx of context has led some in the museum field (MacDonald and Alsford 2010, 74 75) to contend that museums ought to treat information as their primary resource rather than the objects themse lves. After all, "the manner in which an object is acquired and documented will, to a large extent, determine how current and future generations understand it (Cameron 2010, 81)." This perspective in no way diminishes the importance of objects, as they rem ain the primary sources of information, whether it is "intellectual, aesthetic, sensory, spiritual or emotional in character (MacDonald and Alsford 2010, 75)." However, it does


34 promote the transformation of databases from authoritative documentation tools into "knowledge environments (Cameron 2010, 81)," a perspective that acknowledges the struggle to incorporate post structuralism and post modern epistemology into collection documentat ion practices (Cameron 2010, 91). By thinking of databases as living, i nterrelating and evolving bodie s of knowledge (Cameron 2010, 87), museums can incorporate the interpretations and perspectives of constituents into their collections, thereby de constructing the contextually specific descriptions of objects that have long served as authoritative statements of meaning and significance. This perspective increases the necessity for accessibility, transparency, collaboration and research, making the co llections database an indispensi ble tool not only to the museum, but the invested communities that it serves. Suzanne Keene accurately foretold the importance of research to databases in 1998, stating that "the museum's paper files and solid walls need no longer be a barrier fo r contributions (Keene 1998, 27)." Collections rese arch, however, ought to come not only from external sources, but also those who manage the objects. Due to the longevity and scope of many collections, r esearch is essential for staff members to understand object biographies well enough to construct a rel a tional database around them (Keene 1998, 26) No individuals have greater access to museum collections than those tasked with handling them, and their roles in building a database should not be as passive receptors of contextual information. The voice of t he museum professional presents a valuable perspective and contributes significantly to the contextual narrative that should be documented evenly and continuously. In fact, the actions and opines of all independent interpreters should be integrated into a cultural object's documentation over the cours e


35 its lifetime (Bearman 2010, 58 59). This logic dictates that a collections database ought never to be understood as "complete," but as an ever expanding reservoir of heritage, knowledge and understanding. Ch oosing the Right Database Investing in a collections management system is analogous to buying a new home. Typically, a buyer looks for an affordable house in a safe neighborhood with a limited number of defects or potential hazards. There is a tremendous a mount of research and scouting involved and ultimately, the buyer s get what they pay for. Imagine, however, the process of buying a home with half a dozen coworkers of varying backgrounds and lifestyles, all of whom will live together in this building for the foreseeable future. Diversity in the needs, sentiments and available funds of even the friendliest staff members can drag the process along and potentially lead to conflict. While strictly hypothetical, this situation is a reality for medium to large sized museums trying to decide on a collections management system. The only difference is, instead of filling a house with museum staff members, they are filling a collections management system with a variety of collections, each represented by a different staff member. Each voice carries equal weight, whether it is that of the collections manager, the curator, or the registrar. Though t he aforementioned "five characteristics of the ideal database" are universal, the decision making process can be delayed o r stalled completely without proper communication and teamwork By using these cha racteristics as a framework for discussing database options, the various insights and experiences of devoted staff members can be reflected on each issue and in the overall c onsensus


36 Perspective Summary The collections management perspective plays a primary role in the construction of the FEC database. As part of a larger database initiative for the Anthropology Division, this perspective is not only informed by literary cit ations, but daily interaction with the faculty and staff of FLMNH including collections managers, curators and registrars While my prescribed "five desirable characteristics" user friendliness, flexibility, networking capacity, security, contextualizat ion are not exhaustive, they correlate with many of the comments and concerns made by curators, collections managers and registrars since my involvement. The "collections management perspective" it is not reflected in the interests of myself or a single registrar, curator, or collections manager, but in the collective outlook of an entire team of people working together to fulfill the museum's mission. In its ongoing efforts to fulfill that mission, t he anthropological collections at FLMNH deserve a syste m that is user friendly, flexible, powerful, secure and "contextually capable. However, in creating a database specific t o the needs of the FEC, I must consider perspectives from two additional and sometimes conflicting interest groups: Native Americans a nd museum anthropologists.


37 CHAPTER 4 THE NATIVE AMERICAN PERSPECTIVE Perspective Introduction Before the opening ceremony of the 2012 International Conference of Indigenous Archives, Libraries, and Museums in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a powerful video loo ped on the large screen at the front of the room. In simple black and white lettering, it summarized the 2007 adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People a promising and long overdue standard for the treatment of indigeno us people around the world. The United States of America was one of only four countries to vote against it in 2007 and after the other three countries changed their minds, the U.S. became the lone holdout. In 2010 however President Barack Obama agreed to sign the declaration, concluding: "the aspirations it affirms, including respect for the institutions and rich cultures of Native peoples, are ones we must always seek to fulfill (Richardson 2010)." The enthusiastic response to the presentation from the p redominately Native crowd was both heartening and thought provoking. After all, this was a conference about archives, libraries and museums. What sort of applications did a declaration on human rights have to museum collections? As various amendments scro lled across the screen, the gravity of managing a collection of Native American ethnographic materials at a non Native institution began to sink in Amendment 11 struck a particular chord with the audience: Indigenous peoples have the right to practise and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such


38 as archaeological and historical sites, artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technolo gies and visual and performing arts and literature. 24 The opening ceremony, while perhaps intended more as a celebration than an inspiration for a project in lieu of thesis, had a profound influence on my understanding of what building a database for the FE C meant No longer was it just about effective data management, contextualization or civic engagement, it was about creating something that helped provide a fundamental human right to Seminole and Miccosukee people: access to the "manifestations of their cultures." As a potential resource for the practice and revitalization of cultural traditions, the FEC database requires transparency and accessibility in a fashion that is engaging to its Native communities. Building a database of this significance would require thoughtfulness, sensitivity and a proactive approach to understanding indigenous perspectives. A New World Order The ownership of indigenous material culture has oft en been a source of contention between Native American communities and museums. Ho wever, in the postmodern world, themes of repatriation, restitution and de colonization have begun to author a change in the perception of museums by Native Americans, as well as the academic community and general public (Krech 1999). The inclusion of Nat ive perspectives is now standard practice for many museums including FLMNH, as they address their own histories of colonialist collecting practices (Jonaitis 2002). Concern for Native American rights has many museums ceding hegemonic authority in favor of collaborative exhibits and interpretations. In fact, many museums now author guidelines 24 The 2007 United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Rights can be found at the following link:


