Theme Study for the National Historic Landmarks/National Park Service
FRANKLIN ODO (2013)
Most of my teaching career involved Ethnic Studies/Asian American Studies. My own research focused on the history of Japanese Americans in Hawai`i and my latest book explores folk songs left by immigrant sugar plantation workers. After three decades as a college professor, I spent nearly fifteen years directing Asian Pacific American and Asian units in the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress. Now retired, I am leading a panel of scholars and preservation activists to compile a “theme study” to assist the National Historic Landmarks program in the National Park Service in efforts to include more sites dealing with Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans [AAPIs]. All of these assignments involved working within large, national, institutions that are responsible for collecting, preserving, and interpreting our national heritages but need advocates who can provide expertise on AAPIs. My work appears to have culminated in the articulation of methodologies for creating a more effective nexus between ethnic and community scholars and cultural workers in public history and humanities institutions. The task of research academicians is critical to the growth and development of new knowledge but the transmission of that knowledge to the general public is neither smooth nor systematic. I think that process should be improved and wish to contribute directly by thinking about the experiences of AAPIs in particular and diversity in general.
Re/Sounding the Black Music Archive
MONICA O'CONNELL (2012)
Especially in light of the digital revolution and the so-called crises in the humanities and higher education generally, calls to re/animate and/or re/activate the archive have recently come forth from a broadly interdisciplinary range of scholars and theorists. This project, which comes out of my experience as executive director of the Center for Black Music Research, would explore realities and specificities involved with the re/animation and re/activation of a culturally specific music archive. If, for example, as archives theorist Antoinette Burton notes, “all archives come into being in and as history as a result of specific political, cultural, and socioeconomic pressures—pressures which leave traces and which render archives themselves artifacts of history,*” then how might differently situated publics, constituencies, and communities acknowledge, promote, and steward the counter-histories in and of the culturally-specific archive while simultaneously amplifying and innovating around the archive’s connection to contemporary (political and creative) conversations?.*Antoinette Burton, "Introduction: Archive Fever, Archive Stories," Archive Stories: Facts, Fictions, and the Writing of History, ed. Antoinette Burton (Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2005), 6. The process of developing this project will be documented at http://monicaoconnell.com/. More information about the Center for Black Music Research.
Public History: Mining Heritage Sites in Cornwall and Wales
BETHAN COUPLAND (2012)
I am a third year PhD student working in the field of public history at the University of Exeter (UK). My thesis uses oral history to explore the post-industrial transition to heritage in mining communities in Wales and Cornwall. Specifically, I’m interested in what happens when heritage interpretation co-exists with living memory. How and why is mining heritage preserved and presented? How does this impact on people’s identities and how they construct their sense of community? What is the relationship between memory and memorialisation? Through my research, I have become increasingly aware of the practical difficulties in establishing heritage resources and the often problematic role of historians when undertaking collaborative projects and seeking social impact. I came to the John Nicholas Brown Centre for Public Humanities on a three month fellowship sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council (UK). Here, I have been particularly interested in comparing approaches to public history in the UK and the United States, with a more general focus on exploring the intersection of academic humanities and public practice. I have been auditing classes offered on the MA programme as well as continuing my own research. View Bethan's graduate student profile.
