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Nicole Raslich

Nicole Raslich

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May 2, 2018

Announcing the Launch of Protecting Our Past, an Introduction to Cultural Heritage Policy and Law

May 2, 2018 | By | No Comments

Protecting Our Past: Cultural Heritage Policy and Law is now live!

It is exciting to announce the launch of my first site, Protecting Our Past: Cultural Heritage Policy and Law. Since September, I have coded and gathered information to create this site which contains reference material about cultural heritage preservation laws. Currently, it contains the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the National Historic Preservation Act and the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. In the future, I plan to add other preservation laws as well as some interactive mitigation activities and sample MOA’s.

The majority of the information available in this site can be found on sites across the internet but I have compiled them here, along with their links and easy to find definitions that are often hidden within the laws themselves. Throughout my career as an archaeologist, I have often found it difficult to obtain pieces of information I needed when trying to mitigate an inadvertent discovery. The exact definition of what constitutes an ‘undertaking’ in federal compliance terms frequently alludes the local governments who are required to comply. These were some of my motivations for creating this website.

landing page of PoPCHPLThe site is simply laid out, with a landing page and then a page for each policy discussed which include summaries of the policies and then links to their governmental homepages. This site is currently hosted on GitHub (but that may change in the future) and was created using a BootStrap template. This culmination of my introduction to website creation and coding went far better than I ever hoped for. When I started in September, the idea of coding my own website scared me to death. Now that it is live, I cannot wait to continue to improve it and add to it.

I hope this serves as a reference guide for anyone new to preservation policy and law.

Nicole Raslich

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February 6, 2018

Digital Formats for Teaching Cultural Heritage Preservation

February 6, 2018 | By | No Comments

As the second half of the academic year is well underway, I am mired in digital platforms, establishing my project. It always helps me, when I get stuck on something and find it overwhelming, to go back and read what I proposed to do. This is where I am starting today. The rest of this post lays out what I am attempting to do, for the first time, for my CHI project. Having previously designed and taught my own course at another Big Ten institution, I find it fundamentally easier to create a typical, lecture style, college course centered around these same materials. I wanted to do something new and challenging with this CHI fellowship, as well as something that could reach a broader audience than a class of fifty college age students. Having several certifications in policy and law compliance, I noticed that the majority of people at these certification workshops are working professionals. People in this arena would likely never take a traditional college course yet needed this information immediately when it came across their desk at work. For the majority of people, it never crosses their mind that when running a water line or erecting a lamp-post or building a house in an old neighborhood, they might run across a burial ground or something else of historic significance. I hope that the online project I develop will aid these endeavors.

Issues such as the return of items of cultural patrimony, the looting and annihilation of irreplaceable cultural heritage monuments, traditional cultural properties and the desecration of national heritage sites worldwide plague our world daily. Because of these issues, my project for CHI is to create an online course specializing in cultural heritage management policy and law both nationally and internationally (UNESCO). This course will highlight some of the more notorious cases, how they were dealt with and the applicable laws used in their mitigation. I hope this course will enhance curriculums in cultural heritage management as well as deliver needed policy training for people outside academia in institutions such as public or tribal museums, and government offices. An online format for this course works well for this topic as the laws dealt with are tedious in a standard lecture format. This format allows for the topics to be broken down into a series of public lectures or informational online sessions that appeal to a wide range of disciplines and audiences.

Designing a course such as this integrate me further into the realm of cultural heritage management by allowing me the expertise required to assist local communities with the preservation and dissemination of their own cultural heritage agendas to a wider range of recipients. Developing this course will allow me to engage with pedagogical approaches for digital course design and digital scholarship while allowing me to deliver a much-needed source of information the communities I work with. As digital outlets become the most common way to reach the widest audience, it is crucial that we as cultural managers take advantage of this trend. In an era where funding quickly disappears without an apparent real-world application, it is crucial we reach a wide audience and make our classes relevant to a broader market.

This will be a mixed methods course, involving short, twenty minutes or less, lectures on each policy, when it applies and the steps to work through it. After each lecture, hands on activities involving actual cases from around the world will be used to allow the participants to work through the mitigation of each law. Then, another short lecture will be given, discussing how each case was mitigated and the results of each mitigation. Discussion boards/online forums will be used to stimulate interactive discussion about what things went both right and wrong in these mitigations. Further lectures will illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of these policies.