39 as part of a larger "code of ethics" or "strategic plan" to address these issues though some are more explicit than others 25 26 27 Only recently, however, have Native Ame ricans established a formalized set of criteria for the responsible care of their material culture with the 2006 Protocols for Native American Archival Materials Protocols for Native American Archival Materials The Protocols were designed specifically f or non tribal institutions such as FLMNH. A joint venture by a diverse group of professionals that included representatives from fifteen Native American, First Nation and Aboriginal communities, the Protocols established best professional practices for c ulturally responsive care and use of American Indian archival material he ld by non tribal organizations." 28 Many of the human rights themes that later resulted in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People arose during formative discu ssions, providing an ethical foundation for the Protocols. Accessibility, awareness, collaboration, consultation, 25 The Florida Museum of Natural History's (FLMNH) Code of Ethics includes several general guidelines that are applicable to Native American collections such as the FEC. One exam ple is found in Section II, Article E: "W hen scientific matters approach subject areas such as ethnic and social history, the museum professional must be especially sensitive and demonstrate an analytical and critical concern. However, no explicit referen ces to Native Americans or Native American material culture are made in the document. The entire FLMNH Code of Ethics can be found at the following link: ut us/overview/code of ethics/ 26 The American Alliance of Museum's (AAM) Code of Ethics is the standard from which many museums, including FLMNH, model their codes of ethics. Again, the AAM Code of Ethics speaks in broad terms, but it too makes several s tatements applicable to Native American materials. For example, the Collections segment reads, "t he unique and special nature of human remains and funerary and sacred objects is recognized as the basis of all decisions concerning such collections ." The AAM Code of Ethics can be found at the following link: http://www.aam standards and best practices/code of ethics for museums 27 The Ah Tah Thi Ki Museum does not have a formal "code of ethics," but their "2009 2014 Long Range Strategic Plan" functions as one in many ways, making explicit references to the ethical concerns and objectives of Seminole people. The Ah Tah Thi Ki Lo ng Range Strategic Plan can be found at the following link: Range Strategic Plan 09 to 14.html 28 The 2006 Protocols for Native American Archiv al Materials can be found at the following link: p/protocols.html


40 context, education, ownership and sensitivity are emphasized consistently throughout the document, fostering hope for mutual respect and exch ange. I first learned of the Protocols during educational sessions at the 2012 International Conference of Indigenous Archives, Libraries, and Museums ( Devine and Littletree 2012; Jones 2012 ), in which they were referenced repeatedly. This enthusiasm towar ds their implementation is indicative of the esteem in which they are held by both Native and non Native professionals. Limited only by the unfamiliarity that coincides with their relative youth, the Protocols will play a significant role in the management of ethnographic collections for the foreseeable future. Many of the themes and recommendations outlined in the Protocols can be applied directly to the FEC. In order to establish a relationship of mutual respect, I had a moral and professional obligation to reach out to representatives of indigenous communities and inform them of my project FLMNH has a strong track record of working with Native groups in the past, especially in exhibit design and matters of c ultural sensitivity, so being a museum affiliat e might enhance my status. Still, I needed to initiate a dialogue on my own an intimidating task for a student with an uncertain future and unknown levels of involvement beyond graduate school If I were to avoid becoming a "helicopter researche r (Devine and Littletree 2012), I would have to ensure that my project is a mutually beneficial objective with long term implications beyond my student tenure. After all, the completion of this project is not urgent for everyone By applying an honest, straightforw ard, and genuine perspective to any dialogue, I could voice these concerns as well as my intentions to give back to the community, even if someone other than myself delivers the final product. To ignore the temporariness of my


41 standing as a graduate studen t would be a disservice to everyone involved. However, wi th its potential for online accessibility, t he completion of the FEC database hopefully will give back to the community for many years after I graduate. With this in mind, the project could be used a s a primary talking point to help initiate dialogue on both ends. The geographic distance between Gainesville and South Florida is a natural deterrent to sustained collaboration, but the possibilities are exponentially improved by the presence an online co llections database. In determining whom to contact regarding this project, Ah Tah Thi Ki 29 and the Tribal Historic Preservation Office 30 most immediately came to mind but lesser known divisions of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, such as the Tribal Library Sy stem 31 or the Department of Genealogy 32 held promise as well. The Education Division also merits future consideration as a source of outreach programs to Seminole youth. Of course, the Seminole Tribe is not the only indigenous group represented by the FEC. The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida and the Independent Traditional Seminole Nation of Florida also have ties to the collection, though the resources and prominence of the Seminole Tribe often overshadow them. With a longer time frame to complete a project of this nature I would contact l eaders from both tribes in a good faith effort to share knowledge and ensure respectful care a nd use of the collection. One important notion not to be overlooked is that t he creation of an online database does not mean the entire FEC should be made publicly accessible. Creating 29 30 31 32 ry/Genealogy.aspx


42 an online database with unlimited access to tribal members is most easily accomplished in an open access public format. However, a llowing access to specialized or sacred knowledge can cause h arm to Native American communities. Some materials in the collection are sensitive in nature and their status should be discussed with tribal leaders before any access is granted. The contextual information that accompanies many objects can be considered p rivate to tribal members as well, calling for consultation on an even deeper level. Tribal requests to restrict access must be considered and procedures for obtaining access should be established in consultation with community representatives. Non native r esearchers seeking access to sensitive materials should first have approval of the indigenous community. Of course, the fidelity of sensitive materials should still be actively maintained and unrestricted access provided to qualified tribal members. As the Protocols state, for sovereign tribal governments, certain kinds of information are a matter of "national security." Preserving this information, even if it is never shared, is of the utmost importance. While some information may be private, the FEC's va lue as a resource is enhanced with the provision of context. The use of Eurocentric language in reference to Native Americans has evolved over the past century, but much of it remains offensive or inaccurate. Perspectives of Seminole and Miccosukee communi ty members should supplement this language in museum collections, offering an alternative context and an explanation of offensive terminology. The relationships between collectors and communities of origin should be explored and incorporated into collecti ons metadata. Derogatory terms should be removed and substituted with more culturally appropriate terminology in brackets which indicate that a change has been made Contrived


