Join Pictures Acquisition Officer and 2017 National Library Indigenous Graduate Jodie Dowd as she shares her experience as the first Indigenous Australian to undertake a placement in collections management at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
Jodie will reveal how this experience enabled her to have a cross-cultural exchange with indigenous peoples from the Americas, and how the NMAI incorporates indigenous knowledge into western collection management practices.
*Speakers: Alison Dellit (A), Jodie Dowd (J)
*Location: National Library of Australia
*Date: 10 July 2018
A: What a fabulous turnout for this talk. Welcome to the National Library of Australia. I’m Alison Dellit and I’m the Assistant Director General in charge of National Collections Access here at the National Library. As we begin I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land, I thank the elders past and present for caring for this land which we now call home and I would like to extend a special welcome to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that are here at the Library in this important week.
NAIDOC Week is a time to celebrate the history, the culture and the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The Library plays an active and an honoured role in preserving the history, the culture, the achievements and the language of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and making these available online for all Australians. Our digital classroom has a number of online resources for teachers which align indigenous items in the Library’s collections to the national curriculum from Years 3 to 10. These resources bring the collection into classrooms across the country and illuminate indigenous collecting items for Australian students to engage with.
Our other content online includes a series of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collection conversations covering topics from researching in family history through Trove through to analyses of the 1967 referendum and other issues. We also have video readings of the children’s book, I Got This Hat in Warramunga language, Torres Strait Creole and Walgalu Wiradjuri language. Just three of the approximately 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages of Australia are mentioned here but the rest are documented in the National Library’s collection.
The 2018 NAIDOC Week theme, Because Of Her We Can! celebrates the essential role that women have played and continue to play as significant role models as community, local, state and national levels. Today I have the great pleasure of introducing you to the amazing Jodie Dowd, one of our indigenous staff members. Jodie is a Noongar woman, [Menang Gitcha] 2:04, whose ancestral country covers much of Western Australia. The Library has the great pleasure as I said of employing her as an acquisitions officer in the Pictures and Manuscripts Branch. A highlight of her career has been cultural exchanges to Tasmania’s Flinders Island, Aotearoa and the United States of America just for a little bit of diversity. During this time she was able to spend time with respected community members and the guidance that she received from elders has helped shape her cultural and spiritual identity and fuelled Jodie’s passion to care for and make accessible indigenous collections within cultural institutions. And you’ll be able to see some of the contribution that Jodie’s been able to make to the Library.
In 2016 Jodie undertook a placement at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of the American Indian and it is these experiences that Jodie is going to share with us today. Please join me in welcoming Jodie Dowd.
J: [Speaks Aboriginal language]. I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians on the land on which we meet today, the Ngunnawal Ngambri people. This was and always will be their country. I acknowledge ancestors and elders past, present and future and extend my respects to other first nation peoples who are here today. Providing an acknowledgement of country is a small gesture of respect for the traditional owners of the region. It is a way to promote awareness of the past and continuing connections to place and land for all first nations peoples.
I’ve been blessed to call Ngunnawal Ngambri country my home for almost four-and-a-half years now after first being welcomed by Uncle Paul Howes during a tour to see cultural sites. It is a privilege to share my story today on this beautiful country especially during NAIDOC Week which is – a annual celebration of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, history and people.
This year’s NAIDOC theme is Because Of Her We Can! Celebrating and remembering indigenous Australian women is particularly significant to me as I come from a very matriarchal family. To me this theme pays respect to the strength of our women and the power of memory. It celebrates the link between generations, past to present, present to future, and the continuing sharing of knowledge and cultural practices.
My family provide the link to my ancestral country which stretches from the red sands of the Kimberley through the dry Central Desert to the southwest coast. As I was born and raised on Gunaikurnai country in Gippsland, Victoria I am dependent on my family’s knowledge and stories to understand my connection to country and heritage. My mother’s side of the family are Noongar while my dad is a fourth-generation Irish Australian. I also have English, Scottish and Indian heritage in the mix as well.
