An Approach of the Info-Forum Museum
Decolonizing Museum Catalogs: Defining and Exploring the Problem
III.Third Case Study: International Collaboration
One of us (Ito) has begun the work of reconnecting the Hopi jewelry collection at MNA, and several other museums, with contemporary Hopi silversmiths. We will explain the background and importance of the MNA collection, and then describe the current project done as a core part of Minpaku’s Info-Forum Museum Project.
In the early 20th century, Hopi jewelry looked very much like jewelry made by their neighbors, the Navajo. The Coltons and MNA fine arts curator Virgil Hubert decided to help Hopi jewelers develop a distinctive style of their own. Hubert created sample jewelry designs based on Hopi pottery, baskets, and textiles. After World War II, Hopi artists Fred Kabotie and Paul Saufkie developed classes to train military veterans to make silver jewelry. The veterans’ class introduced the basics of metalsmithing and silversmithing. They and their students studied and adapted Hopi designs from a variety of art forms. The Museum promoted these designs at its annual Hopi Craftsman Exhibition and Kabotie and others founded the Hopi Silversmith’s Guild and introduced the overlay style developed earlier by MNA (Wright 1972). Each piece produced by the Guild carries its trademark, a sun symbol. Kabotie also encouraged individual silversmiths to sign their artwork with hallmarks (Hays-Gilpin 2011). Some artists early on used initials; most used traditional Hopi clan symbols that refer to their family identity. These hallmarks are still used today, though some sign with their English or Hopi names. Designs and their meanings; artist hallmarks, names, kin and clan relationships, and teacher-apprentice relationships; materials, techniques, and styles – all provide a rich cultural context for Hopi jewelry, katsina doll carvings, and other art forms.
Minpaku’s Info-Forum Museum project is a collaboration with the Hopi Tribe of Arizona, MNA, and several other museums in Japan, the US, and Great Britain. Minpaku is creating a collaborative catalog of all Hopi items in four museums in Japan. Minpaku, MNA, and others are focusing on 19th-21st century jewelry that Hopi artists made for home use and for sale on the art market (Figure 11).
As shown in the demonstrational lecture (chapter 2 in this special theme) held at the beginning of the Info-Forum Museum project, Jim Enote, the AAMHC former director, and Cynthia Chavez Lamar, the former director of the Indian Arts and Research Center of the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, were invited to Minpaku to share their experiences and know-how on the procedure of the collections review research with the newly arrived Hopi reviewers for this project. They also provided instructions on handling the culturally sensitive objects in museum collection. Cultural sensitivity was sometimes an issue when reviewing katsina dolls. Some Hopi reviewers felt that some representations of these spirit beings should not be carved, sold, collected, and displayed to the public. They informed us of some levels of esoteric meanings that should not be shared outside specific ceremonial contexts or with people who are not initiated into Hopi religious societies. In contrast, jewelry designs are less religiously sensitive, so jewelry is a good place to start testing the collaborative catalogs concept. In addition, Hopi jewelry is popular all over the world, especially in Japan (Ito 2005), and most pieces made since the 1940s are signed or hallmarked so that individual artists can be identified. We aim to reanimate museum objects by putting culturally based information into catalogs, publications, and exhibits. We aim for the process of recording this information to help source community members to reconnect family, to revitalize old techniques, tools, and raw materials, to explore and reinterpret old designs, and to communicate with their past. This documentation process aims to give artists opportunity to leave their self-presentation, interpretation, and message to future generations. Resulting electronic publications will include transcribed text and video.
At this time, 22 participants from the Hopi community have taken part in collections reviews (Figure 12), including physical reviews at eight museums including Minpaku and MNA, and digital review for five museums in the US and one in Scotland. Hopi reviewers were invited and sent to each museum (Figure 13, Film 3) (Figure 14, Film 4). If they could not leave home due to religious ceremonies, farming, health condition, and/or some other reasons, Ito visited the museum himself or with his colleagues to do photography and measurement the every single objects at the storage (Figure 15), and later, carried out the collection review digitally by projecting the images of those objects on a monitor installed at an artist’s studio in the Hopi reservation (Figure 16, Film 5). The team has reviewed about 2,450 pieces (Table 1). More than 640 hours of video commentary has been recorded and transcribed. We followed up with the artists who were interviewed to check the transcripts for cultural sensitivity and accuracy. We sometimes delete or edit passages for clarity, accuracy, or cultural sensitivity. After that process, Ito translates the data to Japanese. Minpaku is publishing text reports (Ito (ed.) 2017, 2019, 2020; Ito et al. 2020), and the collections review digital archive with interpretation in English and Japanese.
