The chaos and flurry of activities that surround Festival and the Gathering of Potawatomi Nations have come and gone, allowing the staff of the CHC the opportunity to turn our attention to new and exciting projects.
Foremost on our agenda is putting the museum back in order so we can share the history of the Potawatomi with the thousands of Tribal members and other patrons who visit the CHC each year. Most of you are aware that 18 months ago, a flood devastated the Cultural Heritage Center and forced us to close most of the building to the public. The months following the flood were busy with the seemingly unending tasks associated with undertaking the structural and cosmetic repairs to the facility that are necessary after a disaster of the magnitude we experienced. Monitoring the condition of items in our collection and ensuring they are properly taken care of while in storage has been a priority for the archives and collectionsstaff. Perhaps the most tedious and frustrating post-flood responsibility we have faced is the protracted process of working with insurance companies to settle the claims for an incident of this scope.
Now that most of the technicalities have been addressed, we can begin the exciting work of designing and building new exhibits. We have set out a timeline of eighteen to twenty- four months to complete the redesign, but we will work furiously to have as many of the new exhibits completed as we can by the time we host Festival and Gathering in 2016. The Veteran’s Wall of Hono is already in progress, and we will start construction on the main exhibit hall soon.
Tribal members will be able to track the progress of the museum redesign on our new and improved website, www.potawatomiheritage.org. This website is a great resource for individuals who want to learn more get updated information on activities and programming taking place at the CHC and stay up to date on events like Festival and Gathering. In the next six months we plan to expand the scope of the ‘History’ and ‘Lifeways’ sections of the website, and our goal is to create new content monthly. Tribal members get to know the eagles at the aviary a little better and follow the regular activities taking place there in our new eagle biography and aviary blog features.
The ‘Research’ section of the website has a few features that will excite many of our Tribal members who are interested in history. For the past two years CHC staff members in our Tribal Heritage Productions, Archives, and Ethnology Departments have worked with a content management system that allows us to make all of our archival collections – including videos, photos, manuscripts, etc. -available online through a searchable format. We only have a small portion of the collections available at this time, but we are adding more items every day. The procedure of making these records available is tedious, so we ask that you remain patient with us and check back regularly as we process the collections.
For those who would like to participate in preserving Citizen Potawatomi history, we have a Transcription option in the ‘Research’ section. This page allows documents that are difficult to transcribe through optical character recognition to be downloaded. The individual can then read and transcribe the document at home and send the text to the staff at the CHC. We will check the transcription for accuracy and then move it on to the next step in the process of making it available and searchable online.
In addition to the new CHC website, we extensively overhauled the online store for FireLake Gifts in the past six months. Our goals were to improve the visitor’s online shoppingexperience, increase the number of items available, and highlight some of our one-of-a-kind pieces. We recently started an item of the week feature that has proven to be very popular. Beginning in November, we plan to highlight a different artist or craftsperson with merchandise in the gift shop so our shoppers can better appreciate the time and talent that goes into making the beautiful pieces available. Store items can always be viewed and purchased at https://giftshop.potawatomi.org/.
We look forward to finishing out the year with a great deal of activity and progress so that each and every Tribal member and our guests can enjoy the resources available through the Cultural Heritage Center.
Please visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CPNCulturalHeritage or visit FireLake Gift Shop’s page at www.facebook.com/firelakegifts to provide feedback or ask questions about happenings at the CHC.