43 photographs, those obviously staged by the photographer, should be described as such ( Jones 2012 ). Those objects of a sensitive nature should include statements that inform researchers of community concerns and the protocols necessary to access the collection. Any context that can be extracted from or attributed to collections record s increases the understanding and value of the FEC. According to the Protocols, one of the most important roles of the FEC is as a facilitator of "knowledge repatriation." The 1990 passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGP RA) was a landmark moment for indigenous rights, requiring all museums receiving federal funds "to reexamine, catalog and inform Native Americans about the objects they held in their collections (Haakanson 2004)." Museums are consequently obligated to retu rn certain objects to their affiliated federally recognized tribes, including: human remains, associated and unassociated funerary items, sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony (Trope 1996). While the implementation of NAGPRA marked "fundamental changes in basic social attitudes towards Native peoples by the museum and scientific communities and the public at large (Trope and Echo Hawk 2000)," a majority of Native American objects are not eligible for repatriation and remain housed in non tribal museums (Haakanson 2004). However, important everyday objects like textiles, clothing and tools can embody Native American beliefs and instill feelings of cultural identity and pride (Haakanson 2004). By securely preserving these objects for posterity, so me museums may unintentionally be denying the fundamental rights of indigenous communities to possess the traditional knowledge of their culture M any Native Americans however, do not request physical possession of their material culture, only an "ongoing connectio n and


44 control (Clifford 1997, 212; K ramer 2006, 96)." The presence of an online collections database facilitates that connection by providing an opportunity for the digital repatriation of museum collections to their communities of origin. As dem onstrated by Sven Haakanson in his 2012 educational session Museum in the Middle: An International Case Study for Repatriating Knowledge and Awakening Culture access to a collection can produce inspiration, knowledge an d pride for its community (Haakanso n 2012 ). Opportunities for the practice or reinvigoration of traditional customs and t he perpetuation of knowledge pertaining to the origins, histories and functions of material culture are two of the many benefits inherent in repatriating knowledge (Haak anson 2004) through a digital collections database. Consulting Native Collections Management Systems The Protocols are essential to managing Native American museum collections, but their ascribed consultations are not exercised on the level o f individual objects. For more specific inferences, tribal museums and other cultural heritage institutions should be contacted in order to implement similar and consistent management practices. For example, I visited Ah Tah Thi Ki in June 2012 for research purposes, but by exploring their collections as a non Native researcher and talking with their staff I was able to gain an understanding of their approach to culturally sensitive Seminole material. The museum also hosted a collections care workshop sponsored by t he Florida Association of Museums (FAM) in 2010, 33 where I was first exposed to some of the difficulties inherent in managing Se minole collections specifically. As a tribally owned museum, Ah Tah Thi Ki's collections management practices invariably align wi th the 33 Florida Association of Museums (FAM) "Improving Collections Care and Storage" Workshop at the Ah Tah Thi Ki Museum, June 23, 2010.


45 wishes of Seminole community members. By integrating some of those characteristics into the FEC database, the format not only remains consistent, but also in line with tribal requests. Perspective Summary The Native American perspective will play an ongoing role in the continual evolution of the FEC database. Implementing ideals derived from the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials, as well as practical guidance from existing databases, the FEC database can be a model for non tribal in stitutions with indigenous collections. By emphasizing the preservation and perpetuation of heritage rather than objects, collections can be a source for the revitalization of cultural practices and the perpetuation of knowledge, much as they are in many t ribal museums (Child 2009). The creation of a relational database for the FEC is an opportunity to create a reference for Native Americans rather than about them (Hoerig 2010). This project required the establishment of reciprocal relationships with tribal members and affiliates in concordance with its objectives.


46 CHAPTER 5 THE MUSEUM ANTHROPOL OGY PERSPECTIVE Perspective Introduction An effective synthesis of practical concerns from a collections management perspective with ethical concerns from a Native American perspective is vital to the FEC's longevity. The FEC database must function both as an efficient organizational tool and an access point for Seminole and Miccosukee people to their heritage. However, in considering the viewpoints of these two major user groups, the interests of a third party must also be considered: thos e of the museum anthropologist. The Evolution of Material Culture Studies Anthropologists are the primary sources of many ethnographic collections in museums today and sti ll play a major role in their research and interpretation. At longstanding natural history museums like FLMNH, anthropologists such as Goggin and Sturtevant collected ethnographic materials for decades. In fact, the systematic collecting of material cultur e in the mid 19th C entury played an "important role in the intellect ual development of anthropology (Thompson and Parezo 1989, 37). In these early days of anthropology, ethnographic collections were seen as primary sources of data, as well as the principa l outcome of field expeditions (Collier and Tschopik 1954, 771). However, unlike botany, paleontology or other natural history fields, anthropology has not consistently utilized museum collection s as a focus of research (Sturtevant 1973, 41). Early in the 20th C entury, the research emphasis in anthropology began to shift from questions of materiality to those of sociology and a more holistic and interdisciplinary approach (Thomas 2010, 6), examining different aspects of cultures beyond the interrelations o f material manifestations. It was not necessarily that material


47 culture studies were happening less frequently, but rather the emergence of other types of studies was becoming more prevalent (Thompson and Parezo, 51). Museum Collections as Field Sites The advantage of material culture study is that because museum collections are preserved in perpetui ty and never obsolete, they offer the possibility for new ques tions and inferences. Since the late 1980s and early 1990 s, material culture studies have re emer ged at the forefront of museum anthropology (Thomas 2010, 6). The museum's role a s an "anthropological databank (S t urtevant 1973) is being realized by more and more anthropologists lending credence to the idea of museum collections as "field sites ( Canda ce Greene, personal communication ). By viewing ethnographic collections as "sites for the production of knowledge ( Greene 2012 ), anthropologists can not only take advantage of the intensive fieldwork conducted by previous generations, but also do it in a manner that is engaging to the indigenous communities being researched ( Greene 2012 ). This perspective was prevalent throughout the 2012 Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology (SIMA) at the Smithsonian Institution's NMNH in Washington D.C. Summer Institu te in Museum Anthropology A national program funded by National Science Foundation (NSF), SIMA's primary objective is to "promote more effective use of museums as sites for the production of knowledge ( Greene 2012 )." P articipation in this program enhanced my understanding of the museum anthropologist's perspective and granted an opportunity to explore ethnographic collections from the role of the researcher rather than the research facilitator. As a graduate assistant at FLMNH, I had assisted several visiti ng researchers to the museum, but visi ts were seldom and often the information sought