|location||holding institutions||subject of review research||implementation period|
|Osaka, Japan||National Museum of Ethnology||
281 “Hopi” carved wood dolls
186 “Hopi” arts and crafts
Oct. 2014 and Apr. 2015
Apr. and Nov. 2015
|Aichi, Japan||Little World Museum of Man||97 “Hopi” arts and crafts||Nov. 2015|
|Nara, Japan||Tenri University Sankokan Museum||24 “Hopi” arts and crafts||Nov. 2015|
|Hiroshima, Japan||Matsunaga Footwear Museum||324 “Hopi” carved wood dolls||Apr. and Oct. 2016|
|Japan||Private Collection||537 “Hopi” jewelry||Nov. 2015 and Jun. 2017|
|AZ, USA||Museum of Northern Arizona||
446 “Hopi” jewelry
9 Mimbres pots
95 “Hopi” jewelry owned by the Hopi Guild
Jul. and Dec. 2015, Nov. 2018
|CO, USA||Denver Art Museum||34 “Hopi” jewelry||Jan. 2017|
|CO, USA||Denver Museum of Nature & Science||45 “Hopi” jewelry||Jan. 2017|
|CO, USA||History Colorado||17 “Hopi” jewelry||Jan. 2017|
|DC, USA||National Museum of the American Indian||150 “Hopi” jewelry||May. and Jun. 2017|
|EDI, Scotland, UK||National Museum of Scotland||1 “Hopi” jewelry||Jun. 2017|
|OR, USA||Portland Art Museum||1 “Hopi” jewelry||Jun. 2017|
|NM, USA||New Mexico State University Museum||15 Mimbres pots||Aug. 2017|
|NM, USA||Geronimo Springs Museum||22 Mimbres pots||Sep. 2017|
|DC, USA||National Museum of Natural History||26 “Hopi” jewelry||Dec. 2017|
|USA||Private Collection||145 “Hopi” jewelry owned by the Hopi Guild||Jun. 2019 (photographed)|
|total||14 institutions and 2 private collections||2,455 items||85 days|
What the collection review participants from the source community say about the objects varies depending on their gender, age, how much they were involved in the production processes, how often they used them, and place of residence as well as the environment in which they were raised. Through their gestures, expressions, local language and dialect, and humorous stories, the collection reviewers hoped that the objects themselves, comments by a community member, and the Hopi's worldview would be "watched," "listened to," "enjoyed," and "understood" especially by their next generations. Documentation of these communications reflected a complex, diverse, and changing knowledge of the museum objects. The full collection review was recorded by digital video and the documentation will be curated by the Museum.
It is fair to say that this approach is fundamentally different from the conventional way of writing (inputting) "scientific" aspects of the objects or collectively representing the characteristics of an ethnic group. The accumulation of new information has resulted in a valuable irreplaceable narrative documentation of people’s memories and experiences that puts a spotlight on the presence of the diversity of the source community and the individualities of the objects.
We are sharing results with not only scholars, but also with the source community as the primary users. A leading Hopi jeweler, Gerald Lomaventema, is already using the images, text, and “hands on” collection visits to revive mid-20th century and earlier jewelry techniques, designs, tools, and raw materials, and to teach young Hopi students not only jewelry arts, but also lessons in Hopi language, a no-drug no-alcohol lifeway, and how to earn a living on the reservation. Gerald and students used old (1940s) jewelry from the Museum of Northern Arizona and some other teammate museums as inspiration for new creations. The artists travel to MNA and even to historical sites to feel and find connections with their ancestors through artifacts and landscapes (Film 6) (Figure 17) (Film 7) (Figure 18, Film 8) (Figure 19, Film 9).