dscn3046

Visiting the National Museum of the American Indian

The Great Plains of the northwestern United States and southern Canada occupy parts of Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska, as well as parts of Canadian provinces Alberta and Saskatchewan. This area once comprised one of the largest prairie grassland ecosystems in the world. Despite habitat loss, species decline and human destruction, opportunities exist to conserve and restore large areas of this unique habitat and the cultural heritage it has contributed to western expansion of frontier America.

 

Worldwildlife.org says that currently less than 2% of this region’s millions of acres are preserved, making this area one of the least protected places on earth. It was here where great Indian wars were won and lost by Native Americans fighting for their heritage, their land which was sacred and their livelihood, the buffalo. Today the Black Hills and surrounding Badlands of southwestern South Dakota are testament to this iconic culture that is part of American Heritage. It is also testament to the history of how dominant cultures attempt to assimilate defeated cultures.

These cultural collisions led to the loss of human life that is still passed down as heritage today in stories of suffering, greed, desperation, loss of identity and wholesale removal of thousands of people from their ancestral homes.

As I get ready to depart Washington DC to head west to the Dakotas, I must start my journey at the National Museum of the American Indian. The NMAI is part of the wonderful world of the Smithsonian museums and located just south of the capitol in DC.

dscn3046

The NMAI, photo credit: Rae Rippy

In the amazing architectural building which is surrounded by a native American horticultural landscape, visitors are immediately enveloped in the history of the indigenous native cultures that lived, thrived and almost died on the North, Central and South American continents and were “discovered” by white skin European invaders only 500 years ago.

In our present day world of individualism, cultural clashes, environmental disasters, and nationalistic hate speech, it is important that everyone realize that Native American’s existed in the Americas for over 13000 years before immigrants from Europe landed their ships in the present day Bahamas, and thinking they were in India, named the indigenous people Indians.

I find that my new background in museology now effects all my museum visits. Thank you, Dr. Lena Stefano! I love to spend way too much time observing and analyzing every exhibit and thinking how I would do it differently, or perhaps how my perceptions of something could be exhibited differently.

I found the exhibits here very educational, but also very old-school. There is a great amount of large wall space devoted to lots of written material about many tribes’ cultures, their livelihood, their belief systems, their homes etc. There was a major part of the museum devoted to the many United States treaties negotiated and renegotiated and then ignored and changed over the past 300 years. There were many 2 dimensional models of these cultures and how they lived and certainly they were educational. There were a few short videos that explained many of these visual exhibits. I found the museum totally lacking any modern digital exhibits. There are lots of interactive activities that children and parents can take part and I found the real life canoes, totem poles, pottery, animal statues and buffalo leather clothes amazing.

Anyone that has not studied these cultures can learn from the NMAI that “the Native American indigenous cultures were in no way savages.” America’s history of manifest destiny led to the creation of the greatest culture and country that ever existed. Unfortunately, this so-called “destiny” lead to the almost complete extinction of the North American bison and the cultures that thrived and adapted for over 10000 years on the North American Great Plains.

It remains to be seen if this destiny will go down in history as the greatest and longest ever. America as an ideal has only existed for less than 400 years. This is much less than many ancient civilizations and certainly much less than the indigenous cultures it dispossessed. With the coming climate and environmental disasters looming in our near future, there is doubt that our present culture will survive without major cultural changes involving migrations, poverty and the associated hardships these create.

To learn more, it is worth checking out the National Museum of the American Indian and see the many “trails of tears” where indigenous people were forced into long migrations, poverty, disease and death. The Battan death march in WWII in the Pacific pales in my mind when compared with the horrible forced marches of children, elderly men and women, sick and pregnant Indians. Many left on the side of the road to die, either by bullet or slow death.

Yes, it’s all here to be experienced; the good and the bad! Heritage has no. Once again I must say, thank you Dr. Stefano. You opened my brain and allowed me to connect to my heart and I cherish all those days in your class.


12736722_1312489392094978_579054814_o

Rae Rippy is Student Academic Officer for the HERMA class of 2015-16. With a background in business, journalism, and geology, he is interested in the preservation of heritage around the world, and the role of education as it pertains to that goal.

RAE BLOG PIC

Philosophy, Intangibility, and Preparing for Exams

How do I find value or significance in something that has no dimension? As a heritage manager, where do I find the tangible evidence of intangible material? As I walk back towards Kerameikos from the Academy on a beautiful sunlit afternoon, this thought kept running through my brain.

I spent the day sitting on one of the many benches at this former gymnasium basking in the sunshine while studying management strategy. I wandered along the trails in the park and walked among the ruins of the first major institution of learning. I was looking for something that would connect me to this famous place in antiquity.

