Friday, May 30, 2014

In Yakama Words: Panalakthsa Wa’lúmt ku Asúm (Remember Willamette and eel-like Lamprey)

I never thought I would hear Shannen Doherty say “Lamprey.” As we watched the fictional show “Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys” from Animal Planet with my young daughters they asked, “What are those?!?” I replied, “That’s what we ate last Saturday at the namegiving ceremony.” They recalled the foods and as I saw the realization that food on the table may look different in nature, I got a flashback of my childhood. Eating and seeing this food on the ceremonial table and the words family would share about our brother asúm (the Yakama word used to describe eel-like lamprey). Our relatives talked about the Treaty discussions and our hunting, fishing, and gathering rights. They told us children to listen because one day we will have to speak for the resource, that cannot speak for themselves.

May Memories

My mind flashes to last May, when we went to eeling, which is what we call fishing for asúm (lamprey) at Willamette Falls in Oregon City, OR.
We got a message warning that the State of Oregon might give us tickets us for not fishing within a state season. This shocked me, not only because Yakamas set their own fishing seasons, but also because “Willamette” comes from a Yakama word originally pronounced “Wa’lúmt.” This describes the color of the water. There are other Yakama words in the area such as “Wapato Lake,” which describes a wild wetland potato and is traditionally spelled wáptu. Yakamas connection to this land lives through the language.

Continuing on

We are reassured by our connection to the area and our elders’ teachings that “Sovereignty is a living thing. It is your choice to practice those rights, but fail to practice them long enough and they will die.” We went to Willamette Falls, got the asúm and took to the families for ceremonies. We also took some asúm (lamprey) to our elders. The meal that accompanies ceremonies is important because it is one way the family expresses a sense of gratitude for each person being in attendance.
One of the ceremonies was completed that week; another ceremony would take place in August. Just prior to that August ceremony, while we were headed back from gathering huckleberries, we got a flat tire in Oregon. My uncle and Oregon State Patrol helped me change the tire. As we made room to get the tire out of the car, I carefully moved the baskets of berries and explained to the officer that these were for an upcoming family ceremony and then thanked him for helping me get this food home.
How is it that we can have the Oregon State Patrol used as a threat against our people getting lamprey and yet so helpful to our people gathering huckleberries for the exact same ceremony?
Perhaps it is the Creator’s way of reminding us to let people know a little about what is taking place today. If they understand just a little more of our rights than perhaps they will help us speak for the resource.

Why take it all so seriously?

You see, while I was not given a fishing citation last May, I was scared. In 2011, Yakama fishers and Warm Springs Fishers were given fishing citations for getting asúm (lamprey). The Oregon State Patrol took away all the asúm (lamprey) and let them spoil on the hot asphalt. These fish were meant for ceremonies and subsistence, yet they were wasted in front of our people’s eyes.

Upcoming events to commemorate the Treaty of 1855

On Monday, Warm Springs and Yakama Nation will meet along the Willamette River to discuss this incident and our rights at Willamette Falls. This will include Tribal Councilmembers, elders, fishers and youth.

On Friday, June 6, 2014, at 10am the Yakama Nation will have the Annual Treaty Day Parade and salmon bake at the Cultural Center in Toppenish, Washington. This year’s theme is “Iwitux’sha útni pamimun tiicham támanwit” (Celebrating Tradition Lost and Returning).



I think of this theme, this experience and the show. As we watched “Blood Lake” I had to explain to my three and four year-old daughters that “Blood Lake” is pretend and confirm the words they heard from our elder Russell Jim at the ceremony about our asúm are true. Maybe you know a little about the Treaty of 1855, Willamette, and asúm (lamprey) or perhaps you know a lot.  Either way, the upcoming events are a good place to continue to learn and share the knowledge regarding our rights in Willamette and our other usual and accustomed areas. It’s been decades since the late David Sohappy, Sr. asked, “How can it be illegal for Indians to do what they’ve done all their life?” This question still ripples through our historic rivers and veins.  

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Scientific concepts for puppet show

As we have watched children engage with the puppet theater in the eco-connectivity exhibition, we realize that these encounters  need to be somewhat more structured in order to be effective learning experiences.  We need a list of core scientific concepts that can be communicated through puppetry.

When a school group enters the gallery, one or two puppet skits need to performed for them, either live or in a video recording they can watch.  Then, if time permits, small groups of children could be given a concept (either orally or in bullet points on an easel) and take on the task of creating and performing puppet skit for fellow children that effectively communicates that idea.

We have plush puppets of a bear, cougar/lynx, and a snail.  Children can make other kinds of animals as paper bag puppets with available material. Perhaps they should be asked to learn  bit of background information for their animal before they perform (what do they eat,  are they herbivores or carnivores, do they travel alone or in groups, and so forth.)


Here is a preliminary list of scientific concepts explored in the exhibition, which we would like to see communicated through puppets shows, or other public programs:

1.  The protected forests of the Cascades “bottleneck” around Snoqualmie Pass. In the past animals that traveled between the Northern and Southern Cascsades had to get across a narrow 15 mile corridor east of the summit, where there were safe, mature forests to travel through.   Since the 1960s this corridor of 15 miles has been blocked by Interstate 90.

2. So animals in the Cascades have been isolated from other members of their species for about fifty years, which is not healthy.  If there are changes in the availability of food sources  (other animals or plants) or the amount of water available. or in area becomes unsafe to live in, animals need to be able to travel to find better places to live.

3. For example:  mule deers are picky eaters and will only eat special leaves and twigs from trees and shrubs.  So if they cannot find their right kind of leaves and twigs they may get weak and die.  If they can cross the highway safely through they  bridge or the underpasses, they will have better chances of living healthy lives and having healthy offspring.