The Archive of Desire / Mapping Utopias
AMY WALSH (2012)
I am developing a body of artwork exploring the role of visionary or utopian imagination in the everyday life of communities. The work encompasses experimental mapmaking workshops (Mapping Utopias), the creation of an archive (the Archive of Desire), and collaborations between myself and local artists, educators and activists. At the heart of this work is the attempt to collect and document visionary ideas from “everyone” – as many people as I possibly can, in person and on the web. Though absurd in its ambition, it contains the serious assumption that all people, awarely or not, harbor visionary imagination which is autonomous from dominant narratives created and communicated by world powers. What is the relationship between articulating and actualizing desire, as individuals and communities? To date the archive contains a growing collection of large collaboratively drawn maps made by groups envisioning a future Providence (Mapping Utopias); a card catalog of ideas (on index cards, and on the web); and a small collection of works by artists mining the archive. Facilitation methods (Listening to the Future) range from personal conversations to group mapping projects to street actions incorporating active listening and performance. This Spring at JNBC I am building a referencing system for the archive while continuing to add to it; creating a digital/online version of the archive; refining facilitation tools for cultivating/soliciting visionary imagination in communities; and organizing and curating an exhibition which will include the physical archive, the utopian maps of Providence, and local artists' projects that use the archive as source material. The exhibit will open in the Center's gallery in October of 2012.
Spanish for Community Performance/Performance in the Hispanic Community
DANIELLA WITTERN BUSH (2012)
As a doctoral student in Brown's Hispanic Studies program, I have spent the last three years exploring the work of performance in facilitating dialogue and opening public space in the context of the Chilean dictatorship (1973-1989) and transition to democracy (1990-present). At the same time, I have worked with Brown students and the Guatemalan community in Providence in preparation for a winter break service trip to Guatemala. These two experiences have combined to form the impetus for my current endeavor, a new project that sets its sights on a local subject: the Brown community, and Providence's Hispanic community. Over the course of the Spring semester, I will examine how intermediate and advanced level Spanish language courses are taught in an university setting, in order to consider how performance and high school students from the local Hispanic communities can be incorporated into a university language course in order to create a more engaging experience with both the Spanish language and Hispanic cultures, simultaneously allowing both groups of students to learn from and teach each other. At the same time and beyond the framework of a language-oriented course, I am also interested in the possibilities created by performance for collaboration between Providence's Hispanic community and Brown University. How can these two groups work together through performance in order to foster a dialogue about community, culture, and public space in Providence? From this research, I expect to develop a proposal for a course that will employ the tools of story telling, acting, collaborative writing, and performance in order to bridge and share the experiences of these two communities.
Dance & Performance in Public Humanities Practice
ADRIAN MOORE (2011)
A graduate of the public humanities masters program, I have focused my studies on the place of performance within public humanities practice. While a student, I worked closely with American Dance Legacy Institute (ADLI), an organization dedicated to enabling individuals to celebrate, share, and participate in America's rich dance heritage and to recognize it as a cultural asset relevant to all. Housed at the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage, ADLI shares with the JNBC a commitment to connect wider communities with the arts and cultural heritage. The goals of my fellowship are to strengthen the relationship between ADLI and the JNBC and to promote ADLI as a resource for public humanities masters students. I will be developing a proposal for an ongoing ADLI fellowship for a public humanities M.A. student and a public humanities community project to be incorporated into ADLI's yearly programming. Learn more about ADLI.
Public History in the City
RAINEY TISDALE (2011)
I am an independent curator specializing in city history museums. I care deeply about strengthening sense of place in cities and expanding the creative tools available to city museums. I spent most of the last decade working for Boston's historical society, and in 2010 on a Fulbright fellowship based in Helsinki, Finland, I researched both best practices for city museums and also the relationship between a city's history and its unique sense of place. Since 2009 I have visited city museums in 27 major cities—in 16 different countries throughout Europe and North America—to study what these institutions are doing well and what they are doing poorly, and to create an overall snapshot of the state of the field. While at Brown I will continue my research and writing on city museums. I will also work with JNBC students to create an exhibition, tentatively titled Mapping Providence, for the Carriage House Gallery. Mapping Providence will explore the city's psychogeography: in our mental inventory of what's where in Providence, how do we catalog not just street names and landmarks but also emotions, memories, and places of deep meaning? Psychogeography in and of itself is nothing new, but it is not something city museums are taking adequate advantage of, as a tool for strengthening the triangular connection between the museum, the city, and the community by articulating personal ties to place. I'm looking for a new model for American city museums. I want these museums to be more creative, interdisciplinary, and flexible, and I want them to address the present and future, not just the past. I also want to add some emotion, whimsy, and surprise to our typically staid, traditional approach, both in the gallery and online. My hope is that by continuing to experiment with projects like Mapping Providence, the model I am envisioning will move from abstract to concrete. Learn more about Rainey's work.