There was the foundation of the ancient gymnasium in the excavated hollow that sits among the ancient olive groves and the modern philodendrons. There were the numerous intertwined lovers enjoying each others’ attention as if they were the only ones stirring in the quiet of the afternoon. There were occasional modern athletes using the ancient gymnasium to jog through the trails that once were the starting point of the most important athletic event in antiquity. Humans followed, attached to their pets by ropes and tethers and others attached intangibly by voice. Voices of children echo through the branches of the shade trees as I see old and young alike taking time to sit and speak to each other.

I tried a thoughtful comparative analysis of this site as a physical landscape to another site of similar importance, the Lyceum, several miles away. These sites were home to great conversations between the philosophers Plato and Aristotle.

RAE BLOG PIC

Aristotle and Plato debate in this famous painting, found at schooleconomicscience.org

These conversations, now 2400 years old, flow through my thoughts as I try to concentrate on my task at hand. As I flip the written pages in my lap the words “vision statements,” “mission statements,” “goals,” and “strategy,” “physical resources,” “human resources,” “financial,” and more, keep finding places to settle in my overcrowded memory. I have always found myself able to rely on memory.

 

Though we all possess the ability to remember, memory for me is a practiced skill. It dawns on me that memory also provides us the link to something that has no dimension in space and time. As I remember my management values from last semester, I am reminded of those values spoken here 2400 years ago. I am thankful for those who had the courage to question the status quo and leave behind a legacy of philosophy that allows me to question their philosophy.

While I may not be a neo-platonist, I certainly will not look harshly on those that are, though I will argue that Plato’s ideals and forms align too close to ideas that I find are used wrongly. It is the net result of this place that enables me to be here and to have the opportunity to use my memory to remember.

It is because of the great thinkers who came before us that allow all of us to thoughtfully create a world that lifts humankind for the greater good. I find purpose in a world where too many are refugees from this thoughlessness. Economic prosperity lies at the foundation of most cultures and culture is intangible in so many ways, just like management strategy can be. The link may not have dimension in space and time, but the Academy and my education is so intangibly linked, and for this I am thankful.


12736722_1312489392094978_579054814_o

Rae Rippy is Student Academic Officer for the HERMA class of 2015-16. With a background in business, journalism, and geology, he is interested in the preservation of heritage around the world, and the role of education as it pertains to that goal.

 

 

 

PhotoSoft_20160409_222701

National Gallery Strike Reveals Importance of HR Management

After 111 days of strike the more than 200 strikers of the National Gallery of London under the aegis of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union declared (partial) victory last October. The strike started as plans of the outgoing director – upheld by the trustees of UK’s National Gallery – decided to outsource the jobs of the ‘front-line’ staff, i.e. people in tickets, Gallery rooms, shops and so on, to a security company.

The plans were based on the premise that the security company could pay its staff much less than the Gallery in order to not only do things cheaper but also make a profit. Despite the declared industrial motion victory, the plans for outsourcing will go ahead.

Indeed, the Gallery was prepared for the industrial action and had already signed a contract with a security firm to man several of the rooms of the Gallery. They also had their ear to the ground and were improving on the PCS strikers complaints in the street: some of the replacement staff were getting progressively more educated on what they were guarding, and they were being increasingly more helpful towards the visitors.

The main premise of the PCS strikers was against the privatization of such a core function of the national Gallery, arguing that it had been a public institution for such a long time and that now was not the time to lose this public identity. Although this argument may not have been the most important one, it was possibly employed in order to sensitize the general public. And indeed, the public was sensitized. Mass support for the industrial action, demonstrations, and donations in support did come in.

The Gallery on the other hand, argued that since the government would be drastically phasing its funding out, the Gallery has to be able to make cuts across the board without changing the quality of services to its clients. And services to clients are already visibly deteriorating: information in each room was drastically poorer, computers with very rich content had disappeared, and this content was replaced by low-priced guided tours.

The disappearance of free content, however, seriously alters the free access status of the Gallery, whilst the recent successful move to outsource the front-line staff will make a mid-term perceptible difference in the services rendered to visitors, even if initially current front-line staff are employed with good terms by the security company.

NATGALLERY free admis

National Gallery of London, current banner; found at: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/

Ultimately however, this whole issue highlights one enormous weakness of the National Gallery as an institution. Through this action, the Gallery concedes it is not efficient enough in managing the human resources that make it possible to display its art collection to the public, this being the Gallery’s raison d’être.

In other words, the top brass accepts that they are not able to run the Gallery by themselves. And this is a very grave acknowledgement.