My intended audiences are Anthropology, History, Museum Studies, and other disciplines utilizing museum collections and working with issues involving cultural heritage management more broadly. Tribal historic preservation offices, city, county and state governments agencies that deal with these policies can use the modules as training aids for their staff. In many communities, it is an inadvertent discovery or a NAGPRA issue that sparks the formation of a cultural center or society or a board to address issues revolving around section 106. An introductory timeline of the history of these laws followed by a comment section will open the course where participants will offer their experience/involvement with these laws and their background. This is intended to lead to an understanding that almost everyone involved has had little to no training in this and all want to learn more about to protect the past. This creates a sense of community and shared goals through preservation.

Nicole Raslich

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November 9, 2017

Maps and Landscapes

November 9, 2017 | By | One Comment

Having completed a recent digital mapping exercise in CHI, maps and digitization has been a part of my daily thought process for several weeks now. As a kid, I always loved maps. I would stare at them and dream about all the places I wanted to go and the adventures I would have. An entire wall of my bedroom was a large map of the United States, by large I mean at least 6’ x 5’, from the Air Force. It was so fun to stand on my bed and read the names of cities all over the country and see where Air Force bases were located. As an adult, whenever I travel to a new country, a map is the first thing I order to take with me or buy when I land. I have a collection of atlases and maps from everywhere I have traveled, including historic maps of some foreign countries I have been too. My office walls are full of antique map and globes. I even enjoy maps from places that are not real.

For our mapping project, we did the land of Middle Earth and mapped the journey of Frodo and Bilbo, overlapping various points throughout the stories where they intersect. This lead to me thinking about other kinds of maps I use. Being an avid gamer, one of the most important features of any game, is the map. Any massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) requires the use of a map, that’s why it is so important to explore the realms and reveal the map on any game. Even on racing games, a map is essential. The evolution of landscapes, both digital and real are fascinating to look at through topography and cartography. If anyone has ever seen a map of Michigan from the 1600’s, you find it looks like a weird, triangular piece of earth, jutting into the lake.

map of michigan 1600's

Click here for more information about this map.

This looks nothing like the beautiful mitten we all know and love today (unless you’re from Wisconsin maybe).

xray of michigan and wisconsin

 

Click here to learn more about the real mitten state.

Our sense of self-identity is tied to maps and the landscapes we consider home. What do you say when someone asks, ‘Where are you from?’ What image does this question bring to mind? Now this brings me to something I am excited about. At BlizzCon recently, the new World of Warcraft expansion was announced, complete with trailers and new maps.

Much like our own cartography, the maps of our MMORPG’s change and evolve with new continents being discovered. This expansion shows to be no different (Expansion News). Those of us that have played WoW since it’s early beta days in 2003, know all too well the familiar terrains of Azeroth and are only too excited to explore the new lands opened with each expansion. As a player, you become familiar with the capital cities, the paths there and the various terrains and animals encountered in each. We know intimately the homeland of our chosen race and the home continent of our allegiance, be it Horde or Alliance, much as we know the familiar stomping grounds of our physical homelands. These digital landscapes change as much as our own physical ones through time. Compare Azeroth here at the origin of WoW, in the days of old when we could only travel via foot, flight path or boat.

map of azeroth

Here you see the map as it looks now, six expansions later.

draenor world map

As the game has evolved over time, new continents have been revealed along with new races on these inhabited lands, much like the coast of Michigan. This entire train of consciousness has been brought on because the Thanksgiving holiday is quickly approaching, and I hope to have time to flee back into my favorite digital and/or physical glades be they in the eastern Kingdoms, Kalimdor, the Upper Peninsula or somewhere new.

The landscapes we inhabit are our home. We become used to them as we travel the slopes and explore the depths of the worlds around us and sometimes fail to notice the small changes that take place until we are away for a significant time. Over the U.S. holiday, take the time to enjoy your homelands and their associated families, both digital and physical. Notice the landscape both beneath your fingers and feet and appreciate their beauty. Happy Thanksgiving!

For Azeroth!

Nicole Raslich

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October 9, 2017

Digitizing our Cultural Heritage

October 9, 2017 | By | No Comments

My own recent ethnohistoric research for family genealogy made me think about ChiMatrix and the need to digitize old documents public documents. Anyone who has ever used county libers will agree but for those of you who have not, let me explain. Prior to the 1960’s, all births, deaths and marriages were recorded by hand, in large ledger type books called libers. These books are huge, leather bound tomes, inscribed by hand. They go back to various decades, the ones in Saginaw County Michigan, for example, go back to the 1830’s with a small, three ring binder of marriages going back to 1825. As these tomes are hand-written, the penmanship varies as does the legibility of said documents.

Using these documents can be problematic for several reasons. One, they are “protected public documents” according to the County Clerk, so they cannot be photographed. Photographing or scanning with a handheld scanner would allow them to be digitized and put into a database. Two, when you require a certified copy, a county employee must come over and handwrite the information they see, then type that up into a legal, embossed certificate. This is problematic as the penmanship is open to interpretation. There were several times when at least three workers would confer about a letter or word written and then come to a consensus. Being unfamiliar with Ojibwa names, they would take most often, not take advice on spelling, trying to decipher it on their own. Three, they are only available during the hours of the office. The office opens at 9 a.m. and documents are done being printed by 4:45 p.m. Four, they are extremely fragile and heavy, (not a good combination) stored on shelves with rollers. The leather bindings break down after several decades and the tomes are now taped together, with labels taped on the outside. Several of them had the pages inside laminated, which was nice since they are handled by the public. Sometimes, due to the weight, the books are dropped and damaged upon being removed from the shelving units.

These books hold a wealth of information and are invaluable references for any person doing historical research. As such, they need to be preserved and cared for in a more user-friendly way. Scanning would allow them to be run through handwriting analysis software and may take some of the user error out of the current transcription process. Here is an example: I was searching for a death record of an individual and found the written line in the liber. I then called the office workers over to make the certified copy. None of us could read the “cause of death” in entirety. We all agreed it said ‘_____ over by ___s.’ The death occurred in 1878. The first word appeared to start with an ‘R’ so everyone came to the consensus that it must read “run over by cars.” This is what was typed into the official record of death, as the official cause of death. Something didn’t seem right about this to me so I considered the history of automobiles since I’m from Flint and Michigan is the birthplace of the American auto industry. The first American gasoline engine was developed in 1895, and the first sale of an American gasoline car was in 1896, although there were those that ran on steam, they were few and far between . Cars in 1900 were a rarity, especially in a rural area such as Saginaw County, making this cause of death unlikely as it was multiple cars. The workers from the office did not want to change anything as they could not make out any other words and nothing else seemed logical, even though historically, this is highly unlikely.

The digitization of these tomes would enhance their usability and make the information more accessible to people who may not have the resources to travel to each county when searching for this information. It would also help people with vision and mobility problems use these documents. I am aware of the lack of funding our county records offices receive and of the thousands of work hours it takes to digitize documents. In no way am I implying a lack of effort on the staff of the County Clerk offices. The people in the Saginaw County Clerk’s office were wonderful, helpful, and friendly. The County Clerk himself even came out to answer several of my questions. I believe by digitally preserving records such as this, we can preserve and increase the access to our cultural heritage for generations to come.

Nicole Raslich

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September 14, 2017

Introducing CHI Fellow Nicole A. Raslich

September 14, 2017 | By | No Comments

Hello everyone, my name is Nicole A. Raslich and I am excited to be a CHI fellow this year. The department of Anthropology here at MSU is my home, where I am a PhD. candidate. My training is in archaeology, and my research focuses on the expression of identity and landscape through ritual in descendant fisher/hunter/gatherer communities throughout the boreal forest.

During my time as an archaeologist, I have worked with Anishnabek communities throughout the Great Lakes region and the Inari Sámi of Finland on projects revolving around the protection of sacred sites. The ways in which these communities, and others, utilize archaeology to reinvigorate and raise awareness of their own cultural heritage is what piqued my curiosity about digital heritage management avenues. Being able to share methods and case studies among communities globally is one of the ways I have witnessed various communities utilizing digital cultural heritage. Much of my fieldwork has been in cultural heritage policy and law, acting as a NAGPRA representative for tribes and as an archaeological consultant for local governments regarding national heritage protection and protocol.

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