Thursday, April 17, 2014

Puppetry in the Wildlife Connectivity Exhibition

We've created a small "wildlife passage puppet theater" atop the wildlife bridge constructed  by Chris Koski and his team in the center of the museum, for our new exhibition "How did the cougar cross the road; restoring wildlife passages in Snoqualmie Pass" (opening tomorrow).  Under the stage, we've made a yellow highway sign declaring "Wildlife Passage Puppet Theater Above," with a squiggly arrow pointing upwards  Underneath, we expect young children will be crawling through the highway tunnels, pushing along toy trucks and cars.

Our hope is that children visiting the museum will in time compose their own short plays with puppets, either those that we provide or those that they make in the art station area. To start things out, we'll bring need to draft some scripts which our student interns can perform for visiting children.

One idea, suggested by our imaginative friend Yuko Hosoi (in Hirosaki, Japan) is that one animal, playing the role of a TV reporter, interview other animals about what they think of the new wildlife bridge.

So here's a very rough, preliminary script idea:


I'm Belinda Bear,  roving correspondent for television station WILD, reporting live from the brand new Price-Noble wildlife crossing structure near Snoqualmie Pass.   

LORETTA LYNX (entering) 

Hmm, I always said I would never, ever want  to cross that big smelly, noisy highway. But I think I might try to cross this beautiful new bridge!


Why, Loretta Lynx, what a surprise to see you here! I thought you never came anywhere near the interstate.


That's right, Belinda Bear, I much prefer to stay on my side of the highway,  unlike my brothers, who go racing across the road without giving any thought to their own safety.  (ASIDE TO AUDIENCE) Silly boys!


So our viewers are wondering, Loretta Lynx, why are you crossing the bridge today?


Well, I've been separated from my family south of the interstate since 1966. I'm eager to visit them even my silly brothers.  And this is such a beautiful bridge, i just had to try it out.


So you approve of the bridge?


Absolutely. I know you bears are perfectly happy to crawl through the underpasses, but we lynxes and cougars,  we like to be on top of things!   And it is so much fun looking down at all those funny people racing back and forth!   I really have to congratulate those engineers at WS DOT; this really is best way to travel.

So , I better be off---  South Cascades, here I come!


Well, there you have it. Our very first satisfied customer, trying out the new Price Noble wildlife bridge. 

And for Station WILD, this is Belinda Bear, wishing all animals out there a happy day of eco-connectivity!

---THE END---


We're hoping the little puppet skits can help communicate a range of important environmental contexts-- including the significance of bio-diversity, the necessity of healthy wildlife corridors, the lifeways of pika and other small mammals, etc. I'm not quite sure how we'll manage the rather fraught relationship between predators and prey, or some of the subtleties of genetic connectivity, but I'm sure  our students and visitors will come up with some imaginative, unexpected solutions.  And it would be great to see puppetry plays being written and performed in Spanish and other languages.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Teaching about wildlife corridors

The MCE's upcoming exhibition, 'How did the cougar cross the road...Restoring Wildlife Passages at Snoqualmie Pass" offers some exciting opportunities to develop new strategies in environmental education in museum settings.   The exhibition is centered on a recreation of the planned wildlife bridge, which will be built over the next several years near Price Creek, south of Lake Keechelas, allowing wildlife to cross the interstate safely. What kinds of safe, educational activities could take place on this ramp and platform? 

For instance, we do have a few wildlife hand puppets: could children use part of the platform as a kind of "Wildlife Puppet Theater" and perform little puppet plays about wildlife for children and adults standing on the floor below?  Would we need to create a kind of small frame with a curtain on the main platform for such a purpose?

Perhaps we could also, in the "Art Lab" section, have materials for children who hope to make their own animal hand puppets, to take home or leave at the museum for other children to use in the Wildlife Puppet Theater.

We will have animal pawprint casts in the show, and also hope to place vinyl pawprints along the pathway leading up the wildlife bridge. What would be good ways to teach children to learn to identify the specific animals associated with each kind of pawprint?

