Story 08: Working Together To Get It Right

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Sidebar: Native American Interns

Written by Joan Lester

In 1970, the Grand Council of the Iroquois published a manifesto asking museums to cease the display and interpretation of their medicine masks. In 1975, Dawn Dove (left), Narragansett intern, observed that The Children's Museum held a collection of more than thirty of these masks. As part of her internship, she traveled to the Iroquois reservation at Onondaga to discuss the issue with Longhouse people. They requested that these masks no longer be accessible to the general public, even in storage. Instead, they suggested that these living entities be covered with calico and hung face to the wall, as they are in Iroquois homes (see photo on page 14).

Dawn later wrote: "History is important but we are not dead. If the study is done only of the past, people may think that the culture no longer exists."

Aquinnah Wampanoag intern, Linda Coombs, shown at right demonstrating splint basketry at a school program, reflects back on her years at the museum:

"...what I got out of it was a framework, a way to process information, to put it in the right places....I came as a Native person with certain ways of thinking or looking at things but I didn't have a framework....It was the atmosphere and the whole platform that [Mike Spock] created that allowed people to do what they were going to do. That's what made it so special and allowed it to blossom like it did into a cultural institution. Even if something fails miserably, you learned so much from the process.

And that's invaluable knowledge to use on something else. That's exactly what it took to really learn things and to build things."

Next: Sidebar: Study Storage/Paulla Jennings, Narragansett-Niantic