RUTH SERGEL (2010)
The digital revolution has had a profound impact on the role of the community based artist. In the past, an important part of our work was to mitigate the cost and technical complexity of the tools needed to preserve and amplify the voices of communities. Today with only a cell phone and Internet access, people have the capacity to expose their own story. But the cacophony of easy broadcast does not necessarily mean one will be heard. This creates a shift in our role and brings to the fore questions on the evolving nature of community and what models of distribution create genuine engagement and precipitate action. Over years of creating community based works, I have evolved a practice matching technical prowess with social justice concerns. My project at the JNBC is to articulate the through line of my methods over projects that encompass film, public art, interactive documentaries, and live performance. Central to this discussion is how to build works that generate ongoing engagement for the audience. There is an inherent contradiction in a model that intends to provide a transformative experience but expects the audience to sit silent and still in order to experience the work. Emerging technologies offer the possibility of re-inventing how people engage and move from an individual/passive experience to a communal and participatory model that more truthfully represents the spirit in which these projects were created. Learn more about Ruth's work
Artist-initiated Creative Funding Models
ABIGAIL SATINSKY (SPRING 2010)
Abigail Satinsky is a founding member of InCUBATE, a research institute and artist residency program in Chicago dedicated to exploring new approaches to arts administration and arts funding. InCUBATE organizes exhibitions, publications, lectures, and produces artists projects. InCUBATE does not have non-profit status, instead it focuses on what kinds of organizational strategies could provide more direct support to critical and socially-engaged art and culture beyond for-profit or non-profit structures. The core organizational principle is to treat art administration as a creative practice. By doing so, the hope is to generate and share a new vocabulary of practical and experimental solutions to the issues of independently producing contemporary art. While in residence at the JNBC, Abigail will be working a series of articles that document artist-initiated creative funding models. These will take the form of interviews and a catalog of artist projects to spark a dialogue about the ways artists, administrators, and organizers are re-imagining infrastructures of support for their work and the challenges they are facing on a pragmatic level in making it happen. Learn more about InCUBATE and Abigail's work
Touchable Stories: Phasing into Permanence
SHANNON FLATTERY (FALL 2009)
Touchable Stories is a community art and oral history series that I began in Boston in 1996. It is a program that seeks to have art and artists more deeply connected to their neighborhoods and uses multimedia exhibits as the conduit for communities to tell their own story in their own words. To date, eight “community portraits” have been completed that range from Massachusetts, California, and Texas to the most recent project finished in the spring of 2009 in Birmingham England. We have now trained hundreds of artists in creating effective and thoughtful community art as well as the processes that are essential for developing a respectful community dialog. All of the projects over the past 14 have been based primarily in marginalized urban areas, each with a duration of two to three years. During my fellowship, I looked at ways of developing a more “permanent model.” The project is also being imagined on a national scale, one that would site several exhibits across the country to capture the stories of communities. The model is designed as a permanent structure but with an inherent flexibility to be easily “remade” in order to reflect and follow the host community as it experiences change. At the heart of the work is that it has created places, safe places for community to gather and to better understand each other. That the people we have worked among have all consistently stayed engaged with these projects speaks to the success of the process as well as what I believe is a growing need for meaningful places where people to can continue to come together. Part of the fellowship was also spent digitizing and editing hundreds of hours of analog recordings from some of the first projects that were recorded between 1996-1999. This was a key component of the fellowship that enabled us to both make the collection safer while also allowing that very early work to inform the thinking around the development of the current permanent projects.
