School of Information Management & Systems.   Fall 2000.
142  Access to American Cultural Heritages.   Buckland.

Assignment 3: Museum Interpretation. Part A due Sept 14; Part B due Sept 26 (revised).

This course involves visiting three exhibits: "Mandala", "Ishi", and, later, one of your own choice. Museums interpret as well as store materials. "Mandala", concerned with Buddhist representations of sacred spaces, poses a severe challenge of interpretation for Western viewers. Ishi ("the last wild Indian") provides an excellent case-study in issues of interpretation. Allow at least an hour for each exhibit. Try not to do it when tired or in a hurry. Leave a little time to take a quick look at the other exhibits at each museum. Take a friend!

A. Mandala: The Architecture of Enlightenment. University Art Museum, 2626 Bancroft Way (between College and Bancroft). Open Wed-Sun 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. (Thurs until 9 p.m.). UCB students free, others $4-$6, but free Thurs 11-noon & 5 - 9 p.m. Suggested: Free guided tour Sundays Sept 3, 10 & 17 at 2:00 p.m. and Thurs Sept 7 & 14 at 12:15 p.m. Note public lecture by Robert Thurman, co-curator, *relocated to Wheeler Auditorium*, Sun Sept 10, 3 p.m., $3 for UCB students. A copy of the book on the exhibit is being placed on MOFFITT 2-hour reserve. Review in S.F. Chronicle July 24, 2000 accessible though

B. Ishi and the Invention of Yahi Culture. The Hearst Anthropological Museum in Kroeber Hall, on campus, in the corner nearest where College meets Bancroft. Wed - Sunday 10 - 4:30 p.m. Free to UCB students. The Ishi exhibit is immediately to your right as you enter through the gift shop. First, in the area outside the entrance, look at some displays about the Museum entitled "Approaching a Century of Anthropology." An introduction to the history and breadth of the collections of the museum, featuring California Indian baskets and other materials. Examine carefully the Ishi exhibit. Then look at the other exhibits. Afterwards, examine the items in the order listed at Ishi sources site. Hearst Museum curator Dr. Ira Jacknis will join us in class on Thurs Sept 28.

Later, as a separate assignment, you will visit and appraise an exhibit or historic site of your own choice. Exhibits are deliberate, purposive, and generally expensive exercises in presentation and interpretation. They must necessarily have some perspective, otherwise the selection of items to present and the way in which they are presented would have no organized basis. One can review an exhibit much as one would do a book review. What is the theme? What is selected for display? What is the point of view? How is it done? How well is it explained? How much prior knowledge does it assume? What other selection of material might have been presented? What other "voices" expressed? What other perspectives might have been possible? How would you want to do it differently? How do you evaluate it overall? To whom would you recommend it? and so on.

The topics of the displays are interesting in themselves, but for the purposes of the course we are interested in what we can learn about the nature of museums as "cultural institutions" and their role of museum as active players in influencing how cultural heritages and cultural identities come to be constructed and influenced -- and how museum exhibits do this. The Hearst Museum exhibits are very helpful for our purposes because they are self-conscious about these issues. The Ishi exhibit comments on how our understanding of Yahi culture is constructed by outsiders with very incomplete knowledge. The pottery exhibit illustrates the rather accidental ways museum collections are assembled.

Hand in a short report (a page or so) on some particular aspect of the museum or of the manner of presentation that surprised or interested you for each exhibit. Be prepared to discuss the exhibits in class.