Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology

Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology The Smithsonian Institution Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology (SIMA) trains graduate students to use museum collections in anthropological research.
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The Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology (SIMA) is a research training program offered by the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History. The program seeks to promote broader and more effective use of museum collections in anthropological research by providing a supplement to university training. Each summer SIMA supports 10-12 graduate students who want to use collections in their research. Using Smithsonian collections, experts, and visiting faculty, SIMA: • introduces students to the scope of collections and their potential as data • provides training in appropriate methods to collect and analyze museum data • makes participants aware of a range of theoretical issues relating to collections • positions students to apply their knowledge within their home university The curriculum, including both seminars and hands-on workshops, teaches students how to navigate museum systems, select methods to examine and analyze museum specimens, and recognize the wealth of theoretical issues that museum data can address. For more information on SIMA visit: http://anthropology.si.edu/summerinstitute We hope you’ll contribute to this interactive forum and to our ongoing conversation about the work we do to further the Smithsonian's mission to increase and diffuse knowledge. SIMA is supported by a series of grants from the Cultural Anthropology Program of the National Science Foundation under the following grant numbers: BCS1424029, BCS1127060, BCS1039499, BCS0852511, BCS0806775 While on-topic discussion is encouraged, we ask that you express yourself in a civil manner and treat other users with respect. The Smithsonian also monitors and may remove posts consistent with its terms of use, as described at http://si.edu/Termsofuse#user-gen.

Mission: To promote the research use of museum collections

Operating as usual

For those of you who have been part of SIMA you will familiar with exploding objects taught by Joshua Bell - here is a l...
07/26/2020
Webinar: Exploding Objects – Teaching with Everyday Things | Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

For those of you who have been part of SIMA you will familiar with exploding objects taught by Joshua Bell - here is a link to a webinar he did with colleagues Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History entitled “💥 Objects – Teaching with Everyday Things” - we 💥 🧻, 🥣 & 🦷 paste to think about our 🌏 interconnections through things many people use everyday:

https://naturalhistory.si.edu/education/professional-development/webinar-exploding-objects-teaching-everyday-things

In this video, Joshua Bell explains the teaching technique of exploding objects to think about their materials, makers, and processes.

07/25/2020

Great profile of Senior Film Archivist Pam Wintle who works Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History’s National Anthropological Archives - in this video she talks about her work caring for films of Jorge Preloran: https://youtu.be/t8HGYyvtW6I

In addition to congratulating all SIMA alum who have graduated this spring - SIMA wanted to share that SIMA alum Emily B...
05/11/2020

In addition to congratulating all SIMA alum who have graduated this spring - SIMA wanted to share that SIMA alum Emily Buhrow Rogers successfully defended her dissertation this month. Long-term SIMA visiting faculty Jason Jackson (Emily's co-chair) reports that "Emily did wonderfully during the defense. Her dissertation is an important contribution both to the anthropology of making and to understanding Choctaw lifeways today. Her SIMA friends all knew that she was an adept collections researcher. "Choctaw Arts and the Meaning of Making" reveals her to be an engaged and sensitive ethnographer as well." Pictured in the attached image are members of Emily's committee Anya Peterson Royce,
Eduardo Brondizio, Pravina Shukla and Jason Jackson, as well as Dr. Emily Buhrow Rogers.

Below is a summary of Emily's defense, and dissertation.

Choctaw Arts and the Meaning of Making
Drawing upon twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork with members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, I present the many methods and meanings that animate the production of Choctaw arts. I offer my perspective on what I learned from weavers, sewers, beaders, and carvers about how they go about creating items of material culture—many of which they consider to be traditional expressions of community and social life. I provide an exploration of some of the myriad ways that the makers with whom I worked approached and shaped their projects. While each of their beliefs and experiences were unique and personal, the many themes and commonalities they shared provide the basis for this dissertation and its structure.