48 was only complementary to research done in the field or outside the museum However, by crafting my own research proposal and learning to use the NMNH collections as a "f ield site," I was able not only to develop a unique approach to the study of Seminole and Miccosukee material culture, but also to apply that approach to the construction of the FEC database in a manner that may benefit researchers interested in pursuing a similar methodology. A Genealogy of Objects The inspiration for my SIMA research proposal was drawn from a May 2012 article in The Seminole Tribune, the official newspaper of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. In the article, Jonathan McMahon (formerly of Ah Tah Thi Ki) asked for feedback from the Seminole community on how best to engage them with the thousands of objects, documents and photographs held in collections storage (McMahon 2012). Among the museum's suggestions were tours of collections, fulfillmen t of image requests, and unlimited use of the research library and language dictionaries. However, there is no explicit enticement to utilize these services beyond simply being a member of the Seminole Tribe. Considering the number of anthropological studi es and census records conducted amongst the Seminoles in the early 20th C entury, I contemplated whether a more personal connection might be established through genealogical ties to collections. Though McMahon does not ov ertly discuss it, lineage is a direc t and obvious connection between today's Semino le people and those associated with objects in the museum. This notion may be inherent to a member of the Seminole Tribe thinking about visiting Ah Tah Thi Ki, but without directly advertising it, the museum f ails to capitalize on the most personal of potential connections: the familial connection. The Seminole Tribe of Florida's Department of Genealogy and anthropologists such as Sturtevant have


49 studied Seminole ancestry extensively, affording the possibility of personalized genealogical connections between today's Seminole people and the material culture of their ancestors. However, because Seminole artifacts are scattered throughout museum collections around the world, the problem becomes not only creating pe rsonal connections to objects at Ah Tah Thi Ki, but also connections to other objects worldwide. Thus, for my SIMA project, I proposed the initiation of research to uncover a global network of Seminole objects, documents and photographs, all connected thro ugh the Seminole or Miccosukee individuals who were at one time affiliated with them. Fittingly coined a "genealogy of objects," this project would commence with the collections at FLMNH and NMNH, but eventually expand to other museums with artifacts of k nown provenance, such as Ah Tah Thi Ki. Any genealogical connections between objects would effectually aid in the decolonization of museum collections by breaking down the "barriers" between museums, bypassing traditional approaches for relating objects ba sed on cultural area or object type. Instead, this new methodology approaches objects on the level of the individual, seeking to re humanize and re contextualize many of the objects held in ethnographic collections. The Benefits of a Genealogically Orient ed Research Methodology Of course, to fulfill these objectives effectively collections research must yield more than a simple list of Seminole names and corresponding objects. Taking a genealogical approach to the analysis of museum collections can also g enerate a variety of research questions. For example, studying how patterns in Seminole patchwork diffuse through generations of a particular family line could tell us a great deal about Seminole family life. Changes in the kinds of objects made also refle ct demand for or the marketability of certain items, because some objects were made for


50 the tourist trade or commissioned by specific collectors. General comparisons between the diffusion of objects and the history of collecting practices or changing polic ies on Native Americans might reveal new questions for museum anthropologists. The exploration of Seminole individuals as artists rather than simple "makers" of anthropological specimens allows for a study of changes and progressions in a person's cumulat ive work over time, as well as of the social, political, and economic milieu in which they created their works. Previous studies of "primitive art" by art historians proved ineffectual to anthropologists when context was ignored in favor of aesthetics and form (Thompson and Parezo 1989, 49). By "personalizing" objects with contextual information about their artists and original circumstances, art studies become anthropological again. This approach creates new associations between objects that merit consider ation by both anthropologists and art historians as a focus of research. Contextual a ttributions such as names, dates, and locations, can also be made to individual objects through genealogical research. For example, many historic photo graph captions gi ve no reference to the names of Seminole women or children present, instead identifying them in terms relative to an associated adult male. By referencing genealogical charts and census records, reasonable identifications can sometimes be inferred based on the se partial identifications, the physical orientation of individuals in the photograph and clues from associated museum records. Also, as a way to incentivize community engagement with collections, research databases can be constructed for individual S eminole clans, displaying the distribution of objects around the world from a particular lineage. Entire exhibits on Seminole individuals might even


51 emerge from this approach, as individualism is often a casualty of homogenized cultural exhibits. Clearly, a variety of questions arise from this approach to material culture. Unfortunately, the completion of my SIMA proposal is not feasible within the parameters of this project in lieu of thesis, as it constitutes years if not decades of work. However, as a m odel for future approaches to ethnographic collections, it can be incorporated into the preliminary stages of the FEC database. Genealogical data collected at Ah Tah Thi Ki NAA, NMAI, NMNH, and FLMNH have already resulted in attributions to several object s at FLMNH. With this information now readily available to FEC users, the database can continue to garner contextual attributions as it grows and develops around this prescribed genealogical methodology. Hopefully amongst those users will be members of the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes, whom this approach is intended to engage. However, as previously discussed in the Protocols, most genealogical and ancestral knowledge is intended for tribal use only. Should the collections database ever be published onlin e, all genealogical information should be kept private. However as a majority of the genealogical information recovered for this project was found in publicly accessible museum collections, it also requires maintenance and frequent entry by non tribal mus eum staff members in order to facilitate the use of collections by visiting tribal members. Perspective Summary Not surprisingly, many non Native museums struggle to engage the indigenous comm unities represented in their collections Changes in government policy and museum practice, as well as the proliferation of community owned museums and accessible online collections have aided considerably in this respect, but invoking a


52 personal connection to material culture often long removed from its original conte xt is challenging However, by exploring the social lives of Seminole objects from a genealogical perspective, artifacts, photographs and documents are connected across museum boundaries through the relationships between people associate d with them. This a pproach should not only give rise to an entirely new set of questions for both Native and non Native researchers, but serve as a relational model for making museum collections more immediately accessible to indigenous communities. By incorporating this met hodology into the FEC database, its value as a research tool and source of community engagement is significantly enhanced.