We also have some plastic animal dung or scat from different wild animals. What activities involving this material might be fun and educational for children?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Museum Internship Guidelines

(Museum Studies program, Central Washington University) 

 May 2013 

(Please note: these guidelines will be revised and updated as appropriate.)


The internship process is a vital component of the Museum Studies program at Central. Each student should secure a range of meaningful experiences exposing her or him to professional practices in museums or related cultural institutions. Ideally, your range of internship experiences will expose you to different components of museum operations, such as collections management, exhibition development, public programs or K-12 museum education.

Six internship credits are required, at forty contact hours per credit, for a total of 240 hours, at a minimum.  Two credits per quarter during the academic year is usually a reasonable strategy; 80 hours amounts to about eight hours per week during a ten week quarter.  During a summer, it might make sense to aim for three or four credits.

Well in advance of the quarter in question, you should consult carefully with the Museum Studies Faculty Advisor (Dr. Auslander) about which internship options make the most sense given your specific academic interests and professional goals. In general, we recommend a student do a mixture of hours at an external museum (such as the Kittitas County Historical Museum, the Yakima Valley Museum,  or the Seattle Art Museum) and some hours at the CWU Museum of Culture and Environment.   A mixture of experiences, in small and large museum settings, often makes sense.

Applying for an Internship

Please be aware that even non-paying internships at many museums are extremely competitive and that you should begin the application process as early as possible. Your  Museum Studies faculty members are happy to advise and help out in this process, but remember that part of the internship experience is learning to take initiative. Consult the museum’s website and locate information on Internships; you may need to look under “Volunteer” or “Education” pages. Don’t be shy about calling the museum up and finding out the application procedure.

Please let your Museum Studies faculty know as soon as possible if we will need to write you a letter of recommendation.  Please be sure we have your updated resume or C.V,, and any other information that will help us make an effective recommendation for you.   We are happy to review your resume and application essay with you.  In some cases, you may be asked to interview for the position; please be sure to present yourself professionally and be ready to articulate clearly your museum interests and background.

If you wish to undertake an internship at the Museum of Culture and Environment, you must also apply in writing, in advance of the quarter in question. It is best, for interns with the Museum Collections Manager (Ms. Lynn Bethke) if you have first taken the Collections Management class, Anth 363 but this is not always required.  There are usually internship opportunities at the MCE emphasizing exhibition development and K-12 education.

Please fill out Central’s Cooperate Education forms, available at
and be sure to submit these and register for the internship credits in Cooperate Education (Anth 490)  in a timely fashion. 

Internship Agreement and Expectations for the Internship

A written internship agreement helps to specify the precise duties you will have as an intern.  Your internship should involve you in substantive work in a museum setting, either “frontstage” or “backstage.” Inevitably, all interns do some mundane tasks, but most of the work should be intellectually challenging and immerse you in a professional setting that will be useful to you in your education and future career. If you do not feel you are being sufficiently trained or challenged, please let your work supervisor and faculty supervisor know so we can collaboratively find better options.

We expect that Museum Studies will strive to do first rate work in their internship, at times “going above and beyond the call of duty.” Remember that a recommendation from a museum work supervisor can be crucial for securing paid employment after graduation and can be very helpful in graduate program admissions.  Your faculty rely heavily on reports from your internship work supervisors in writing our recommendations for employment or graduate admissions.  We understand that you need to balance your regular academic work and internship responsibilities, but whenever possible, please make every effort to meet and surpass your supervisor’s expectations.

Please be sure to keep in close touch with your work supervisor, and confirm regularly if your work is meeting her or his expectations.  Please let your faculty advisor know if you are encountering any challenges or problems during the internship. We are also happy to give feedback on work products in process, such as draft labels or proposed lesson plans.

We advise that you keep a record of your email correspondence with your work supervisor, so that there is clear documentation of the expectations you have attempted to fulfill.

Reporting Process

Please email at the end of each week a report on your activities that week (about 200 words) to your faculty advisor (usually, Prof. Auslander), including the number of hours worked. If your internship is during the academic year, please come to at least one face to face meeting with your faculty supervisor in the middle of the quarter to discuss in person how the internship is going.