In Australia there are over 250 first nation language groups in addition to the 700 plus nation groups. To give you a better idea of how this works my language group is Noongar which [stems] 5:40 the majority of Western Australia but my nation or clan groups are [Menang] 5:44 on my nan’s side and [Gitcha] 5:50 on my pa’s side.
It is best practice to provide a cultural warning when referring to first nation peoples and their rich cultural heritage so it is important that before we start this presentation a cultural warning is provided as there are images of Australian Aboriginal and native American people and also culturally sensitive content that I will be referring to throughout this presentation. I would also like to forewarn the language that I will use to identify first nation people. While language names are preferred Aboriginal, first nation and indigenous, the terms most commonly used in Australia, my preference is Noongar and then indigenous Australian although others prefer Aboriginal.
I had a big culture shock in the States when asked if I was a native. In Australia the term native is seen as derogatory while in the States native is the preferred term for native American people after their language names. In the States the terms, American Indian and native American are used instead of first nation or indigenous. Other groups including native Hawaiian and in Canada Aboriginal and first nation. So don’t be shocked when during this presentation I use the term, native ‘cause that’s what I’ll be using to refer to native American people as that’s their preferred term.
I lived and worked in the United States of America from June ‘til August in 2016 to undertake a placement at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC. There are three designated sites of the NMAI including two public museums, one in Washington DC, the other in New York city and they also have the Cultural Resource Center in Suitland, Maryland which stores the museum’s rich collection. All branches of the NMAI are part of the Smithsonian Institution.
The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum, education and research complex with 19 museums, nine research centres, numerous libraries and a national zoo. These sites are owned and operated by the United States Government and the majority of these sites are based on the National Mall in Washington DC so all along there.
Large collection stores are located in Virginia and Maryland. There are also Smithsonian museums located in New York city. Due to its reputation the Smithsonian’s internship programs are very competitive, especially during the US summer sessions. Each museum, gallery, zoo, library and archive have their own internship program requirements and out of over 300 applicants I was one of only 19 interns to get a – internship at the NMAI during the summer of 2016.
At the time I was doing a masters of Museum and Heritage Studies at the ANU having received a study award from AIATSIS, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. This internship counted as a unit of credit towards gaining my master’s degree. Both AIATSIS and the Smithsonian sponsored my internship and I was the first indigenous Australian to intern in the Collection Management Department at the NMAI. I should also clarify I was also the first Australian to intern in that particular department as well so –
Upon arrival in the States I was welcomed to country by [Garby] 9:49 who is Piscataway, one of the traditional owners of DC. [Garby] worked as a historian at the NMAI and I had met her previously at the Encounters Conference hosted by the National Museum of Australia in March 2016. As a Noongar woman this was the perfect welcome.
Over the course of the 10 weeks this placement serves as a cross-cultural exchange between myself as a – indigenous Australian and native people from the Americas. As part of the placement I lived with five other interns. Our household was a melting pot of cultures with a Noongar, native Hawaiian, Crow, Navajo, Puerto Rican and a white American living under the same roof. I met and became friends with a diverse range of people from various native nations and [Americas] 10:45 as well as African Americans and nonindigenous people and the best thing about my internship, apart from the work which I adored, was the people that I met.
I now have a – incredible support network, and ongoing professional and personal relationships with the staff, fellows and interns who I became very good friends with and it is through working, sightseeing and living together we were able to share our cultural practices and knowledge including language and shared experiences as native people. So through this I learnt that there are similarities and differences between all native peoples and this leads to incredible connection over our triumphant shared issues as well as our understanding of historical and current events and how that impacts us now.
In North America there are 573 federally recognised tribes in the USA alone not including state or community-recognised tribes nor native groups in Canada, South or Central America. Like Australia each nation is diverse and unique in their cultural practices and they have their own histories. The NMAI currently manage their collection comprising of over 825,000 items, more than 1,200 native communities in North, Central and South America are represented in these collections and the majority of these collections consist of art and objects although there are smaller collections of photographic, media and paper materials.
Established under the 1989 National Museum of the American Indian Act the founding legislation focused on repatriating ancestral remains and sacred objects to the associated federally recognised tribe. This legislation pre-dates the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, known as NAGPRA, of 1990 and NAGPRA was enacted to determine ownership of native American human remains and objects within museums in North America to enable repatriation.