Human resource management is one of the most important skills for the Gallery managers to have, yet it seems that the Gallery top brass prefers to outsource this key component to someone else than leave it to themselves. However, if the Gallery saves any money through this move, it could have saved even more by using the employment terms and efficiency of the company they are outsourcing things to.


imageedit_2_7855547606

Dr. Evangelos Kyriakidis is director of the Initiative for Heritage Conservation. The Initiative for Heritage Conservation promotes good practice in heritage management through education and research.

BLOG Emma 1

A Day at the First Cemetery in Athens

It was a dark and gloomy day.
The clouds were hovering over Athens.
What a perfect day to go to the Cemetery.
Wouldn’t you say?

BLOG Emma 1

Front and back view of Schliemann’s tomb

 

As part of our Education & Archaeology field trip led by Dr. Corbishley, we had the option to visit the First Cemetery of Athens.

Along with the University of Kent Archaeological Society (UKAS) students, who were visiting Athens, we created a tour around the city and made our way to the Cemetery. Here we saw Schliemann’s tomb which was rather grand amongst other grand tombs.

The Cemetery seemed like a city in its own right with an imposing entrance, pathways between the tombs and graves that could be considered small roads, the tombs and gravestones which could be considered as monuments of the dead with some modern, some old, some abandoned, and some worshipped.

BLOG Emma 2

An example of one of the abandoned tombs

Despite not delving into deep research about some of the infamous people buried at the Cemetery, we did have some amusing and intriguing conversations about what we saw.

There were many cats in the Cemetery surrounding the graves, which anyone slightly superstitious would find quite creepy. We jokingly talked about the cats as guardians of the dead and the oranges growing on the trees as the fruit of the dead.

We also discussed whether it was disrespectful to take photos in a cemetery as well as discussing issues surrounding the ‘business’ of cemeteries; if people are buried and their loved ones are gone, is it right to leave these graves abandoned or unearth them for new burial?

This also led to further discussion about modern burial and cremation methods and how we would personally like to ‘leave’ this earth. For example, there is an interesting method of burial and cremation where the body or ashes are placed in a pod with a seed and buried in the ground to grow into a tree.

BLOG Emma 3

Searching the cemetery

As well as our discussions, we ended up going on a search with a group of students to find family members of one of our fellow students. Our search came to a disappointing end as we got lost in the maze and could not find the gravestones. It led us deeper into the maze of graves and to the realisation that the First Cemetery of Athens is quite large. This is definitely not a place you want to get lost in in Athens, especially on a dark and gloomy day! Much to our relief, we did (eventually) find our way out.

If you live in Athens or find yourself in Athens, you may want to visit the First Cemetery of Athens as an alternative way of seeing the history of the city (and this actually goes for any city). From an artistic point of view it may also be interesting to see the development of the tomb and gravestone styles over the years. From this trip I learned that there are unlimited amount of ways to experience a cemetery, which was quite unexpected. I would not hesitate on my next city trip to visit the city’s cemetery.

All photos taken by Emma Greenwood.


BLOG Emma headshotEmma Greenwood is the current Social Officer for the HERMA programme of 2015-2016. She has a BA in Liberal Arts and Sciences, majoring in Humanities: European History and Society. She has experience in human resourcing, administration, and volunteer management. Emma is passionate about sports, travelling, photography, volunteer work, environmentalism, history, and food.

DSCF0813

Reflections on the Temporary Exhibition Workshop

The Initiative for Heritage Conservation’s mission supports the interests of professional development cultural institutions in Athens and abroad. The IHC hosted the Temporary Exhibitions workshop as part of its Executive Leadership series of workshops and seminars in November 2015 at the Benaki Museum in central Athens. Two of the MA students attended the workshop; here are some reflections.

Rosie Wanek, Senior Exhibitions Manager of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, who has considerable experience in thematic traveling exhibitions, led this workshop on Temporary Exhibition Making, which took place at the Benaki Museum over the course of three days. Ms. Wanek began with the simple questions of: Why have an exhibition? A temporary exhibits serves the apparent reasons of attracting new visitors and making old ones return—however, a traveling exhibition serves a host of other reasons: making long-term partnerships with other institutions, creating extra income, promoting the collection to the general public, and hopefully procuring new, long-term donors and supporters.

Storytelling is in everything, from the creation of a work of art to the discovery of a unique artifact. How we convey each object’s value is grounded heavily in the historical and contemporary details that allow an object to take on a life of its own. The challenge becomes making this value universally appealing so that a broad audience can be exposed to and subsequently attach their own personal values on an object. This is where the importance of an interesting narrative comes in.

