Talking about "The Other": Resources for the CMNH

 

Talking about "The Other": Resources for the CMNH

Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History - Spring 2017

This past spring, I had the opportunity to work alongside Dr. Erin Peters and the Department of Education at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH). My job was to provide an outline for a potential curriculum to be used for docent training at the CMNH in talking about cultures which are considered “the other" particularly with Alcoa Hall, but also in general. The term “the other” or alterity in this context refers to cultures which vary greatly from western culture and as such are not well known among the average person in the United States and often the average person has grave misconceptions of these cultures. These facts make it difficult to discuss these cultures in a museum setting.

In an attempt to tackle this task, I started by talking to professors in several departments at the University of Pittsburgh including anthropology, history of art and architecture, and religious studies to get their opinion on the subject as well as the current state of the cultural halls at the CMNH. I was also able to set up meetings with the director of the Department of Education at CMNH as well as the people in charge of training docents to get their opinions on the subject. I was even able to view the training videos that they use for training the docents at CMNH in the cultural halls.

By combining the opinions of academics and museum professionals, I was able to get a good idea of where to start my own research. From there, I did a lot of research ranging from specific case studies of mostly representations of Native American groups in museums through to anthropological and historical theory. This took up the bulk of my internship by simply reading through the material and creating short summaries of each paper/book.

At the end of my internship I created a short outline with all of the ‘big ideas’ of all of the readings for the CMNH as well as a set of summaries for the resources that I gathered. These will be presented to the Department of Education at the CMNH to help guide them as they are changing their docent curriculum.

Overall, this internship was very research oriented and hands-off. I found that it helped me to better work independently and find better sources for research projects in museum studies research. In the future, I hope to use these skills to further my own research.