53 CHAPTER 6 THE PROJECT: CREATIN G THE FLORIDA ETHNOG RAPHIC COLLECTION DATABASE The Planning Stages As with many collabor ative museum initiatives, the FEC Database emerged from a series of meetings and e mail exchanges dating back nearly two years. On February 7, 2011, an informal meeting was held between the various faculty, staff, interns and volunteers who were, at that time, affiliated with the F EC (Karen Walker, e mail message to author, January 18, 2011 ). The meeting served as the first major push towards establishing the FEC as a premier research hub for the study of Seminole and Miccosukee culture. Several short term g oals were established for the collection including the acquisition of new storage space and cabinetry, the consolidation of the FEC into a central location, the completion of unfinished accession or catalog records and the creation of a comprehensive co llection inventory, including photographs, archival documents and the continually expanding library. Over the course of the Spring 2011 semester, all involved made significant progress towards bringing the established goals to fruition. In late March 201 1, however, I was asked to submit an inventory of FLMNH Seminole and Miccosukee holdings to the Seminole Tribe of Florida's Ah Tah Thi Ki Museum in Big Cypress, Florida ( Karen Walker, e mail message to author, March 21, 2011 ). After scrambling to piece tog ether as "comprehensive" a Microsoft Excel inventory as possible under limited time constraints, I began to wonder about the practicality and reliability of such a method. Many of Ah Tah Thi Ki's object records for example, are readily a ccessible in


54 an on line database. 34 I could not help but be surprised that at the State of Florida's official natural history museum, there was not an easier way for a member of a cooperating institution to attain detailed information about the FEC The accuracy of such a has tily constructed inventory could not be guaranteed, nor could its depth. Of course, as the first tribal museum accredited by the AAM, Ah Tah Thi Ki is a model institution and ahead of the curve in many respects. It has a substantial budget for its size and is able t o hire positions that are not even on staff at FLMNH. It also has the advantage of a more limited collections scope, dealing with about thirty five thousand total "things" ( Tara Backhouse, e mail message to author, December 13, 2011 ), as opposed to the Florida Museum of Natural History's nearly thirty four million objects and specimens ( FLMNH 2011 ) Still, creating the inventory was an unexpectedly difficult task for such a relatively small collection and left something to be desired for the recip ient, who was left to imagine the objects based on the li mited descriptions I provided. This is what spurred me on May 19, 2011, to propose to my thesis committee the creation of a relational, searchable and eventually publicly accessible online database for the FEC as my project in lieu of thesis. Dreams vs. Reality My proposal was greeted with enthusiastic support from my committee, though I quickly realized that while I developed the idea independently, I was certainly not the first to do so. In fact, this project is simply a small portion of what most of the FLMNH faculty and staff have been striving towards for years: a comprehensive institution wide database. As a graduate student relatively low in the museum's hierarchy, it was 34 Portions of the Ah Tah Thi Ki Museum's collections are available online through a partnership with Pa sttime Software. http://semtribe.pastperfect


55 important to underst and that m y specific interests in creating a database for the FEC were justifiably superseded by the interests of the museum as a whole. To make this project truly beneficial, it would have to at least have the potential to interrelate with other FLMNH col lection database s in the future In addition, it would have to fit more than just the needs of the FEC and its managing staff, but also those of the entire Anthropology Division. The time, labor and expense required for such an endeavor demanded the conse nsus and collaboration of multiple programs within the Anthropology Division Otherwise, I would only be creating another standalone inventory not dissimilar to the Excel spreadsheet I created for Ah Tah Thi Ki. Fortunately, the decision to pursue the dev elopment of a relational database for the FEC came at a time when the museum was on the brink of implementing its own in house museum wide database, one that had been in development for several years. Beginning in late August 2011, a series of meetings wer e held between several members of the Anthropology Division and the people in charge of constructing the in house database with the intention of using metadata from the FEC as a trial subset for the entire FLMNH Ethnographic Collection. In preparation for these meetings, it was my responsibility to parse out and organize the existing FEC metadata in a manner that both adhered to the standards produced years earlier by Registrar Elise LeCompte and conformed to the direction of the proposed database. In part ial fulfillment of a Fall 2011 Museum Practicum under South Florida Archaeology and Ethnography Curator William Marquardt, I produced multiple Excel spreadsheets that were then migrated into the new in house program. We were granted access to a "live" vers ion of the database, allowing us to test it for functionality and practicality and provide constant feedback to its


56 managers As with any computer technology still "under construction," there were numerous bugs and interface errors and though it seemed to be on the right track, it also seemed far from complete. The most significant issue was that it simply was not user friendly, navigable or intuitive enough to be an efficient tool for museum staff For this reason, much of its power was simply lost on its users As previously discussed, the divide between programmer and user was apparent. Considering the diversity of potential users, both in skill level and specific collections needs, it was months (if not years) away from being fully operational even aft er years of previous development Creating a custom museum wide database that fit the needs of an incredible diversity of collections like those of FLMNH is certainly an ambitious and laudable goal, but considering the existing state of the majority of the Anthropology Division's collections, the time had come to explore other options. Discovering Re:Discovery The Anthropology Division's faculty and staff spent months shopping for the ideal collections management system. Several programs were considered, i ncluding KE EMu (used by NMNH ), PastPerfect (used by Ah Tah Thi Ki), and Re:Discovery Proficio (used by the Southeastern Arch eological Center [SEAC] in Tallahassee, Florida). Among the factors considered were the "five characteristics of the ideal database ." To make an investment of this magnitude, the database had to be user friendly, flexible, powerful, secure and capable of managing the complex contextual information inherent in anthropological collections. The database also needed to be affordable, sin ce at this point it was only viewed as a semi permanent transition to the future institution wide database. The general consensus pointed to Re:Discovery Proficio, which met most of the Anthropology Division's needs. Some staff members had prior experience with the


57 system, vouching for its relational capabilities and intuitiveness. The ability to easily import and export data meant that should the museum decide to terminate its license with Re:Discovery in the future, data conversion would not set the museu m back in time and money. Powerful security options and an offline "public search" were also major factors because they allow ed guest users to explore designated fields i n a simple and intuitive manner Security and networking strategies were discussed wi th the Office of Museum Technology in order to ensure their feasibility and compatibility with FLMNH and University of Florida protocol s Re:Discovery Proficio currentl y offers four different modules: the Collections, Archives, Archaeology and Web Interf ace Modules 35 After conferring with Re:Discovery spokespeople via e mail, phone and in person meetings over the course of several months, the Collections and Archive Modules were deemed the most appropriate for the current needs of the Anthropology Divisi on. The Archaeology Module was ruled out because the flexible Collections Module can be customized to incorporate a greater diversity of collections, including the archaeological ones. The Web Interface Module, while excluded from FLMNH's initial investmen t, holds great promise for the future of the collections. Eventually, when the collections are in an acceptable state for public viewing, the Web Interface Module provides a medium through which to provide straightforward Internet access to the collections database. For the FEC, this means that while I am not able to immediately make the database publicly accessible, I can have it prepared for online publication a relatively simple final step if the Web Interface Module is installed 35 /productsoverview.aspx


