Founded in 1924, the Middle American Research Institute (M.A.R.I.) at Tulane University has been supporting research in Mexico and Central America for almost a century. The Institute also stewards an extensive collection of textiles and artifacts from this part of the world as well as houses a large archive of letters, field notes, maps, and photographs from the scores of field projects it has sponsored. In fact, the Institute continues to support a variety of anthropological and archaeological research projects throughout Mexico and Central America.
· engages in public education through the development of exhibitions
· provides a form for scholarly debates by organizing lectures and professional meetings
· publishes new data through its prestigious monograph series
· allows faculty and students to consult its collections to enrich classes and research
· serves a wide public audience through outreach and educational programs
Currently, M.A.R.I. has several archival, curatorial, pedagogical, and research projects for which support is needed.
M.A.R.I. needs to re-house Institute’s extensive archives properly, purchase new storage cabinets to accommodate papers, photos, slides, and maps, as well as hire student workers for these tasks Since some of the archives are now nearly 90 years old, this effort will include the purchase of appropriate conservation materials. M.A.R.I. also needs to continue digitalizing its photographic archive, consisting of over 100,000 photographs. These retain some of the most important information regarding the archaeological investigation of Mesoamerica in the 20th century. