This week I met with a few of the MSU museum staff to explore museum collections and discuss the scope of the project. The intent is to create an online museum exhibition that demonstrates the variety and lineage of Native American crafts in the Great Lakes Area. Fortunately, there is a plethora of resources both in artifacts and in research resources at the museum and surrounding area to help craft of this exhibit.
As of now the project consists of three main parts: 3D modeling of baskets, a map, and the genealogies of these baskets. With the uncertainty of 3D imaging, it is important to maintain a reasonable scope in order to ensure there is a finished (if not completely fleshed out) exhibit to display by the end of the semester. So, the initial sample will be quite small and may only include a single genealogy of basket weavers.
Some of the basket makers are already participating in the preservation of the lineage of their tribe. These baskets demonstrate an important component of their cultural heritage, but the preservation of these weaving techniques is an especially daunting task as the bark used is derived from the Black Ash tree, which is currently threatened by Ash Borers. The techniques used to create these baskets are specific to the type of bark the tree provides, so using a different tree radically alters the processing required for these baskets. Alongside efforts to save the tree, members of this tribe are looking for ways to preserve the original process so that in the future, when the Ash tree is hopefully more abundant, they will be able to return to the traditional processing methods.
Because these cultural artifacts are an important facet of this tribe’s heritage, it is important that this project include the voices and narratives of these people in order to best represent these baskets. I hope that this exhibition will help demonstrate and preserve the genealogies of these basket makers as well as lay a foundation for the expansion and preservation through associated groups.