58 The Dirty Work I bega n entering FEC data into a full service trial version of Re:Discovery Proficio in February 2012. While the decision to pursue Re:Discovery as a collections management system had been made, a full test of its capabilities with FLMNH data had not been attemp ted. Using the same dataset submitted for the in house museum database trials, Re:Discovery was able to import the Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and link them fairly effectively. However, due to the limitations of Microsoft Excel, the submitted collections data were largely incomplete. Detailed object descriptions on old catalog cards had been substituted with simple object names in order to accommodate the sorting limitations of Excel, which meant that much of the provenance that made the FEC significant wa s absent. Minor importation errors were also abundant, as many imported data fields were placed into improper Re:Discovery fields. However, these incompatibilities were more reflective of the limitations of managing a database in Microsoft Excel than the i nadequacies of Re:Discovery. Much of the absent data was a product of my own negligence, as instead of creating a comprehensive dataset from the outset, I had produced only the information required at the time. A significant amount of data entry and correc tion would be required in order to verify Re:Discovery Proficio's capacity as a comprehensive relational database for the rest of the Anthropology Division. A majority of this project, from February to October 2012, was spent completing and correcting all 644 individual object records. The numerous supplementary, accession, loan, and donor records, most of which were not submitted to Re:Discovery at all, also required a significant time investment bec ause they had to be found, researched, and entered into t he database However, as previously stated, digitizing the FEC for "digitization's sake" would not suffice. Building the database's


59 relational framework was an enormous and critical first step. However, in order to "flesh it out" and truly maximize its pot ential as a research tool, the incorporation of the collections management, Native American, and museum anthropology perspectives was required. Applying the Collections Management Perspective The integration of the "collections management perspective" into the FEC database was relatively straightforward. The "five characteristics of the ideal database" were fundamentally engrained in the program because museum collections managers and registrars are Re:Discovery's primary users Incorporating this perspecti ve meant little modification of the database itself, but plenty of data entry, photography and attention to detail. To fully maximize the database's relational capabilities, each object record would have to be edited individually, with special attention p aid to relationships with other datasets. Consistency in data entry is essential, because a simple typo can detach an object record from its supplemental records, leaving it in a classification by itself. In order to maintain consistency with previous FLMN H collections records, LeCompte's data dictionary and standards were consulted during data entry ( Elise LeCompte, e mail to author, August 15, 2012). Catalog numbers, accession numbers, object names and material types were modified to meet these standards whenever possible. For example, due the variation in FLMNH catalog number formats over the past century, "place marker zeroes" are required to maintain a chronological sequence, even in Re:Discovery. Also, object names and materials specific to the FEC we re added to the Re:Discovery lexicon if they were not already a part of the built in dictionaries. Each of the 644 object records requi red the manipulation of at least thirteen pre existing data fields in Re:Discovery Proficio. Catalog number, accession n umber, object


60 name, description, material, storage location, object status, record status, count, dimensions, source, acquisition method and cultural association were all known to a certain degree for each object (Figure B 1) Additional fields such as ti tle, artist/maker, date made, place made, condition, condition description, recent conservation, eminent figure, provenance narrative and notes were completed when the information was availab le (Figure B 2) Information for each object was obtained from o riginal catalog cards and related documentation. Metadata were entered uniformly and consistently throughout to ensure maximum functionality. However, most accession records had to be created independently and then retroact ively linked to object records be cause the initial importation of these data was either partial or incomplete. All known accession or loan information was entered into one of two linked tables (Figure B 4) whose intricate hierarchies also infused biographical records for donors and loan institutions respectively. Addresses and contact information for these entities, found on the original accession, catalog and loan cards in the Special Collections Room, were parsed out and entered into their respective data fields. Any relevant informati on found in accession files was incorporated as well. Overall, five main data tables were constructed for this project: catalog records, accessions, loans out, artist/maker/eminent figure, and names and addresses. Each entry in the four latter tables is re lated to at least one record in the object catalog, thereby making the FEC a fully relational database. Many smaller data tables were constructed or updated as well, such as cultural association, material type and record status. Though less integral to th e relational integrity of the database, the creation of these tables promotes consistency by providing drop down menus and customized options for future users to choose from.


61 Because Re:Discovery allows for the storage of photographic images and multimedi a in object records, the existing digital images ass ociated with the FEC were first organized on the FLMNH network shared drive and then imported into the database Many of the existing digital images are a direct result of the work of Shawna Pies and Eric Zamora, who in 2009 photographed the FEC objects in storage for Pies's wiki project (Pies 2009 ). Pies also scanned a majority of the photographic slides that were taken in October 2000 of objects on loan to FLMNH's "South Florida People and their Environm ents" exhibit where they will remain in house until at least 2015. In fact, more than ten percent of the FEC's 644 objects are currently o n loan to this single exhibit. In spite of this, many objects in the FEC have not been photographed. This is especial ly true for the 29 objects on loan to five other museums, as well as the 47 acquisitions since 2009. Therefore, museum quality photographs were taken of all recent procurements, as well as the few objects in storage that were previously overlooked. Objects on loan to other institutions, however, will require either image requests via e mail or in person visits "! One such visit was made on October 25, 2012, when I visited the Jupiter Lighthouse Museum (JLM) in Jupiter, Florida to photograph several FEC artifa cts on loan from the FLMNH This visit coincided with a research trip to the Seminole Tribal Headquarters in Hollywood, Florida. With advance notice of my arrival, the JLM staff graciously accommodated my requests and I completed my objectives in less than an hour. Similar "photography detours are recommended for any FEC affiliated faculty or staff making future research trips across Florida. While capturing images of objects became a priority due to the organizational, interpretive and practical advantage s they provide, 256 of the 644 (40%) total FEC


