• Reorganizing The Social Organization: Collaborative Editing, Museum Collections, Indigenous Knowledges, and the Franz Boas/George Hunt Archives

    Judith Berman, Aaron Glass, Dean Irvine (see profile)
    CSDH-SCHN 2020
    Digital media, Museums
    Item Type:
    Conference paper
    Franz Boas, Collaboration
    Permanent URL:
    Franz Boas's 1897 report, The Social Organization and the Secret Societies of the Kwakiutl Indians, was a landmark in anthropology for its integrative approach to museum collections, photographs, and sound recordings as well as text. A result of participant observation and extensive collaboration with Indigenous partners—especially George Hunt—the book set a standard for both ethnography and museum practice. However, both Boas and Hunt remained dissatisfied with the published text, laboring for decades to correct and supplement a volume that would forever mediate global knowledge of the Kwakwaka’wakw people of British Columbia. They left behind a vast archive of unpublished materials relevant to the creation and afterlife of this groundbreaking text and its related museum collections. These materials are now widely distributed across institutional, disciplinary, and international borders. This paper will discuss an ongoing collaborative project to create a multimedia, web-based critical edition of the book that reassembles published and unpublished materials as well as Kwakwaka’wakw knowledge. Archival revelations about the truly co-authored nature of the original text allow us to better situate the contexts and methods of creating ethnographic knowledge in relation to the Indigenous ontologies that The Social Organization purports to represent. Moreover, the edition seeks to demonstrate ways in which digital technologies can harness multimedia to return sensory richness to Boas and Hunt’s synthetic text, to reactivate disparate and long dormant museum collections, and to restore cultural patrimony to its Indigenous inheritors.
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    4 years ago
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