The NMAI was officially founded in June 1990 and is the first dedicated national museum to the indigenous people of a particular continent. The NMAI has also set the standard for incorporating indigenous knowledge systems with western collection management practices.
The beginning of the collection was assembled in New York city by George Gustav Heye starting in 1897. This anthropological focus collection was originally known as the Museum of the American Indian. In 1916 the collection moved into a building at 155th and Broadway in New York city. Ten years later the collection had to be moved to a separate storage facility in The Bronx due to lack of storage at the main building.
The collection was transferred to the Smithsonian Institute in 1989 where it became the National Museum of the American Indian and NMAI New York opened in 1994. The NMAI New York is also known as the George Gustav Heye Center. The museum is in Lower Manhattan in the historic Alexander Hamilton US Custom Building along with the New York branch of the National Archives. Prior to colonisation this site acted as a trading place between native American peoples and after the colonists arrived this site became a place where people collected taxes on imported goods.
The Alexander Hamilton US Custom Building was built on this site between 1900 and 1907. In July NMAI sent all 19 interns to New York city to see the branch in New York. During this site visit we met staff who told us about their various roles. We were able to explore the exhibition galleries and the education spaces at our leisure and we had free time to spend in the gift shop and go exploring outside for lunch.
I had visited NMAI in New York two years previously in 2014 while on holiday and it was actually at the Infinity of Nations exhibition that inspired me to apply for the internship. I really loved how the curators used native voices in that exhibition alongside historic, traditional and contemporary cultural objects to tell their stories. In particular the story of Mohawk Woman, Tekahionwake, English name, Pauline Johnson, stayed with me. It is the strength of native people and particularly women that inspired me to work in this field and it was incredible to be around such amazing people throughout my time in the States.
As a – intern in the Collections Management Department I spent the majority of my 10-week placement working at two sites, the Museum on the Mall in DC and the CRC. Gail, a Cherokee woman who is the collection manager, was my supervisor and as she managed the collections at both sites we would spend our time divided between the Mall and CRC getting the best of both worlds.
Situated on the impressive treelined boulevard known as the National Mall that consists of museums, memorials and monuments the National Museum of the American Indian is built on Piscataway country and rises four storeys into the sky on the corner of Fourth Street southwest and Independence Avenue southwest in the nation’s capital.
Natural materials have been used to build the museum both inside and out. The building materials were chosen purposefully to highlight native connection to land. This includes everything from the external sandstone walls and outdoor water feature to the large windows bringing natural light into each floor. During the building of NMAI and the Mall an extensive consultation took place with native peoples from South, Central and North America.
NMAI and the Mall was opened in 2004. It provides exhibition spaces, a performance area, theatre, gift shop, café, restaurant and staff areas and the basement are on the top floor. There are two collection management storage areas at the Mall which are located on the basement level with a secure loading dock accessible opposite. These storage areas act as a quarantine area for collection materials and offer spaces for collection management staff. A cold store is also located in one of the storage areas and collection materials are kept here on a temporary basis, providing secure storage for materials either going on display or coming off display. Wood, metal and plastic workshops and exhibition fabrication centres are also onsite.
While at the Mall I assisted with collection management duties. These mainly focused on the temporary and permanent exhibitions and one of the first duties that I undertook was to conduct research on objects that were on display in Our Universe’s Traditional Knowledge Shapes Our World. This is one of the original exhibitions that opened with the museum in 2004 and it explores native beliefs and a link between humans and the natural world. So I spent quite a bit of time exploring the exhibit to locate animals that were made out of American bison or buffalo. So we were having an event that honoured the buffalo as America’s first national mammal.
I would also conduct exhibition walkthroughs every morning prior to the museum opening to check the objects on display and to clean the treaties case in the exhibition, Nation to Nation, Treaties between the United States and American Indian Nations. So you can see the museum’s director, Kevin. He’s just having a squiz at one of the treaties. So the original treaty signed between a native nation and the US is displayed in the exhibition and they’re all being on loan from the archive. At present I think there’s been about nine treaties and they rotate over. Yeah, they swap over every few months and as part of the loan agreement between NMAI and the Archives only collection management staff are able to clean the display case. I don’t know if they trusted the cleaners.
