Ethnography is the effort to learn about people by learning from people. – Maribel Alvarez
This year’s workshop will be held over two days beginning Wednesday January 29. A particular focus of the workshop will be to explore how the editing process can provide enrichment and support for ethnographic film shot under field conditions. The workshop will feature the use of recent student films as well as edits on films made by Brewer including a recent experimental edit based on footage by Swiss filmmaker Susanna Knittel which resulted in The Last Vaquero on Tassajara Road and , on her own films including Singing “Bird”, Capturing the Mountain Picasso’s, Donation to the Museum and Gathering Dogbane.
We just learned of the passing of Phillip Earl, former historian for the Nevada Historical Society and an expert on the Basque arborglyphs of the Great Basin. I had the great pleasure of working with Phillip and his wife Jean in 2015 to create a pair of films for a Nevada Arts Council/ Nevada Historical Society travelling exhibit. Our work together involved filming in Reno as well as high in Sierra Nevada aspen groves and their adjacent meadows to demonstrate the Earl’s unique technique for preserving a record of the arborglyphs using wax rubbing on muslin fabric.
The exhibit, Mountain Picassos: Arborglyphs of the Great Basin, continues its travels. The two films are still available to view on the NAC website, and Phillip and Jean’s wonderful book Basque Aspen Art of the Sierra Nevada, published in 2011 is also recommended.
Once upon a time, long ago, a minor donation was entered into accession records at the Bristol City Museum in England. The well intentioned donation eventually became a challenge in curation for the museum as well as part of a developing legend over nearly a century in the donor’s family. The making of this film helped us to recover much of the story on the origins, on the legend, and on the challenges such donationa in a changing world.
What can we learn now about a pair of skulls and related artefacts from a California island donated nearly a century ago with minimal background information from the donor? In the course of researching the story of the two skulls, and making this film we threw a light on a pair brothers from Bristol – late 19th century “gentleman adventurers” with antiquarian leanings who arrived on the California coast in the late 19th century. One was involved in the opening years of relic hunting in Native American graves there, before there was any protection in law for these.
The story of what happened next reflects changes in archaeological ethics, methods and participation as well as on changes in collection and curation in museums. It reflects current international dialogues about human skeletal remains and grave goods in museum collections outside the country of origin and particularly those of indigenous people. The film was made as a collaboration between the museum, the donor’s descendents, tribal descendants and the archaeological community in southern California. We have been pleased to watch it provoke discussion about these issues in general, as well as on this specific case.
A Donation to the Museum is distributed internationally by the Royal Anthropological Institute in London. It is now available for download or on DVD from their film sales website.
Archaeologist Desiree Martinez, co-director of the Pimu Catalina Island Archaeological Project gave a presentation on recent excavation and research into island history that included some discussion of our film A Donation to the Museum, released earlier this year. Desiree was involved in this film project which explored how grave goods and human skeletal remains from Catalina and San Nicholas found their way to an English Museum more than a century ago. By coincidence this past summer, Desiree and student participants in the Pimu project found themselves unexpectedly excavating part of the tourist camp once owned by English relic hunter Alfred Hutchins, an early resident of Avalon and a subject of this film.
La Casona is a settlement on the Guaymi Indigenous Reserve in the Coto Brus canton of southern Costa Rica. In October 2015, Teri Brewer accompanied cultural geographer and ethnobotanist Jeannine Koshear as co-investigator and filmmaker for an initial revisit of this community where Koshear worked 25 years ago. Brewer and Koshear worked to document Guaymi perspectives on the social and economic changes that have taken place in the intervening years, and to explore attitudes towards traditional knowledge as well as the development of “artisania” the development of a local handcraft industry catering to the growing local ecotourism initiatives and based in traditional Guaymi arts.
We are now in the final stages of working on a little film to support a crowdfunding campaign for archaeologist John Winterburn’s Mudawwara Project. John has been involved in the excavation of three Great Arab Revolt redoubt sites in Jordan which overlooked the Hejaz Railway station in Medawwara during the legendary campaign to disrupt that line which involved both Bedouin and British forces in 1916-18. Re-photography of the area that has taken place during aerial surveys, the excavations and ground surveys will be an important part of the exhibition reflecting of changes in the cultural landscape of this part of southern Jordan over the past century. T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia was instrumental in designing the actions at Mudawarra which culminated in a raid on August 8, 1918 which destroyed the water tower critical to supplying the steam engines which were used on this line.
Everyone at Archaeoikon has played a part on putting this film together with Teri and Christina filming and working with John on voiceovers and design, Alan and Timo have contributed graphics and Peter took over as lead editor in the final stages of the project.
We will make a link available both to the crowdfunding site and to the project site once these go live.
Our collaborator Cristina Mosconi is now at the start of a PhD program at Exeter University which will help her develop her professional interest in locative media for heritage interpretation. Her MA work on a phone based app for use at the Rollright Stones, a megalithic site in Oxfordshire is now being developed into a full blown interpretive aid for the site in collaboration with the Rollright Trust.
When the refreshed Imperial Valley Desert Museum re-opens after installation of new permanent exhibits in June 2015, the spine tingling voices you hear coming from ceiling speakers in one area of the museum will be from an Archaeoikon production. Teri Brewer and ethnographer Richard Carrico were recording a session with some of the distinguished Birdsingers from local Kumeyaay communities in December 2014, when they were asked to let the museum have the use of some sound files of the Kumeyaay Bird Songs that were being performed. Teri and Peter worked together to prepare the files for broadcast, collaborating with museum staff to get the sound installed for testing in April.