By focusing on process, I center Choctaw makers’ beliefs about making within the realm of what is possible, and what they and their community deem socially valuable and meaningful. In my examination of material gathering processes, I demonstrate how makers are advocates for their materials, and that overcoming significant barriers to accessing these materials is a fundamental task that any maker must take on, regardless of the material forms that they seek to construct. I also focus on the makers themselves, highlighting the unique combination of group and personal factors that are conducive to an individual’s emergence as an creator of a particular art genre. Moreover, I center the role that a maker’s personal creativity, style, and innovation plays in material culture change through time. Lastly, I contextualize making practices as actions that are generative of, and generated by, the important individual, communal, and intergenerational rhythms of Choctaw life.

04/07/2020

Due to unfolding COVID-19 pandemic, SIMA has been cancelled for summer 2020, but will reboot in summer 2021.

The Smithsonian’s Office of Fellowships and Internships announced that no new onsite internships and fellowships can begin until August 15th. Following these guidelines, The National Museum of Natural History has cancelled all its summer programs. While they are allowing for virtual internships/fellowships on a case by case basis, there is no way that we can conduct SIMA virtually. Added to this all of the Smithsonian Institution museums are currently closed and all public programs cancelled through June 1.

We are extending all student acceptances for 2020 to 2021.

Be safe and stay healthy.

Very proud to see this wonderful exhibit coming out through hard work of SIMA alum Nina Sanders and others!
03/10/2020
School for Advanced Research

Very proud to see this wonderful exhibit coming out through hard work of SIMA alum Nina Sanders and others!

Nina Sanders, former Anne Ray intern at SAR, on the upcoming exhibit at the Field Museum, “What we create here is going to reshape the way that cultural institutions and communities work together, how exhibitions are constructed, and who gets to educate the public about Native American culture.”

SIMA 2020 Application Deadline ReminderThanks to the many who have expressed interest in this year’s SIMA program. This ...
02/19/2020

SIMA 2020 Application Deadline Reminder
Thanks to the many who have expressed interest in this year’s SIMA program. This is a reminder that the deadline for applications is approaching. SIMA is a graduate student training program in museum research methods offered through the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. Students participate in seminars and hands-on workshops at the museum and at an off-site collections facility, learning to navigate museum systems and select methods for examination and analysis of museum specimens while collecting data for a project of their choice.
WHO: Graduate students interested in using museum collections as data.
DATES: Applications due MARCH 1, 2020. SIMA 2020 dates will be June 15 – July 10.
COST: The program covers tuition and the cost of shared apartment housing. A stipend of $1500 will be provided to assist with the cost of food and other local expenses. Participants are individually responsible for travel costs.
ELIGIBILITY: Students studying anthropology or related interdisciplinary programs at the M.A. and doctoral levels are considered for acceptance. All U.S. graduate students are eligible for acceptance, even if studying abroad. International students can be considered if they are enrolled in a university in the U.S.A. NOTE: Canadian First Nation members are eligible under treaty agreements. For more information and to apply, please visit https://naturalhistory.si.edu/research/anthropology/programs/summer-institute-museum-anthropology
Feel free to contact us at [email protected] if you have any questions.

We are pleased to introduce the SIMA 2020 Guest Faculty and welcome them to the program! Please check out their bios bel...
02/03/2020

We are pleased to introduce the SIMA 2020 Guest Faculty and welcome them to the program! Please check out their bios below.

SIMA 2020 Call for ApplicationsWe are now accepting proposals from prospective graduate student participants for the 202...
01/14/2020

SIMA 2020 Call for Applications

We are now accepting proposals from prospective graduate student participants for the 2020 Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology (SIMA).

SIMA is a graduate student summer training program in museum research methods offered through the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History with major funding from the Cultural Anthropology Program of the National Science Foundation. Summer 2020 dates are June 15 - July 10.
During four weeks of intensive training in seminars and hands-on workshops at the museum and an off-site collections facility, students are introduced to the scope of collections and their potential as data. Students become acquainted with strategies for navigating museum systems, learn to select methods to examine and analyze museum specimens, and consider a range of theoretical issues that collections-based research may address. In consultation with faculty, each student carries out preliminary data collection on a topic of their own choice and develops a prospectus for research to be implemented upon return to their home university. Instruction will be provided by Smithsonian scholars and guest faculty (to be announced).

Who should apply?