I also assisted with the cleaning and changeover of objects on exhibition and on long-term loan. This was done working alongside conservation and registration so you can see me in the photo. I’m caring for one of the objects that’s on permanent display so this is located in one of the – they have exhibition pods on each floor. These are kind of like a collection in focus and they normally swap over regularly. He’s so cute, he’s a little walrus from Alaska.
So the NMAI often hosted festivals and I would assist Gail to assess any objects brought into the building during this time. This mainly focused on checking objects made of natural fibres so baskets, cloaks to ensure that no pests were hitching a ride into the museum which is really important.
I also undertook a research project over the course of the 10 weeks so I was looking at how native staff and fellows and volunteers interact with culturally sensitive materials like ceremonial, sacred yeah items that are in the collection so I spent most of my time on this project interviewing other staff but I also did do research as well at the Smithsonian libraries and also the Library of Congress so I just wanted to chuck that in there.
When not at the Mall I was at the CRC which is a purpose-built building designed through collaboration with native communities across South, Central and North America and Hawaii. Measuring over 230,000 gross square feet this building was completed in 1998. A major design element that the builders incorporated following community recommendation was to store the objects based on geographical areas using the cardinal directions of north, east, west and south. All objects are kept together by community and location, for example objects from communities in Alaska, Canada, north America were stored due south and communities in the south, west and east also had their items stored based on this concept.
The building also highlights native American connection to country by incorporating the four elements of earth, fire, sky and water. The collection storage areas built over three levels were created following community advice to have archaeological objects kept on a lower level underground so they’d be back in the earth from where they came. Living items such as baskets, cloaks, weapons, tools, pottery are kept on the ground floor where a window has been built to allow sunlight into the collection so that the objects could see the earth and sky and feel the sun. There is additional over-floor storage on the top floor and ceremonial, sacred and culturally sensitive materials are stored out of sight but they’re also kept with other materials from the relevant community or location.
In addition to dedicated storage areas and offices the CRC has two conservation labs, a registration lab, library, archives, outdoor spaces including a manmade stream and a fire pit for ceremonies. They have a bit of a forest as well at the back but one of my favourite things was their purpose-built smudging room and the smudging room is a designated space where native staff and visitors can cleanse themselves through smudging or prayer before or after visiting the collection. So smudging ceremonies are similar to our smoking ceremonies here. Yeah, they use different materials obviously but it’s really good. This incredible inclusion meets the spiritual and cultural needs of indigenous visitors and there is no equivalent in Australia. And I spent quite a bit of time in the smudging room both with my native friends and alone to perform ceremony and to reflect.
The resulting building is a living entity that is continually growing and adapting to the new objects coming into the collection and due to the foresight during the development phase there is enough space for the collection to continue to grow over the coming decade or so.
Some of the collection management duties that I helped with at the CRC included preparing items for permanent storage and loan and making mounts. The photo in the top left is probably my favourite one of all time so I’m making a mount for a 1,800-year-old Inca necklace that is made of gold and turquoise. So during the summer that I was there the collection management team were rehousing all objects that were stored in the gold vault so this included invaluable cultural objects made of gold, silver and bronze from various first nation communities in the Americas and different periods of time throughout history. Only select members of the collection management team were able to do this with strict security measures in place to ensure the safety of the objects.
Using safe handling techniques I also assisted with object retrieval and movement for viewings by staff, researchers and visitors. As the storage cabinets can reach up to two storeys in height I was trained to use the wave machine to safely collect and move objects. Steph, one of my friends who was the [Acamole] 27:15 woman, she was undertaking a collection management fellowship at the NMAI while I was there and she taught me how to use the wave machine. Together we safely retrieved upwards of 50 ceramics from the Pojoaque nation in New Mexico for a group of Pojoaque elders and respected persons to view the pottery on loan. NMAI support the long-term loan of objects back to the native community and during the selection process cultural knowledge is shared with collection staff and added to the collection records with permission from that community.