So, what is an exhibition? Well, it begins with a story.

Rosie Wanek from the V&A was the master storyteller. The workshop explored every detail involved in the creation of a temporary touring exhibition, from start to finish, but the one overarching theme that prevailed was the significance of a strong narrative and how to keep it engaging. Each participant came with an exhibition concept that needed some strategic and critical thought to take it to the next level. Ms. Wanek provided an engrossing yet practical introduction to the chronological steps in planning a touring exhibition and used real-life experiences from previous Victoria & Albert exhibitions as examples in illustrating the concepts.

As a Heritage Management student, it was interesting to see all the theory and management framework that we’ve been learning about in classes click into place through their active applications. Some ‘a-ha’ moments were definitely had over the course of the three-day workshop.

DSCF0813

Discussion and collaboration create new ideas

When entering an exhibition, what’s the first thing you notice? The exhibition logo? The wall text? The most eye-catching object on display? The color of the walls? The sounds of an exhibition score? The lighting?  Or do all these elements blend together into one pleasantly all-encompassing experience? It would seem that in the planning of a touring exhibition, a holistic approach is best. The most successful way of achieving this is through setting clear objectives with the Museum’s vision and mission in mind. “Why?” becomes the ultimate question. Why put on the exhibit and what does an institution accomplish through producing a touring show?

Though financial motivation can be a factor the answer to “why?” should always involve the fact that there is a great story waiting to be told.  The first part of the workshop addressed the “why do we make temporary travelling exhibitions?” in two parts: because it supports our mission statement and because we value our audience and appreciate the role of museums in society. In addition, it helps strengthen partnerships with other institutions and increases our audience and potential donors, essential to a museum’s survival and success.

So you have a story and objectives. Now what? The next step is where the logistical and financial details of an exhibition, risk assessment, and strategic partnerships come into play. Ms. Wanek titled this section “Making it Manageable” where we addressed such questions as: What is the budget for the exhibition? What institutions should we approach to host this exhibition in order to achieve some financial gain while establishing a symbiotic relationship? How do the curated objects get from Qatar to London and back again, all in one piece? What safeguards should a hosting institution have in place in order to feel secure in the lending? Who do we get to design the cool coffee cups and other merchandise that will be found in the gift shop, and how do we get it made?  The particulars go on and on. We had fun exploring solutions to some potential problems the good old fashioned way: jotting them down on poster-sized sheets of paper taped to various walls. It was great to observe other groups’ ideas and gain keen insight into possible issues we may not have thought of. Ultimately, this exchange of both ideas and institutional practices fostered a better understanding of how you can make a good exhibition great for the benefit of both audiences and organizations alike.


 

IMG_6713 Andriana Gilroy is a candidate for the MA in Heritage Management. After spending several years working in New York as a freelance marketing and brand consultant in the music and art industries, she decided to move to Athens to explore her family roots and test the waters of the Greek art and design world. She currently works for a cultural institution offering an experiential approach to Greek heritage.

 

girly

Celebrating International Women’s Day as a HERMA student

Today is the 8th of March. It is the day that societies celebrate their women; it was basically made for the working women, ignoring that the women whom be called “housewives” are doing great unpaid jobs. Women in numbers are half of the population in most societies, and are responsible to take care of the other half in most communities. Women have great power and are present in economy, politics and social life. In my country, there were many role models of women who were leaders in their fields, and I wish to join that list one day.

Unfortunately, living in a patriarchal society connects the achievement of a woman to her MALE kinship, they call her “the sister of MEN”.

Our professor Lena Stefanou chose this day to be a good memory for us as students, so we went to the Industrial Gas Museum as part of our field trips in our studies. A great photo to all of female students was taken at the highest point of the museum.

girly

Dr. Lena Stefanou and female students on top of the world

Then we had a great lunch in her cozy apartment. Miss Lena gave us in this day another lesson of how energetic and educated a woman should be; how she prepared food in the morning, cleaned her flat, prepared for the tour, heated the food again, had us in her home with a smile, danced a little bit, and after all that, was present in social and academic events in the evening! How strong a woman could be!

museum

Dr. Lena Stefanou and all students at the Industrial Gas Museum in Athens, one of a long string of activities during her day 

When I arrived home I started researching for my next assignment, Mar Saba Monastery which belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, built in 484 A.D and locates few kilometers from Bethlehem. I planned last year to visit and couldn’t make it. I remembered when I asked my landlord how to reach the site, he told me (but you can’t enter the site). During that time, I didn’t analyze why as I was in complicated period. While reviewing the history of the site I discovered: it is not allowed (for women) to enter it as the monks keep an ancient tradition.