At the end of the quarter, please submit a written essay (at least 1500 words)  on your overall internship experience: Did the internship give you direct exposure to issues you have explored through your readings in your Museum Studies classes?  What were the greatest challenges you faced and how well did you overcome those? What skills did you learn and what insights do you gain? What advice would you give for future students interning at this institution and what advice would you give to the host institution?

Please indicate if this report may be shared with your work supervisor or others at the host institution. Your report should include a week by week log of hours worked, so do be sure to record that information week by week.


An important goal of your internship is to develop your Museum Studies portfolio, which may be of great interest to future potential employers or graduate admissions committees. Please archives all your ‘work products’  on an electronic on-line portfolio site, such as       This would include photographs and descriptions of object mounts created, draft exhibition labels, proposed or completed installation designs, K-12 lesson plans, content lists and photographs of traveling trunks, social media outreach work, or any other materials that represent what you have accomplished and learned  “on the job” in museum settings.  

At the end of the quarter, please be sure to meet with your faculty advisor to review your   final report and your on line digital portfolio.

Each spring quarter, students will present on their internship experiences to Museum Studies faculty and students.  Stay tuned for details.


Most students will undertake internships in Washington State. However, we encourage students to explore internship possibilities elsewhere, nationally or internationally. Remember that summer internship applications at major institutions, such as the Smithsonian museums in Washington DC, may be due as early as January.

The following list is by no means exhaustive, but will get you started:

(Note that wikipedia has a list of museums in Washington State:

Central/Eastern Washington:

Kititas County Historical Museum (Ellensburg)

Clymer Museum and Gallery (Ellensburg)

Olmstead Place State Park (Ellensburg)

Yakima Valley Museum

Wanapum Heritage Center

Yakima Nation Museum/Heritage Center

Maryhill Museum of Art

Hanford Reach Interpretive Center

Moses Lake Museum and Art Center

Seattle Area

Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture (University of Washington)

EMP Museum (Experience Museum Project and Science Fiction Museum)

Museum of History and Industry

Seattle Art Museum

Pacific Science Center (Seattle Center)

Wing Luke Museum of the Pacific Asian American Experience

Frye Art Museum

Museum of Flight (Tukwila)

Smithsonian Institution Internships (Washington D.C)

Internships at the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest collection of museums, are highly sought after, but well worth pursuing, especially if you have the ability to spend a summer in Washington D.C. Most are unpaid, but some (such as the minority internship program) provide paid stipends.  Read carefully through the descriptions at:

Please consult your Museum Studies faculty before applying, since we have many contacts in the Smithsonian system.

Note that deadlines for summer internships at the Smithsonian are usually between January and March; check the website for each internship program is make sure you are applying in time!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Teaching the Tourism Installation

We've been thinking about interesting ways to  engage younger visitors in"The Business of Having Fun,"  a newly opened segment of our exhibition," Voices of the River: Life along the Yakima," at the MCE.  Developed primarily by Prof.  J. Hope Amason, this exhibition segment explores the cultural history of tourism along the Yakima River, from the emergence of mass tourism in the early twentieth century (emphasizing pleasure, working class solidarity,  'windshield wilderness') to the rise of "New Economy" tourism over the last couple of decades, emphasizing edification, self-fulfillment, self-distinction, class distinction, and sustainability.

How do we get young people actively engaged with this part of the show, not just reading the labels but coming up with interesting questions and ideas, and perhaps creating content that might be incorporated into the installation?   A few preliminary ideas:

