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CSUMC Friends Newsletter, Spring 2004, Vol. 2, No. 1 Become a member of the CSUMC Friends CSUMC home page Contact us Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures Home Page

Director's Column: CSUMC unites academic researchers and public

Ruth Olson on a horse
Ruth Olson rides herd on collaborations at CSUMC.

Collaboration helps us to accomplish much more than we could ever do by ourselves. Following is a brief list of some of our current collaborations, and some events coming up in the near future.

The Hmong Cultural Tour. Over the past year, we collaborated with the Madison Children’s Museum and the Wisconsin Arts Board, as the museum developed its exciting exhibit “Hmong at Heart.” As part of the planning for the exhibit, we traveled with a 4th/5th grade class to Milwaukee, Sheboygan, Green Bay, Wausau, Eau Claire, and La Crosse to document Hmong communities. We also joined up with Longfellow Middle School in La Crosse, who were also studying the Hmong. Descriptions of these Hmong communities can be found on our Hmong Cultural tour web site.

“Hmong at Heart” will be traveling to Appleton, Wisconsin; Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Holyoke, Massachusetts; providence, Rhode Island; Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Louisville, Colorado, San Diego and La Habra, California; Kansas City, Kansas; and Lexington, Kentucky from now through 2007. The project also resulted in the writing of three books: A Field Guide to Hmong Culture, A Kid’s Field Guide to Local Culture, and A Teacher’s Guide to Local Culture, published by the Children’s Museum and available as PDFs through the CSUMC web site.

Teachers of Local Culture. With the Wisconsin Arts Board and K-12 teachers around the state, we have launched an organization to provide resources for teachers interested in incorporating local cultural heritage in the curriculum. Our first conference, June 17-18, 2004, will be held in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, and will feature a cultural tour developed by a middle school class from the area.

Grandparents University. The Wisconsin Alumni Association and UW-Extension have developed this award-winning two-day workshop in July for children and their grandparents to come together and learn. This year, we were invited to teach a “major” in cultural studies. We will take our group to a Hmong elders’ program, and introduce them to Polish papercutting with master artist Bernie Jendrzejczak.

The 36th Algonquian Conference will be held in Madison October 28-31, 2004, and the Center is co-sponsoring the conference. The conference will bring together members of Algonquian communities and scholars who work with them, including specialists in history, culture, and language.

Tales of Contact and Change. With the Max Kade Institute of German-American Studies, we are planning a conference for November 11-13, 2004 that will bring together scholars, traditional storytellers, and the public to explore the Upper Midwest’s narrative traditions.

The Future of Folk. In April of 2005, the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures with the Center for the Humanities will present The Future of Folk, a ten-day humanities “festival” which will be a hybrid academic conference/public program. The program will take place throughout the UW–Madison campus and the city of Madison, and will feature lectures, panels, performances, film screenings, exhibitions, and other programs designed to explore the nature and future of folk culture in a rapidly changing world. Confirmed speakers include Bill Ferris, former director of the National Endowment for the Humanities and Senior Associate Director of the Center for the Study of the American South, and distinguished professor of History and Folklore at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill; Peggy Bulger, director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress; Nick Spitzer, host and producer of American Routes; Patricia Turner, author of I Heard It Through the Grapevine: Rumor in African-American Culture; and Steve Zeitlin, executive director of City Lore in New York City.

Partnerships are important to us. Many of the people, organizations and agencies we collaborate with are old friends. We are equally eager to work with new friends, to keep bringing together people who benefit from talking to each other. Such exchanges are bound to illuminate our ideas about the region of the Upper Midwest.

Our focus in all aspects of our outreach is on what has been termed “place-based” learning—learning that is rooted in what is local. The Rural School and Community Trust has said that “…this local focus has the power to engage students academically, pairing real-world relevance with intellectual rigor, while promoting genuine citizenship and preparing people to respect and live well in any community they choose.” From academic researchers, to local residents, to humanities and arts organizations throughout the region, we think that the power of place-based learning extends to everyone who participates in it.

Ruth Olson is associate director of the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures.

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Last updated: August 11, 2003

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