Outside-in >> Inside-out: Audience Engagement with the Core of a Creative City
MARGIE BUTLER (SPRING 2008)
Where are all the artists? This question has remained with me from the time when I began working on cultural economic development in New Bedford, Massachusetts. By the summer of 2003, a portion of visitors to New Bedford had read about the city’s growing arts scene but could not always find it while walking the city’s downtown cobblestone streets. Like many revitalizing post-industrial centers, New Bedford is an authentic and rapidly evolving Creative City. Still I observed during my years there how its core arts scene – organized around studio buildings, local artist enclaves, and grassroots organizations – can be several layers removed from the cultural city visitors encounter. What this scenario really highlights is the cultural tourism gap between the formal and informal experience of a creative city. Or expressed in terms of people, the gap between a city’s outside audiences (visitors and some portion of its residents) and inside creative scene (local and regional individuals connected to the arts). Is such separation the necessary status quo, or is this experiential gap between tourism and the creative city’s core one that can be bridged? Furthermore, is it advantageous to do so? The answer is not an easy one, but it involves continued innovation around how the arts are presented and what can be defined within the cultural tourism footprint. Learn more about Margie's work.
Beyond Conversations: Collaborations Between the Academy and the Museum
TERESA DEFLITCH (SPRING 2007)
Cultural institutions of all kinds are coming together to produce innovative partnerships that emphasize education, community engagement, and social responsibility. Museums are very much a part of this endeavor recognizing that “collaboration is some of the most important work of democracy, especially in making resources available to public education.” Still, collaborating is hard and there are many museums, particularly small museums, which stand on the outskirts of this initiative and are hesitant of letting in the various voices of an external chorus. The reasons for this are complex but one way that museums can enter into collaborative work is to connect with local colleges and universities, who are themselves embracing interdisciplinary collaboration. The objective of my fellowship was to explore the state of museum/academy partnerships and propose additional ideas that would allow these two institutions to more fully realize the potential of each other’s harvest.
Cueing the Visitor: The Museum Theater and the Visitor Performance
KENNETH YELLIS (SPRING 2007)
If exhibitions are indeed a form of theater in which the visitor is the actor, how can we best develop exhibitions that enable them to recognize their roles and equip them to play their parts? Like theater, exhibitions are a ubiquitous and venerable medium and, like theater, they can have a profound effect upon us at many levels. Beyond their practical and didactic functions, exhibitions, like theater, can change the way we feel and the way we see.
What I Learned in Islamic School: The Role of a Private School as a Public Cultural Institution
ROBIN PRINGLE (2006)
With the support of the Public Humanities Fellowship, Robin Pringle, a consultant in school and community development, explored questions raised by her experiences of working with the Islamic School of Seattle from the fall of 2001 to the spring of 2005. As she seeks deeper understanding of issues of diversity within and around Muslim communities in the United States and the implicit responsibilities and possibilities of asking children to take a role in educating the wider public about their faith, cultures, and American experience, she is researching the implications for cultural competence education and identity formation in both private and public education. This project is the initial phase of a larger endeavor to develop a series of dialogues on decision-making and design for education in pluralistic communities along with resources to support those dialogues.
Academy to Academy: Humanities, Community, and Policing
PAMELA STEAGER (2006)
The fellowship funding for Academy to Academy: Humanities, Community, and Policing allowed Pam Steager—a Rhode Island-based public humanist, writer, and prevention specialist—the time and resources to continue her research and writing for the “To Protect and Serve” project. The project is a collaborative effort of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities (RICH) and the Providence Police Academy intended to enhance the Police Academy’s diversity curriculum with a humanities perspective. Funding from RICH, the police department, and private donors in the pilot year (2005) resulted in a 55-hour, humanities-infused Cultural Competency curriculum which was well-received by recruits and staff at the academy, but which raised as many questions as it answered. Ms. Steager used her fellowship to explore those questions and to delve even deeper into the intersection of humanities and community-oriented policing.