  • "Business" and "Fun". We are hoping to get young people to reflect on the somewhat humorous conjunction in the section title: The Business of Having Fun.  How can "fun" be a 'business" for some people?  Who makes money from tourism? Who are the relatively winners and losers, economically, from tourism?  More sophisticated young viewers might be introduced to the dichotomy of 'work' and 'leisure' in American culture, and the ways in which, historically,  industrialization and the formal organization of tourism were so intimately linked.
  • The Multi-Pocketed Vest. The vest on the wall might stimulate some conversation: what might a fisherperson keep in his or her pockets while on the river? This could lead into a conversation about fishing licenses (might be nice to have a mock or expired fishing license to pass around), and in turn to a broader conversation about responsible use of natural resources along the river.
  • The Pilgrimage Component. One small section urges readers to think about the overall structure of the tourist journey in terms of the classic three part structure of pilgrimage (a variation of the classic tripartite structure of any rite de passage: separation. liminality, re-integration.) So one option might be explain verbally the Van Gennep/Turnerian concept of the three part rite of passage, and then give young visitors a piece of paper divided in three sections, in which they would draw, or write out, how the three stages work for a touristic trip they make take.  For instance, "Separation" might involve physically leaving one's normal settings and changing the kinds of clothing one wears;  "Liminality" (the hardest concept to communicate) might involve a novel set of behaviors (on the beach, out in nature, in the car during a long trip), and Re-integration would involve listing or drawing all the behaviors to which one returns, post-journey
  •  The Photography Component.  We also have a small segment, inspired by Marianne Hirsch's book "Family Frames: Photography, Narrative and Postmemory' (along with Sontag, Barthes, et al) on the ritual functions of photography during touristic journeys.  We are hoping people will share with us examples of family vacation photography, and that these images might stimulate conversations among visitors about how such images are posed and framed, and they kinds of emotional meanings they convey post-journey.  This conversation could be related to the Pilgrimage/Rite of Passage section that proceeds Photography: in what ways do photographic snaps (hard copies or digital images) taken during vacations in effect crystallize experiences of the 'liminal' which can be subsequently accessed post-vacation to give viewers a revitalizing dose of the experience of being 'betwixt and between'? 
  • Sustainable Tourism. One window evokes a segment of the river with litter (a Coke bottle, crushed up beer can, etc).  Young viewers could be asked to describe the kind of litter and environmental damage that can result from tourism, and articulate more responsible practices by tourism.
  • The Raft.  A life size, blown up raft in the middle of gallery will open up some interesting possibilities, we hope, for conversations about water safety,  techniques for negotiating white water, etc.  As soon as we create some cloth fish (that can be fished via poles with magnets), we hope that this will lead to children's activities identifying the species of fish that they 'catch and release."
  • The "Fly Fishing" window.  One window explains a bit about fly fishing and the importance of knowing the seasonal habits and life cycles of different flies on the river, if one is to engage in successful fly fishing. Presumably older viewers could be engaged in conversation about entomology, about casting techniques, etc.
  • Social Class and "Distinction". We had been hoping to inspire some critical reflection on social class, but aren't sure if children had sufficiently internalized the 'rules of the game' to articulate the different class orientations of various kinds of tourism. We could perhaps have some visual learning aids that demonstrate the costs of different kinds of leisure activities on the river, from tubing, to canoe rental, to fly fishing.
  • Indigenous issues.  We are puzzling over this issue. The core part of the exhibition Voices of the River is strong on indigenous issues, emphasizing indigenous perspectives on the river, on the spiritual purity of water, on the restoration of sockeye salmon and of wapato tubers. But in its current form, there aren't Native Voices in the tourism section. Should we actively try to promote conversation about the ways in which mainstream tourism has been a kind of colonial practice, obscuring indigenous histories and presences along the river? Should we actively seek to bring in Native commentaries on sustainable tourism and hopes for culturally-sensitive economic development for the tribes?
Other thoughts on lesson plans and educational strategies that would be appropriate for the "Business of Having Fun"? 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Teaching Gail Grinnel's Chalice

Gail Grinnel. "Chalice" (acrylic and collage, 1993)
We are excited to be opening next week the exhibition, "Particles on the Wall," developed by a curatorial team associated with Washington Nuclear Museum and Education Center and Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility; the show features visual poetry, art and scientific commentary engaged with the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeastern Washington state, the largest site of environmental contamination in the Western hemisphere.

