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Transforming language revitalization through museum collections

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Title: Transforming language revitalization through museum collections
Authors: Isaac, Gwyneira
Issue Date: 03 Mar 2013
Description: As part of the Recovering Voices endangered language initiative at the Smithsonian Institution, a group of Hopi potters have been working on the collections to identify designs and object histories not otherwise available to the community. The aims of the Hopi project included engagement with specialist knowledge of elder artists as well as ways to facilitate transmission of this linguistic and cultural knowledge to younger generations. Drawing on research from the initial year of this project, I consider unexpected but transformative encounters between curators, community members and collections that resulted in a reconsideration of expectations about divisions between cultural, linguistic, artistic and anthropological knowledge. In particular, I look at our discovery of the unique ‘off-center’ designs of the ancestral Hopi Sityaki pottery that sparked discussions about creativity and cosmology and which held key lessons for younger generations about early Hopi experimentation in art. In particular, these hands-on encounters with collections collapsed Western analytical categories used to determine distinguish between language and the physical world and between contemporary and historic/pre-historic knowledge. In conclusion, I argue for understanding of how working directly with cultural and historical objects facilitates a deeper sense of time and continuity within the language and knowledge revitalization and transmission process.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:3rd International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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