4. A more complex  and mature idea, about genetic connectivity, which may require some discussion of mating and sex:   Healthy animal "sub-populations" of a given species need to be connected to one another.  This is not only because animals need to travel to seek out new food and water sources. If an animal population is too isolated and cannot exchange genetic material with other sub populations, harmful alleles-- genetic characteristics--will be passed down frequently from one generation to another.  This can lead over time to sickness in the population, and deprive the population of traits that might be useful in a changing environment. What example, if there is less snow and rain, the animal population will need to be able to live with less access to water.  Over time, isolated populations can become extinct.)

To put it another way:  What is genetic drift?   Genetic drift is a natural process in which the gene pool changes slightly from one generation to another.  This is not normally a problem for large populations, but can be deadly in small populations.  As the gene pool becomes less diverse, there is a greater chance for negative traits, such as susceptibility to illness.  Genetic drift in a small population can lead to extinction (the loss of an entire species.)

5.  Bears seem happy to go through narrow underpasses.  This may be because they are familiar with caves  But some animals, such as cougars, seem reluctant to use the underpasses that have been made for them.  They may be frightened of anything sneaking up on them. And like many domestic cats, they like to be high up, so they can feel safe and look for prey below.  So DOT is building a big wildlife overpass for them at Price and Noble creeks. 

6. This overpass can’t just be made of concrete like a bridge for humans.  Animals need trees, bushes, grasses, dead logs, soil and boulders and natural-seeming shapes of the earth to feel safe as they cross.  Many animals seem to be frightened by noises, smells and vibrations of motor traffic on the interstate; the new bridge is designed so that motor vehicles go through tunnels and the animals will hardly realize they are crossing over traffic.

7.  Female cougars often spend their lives living and hunting near where they were born. But juvenile male cougars usually leave their mothers’ areas and need to travel long distances, sometimes up to 300 miles, to find a new area to live in.  The junior males are the ones that sometimes rush across a highway and are injured or killed by motor vehicles.

 8.  Smaller animals, such as snails, may need years to cross the highway, so the bridge has to contain a natural-enough environment. including familiar plants and soils,  that they can live within in for a long time as they slowly move across it.

9. A pika is a small animal related to rabbits,  Pikas have thick dense, fur so they don’t migrate: they would get too hot moving long distances in the summer. They live in the shade of talus rock piles or boulders, and disperse slowly between rock piles, trying to avoid being out in the open, where predators might catch and eat them. A pika may not travel more than one hundred feet in its lifetime. It would be more healthy for pika sub populations if they could be lnked, and connected to one another safely across the interstate.  Creating collections of boulders to replicate their natural habitat is required to ensure that pikas will feel safe enough to use wildlife passages, below or above the highway,

10.  Bears need to eat a great deal in the Fall, to get ready to hibernate in the winter.   When they hibernate, their heartbeat and breathing slows down, and they live off of their fat reserves.  Other animals lose muscle strength if they don’t exercise, but bears can recycle their stored proteins while they are hibernate, so their muscles do not “atrophy” (weaken) while they are hibernating. So when they come out of hibernation in the spring, they are just as strong as ever.

11.  Fun question: What should we call this bridge?  Right now, it is called the Price-Noble Crossing Structure, which is kind of boring. The puppets might ask if the audience  could help us come up with a good name for the bridge.

What other concepts should we try to communicate, and what might be good strategies in a  puppet play (or other exercises) to do this?








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:

BELINDA BEAR

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!

BELINDA BEAR

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

LORETTA LYNX

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!

BELINDA BEAR

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

LORETTA LYNX

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.

BELINDA BEAR

So you approve of the bridge?

LORETTA LYNX

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!

BELINDA  BEAR

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
http://www.cwu.edu/career/cooperative-education-and-internships
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.

Portfolio

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   http://my.carbonmade.com/       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.

POTENTIAL INTERNSHIP SITES

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:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_museums_in_Washington


Central/Eastern Washington:

Kititas County Historical Museum (Ellensburg)
http://www.kchm.org/

Clymer Museum and Gallery (Ellensburg)
http://www.clymermuseum.com/

Olmstead Place State Park (Ellensburg)
http://www.parks.wa.gov/parks/?selectedpark=Olmstead%20Place

Yakima Valley Museum
http://yakimavalleymuseum.org/

Wanapum Heritage Center
http://www.wanapum.org/

Yakima Nation Museum/Heritage Center
http://www.yakamamuseum.com/museum.php

Maryhill Museum of Art
http://www.maryhillmuseum.org/2013/

Hanford Reach Interpretive Center
http://www.visitthereach.org/

Moses Lake Museum and Art Center
http://www.cityofml.com/index.aspx?nid=484



Seattle Area

Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture (University of Washington)
http://www.burkemuseum.org/

EMP Museum (Experience Museum Project and Science Fiction Museum)
http://www.empmuseum.org/

Museum of History and Industry
http://www.mohai.org/

Seattle Art Museum
http://www.seattleartmuseum.org/

Pacific Science Center (Seattle Center)
http://www.pacificsciencecenter.org/

Wing Luke Museum of the Pacific Asian American Experience
http://www.seattlefoundation.org/npos/Pages/WingLukeAsianMuseum.aspx?bv=nposearch

Frye Art Museum
http://fryemuseum.org/

Museum of Flight (Tukwila)
http://www.museumofflight.org/


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:

http://www.smithsonianofi.com/internship-opportunities/

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  http://www.toxipedia.org/display/hwt/View+the+POTW+Book

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 chalice" 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.