There  are many deeply compelling works of art and poetry in the show. I'm wondering how we might effectively engage audiences with a rather enigmatic work, Gail Grinnel's "Chalice" (acrylic and collage, 1993. (The work is featured on p. 21 of the Particles on the Wall catalogue, 2nd edition, downloadable in PDF form at

The work consists of six panels: three alternating panels consist of a more or less identical silhouetted outline of a chalice, which in the Christian tradition is the ceremonial cup in which wine is blessed in the Eucharist. The other three panels contain similar, disturbing shapes vaguely reminiscent of the chalices: they may be laboratory beakers boiling over, or organic forms with uncanny tendrils extending outwards, or bombs beginning to explode.

How might one encourage students to engage with this work productively?  One might ask, after students describe the work aloud, to ask why it would seem relevant to an exhibition on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.  Might it be in part that beyond the image  of the  chalice, normally a sacred gift or blessing, hovers its obverse, the motif of the poisoned chalice? Might the artist be implying that the seeming gift of nuclear power can all to easy transmogrify into the horrors of nuclear contamination?

To my knowledge the first usage of the term "poisoned challenge" is found in Shakespeare's Macbeth, Act 1, scene 7, as Macbeth, in soliloquy, agonizes over murdering Duncan to advance his political ambition:

" .....But in these cases
We still have judgment here, that we but teach 
Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return 
To plague the inventor. This even-handed justice 
Commends the ingredients of our poison'd chalice
To our own lips"

In this prophetic passage, Macbeth nearly convinces himself to forswear the assassination (although Lady Macbeth will, moments later, strengthen his resolve).   The passage, in any event, does seem uncannily appropriate to the temptations of nuclear power, which promises its seeming masters omnipotence, only to enslave and destroy them by the very instrument that tempts them, thus returning, in Shakespeare's terms, "to plague the inventor."

It is possible that the artist has arranged the three chalices in triangular configuration to recall the familiar tri-foil shape of the radiation hazard sign, or the related Fallout Shelter symbol. And perhaps she also seeks to evoke the Eucharistic symbolism of the mystery of transubstantiation: the enigmatic process through which Uranium-238 is irradiated with neutrons to produce plutonium, the key component of nuclear weapons.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Diversity and Imaginary Maps

Mark Auslander writes: Tomorrow, Prof. Yukari Amos' Multicultural Education class is visiting our student-curated exhibition on mapping imaginary worlds, "Through the Rabbit Hole: A Journey into Imaginary Worlds," and I am wondering how best to engage her class in questions of multiculturalism and diversity in reference to fantasy maps.  I've already posted on my own blog on some of the interpretive and analytic issues raised by the exhibition, at:


But how, rather than lecturing, to engage students in a critical conversation about the show and the broader topics of race and difference in imaginary map and speculative fiction?

One might start with engaging students in a conversation in front of Tolkien's map of the world of Arda and the long debated question of how deeply embedded British imperial racism is within the Rings book: one might note the depiction of the darker (or "Mongol-like") Orcs as epitomizing the demonic, and the Manichean struggle between Light and Dark through the series.  Tolkien's maps of the Arda world, it has been noted, are roughly modeled on the actual world map (with the Americas and the Eurasia being linked through a vast kind of land-bridge across the equivalent of the North Atlantic.)  His maps  do seem to be racially coded:  his white skinned heroic peoples are located in the geographical region of the map that seems to correspond to Europe, "Mordor" is literally "The Dark Land," and his darker skinned villainous "easterlings" and "southrons" come from regions that seem to correspond to Asia and Africa, respectively.

C.S.Lewis, Narnia map
One might next turn to the maps that illustrate C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia: the heroic core lands of Narnia and Archenland are ruled over by white-skinned heroes, while the treacherous southern kingdom of Calorman, inhabited by darker skinned peoples, is figured as a kind of parody of an Islamic polity. 

But then it would be interesting if members of the class argued about the question of the impact of these works. After all, some might argue, fiction allows for "interpolated readings", in which readers may profoundly identify with protagonists across literal lines of race, gender or class, and find deeply meaningful ways to vicariously co participate in journeys of heroic self fashioning.

