Through reading, synthesizing and processing, the readings and meetings this week led to an intriguing deep dive into the world of Digital Exhibits. “Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display” by Steven Levine and Ivan Karp brought me into the world of presentation, culture, and permission-giving. The 1984 taking of the taonga or treasures from Maori elders for an exhibit on the Maori people demonstrated the dichotomy of the spiritual significance of these taonga to the Maori people and the historical implications of these taonga as presented in a museum. The article continued to discuss the ways in which museums should incorporate the perspectives and input of local and/or indigenous communities and questioned the methodology behind incorporating a diverse range of perspectives on the material being presented. The article prompted me to think more deeply into the role of museums within the community and the space and framework they take up and how within the world of digital humanities this very dichotomy may exist. How might in the future digital humanities scholars seek to incorporate works and traditions of indigenous communities letting these communities be at the forefront of the collection process? How can we create an environment that upholds the values and the ideologies of various communities and populations without infringing on these communities? To me, these questions are never-ending; they must be incorporated uniquely into each project and each ethnological exhibit, project, and collection.
Amherst College Head of Archives and Special Collections Mike Kelly’s description of the origins of the The Kim-Wait/Eisenberg Native American Literature Collection deepened my perspective on collecting and storing of works from local communities. A community of those wanting to sell their works, leaders in the indigenous communities, professors, archivists, and librarians helped welcome and respectfully situate the Native American collection into its new home. And so after this discussion, I began to think in more specific ways. How have curators/archivists put these ways of collecting information and where? In what ways do these ways of collecting and synthesizing information and material from local communities translate into my own research process? I begin to answer this last question by thinking about the relationship between the materials, the lives of those captured on the pages of literature collections or yearbooks, and the collector, archivist, or researcher. The archivist or researcher is the one that translates both literally and figuratively the lives of historical peoples and objects through their presentation of the material, calling to an audience of fellow researchers and laypeople to interpret the material. While neither the audience nor the archivists or researchers do not know these actual, lived experiences, they might interpret the thoughts and feelings of those captured in the material. And by a solid and in-depth understanding of these historical materials and its contextualization, the archivist, librarians, or researchers will translate the material with greater clarity and precision, closer to replicating the sentiment of the actual time.
And thus, through understanding this intricate pathway of relationship might we better understand the archivist, researcher, or librarian’s role within the community and start to understand how to include “multiple perspectives or to reveal the tendentiousness of the approach taken” (6). I hope to incorporate these same ideas and the same thought process into my own research process as we move forward.
 Karp, Ivan, and Lavine, Steven D. Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display. Smithsonian Institution Press Washington and London, 1991.