Being forbidden to enter ancient sites because of my gender is not new for me; two years ago when I was doing Umra in Madinah/Saudi Arabia I saw some men climbing stairs that lead to tower where you can see the whole mosque (built in 622 A.D and it is the second holy place for Muslims) but some guards stopped me claiming that it is not allowed to women. And it is not the only archaeological sites that has restrictions for women to visit, several places in Saudi Arabia that belong to pre-Islamic and post-Islamic era aren’t open to women, while some of them are open for two hours /three days a week.

Whilst there are no texts in both religions justifying that women can’t enter those historical sites, I wonder why this is still happening in the 21 century!

You might find it weird why a woman should care about that! As a future heritage manager I can’t hide my feminist side; for the last four years during my voluntary works with a cultural center I faced huge challenges to work in this field because of my gender.

On International Women’s day, I remind myself of my mission: work harder to change all traditions, the patriarchal system, and norms that undermine women or prevent them from visiting/working in historical sites.

Women are not second-class citizens or half-humans. A woman is: a sister who helped Moses(PBUH) to survive; a single mother who raised Jesus(PBUH); a wife who supported Mohammad (PBUH).

My mission is to be a future Manager who will assist her community to be better.


DSC_2381.JPGMs. Jawida Mansour is a student in the Kent/AUEB MA in Heritage Management programme. She holds degrees in architectural engineering and business administration and has eight years of experience in economic development, concentrating on entrepreneurship among Palestinian youth. She is an outspoken social critic, having published numerous articles in local journals on issues related to women and youth in society. She is driven by her passion to empower women and youth both politically and economically using cultural heritage and national traditions.

 

Differing Values in Elefsina

I have found myself repeatedly returning to the boat harbor in Elefsina these days. In the cool of the evening, it provides a reassuring jogging path for my weary feet to tread. I jog past the sailing yachts moored across from the superstore JUMBO, and through the empty waterfront parks that are amazing not only for their artistry, but the fact that they are almost always empty. I run past the fishing pier where local fishermen have moored their boats and display their daily catch on icy displays. I dodge through the one or two locals negotiating their evening meal and on past the bus stop before cutting back to my place. This same area has become part of my daily routine as well. Now that the famous Greek morning sun is becoming my reliable friend I have decided to make the empty waterfront park at the yacht harbor my second home! It’s quietly beautiful here! But not all places in Elefsina give me respite from my daily desire for peace.

IMG_0855

Street signs show us where the site lies.

Recently my classmate Faidon and I returned to the corner of Iera Odos and Atzhlespnoy street. For those who have walked past this corner without any awareness, this walled off corner of Elefsina is another archeological site. Here, behind 6-foot tall walls of concrete and corrugated tin, sits the unearthed road known as the Sacred Way. Unless you were led here by local archeologists, you would not know of this place, since it is a walled off overgrown empty lot that has very little value to the city of Elefsina. But values, as we all have learned, are relative.

So what is the value of this walled off corner of heritage to contemporary society? Despite the decisions by some to hide this piece of heritage behind walls some have found a way to give it value. On this day as I returned to the site with Faidon, we first stopped at the local grocery store where Faidon purchased plastic gloves and large trash bags. As we crawled through the small opening off the side street into the site I realized our chore before us. This site was strewn with trash of all kinds and it was up to the two of us to put our values in place!

I put down my backpack of books about heritage and began removing the remnants of value left behind by someone whose values are different than mine! It dawned on me as I spent the next hour picking up this trash that this was not a random trash dump! Someone or group had been visiting this site and since the local dumpsters are right across the street it was convenient to take the trash from the dumpsters and carry it into the walled off site. Here they could dig through the trash privately, taking what they could find to eat, to wear, to survive.

We completed our value reassessment and loaded our ten huge trash bags of contemporary values into the dumpsters across the street and headed back to class. As I walked back to class that day I was reminded once again what values are and how to attribute value to any place. While we sit in our classrooms and talk theory about values, there are those all around us with different ideas!

If the archeological value is treated as it is then contemporary society will give it value based on need. Who am I to judge what value this ignored corner of Elefsina provided to the people that ate here and found shelter here. Yes, they’re not my values, but I am not homeless, starving, or walking around in filthy clothes.

I returned to the site again today and I was not surprised to see all my hard work gone. It was littered again with the same trash that Faidon and I had removed just a few days ago! Once again I was reminded about how to value heritage!


12736722_1312489392094978_579054814_o

Rae Rippy is Student Academic Officer for the HERMA class of 2015-16. With a background in business, journalism, and geology, he is interested in the preservation of heritage around the world, and the role of education as it pertains to that goal.