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Cataloging a Legacy: Launching the Bristol Collection Reference Resources Project

September 9, 2016
By Carolyn Jenkinson

Amid the energy and bustle of a new school year, the Logan Museum of Anthropology is excited to launch the Bristol Collection Reference Resources Project.  In the spring of 2016, the Logan received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities to further research, catalog, and digitize the Frances Bristol Collection and Archive. The collection, which was donated to the museum between 2006 and 2014, is an important scholarly and cultural resource that documents over four decades of craft production, ethnic and linguistic identity, cultural tourism, economic development, and community change in Oaxaca, Mexico. The project will make the intellectual content of the collection widely accessible both at Beloit and worldwide.  For more information on Frances Bristol and her collection, see our previous Museum Monday post.To implement this project, Carolyn Jenkinson was hired as project coordinator. She comes to us from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she recently finished her M.S. in textile history and material culture studies. Her research focuses specifically on Oaxacan textiles and changes in indigenous material culture over the 20th century. Carolyn spent the summer of 2015 interning at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca where she had the opportunity to study with textile artists and travel to many of the same regions Frances Bristol visited years before. For her thesis project, Carolyn curated an exhibition, Ancient Looms, Modern Threads: Contemporary Handwoven Garments of Oaxaca, Mexico, that featured pieces from the Bristol Collection. The show will travel to the Logan in January of 2017.

Lab slides for Logan
Project coordinator Carolyn Jenkinson (center) works with Honor’s Term student, Sammi Kinard`16 (right), and assistant curator, Krista Barry`15 (left) to organize the Bristol slide collection.

Carolyn and Beloit students have begun the first stage of the project--inventorying and cataloging the Bristol archive. This includes sorting and identifying over 8,000 slides that Frances took of her travels between the mid-1950s to early 1990s. “Frances developed an incredible cataloging system for all of her materials, painstakingly labeling each individual slide with the date, location, and subject of the image along with an ID number that corresponds to a separate ledger,” Carolyn said. “It’s a collection manager and researcher’s dream!” 

girl huipil loganGirl weaving logan

Images of a girl from San Felipe Usila in 1965, wearing and weaving a traditional garment known as a huipil.

Thanks to Frances’ forethought and attention to detail, the museum staff is able to begin compiling a database where researchers can quickly and efficiently search for the content, dates, locations, and artisan communities that are documented in the slides and field notes. Over the course of the project, a selection of the slides will be digitized and launched online to greatly expand access to this amazing and irreplaceable collection. Stay tuned for future updates on the Bristol Collection Reference Resources Project and the arrival of the exhibit Ancient Looms, Modern Threads: Contemporary Handwoven Garments of Oaxaca, Mexico at the Logan in the new year.The Bristol Collection Reference Resources Project has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Celebrating 50 Years of Excellence.

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