Graduate students preparing for research careers in cultural anthropology who are interested in using museum collections as a data source. The program is not designed to serve students seeking careers in museum management. Students at both the masters and doctoral level will be considered for acceptance. Students in related interdisciplinary programs (Indigenous Studies, Folklore, etc.) are welcome to apply if the proposed project is anthropological in nature. All U.S. students are eligible for acceptance, even if studying abroad. International students can be considered only if they are enrolled in a university in the U.S. Canadian First Nation members are eligible under treaty agreements.

Costs: The program covers students’ tuition and shared housing in local furnished apartments. A small stipend will be provided to assist with the cost of food and other local expenses. Participants are individually responsible for the cost of travel to and from Washington, DC.

Application deadline - March 1, 2020
SIMA dates for 2020: June 15- July 10

For more information and to apply, please visit https://naturalhistory.si.edu/research/anthropology/programs/summer-institute-museum-anthropology

Additional questions? Want to discuss a project proposal? Email [email protected]

SIMA Director Joshua Bell has a new piece entitled -  "Check Out That Gold-Plated Board!" Scrapping Cellphones and Elect...
12/19/2019

SIMA Director Joshua Bell has a new piece entitled - "Check Out That Gold-Plated Board!" Scrapping Cellphones and Electronics in North America - in an edited volume by Elizabeth Ferry, Annabel Vallard and Andrew Walsh and published by University of Toronto Press: https://utorontopress.com/us/the-anthropology-of-precious-minerals-3

THE SIMA LESSON REPOSITORYA Teaching Resource for University EducatorsIn keeping with the goal of the Summer Institute i...
11/19/2019

THE SIMA LESSON REPOSITORY
A Teaching Resource for University Educators

In keeping with the goal of the Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology to promote museums as sites of knowledge production, we are pleased to announce the SIMA Lesson Repository hosted by the Smithsonian Libraries: https://repository.si.edu/handle/10088/99087

The SIMA Lesson Repository contains teaching materials that use museum collections for a range of courses in anthropology, museum studies, and related fields. They have been contributed by former SIMA Faculty and SIMA Faculty Fellows who are committed to encouraging greater use of museum collections as a source of information in anthropological research.

Materials range in scope from full syllabi to individual lesson plans and hand-outs. All material posted is freely available for use in developing graduate and undergraduate courses using pedagogical models and methods at the core of the SIMA curriculum.

This is a growing repository- so please check back as more contain will be added.

10/18/2019

The Harvard Art Museums announced today that, following a national search, David Odo (SIMA visiting faculty in 2017) has been appointed Director of Academic and Public Programs, Division Head, and Research Curator. In his new role Odo will foster partnerships across the university, shape the programmatic vision of the division, and be responsible for overseeing mission-driven teaching and learning experiences based in the study of original works of art for the Museums’ diverse community.

Congratulations to Chris Patrello, applying his knowledge of Northwest Coast art in exhibit planning as Mellon post-doct...
10/01/2019

Congratulations to Chris Patrello, applying his knowledge of Northwest Coast art in exhibit planning as Mellon post-doctoral fellow in Native American art at Denver Art Museum. Seen here with Candace Greene (Smithsonian Institution) John Lukavic (Curator of Native Arts, Denver Art Museum) and Dakota Hoska (Asst. Curator of Native Arts, Denver Art Museum).

Nice post by 2019 SIMA alum and PhD candidate Rose Taylor about her time during SIMA on the Material World Blog: https:/...
08/28/2019
Exploding Objects: A Month at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Nice post by 2019 SIMA alum and PhD candidate Rose Taylor about her time during SIMA on the Material World Blog: https://www.materialworldblog.com/2019/08/exploding-objects-a-month-at-the-smithsonians-national-museum-of-natural-history/

Rose Taylor, PhD Candidate, UCL Anthropology Over the course of four weeks between June and July 2019 I participated in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History’s Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology (SIMA) in Washington D.C. SIMA is an intensive residential course designed to tra...