62 object records are images themselves. With so many photographic prints, postcards, and slides, a considerable amount of scanning was required to complete the digitization process. FLMNH volunteers had already scanned a majority of the early FEC photographs, but the most recent image donations remained incomplete as well as several dozen previously overlooked images The addition of a professional grade scanner to the FEC research area on October 11, 2012 exped ited this objective. Also scanned in the process were m any of the original FLMNH catalog cards that had not been previously scanned by Pies in 2009. The motivation to scan all catalog cards stemmed from my SIMA interactions with NMNH's online database, whe re original catalog cards for each record are available in an image file, along with a picture of the object (if available). Having catalog cards accessible online is extremely advantageous to collections research, because they often provide clearer contex tual information than the sometimes limited user fields of a database. In constructing the FEC database, catalog cards were imported into object records behind only th e primary object photograph(s) (Figure B 3 ) making them readily apparent to any user. The "collections management perspective" was employed hea vily throughout this project. Not only is it innate in the Re:Discovery software, but it is also implemented on a daily basis at FLMNH. Numerous meetings between collections managers, curators and r egistrars resulted in a consensus on the appropriate software to fulfill the needs of participating programs with in the Anthropology Division. The five characteristics of the ideal database are evident during use Formerly onerous tasks such as queries, reports, and label making are now simple and expedient. Having the FEC metadata in one place has supplied a constant stream of surprises from finding long forgotten


63 paintings to following up on decades old loans. Not only is it functioning optimally as an organizational tool, it has faculty and staff members actively thinking about and developing the FEC again. The most important thing to realize about the "collections management perspective" is that it is not just the perspective of a single registrar, cu rator, or collections manager, it is the collective outlook of an entire team of people working together to fulfill the museum's mission. As a facilitator of communication and teamwork, Re:Discovery Proficio was functioning long before the first object rec ord was entered. Applying the Native American Perspective The "Native American p erspective has been incorporated into the FEC database primarily through an adherence to the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials. By proactively engaging with Ah Tah Tah Ki and the Seminole Department of Genealogy as suggested by the Protocols I have established a personal basis for what is hopefully a long lasting and reciprocal friendship. This is not imply that FLMNH has not engaged with indigenous communities in the past, as the faculty and staff have gone to far greater lengths than I in consulting and collaborating with the Seminole and Miccosukee people. However, specific to the creation of the FEC database, s everal measures have been taken to ensure that t he "N ative voice" is heard While relatively uncommon in the FEC, some of the oldest photographs have derogatory titles or captions. As recommended under the "Providing Context" section of the Protocols, all derogatory language in the FEC metadata has bee n substituted with appropriate language in brackets to indicate a change has been made. For example, the word "squaw" has been replaced with [wife] in several instances. This alerts the


64 reader that a modification has been made and provides more insight int o the context surrounding the photographs. On the "extended information" tab for each object record in Re:Discovery, there is a set of customizable user fields. In order to comply with the "Striving for Balance and Content in Perspectives" section of the Protocols, I have allotted several fields to "tribal attributio ns," where the identifications opinions or thoughts on any individual object by a tribal representative can be incorporated as a permanent part of the collections record ( Figure B 5 ) For exam ple, during a visit to the museum in 1997, Seminole elders made numerous comments about specific artifacts, adding valuable and previously unknown context to the FEC. This information was recorded by museum staff members and now can be incorporated into th e database. However, because some information is of a sensitive nature, there are two "tribal attribution" fields, one for public knowledge and one for tribal knowledge only. This not only lends a voice to Seminole and Miccosukee people in the interpretati on of the FEC, but also offers a level of authority over what information is shared. Information from Pies's wiki has been incorporated into the "Tribal Attributions Public" field, because these comments were originally made in a public forum. Thus, the fi eld serves as a solution to the problem of the standalone wiki. The idea for a "tribal only" attribution field grew from conducting research at Ah Tah Thi Ki in June 2012, where a large quantity of information is off limits to outsiders including myself While FLMNH is not a tribal museum, it should continue to consider these practices in order to maintain strong relationships. Perhaps the most important infusion of Native American perspective into the FEC database has also been the most enjoyable. In an effort to "build a relationship of


65 mutual respect (as per the Protocols )," I have collaborated via e mail and in person with the Seminole Tribe of Florida's Department of Genealogy at Tribal Headquarters on the Hollywood Reservation since June 2012. Throug h this partnership, dozens of previously unknown Seminole individuals in FLMNH photographs have been identified and an astonishing amount of context restored to the FEC. T wo face to face meetings have yielded identifications for dozens of individuals in ph otographs that have been nameless for more tha n 50 years. Even more rewarding however, was the experience of establishing a mutual partnership and witnessing the FEC become a source of excitement for someone in its community of origin. During this visit, I also received important feedback into what types of fields should be made public or private. Much of the shared information will be kept in house, but it will be available to those with the credentials to view it. Applying the Museum Anthropology Perspec tive The application of the "museum anthropology perspective" t o the FEC Database is part of a concerted effort to turn the entire collection into a "site for the production of knowledge." Through the implementation of a genealogical approach to Seminole a nd Miccosukee material culture, I believe that the FEC will yield a more personal connection to its researchers, thereby increasing its visibility and use However, though a derivative of lessons in museum anthropology, the "field site" is not necessarily always intended for anthropologists, but also for Seminole and Miccosukee people interested in exploring their family lineage. While combing the archives and collections at NAA and NMNH respectively in 2012, I gathered vast amounts of genealogical informat ion from Sturtevant's field notes and photographed more than 200 objects affiliated with at least one known Seminole


66 individual whether through artistry, previous ownership or anecdotal references I also photographed more than 200 photographs, newspaper clippings and postcards at NAA, all featuring at least one identified individual. Combined with additional collections information from NMAI and Ah Tah Thi Ki, I returned to FLMNH with these resources to test their potential applications to the FEC. What I found was that not only did certain individuals appear in multiple museum collections, but also because of the amount of data I had accumulated, I could actually make some contextual attributions of my own For example, FLMNH photograph 94106 ( Figure C 1 ) shows eight Seminole individuals situated outside of a chickee. Each person has a number over his or her head, presumably assigned by the photographer, which links to an identification written on the back of the card. However, beyond the names of the indi viduals, the context of this photograph is unclear. Four fairly young children are standing in the foreground, one teenage boy is standing in the bac kground, and three middle aged to elderly adults are sitting in the foreground. This leads one to believe t hat this is possibly a family, but without any additional information, there is no way to know for sure. However, when the eight names are searched for in Sturtevant's 1959 genealogical charts, some exciting connections are made. It turns out that this is a family group, but with a twist. The young girl is not the boys' sister; she is a cousin. In fact, the elderly woman on the left is actually the grandmother of all five children and the mother of the man seated in the middle. The young girl's mother is ac tually the sister of the woman seated on the right, making the woman her aunt. They are all members of the same clan. Interestingly, the couple had three additional children not present in this picture, though their absence remains unexplained.