In addition to retrievals I assisted with tours of the collection stores including a tour for indigenous Australian curators visiting with the Australian Council of the Arts so you can see them there with old mate, Terry so he’s one of the repatriation officers at NMAI. And it’s really funny, I didn’t know they were coming, the indigenous Australian curators but I know most of them so yeah, that was great.
So as well as doing a tour at the CRC we also visited the Museum Support Center which is opposite the CRC. The MSC was founded in 1983 and access is restricted. The MSC is a conservation and storage facility for numerous Smithsonian collections including those of the National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of African Art and the National Museum for American History. Ancestral remains are also stored here. When it is time for them to return home the ancestors are prepared for repatriation. So that’s Terry’s job.
The MSC stores a large number of indigenous Australian objects including one of the seven surviving pre-contact possum skin cloaks from Australia. This cloak was taken by American-Canadian ethnologist, Horatio Hale, in 1839 near the Hunter River in New South Wales. This was the third pre-contact cloak that I have seen in real life and it was both a bittersweet and haunting experience. Museum Victoria actually have two of the other cloaks as well so if you ever get the opportunity to go to Melbourne I highly recommend going into Bunguluke and yeah, I think it’s the – it’s the Gunditjmara or Yorta Yorta cloak that will be on display.
So we were able to touch the cloak but gloves were required due to the arsenic that coated it. The use of arsenic and other pesticides was a common practice previously used to preserve objects and many objects in Smithsonian and the NMAI collections have tested positive for this hazardous material although it is managed through treatments and safe handling practices by staff.
As a Smithsonian intern I was also given opportunities such as exclusive access to other Smithsonian museums during intern only mornings where interns were allowed into the museum an hour before the general public. They also had movie nights. One of my favourite was – and I’m going to sound like a nerd so was watching Night At the Museum at the National Museum of Natural History. They actually have what’s his name, Dumb Dumb, is that – yeah, they have him downstairs. We walked past him to get to the theatre. Sorry.
We also went to special events including the annual Folklife Festival and all staff barbeque. Oh pot lucks, they’re amazing, we should have them here. I also was able to get access to the behind the scenes of the Library of Congress which was amazing. I didn’t realise only – they have more than one site which I didn’t know until I was there. I also had a personal meet and greet with curators at the Kluge-Ruhe Museum in Virginia so this museum at the University of Virginia houses indigenous Australian art and is the only museum of its kind in the States. However other museums and cultural heritage collections in the States house cultural objects from Australia such as the Archaeology and Anthropology Museum in Philadelphia. Every year Gail organises a special trip for one collection management intern to visit another museum collection so Gail and I visited the Archaeology and Anthropology Museum and during this trip we met the curators of the Americas and Oceania collections who gave us a behind the scenes tour.
During this – I’d like to call it an exchange so the curators gave us this tour but I was also able to help share my knowledge of how indigenous Australian materials can be cared for, especially materials that are culturally sensitive. And I was really surprised when the curator, she didn’t tell me beforehand but she actually selected objects from my country to bring out including this shield from the Kimberley, yeah. That’s my pa’s country. Yeah so it was really hard to leave them after reconnecting with the items ‘cause they’re so far away from family and country. And I also – my pa died when I was one so it was also a way to connect with him which you don’t really expect to have on the other side of the world.
First nation peoples are always on my mind when I visit other countries and late last year I returned to the States and visited my friends again. One of my best friends, Steph, who I was talking about before, is now working at the School of Advanced Research in Santa Fe, New Mexico where she translates and transcribes interviews with [Acamole] elders and respected peoples to enhance collection records of particular objects. Steph took me to work with her while I was staying in New Mexico and although I was suffering from - jet lagged, I love learning how the research centre manages their collection and how they incorporate indigenous knowledge into their records.
