ReConnect/ReCollect External Advisory Board Meeting: December 7, 2021

First Meeting with External Advisory Board

ReConnect/ReCollect convened its first meeting with its advisory board to discuss reparative efforts to collections. With the advisory board, we considered the following sets of questions:

(Curation): As the collections survey shows, the University of Michigan’s Philippine collections include a wide range of archival, archaeological, biological and cultural heritage items, housed across a number of campus repositories. In an ideal world, how would you curate U of M’sPhilippine collections? What would you prioritize? What would be your criteria? What would be your process?

While a wide range of opinions were represented among the advisory board, the following recommendations were brought up in our discussion:

  • Centralizing the organization system to provide a way to search across university collections
  • Examine metadata structures and practices
  • Attention to indigenous and ethno-religious group classifications
  • Consultation with Indigenous Persons.
  • More attention to biological collections
  • Attention to digitization
  • Creation of a Center for Philippine Studies

(Community Engagement): What material in the U of M’s collections do you think would be of most interest to members of your community/communities?

While a wide range of opinions were represented among the advisory board, the following materials were brought up in our discussion:

  • Worcester photographs
  • Worcester textiles
  • Maps
  • Primary Source Material
  • IP Material Heritage
  • Ethnographic Photographs

(Community Engagement): What do you see as the biggest barriers to accessing our collections? What forms of access would you like to see for our collections (e.g., group visits, digitalization of materials, exhibits or traveling exhibits, etc.)?

While a wide range of opinions were represented among the advisory board, the following barriers were discussed:

  • Lack of “discoverability”
  • Lack of accessibility, physically and intellectually
  • Lack of digitization
  • Lack of access to technology

The following suggestions were discussed:

  • Publishing and organizing a master catalogue of Philippine collections
  • Ensuring proper and universalized terminology in finding aids
  • Digitization
  • Traveling exhibits
  • Optimized digital search systems
  • Increased accessibility, including opportunities to engage with and touch items in the collections
  • Decentralizing objects and centralizing community engagement

(Cultural Sensitivity): Do you have any specific concerns about universal access to images of Philippine or Indigenous materials? Are there any culturally-specific classes of artifacts or specialized knowledge that should not be shared online or with the general public?

While a wide range of opinions were represented among the advisory board, the following recommendations were brought up in our discussion:

  • Considering nomenclature carefully and treating inappropriate or offensive former nomenclature as an artifact
  • Reconsidering display/depiction of human remains and death
  • Consulting with descendants of those related to a given artifact or material
  • Considering a gradient of levels of access to collections (e.g. no access vs. all access vs. restricted access)
  • Consulting specific IP communities about access to materials

(Cultural Sensitivity): In curating Native American materials, there are classes of objects that either require special storage or exhibit considerations (eg. calumet pipe and stem should not be joined); classes of objects that should not be viewed by the general public (eg. Iroquois False Face Masks); and others that have menstruation or pregnancy taboos (eg. certain Hopi Kachina masks). When working with NAGPRA related materials, not only would we not display them, but researchers are not allowed access without consultation and approval by the related tribes. Are there any broad or specific classes of objects or archives (including, for example, photographs), that require this kind of curatorial care, in Philippine or Indigenous cultures?

  • Many board members believed that there should be attempts to mirror NAGPRA, but cautioned against viewing Philippine indigenous communities as homogenous.

(Future Discussions): Are there any other topics you would like to bring for discussion in future advisory board meetings with the ReConnect team? Are there any other  thoughts you’d like to share?

  • Many members of the board suggested the importance of starting with an inventory of collections and making it possible to see a broad overview of the Philippine materials at UMich across collections.
  • The group stressed the importance of properly naming ethnolinguistic groups and IP communities.
  • Members expressed the importance of addressing the interests of groups with different identities related to the Philippines (e.g. second generation Filipin-x in America vs. IP’s in the Philippines)
  • Members advocated for moving the conversation away from objects and toward communities.