Pop up Museum sharing session held at Madison branch office

By Marlon WhiteEagle

Tribal members gathered at the Madison branch office for two sessions of sharing stories, items, and a meal at a Pop up Museum sharing event hosted by the Ho-Chunk Nation Museum and Cultural Center, the Hoocak Waazijaci Language Division, and the Teejop area heritage center.
Ho-Chunk Nation Museum and Cultural Center Director Josie Lee explained the Pop up Museum style concept as a temporary exhibit created by the people who show up to participate.
“A Pop up Museum is a traveling, temporary exhibition that is completely community curated. They're typically created around a theme,” Lee said.
“Participants write a label for their object and leave it on display. A Pop up Museum usually lasts a few hours on one day. Pop up Museums focus on bringing people together in conversation through stories, art, and objects.”
When the event is completed, each person takes their objects home with them.
The theme for the first series of Pop up Museum events was Hoocak identity as related to the Madison area.
Language Division Manager Adrienne Thunder embraced the idea of sharing items and knowledge in a community setting, although she had her personal hang-ups.
“I did share my own prejudices. I remember what our elders were concerned about with our language being written down and staying on the page. I think about the transmission of our language not happening today like it used to be,” Thunder said.
“I thought about the same kind of concerns when talking about a museum.  Would our culture stay in a building somewhere behind glass? The pop-up museum helped me see that our cultural understandings still exist as living things. As I think about the limited access to information about our culture, that used to be in all of our communities, I worry that our young people may not have access to even basic information about who we are and our values and beliefs,” she said.
Through the event, Thunder saw the history living amongst as opposed to trying to relive the past.
Outreach Specialist at the School of Library Information Studies and American Indian Curriculum Services at the School of Education Omar Poler was on hand to support Janice Rice from the Teejop area heritage center.
“This Pop up Museum came out of discussions we had about a number of different kind of pieces. The work that’s going on with the new heritage center, so collecting stories for that,” Poler said.
“Thinking of Josie’s museum, and supporting her work. You know, just general, an opportunity for folks to share with one another.”
The School of Education applied for a $65,000 grant with the Madison Community Foundation to fund a series of signs around the city of Madison that would provide educational opportunities for the city, specifically within walking distance to schools, Poler said.
“There may or may not be stories that people want to share that work for that, but sort of creating the opportunity for the sharing to take place. And figuring out what stories, if there are stories, that might help the Madison community better understand Ho-Chunk history here,” Poler said.
“And maybe it’s not signs, there are other ways of sharing that information. So we’re not just thinking about what stories are best to share, but what are the best ways to do that. We’re working together and thinking about it together.”
The first session was well attended. Poler and Lee were in attendance and shared the highlights.
“There was a lot of conversation that happened just as people were coming up and excited about what they had seen. There were stories about the families that lived here in Madison, the work that they did, the buildings that they built, and there was some cool, spontaneous sharing about families,” Poler said.
“The first session was incredible. My favorite part was the organic nature of it all. People trickled in with their pieces, set them on the tables, and stories immediately came out. There was genuine interest in the stories and feedback from the audience too. We all Hope to do more events like this soon,” Lee said.
The evening session was also an eventful evening, with a few Ho-Chunk dolls, some old family phots, Ho-Chunk baskets and beadwork.
Laura Redeagle from the Language Division made some object category cards with Hocak language words for each category, such as beadwork, doll, or basketry.
She also shared a doll that belonged to her late aunt.
“I found this doll in a box that contained old worn paper. When I removed the paper, I found the doll. It was made with original trade fur. The doll’s beadwork was woven, not made on a loom,” Redeagle said.
“My compromise was to put the doll in another box. The doll’s origin is unknown.”
Tara Tindall presented a modern Ho-Chunk doll and some photos.
“My Ho-Chunk applique doll was made by Mary Funmaker from Wisconsin Dells,” Tindall said.
She also shared photos of her paternal grandparents, her maternal grandmother, and her mother. These people all had a great impact on her identity.
“I remember my mother being really strong on the kinship,” Tindall said.
Kimberly Hall-Crowley spoke at length about how Ho-Chunk basketry has impacted her and her family’s life. She grew up watching her parents make a living from making and selling baskets.
One day, her mother was to teach a basket making class but no one showed up. Since she was already there, Kimberly decided to become one of the students.
She and her brothers all learned the craft.
Hall-Crowley also presented some books about Ho-Chunk culture: The People of the Big Voice, The Winnebago Tribe, and the Ho-Chunk Courting Flute.
“In the Winnebago Tribe, I was told there is men information that I’m not supposed to know about. So I don’t even know what chapters not to read,” Hall-Crowley said.
Mike Schmudlach presented another basket and some beaded Ho-Chunk bandolier bags.
“I brought old Ho-Chunk bandolier bags. People who knew I had them, asked me if I could bring them. Just to show them. They’re all from around 1900,” Schmudlach said.
“I have no idea who made them. I’ve never seen pictures of anyone wearing them. I think they probably got sold, or whatever, sometime, and ended up in collections. Some people’s collections end up for sale. And if you find them at the right time, and you can afford them, most of the time they’re very expensive.”
Missy Tracy presented a photo of her grandfather John White Eagle and his brothers, Sanborn, Archie Mike, Winslow, George, Leo, and Wilson from the Wisconsin Dells.
Museum Director Lee has been toying with the idea of using Pop Up Museums within the different Ho-Chunk communities for a while, she said.
“I wanted a way that would allow our people to breathe life into the museum concept that both allows for observance of the past and the recognition that our culture is still living and our pieces carry on the value through our use,” Lee said.
“Since the Ho-Chunk Nation does not have a museum as of yet, but has been working towards it, I also wanted to introduce the idea of community curated museum exhibitions in a new manner in order to better prepare myself and others to what will happen once we are able to open our own museum.”