The collection management team there is quite small so I was able to chat with a team of three and upon hearing about my work experience the collection manager asked if I would help with their audit of pictures material. So of course I said yes. I was also blessed to be able to stay with Steph’s family on the weekend and we travelled two hours to the [Acamole] reservation in New Mexico which has its own museum and casino. And the day that I left Steph took me to her ancestral home at [Acamole] Pablo so you can kind of see it in the distance, not really, it’s really dark, don’t worry. So [Acamole] Pablo has been there since 1150 AD and is heritage-listed as the oldest continuing inhabited community in North America. Due to cultural reasons I was unable to leave the car as preparation for ceremony had begun on that day but listening to the stories of Steph’s ancestors and seeing her country and driving up to the [MASA] 35:59 was an incredible experience that I will never forget.
I reunited with some of my friends in New York and DC late last year and I also returned to all three NMAI sites. When I visited the CRC I was able to catch up with Gail and the collection management team and I was also able to find out information about objects from Puerto Rico that are housed in the NMAI collection. On the trip last year I spent a week in Puerto Rico with my friend, Omar, who is a – archaeologist and he taught me about the history and culture of Puerto Rico, particularly the precontact history of the Taino and Salidoid people and the colonial history of the island.
I visited his country when they were still recovering two months after the hurricanes and prior to the natural disasters Omar and a team of archaeologists had been working at a site on the US Virgin Islands. All the objects located were recorded and stored at the Islands Museum however the museum was destroyed and the site decimated by the hurricanes. So before I got to the NMAI I asked Gail for a list of collection items from Puerto Rico. I was able to take photographs of the objects and sent both the photographs and lists to Omar to share with his family, friends and colleagues and he didn’t even know these objects existed until then. So in a strange twist of fate an exhibition titled Taino, Native Heritage and Identity in the Caribbean will open in NMAI New York on July 28th of this year and that exhibition includes the object that I’m holding in the photo.
It is fitting that I should end this presentation where I started and that is with [Garby], Piscataway traditional owner of the country where I lived for over 10 weeks. The day before I left [Garby] took me to one of their sacred sites, a special place where her ancestors, her family, Piscataway tribal leaders are buried. When I questioned if it was appropriate for me to be there [Garby] gave me a hug and said I want you to leave your footprints here so that our ancestors know who you are and for you to return to this place in the future and there is no doubt in my mind that I will go back there one day. Thank you.
A: We’ve got time for a few questions from the audience. Have we got microphones? We do indeed up the back so if you’ve got a question and I'm sure many people do could you just raise your hand and we’ll get you a microphone?
Au: Can you tell us what the object was that you were holding that’s going to go in the exhibition?
H: Yes. I can’t pronounce it, it is an idol so I can’t pronounce the Spanish part. Idol Zami? So they were objects used traditionally as a way to connect with your ancestors so it’s a spiritual object.
Au: Hi Jodie, would you be able to tell us about something that you saw happening at the Smithsonian that you would like to see incorporated in Australia?
J: Smudging room definitely, definitely. I find working in collections – like I’ve been working in collections for almost 10 years now and the number of times I’ve had to go home to perform ceremony with family would - yeah, it’s quite a lot ‘cause you do put yourself at risk as a - indigenous person working in collections. So definitely the smudging room. Yes please. And I really loved the way they created the Cultural Resource Center so the way that each – so each community is represented, all their objects are stored in the same location rather than being separated by object type and that sort of thing so that would be beautiful, yeah.
Au: Hi Jodie, I was just wondering the percentage of indigenous staff at the museum. Can you talk about that? Was more than not?
J: In collections it was so – sorry, oh my gosh, it’s two years ago. So let me just count. I think there were about six of us in collections out of eight were indigenous so yeah, that was including me as a – intern. Yeah. But in other areas I think so as well and NMAI, the Director will always be native so that’s one of their requirements. And there's always a native curator and yeah, there has to be native people in each section, especially repatriation as well. Terry’s been there for years.
Au: <inaudible> 42:04.
J: Yeah, I think it goes two-way as well. And because NMAI was founded based on community consultation communities were there from the beginning and they helped to visualise it and build it from the ground up, literally from the ground up. I think that played a big part in that like having communities to you know share those ideas before starting on major projects – for NMAI, that was really – like a really great idea.
