Thawing the Frozen Indian: Brown University’s new anthro exhibit

In Americas Next Top Model, Brown University, Contemporary Native Art, misrepresentation, museums, stereotypes, Thawing the Frozen Indian, urban outfitters by Adrienne K.Leave a Comment

The same day as our Crooked Arrows adventure last weekend, Mikaela and I also hit up the Haffenreffer Anthropology museum at Brown to check out their new student-curated exhibit: “Thawing the Frozen Indian: From Tobacco to Top Model.” Dr. Hoover, one of the faculty members at Brown, had mentioned to me at Harvard Powwow (she was the Head Lady Dancer) that there was a reference to my blog, and I might like the exhibit. But, imagine my surprise and geeked out delight when I walked in and saw this:

Yep, that says “On the blog Native Appropriations, Adrienne K. explains…”! There’s a block quote, from me, on the wall of the museum! How cool is that?! It’s from my anti-hipster headdress manifesto.

The exhibit came out of a class (that I wish they offered at my school!) called “Thawing the Frozen Indian: Native American Museum representations,” and they had a panel that gave the history and rationale for the exhibit:

The panel reads:
“From cigar store Indians to reality TV, American popular culture has reflected, created, and perpetuated stereotypical representations of Native Americans. Museums have helped legitimize and solidify these stereotypes, freezing American Indians in a primitive, ahistorical past. As part of the class “Thawing the Frozen Indian: Native American Museum Representations,” we have created an exhibit about the (mis) representation of Native Americans both inside and outside of museums. This exhibit is confronting the complex, and often painful, history of cultural appropriation in order to foster conversation. As part of the process, we created a Facebook page and crowd-sourced comments from individuals who identify as Native American. 

We have organized our research into three categories: racist stereotypes, mass-produced cultural appropriations, and contemporary Native art. In this last and final section we provide examples of the “unfrozen Indian,” art that combines the tradition and modern in Native American life today.”

If I were to design an exhibit, this would be it. I loved every part–the discussions of cultural appropriation, stereotypes, mascots, advertising, etc–but also the awesome contemporary art from artists like Teri Greeves. Overall, I was in nerd heaven the entire time. It was kinda like my blog, in museum format. Which was so cool.

So next to the panel about Playing Indian was a case with info about the Urban Outfitters Case, coupling pictures of the Urban products with a traditional Navajo rug (which was a nice juxaposition):

The captions on the cases all had Facebook comments printed on them, which provided a nice interactive element and connected the museum to the “real world”:

I also loved that they had glass pens to allow visitors to add their thoughts–directly on the cases themselves!

Here was the case talking about Top Model (using my transcription, I noticed the aside I had included–love it):

Then there were these adorable Teri Greeves baby high tops:

I took a ton more pictures, but I want you to go visit! My terrible point-and-shoot can’t do justice to the exhibit. So in closing, we decided to be awkward and take some pictures with “my” panel:
“omg that’s me!”
Then we signed the guest book:

…and headed to see Crooked Arrows. It was a great day. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend you stop by. The museum isn’t large, but they’ve packed a lot of good stuff into a small space–and it’s free!

Here’s the info for the museum:

The Museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; closed Mondays and Brown University Holidays.  Admission is free. The Museum’s phone number is 401-863-2065.

Oh, then when we were walking through Providence, we saw these flyers posted all over the place, and found the card in a restaurant. These guys should walk over and check out the exhibit!

(Thanks so much to all the Brown students, staff, and faculty involved! You totally made this blogger’s life complete!)