 At that point, it might be worth introducing the famous "I sit with Shakespeare" passage in W.E.B. DuBois in The Souls of Black Folk:

 I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not;
I move arm in arm with Balzac and with Dumas,
where smiling men and welcoming women glide in gilded halls.

From out the caves of evening
that swing between the strong-limbed earth
and the tracery of the stars,
I summon Aristotle and Aurelius and what soul I will,
and they come with no scorn or condescension.

So, wed with truth, I dwell above the veil,
above the dull red hideousness of Georgia;
and standing upon this high Pisgah,
between Philistine and Amaleki

In a sense, DuBois in this passage constructs his own imaginary literary map, which he populates with European authors and their creations, transposed onto the topos of the Holy Land.  Not insignificantly he situates himself upon the peak of Pisagh/Mt. Nebo, from which Moses gazed into the Promised Land, the land which he would never himself enter. (DuBois' words would be in a sense echoed six decades later in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I've been to the Mountaintop" speech, delivered the night before death: "I might not get there with you...")

Earthsea (Ursula LeGuin)
Having acknowledged the possibility of interpolated readings, it is also important to discuss with students cases of speculative or fantasy fiction that challenge, undercut or transcend normative white EuroAmerican models of race. We might look at Ursula LeGuin's maps of Earthsea, in which most of the populace, including nearly all the heroic figures, are red skinned or black skinned, and in which the white skinned, blond figures are the violent, barbaric Kargs, who are only brought back into the orbit of full humanity at the very end of her revisiting of the Earthsea universe, in The Other Wind. Perhaps some students will recall the irony, still reviled by LeGuin fans, that the dreadful Sci Fi channel's adaptation of Earthsea cast nearly all the characters with white actors. Or the various controversies over casting in The Hunger Games, in which, among other things, the heroine, described as "olive skinned" in the book, was played by a white actress.

 Or we might discuss the speculative fiction of Octavia Butler, in which the heroines are generally of African descent (no drawn maps, so far as I can recall) but who are enmeshed in nuanced and complex fields of interracial and interspecies desire.

To be sure, it is challenging to hold such conversations when students vary greatly in the speculative fiction with which they are familiar.  So it might be easiest to concentrate on books and films, or multiplayer video games, which are most likely familiar to most students (discussing racial imagery and casting in the Harry Potter or Twilight books and films, for instance).

Finally, when students are invited to make their own maps of imaginary worlds, it might be worth discussing whether or not any of them feel called upon to signify the race or ethnicity of their protagonists. Are "post racial" fantasy maps possible or are race and power forever embedded in cartographic representations, even (especially?) at levels of the avowedly imaginary?

The John Hoover sculpture and Visual Learning Strategy

Mark Auslander writes: We are delighted that the 1971 sculpture by the Aleut artist John Hoover, "Man who married an eagle" has been installed in the lobby of the Museum of Culture and Environment. How might we effectively use Visual Learning Strategy (VLS) to engage museum visitors of different ages with this striking work? In VLS, the goal is not to lecture on an art work, but rather to engage visitors so that they discover key components of the art and develop, as much as on their own as possible, credible lines of interpretation and understanding.

 This could easily be a 15-30 minute session of Close Looking at the art work; although for younger viewers a lot can be accomplished in five minutes.

 I think it might be helpful if the guide/facilitator had in a folder the following color images in large format, to be used at various parts of the session:

 1. A photograph of the way the John Hoover sculpture looks when the hinged doors are closed

 2. A photograph of a Northwest Coast transformation mask looks when it is closed

 3. A photograph of a Northwest Coast transformation masks looks when it is opened up.

 4. Photographs of one of more Medieval Euoropean triptychs, such as the famous early 15th century Beffi triptych shown below.

 But don't show these images immediately, since the goal is first to get viewers to discover as much about the John Hoover as they can by looking at it carefully.

 An immediate challenge is the work, a kind of triptych, is displayed in the case opened up, so visitors must initially be asked to use their imagination to envision what it would look like closed up, if the two outer hinged doors were brought together.