67 Clearly, th is approach reveals more about the photograph than previously known. However, taken a step further, an approximate date can precisely be attr ibuted to the photograph. Applying the 1914 Reconstructed Census by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the genealogical connections are confirmed and birth and death dates for a majority of the individuals pictured are provided. Based on the birth date of the youngest individual present and the death date of the eldest, this picture was taken between roughly 1904 and 1915 Based on the approximate age of the youngest child in the photograph, a date of circa 1910 can confidently be assigned to this photo. Prior to this attribution, the only date s that existed for this photograph were 1922, an approximation given to the entire accession, and 1958, the year it was found in collections and accessioned. In addition to establ i shing attributions on a micro level, a wider lens reveals cross institutional connections between collections based on this single image. In my limited resea rch thus far, I have found eighteen other photographs or artifacts at four different institutions associated with someone in this picture. Previously unrelated artifacts, such as a wooden sofkee spoon made by one brother and a small totem pole made by anot her now carry new meanings and with those, new questions This demonstrates the power of the genealogical methodology with only a cursory study. The future of ethnographic collections at museums, in my opinion, lies in finding the commonalities that link objects not only to o ther objects across institutional boundaries 36 but also across time and space to people in communities of origin today. 36 Portals have emerged as a popular method for aggregating and sharing ethnographic collections. Examples include "E humanity," operated primarily by the Digital Science Center at Indiana University and funded by a grant from the A merican Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) and The Southeastern Native American Collections Project (SNACP) an initiative directed by Jason Baird Jackson of Indiana University. While SNACP is still in development, the FEC should be considered for inclusion into both portals. As of December 10, 2012, there are already nearly 400 search results for the keyword "Seminole" in E humanity. E humanity can be accessed at the following link: http://e


68 In terms of building the FEC database, this approach yields new information and offers a multitude of possibilities but it also lays the groundwork for a genealogical databank of sorts. Each object record can be attributed to either an artist/maker or an eminent figure. For any object in the FEC associated with an identified individual, a related biographical page is created for that person. With space for an abundance of personal details, these biographical pages bring the people behind the FEC to life. However, in order to tie in the genealogical relationships between the individuals, I customized several blank user fields (Figure B 6 ) so that one person's biographical page can be linked to those of an unlimited number of relatives across the relational database using traditional familial categories such "grandparents" or "children." As of November 2012, there are mo re than 150 individuals in this database ( Figure B 7 ) though the connections have only just begun. Hopefully, with these resources available and a framework established to pursue a "genealogy of objects" further, the FEC will become a research destination for Seminole and Miccosukee people seeking a tangible connection to family history. Conclusion As one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Seminole and Miccosukee materials in the world, the Florida Ethnographic Collection is on the verge of realizing its full potential as a site for community engagement and the production of knowledge. It is my hope that by creating a relational database for this collection, not only will it become a research hub for Native and non Native people alike, but also its unique accessibility will connect to its users on a personal level. By infusing three equally significant viewpoints into the c onstruction of the FEC database the collections managements perspective, the Native American perspective and the mus eum


69 anthropology perspective I hope that I have create d a relational database that not only satisfies these groups, but sustains the FEC for years to come. Through collaboration, consultation and a genealogical approach to material culture, this project serves as a model not only for other anthropological collections at the FLMNH, but also for any museum striving to create an effective and engaging database for its ethnographic collections.


70 APPENDIX A DATA FI GURE A 1 #! $#! %#! &#! '#! (##! ($#! (%#! (&#! ('#! $##! !"#$%&'%(&))$*#+,-%'&.%#/$%0)&.+1"% 2#/,&-."3/+*%(&))$*#+&,%4567897857:% )*+,-.!/0!1-+23/4-!5,6-789!:/44-78-;!


71 FIGURE A 2 Timeline of the Florida Ethnographic Collection. This timeline illustrates the scope of the FEC Significant events in Florida history are shown above the timeline. The green bracket indicates the amount of time the F LMNH ha s been collecting Seminole material relative to Seminole history. The brown bracket indicates the amount of time represented by the objects in the FEC relative to Seminole history.


72 APPENDIX B DATABASE SCREENSHOTS FIGURE B 1 Main Information Tab Typical view upon startup.


73 FIGURE B 2 Main Information Tab. List sorted by eminent figure.


74 FIGURE B 3 Scanned Catalog Card. Second image behind primary ob ject image.


75 FIGURE B 4 Loans Out Table. Active and expired loans with linked objects.


76 FIGURE B 5 Extended Information Tab. Customized tribal attribution fields.


77 FIGURE B 6 Artist/Maker/Eminent Figure Table. Relational genealogy fields on ind ividual biographical records.


78 FIGURE B 7 Artist/Maker/Eminent Figure Table. Standard view of table.


79 APPENDIX C PHOTOGRAPHS FIGURE C 1 FLMNH Cat. No. 94106. Tinted color postcard, mounted on fiber board.


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84 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Austin Bell was born and raised in West Palm Beach, Florida. After moving to Sioux Falls, South Dakota during high school, Austin returned to Florida for college, where he attended the University of Florida, earni ng a double B.A. in anthropology and classical studies (2007). Austin has worked at the Florida Museum of Natural Histo ry (FLMNH) continuously since 2008, both in the South Florida Archaeology and Ethnography Program and the Environmental Archaeology Progr am. In 2010, Austin returned to school at the University of Florida to pursue an M.A. in Museum Studies. During his student tenure, Austin has interned at three different museums in addition to maintaining his position as a curatorial assistant at FLMNH. I n Summer 2011, he participated in a ten week collections management internship at the History of Diving Museum in the Florida Keys In Spring 2012, he was enlisted as a photographer for the Public Relations and Marketing Department at the Samuel P. Harn Mu seum of Art and later that year, participated in the Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology (SIMA) at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. Austin has presented student projects at both regional and national m useum conferences and co curated an online exhibit at the University of Florida Smathers Library. Upon graduation, Austin hopes to pursue a museum career in collections management or collections research, particularly with Native American ethnographic mate rials. He also has the two best sisters in the world, so he hopes to live closer to them, the rest of his family, and his beloved cat Smudge.