The Association of Tribal Libraries, Archives, and Museums (ATALM) has announced the 2019 award recipients. The Shawnee Tribe Cultural Center has been awarded the International Guardians of Culture and Lifeways “Outstanding Project” Award for the Tribe’s Pottery Project and Exhibit From Ancient Hands: Stories in Fire and Clay.
“The Shawnee Tribe's Pottery Project is an exemplary effort to reawaken an ancient art,” explains Director Marnie Leist. “The tribe worked with culture bearers, artists, and scientists to replicate and conduct scientific studies of ancestral ceramics. In partnership with over twenty contributors, the cultural center created an exhibit and educational resources to share their experience. This project is a great model for other communities seeking to deepen the exploration of cultural traditions.”
Second Chief Ben Barnes adds, “The pottery project participants spent years experimenting with clay, temper, construction techniques, and firing methods. We formulated new hypotheses about how pots were made, challenging long-held assertions by non-tribal researchers. We had the pottery we made from our studies, but the exhibit was pulled together by our director, Marnie Leist, who curated and designed the exhibit, collaborating with the community. We obtained loans from Ohio History Connection, Webb Museum of Anthropology at the University of Kentucky, and University of Missouri Research Reactor Center, which allows our citizens to see these ancestral pieces.”
The STEAM-based exhibit encourages visitors to learn by interacting. There is a guilloche drawing activity to help visitors learn the art of Fort Ancient pottery. Visitors can then incise their own design on scratch paper and share it in the exhibit space or take it with them. Exploring the science of pottery, participants can use an easy-view microscope to compare pottery from around the world and complete a material science exercise. Since pots were often used for cooking, visitors can take or leave traditional recipes for food that might be cooked in a pot. Short videos about the life cycle of mussel shells and corn enhance the display.
Other exhibit resources include a children’s activity book, tours offered by members of the Kids Committee, a website presentation, mobile exhibit, and two publicly available education boxes. In the Science of Pottery box, participants can play the Neosho Mucket board game to learn about the life cycle and endangered state of freshwater mussels.
The award will be presented at the ATALM conference in Temecula, California on October 9, 2019.