Au: Hi Jodie. So from my limited knowledge I have heard and noticed that there does seem to be a discrepancy between museums working with indigenous communities all over the world with providing almost artefact lists or knowledge of what they have to the enth degree. Did you find that at the NMAI?
J: Yeah so –
Au: Because you said that – well the Puerto archaeologist, he didn’t know what was there. Do you think there needs to be more communication of what museums have? It’s a big question probably.
J: Yeah, it’s – no, it’s a really good question and it’s really tricky so I’m going to go back into the legislation I was talking about with NAGPRA and the NM – like that created the museum so originally it was founded to repatriate ancestral remains and objects. The catch is that they have to be federally recognised tribes and the community also has to approach the Museum directly. And it’s in a similar - I guess a similar thing where those native communities are definitely welcome but I think the communities often make the first contact in those cases. Yeah, it’s really tricky.
Au: <inaudible> 44:18.
J: Like ideally that would be wonderful but I also think there’s that need to share like it has to come both ways, you can’t have – it can’t just be give or take, it has to be working together to do it. Yeah, it’s really tricky especially in Puerto Rico just because of the current climate over there at the moment like the recovering from hurricanes, there’s no power like I think it’s 30% of the population are still without power like months later. So – and like having their museums decimated. They actually don’t have a national museum over there which I found really surprising so in that case it would be good for museums to go out and actively do that ‘cause otherwise they’re just not going to know, are they? Yeah.
Au: Oh Jodie, I was wondering what happened with the items that were in the Natural History Museum in the Smithsonian, were they moved to be included in the new building?
J: No. So do you mean for the American Indian Museum or –
Au: Yes. I was a volunteer when I was in Washington and the building wasn’t there but I volunteered in the Native American Hall in the Natural History Museum and I thought there might have been a bit of animosity between different groups about the collection.
J: Yes so because the George Gustav Heye collection didn’t go to NMAI until the late 19 – 1989, the Smithsonian had already been collecting other native American materials and so the materials that the Smithsonian collected are at the MSC so they’ve stayed there, they didn’t go over to NMAI. It’s only the Heye material that went to NMAI which I found really interesting. But NMAI actively collect now like for native American people while MSC don’t so yeah, that’s a really good question.
Au: Hi Jodie, you’ve spoken a bit about the relationships that they have with the communities over there and obviously that’s something that the whole sector in Australia at the moment is having a really good look at. What techniques or methods would you like to see adapted from the US that perhaps we could use to improve the situation over here?
J: I think one of the main ones is employing more indigenous staff so the Library’s really good at that but other organisations in Australia not so much so like I couldn’t find work in Melbourne in the end so even though I have like three postgrad degrees and I’ve been working in museums for a long time I just couldn’t get work. And yeah so employ na – I keep going between native and indigenous so forgive me – but yeah, employ indigenous staff. I also think going out onto country and consulting that way is really important and it can’t just be a one-off, it has to be ongoing like developing those relationships. And also asking the communities what they would like to see rather than going with a set agenda per se so – ‘cause when you go with set questions like going towards a different – like a set path like the Encounters Exhibition did at NMAI for example you’re missing out on a whole - like a whole - so much more like that’s only 5% of what the community can give you whereas if you open it up and let the community talk it’ll be a lot more than that. I think those are the main ones. I’m sure I’ll come up with more later.
A: Excellent. So I will thank you and I hope everybody has enjoyed themselves as much as I have and is appreciative that while it’s a shame that there aren’t more jobs in the museum sector it has been greatly to the Library’s benefit so <inaudible> 48:51.
A: Please thank Jodie again.
A: Before you go I will encourage you to visit the Library’s exhibitions, visit our bookshop and most of all explore our collections and to discover your own stories within them. I particularly want to invite you back on Friday from 12:30 to 1:30 when downstairs in the theatre we’ll be hearing from Yanti Ropeyarn on the Back to School at Bamaga High project which was a project that Yanti initiated and led within her role as a staff member at the National Library to bring in the newsletters of Australia’s northern-most high school which gathered indigenous students from a very wide range of areas and that digitisation project has spun off quite a significant community effort so it’s a fantastic story and I’d love to see you back again now. But to finish can you thank Jodie again?
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