To figure this out visitors will need to look at the mirrored backs of the case, and discern that there are, on the exterior of each door, two eagle heads pointing downwards, so that when the doors are closed a total of four eagles are pointing downwards. It might be helpful after that exercise for the guide/facilitator to share the photograph of the closed doors with the group. Then the guide could ask the group how does everything change once the doors are opened up: what precisely do we see now? Please describe everything you see. Most visitors will immediately describe the large elongated human face in the center, and some will see the smaller human face at the very top.
Visitors also should figure out that just on the other side of the doors (that had eagle heads on the outside) are now multiple human figures atop one another. Visitors may need some prompting to discern that in the lower center part of the image are two eagle head profiles now facing upwards. Perhaps the guide could ask: Can anyone find any eagle heads on the inside? At this point, it might be helpful to introduce the title of the work, "The Man who Married an Eagle" and explain the work is named for a sacred story told by the Haida and Tlingit First Nation peoples of the Northwest Coast. Perhaps ask: why does this art work change, from the way it looks when the doors are closed, to the way it looks when the doors are opened? If that elicits now response, perhaps ask: What might the artist want us to discover once we open up the doors? Or 'what does he want us to discover about the spirit of the Eagle"?

Perhaps someone will say: He wants us to learn that the Eagle doesn't just look like a bird. The eagle can also look like a person?

It might also be helpful at this point, to introduce something about the sacred beliefs of the tribal peoples of the Northwest Coast, that shamans or spiritual leaders are believed to send their souls on spirit journeys between the realms of humans and animal spirits, to see a deep reality in which human and animal are deeply interconnected. Does this work of art teach us something about these sacred beliefs? Perhaps a visitor see the the work as showing the spirit of Eagle transforming back and forth between its human and animal forms. Perhaps at this point, the guide could introduce something about Northwest Coast transformation masks, which are opened up during ceremonial dances to show the inner nature of a sacred spirit: often a bird-like outer mask is opened up to show a human like face within.

 It might be useful for the guide to then show the pictures of the traditional transformation mask.

First a version of the closed mask, such as the Kwakiutl mask, on the left.

And then share the photograph showing the Mask when it is opened up, displaying the painting of Sisiutl, the two head serpent, with a humanoid face in the center.

Then ask: How is John Hoover's sculpture like and unlike the traditional transformation mask? It might be useful to have a visitor reading aloud the John Hoover quote on the south side of the column: "“Shamans were the first psychologists who influenced through art the workings of Good and Evil Spirits. The idea of Spirit Helpers, the close relationship between man, animal, nature is real and meaningful to me, and like the Shaman’s of old, I try to make Healing images for the Soul.” Ask: How might this art work show is the close relationship between man, animal and nature? How might this piece be said to be a "Healing image for the soul"? Older visitors may wish to spend some time pondering the Sacred Story of "The Man who married an Eagle", recorded in Wrangell Alaska in the early 20th century, printed out on the north side of the column. How does the art work illustrate, in effect, parts of this sacred story? Then one could ask: is the artist also inspired by Western religious art, in addition to Native American spiritul traditions? At this point the guide could one or more examples of Western religious triptychs, for instance the early 15th century Beffi Triptych which is centered on the Madonna and Christ Child, and flanked by two doors depicting events from the life of Jesus.
It might be especially nice to find an image of Russian triptychs, since the artist John Hoover was partly Russian, and may have been directly encountered by aspects of the Russian Orthodox iconographic tradition. Ask visitors: how is the Hoover sculpture like the medieval western triptychs? How is it different from those triptychs? At the end, try to get viewers to sum up what they have learned: What sources did this artist rely on? What changes when we open up the piece, and what do we discover? What have learned about how artists use their sources? It might be helpful to note that artists copy early works, but also change them. Art is always evolving. Also, it might be helpful to note that for complex, spiritually-rich works of art, there are no simply ways of 'decoding' the work. Each of us has to discover mysteries in front of us, by look carefully at the work, and uncovering what we feel the work is trying to tell us. In the Comments section below, please list questions or strategies might you suggest, as we ask our visitors to contemplate the John Hoover sculpture.