We are posting the title and abstracts of our SIMA participants for their final project presentations which took place o...
07/31/2019

We are posting the title and abstracts of our SIMA participants for their final project presentations which took place on June 11 and 12th Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

Emily Hayflick – Bard Graduate Center

Stitching Alternative Histories: How Tourist Objects in Museum Collections Reflect Craft and Womanhood

Tourist objects have routinely been neglected and obscured by professional anthropologists and museum collectors; however, in small numbers, these pieces have made their way into natural history museums. Within the collections of the National Museum of Natural History’s Department of Anthropology, there are at least thirteen examples of decorative patchwork bird and mammal pelt objects, produced as tourist or souvenir pieces by Native Alaskan, likely Yup’ik, women. Examining the construction, traces of use, and imagery of these pieces and similar ones at the National Museum of the American Indian, contextualized with accession and archival records, I will explore how these objects display relationships between indigenous and non-indigenous women relating to notions of craft and womanhood across cultures. Following these pieces through their current status as museum objects, I will also discuss the ways in which tourist objects have been repeatedly overlooked and under-recorded through museum practices.

We are posting the title and abstracts of our SIMA participants for their final project presentations which took place o...
07/30/2019

We are posting the title and abstracts of our SIMA participants for their final project presentations which took place on June 11 and 12th Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

Christopher W. Smith – University of British Columbia

In Error And Invisible: Misidentified Nuxalkmc Objects In The James Swan Collection In The National Museum of Natural History (NMNH)

Museum catalogues contain misinformation that can obfuscate provenance and render ancestral belongings invisible to originating communities. This presentation considers three re-attributed Nuxalkmc objects from the James Swan collection in the NMNH (E74747-0, E74752-0, and E74758-0) that are recorded as originating with other First Nations. Through close inspection of accession records, catalogue cards, community input, and the objects themselves, this research seeks to pinpoint where and how this misinformation entered NMNH’s catalogue. By reattributing objects and introducing them to Nuxalkmc community members, new and in-depth conversations were sparked that illuminate important aspects of the lives of the objects themselves. This research will discuss what implications close-looking and reassessing historic documentation might have for museums as well as originating communities in the era of repatriation and community engagement.

We are posting the title and abstracts of our SIMA participants for their final project presentations which took place o...
07/29/2019

We are posting the title and abstracts of our SIMA participants for their final project presentations which took place on June 11 and 12th Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

Ava Salzer - University of Leicester

The Collected and Collective Uncertainty of Museum Things: A Study of Unknownness In A Section Of E.W. Nelson’s Alaskan Collection

Between 1877-1881 E.W. Nelson collected a number of objects on a Navy expedition to Alaska. The records for these objects contain uncertainties that stem from their history outside and inside of the SI collections. The primary aim of this study is to answer questions regarding this unknownness. There is evidence to suggest that some objects, by nature of their materiality and documentation, are more prone to uncertainty and unknownness than others. It is shown that there is a need to better understand the reasons for these qualities and to build a framework against their (quite literally) systematic perpetuation in museum environments.

We are posting the title and abstracts of our SIMA participants for their final project presentations which took place o...
07/26/2019

We are posting the title and abstracts of our SIMA participants for their final project presentations which took place on June 11 and 12th Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History:

Elena Adasheva-Klein – Yale University

The Arctic Suit of Lieut. G.B. Harber
The Harber collection of clothing items dispersed amongst Siberian objects in the Smithsonian’s Department of Anthropology embodies three distinct narratives: that of heroic 19th century Arctic exploration; that of the native’s imagined outsider; and that of the Arctic environment and lifeways. Donated to the museum by U.S. Navy officer Giles B. Harber in 1892, the clothing was worn by him during the Delong Relief Expedition to the Lena Delta in Arctic Siberia in 1882-1884. The “costume,” together with photographs depicting Harber in his full Artic suit, constitute evidence of the individual heroism of moving through and succeeding in the extreme conditions, and may also be seen as commemorative objects in the museum collection. Many of them, originally cataloged as “Yakut,” most likely represent a pseudo-indigenous style that was locally produced for foreigners. The attributions of the collection reflect institutional histories and Russian-American academic interactions. The animal furs and skins, sewn together by native hands, evoke the importance of human-animal relations in Arctic socio-ecological systems. The examination of material and stylistic qualities of the objects, accession records, attribution histories, and historical contexts enriches the interpretive potential of the Harber collection.

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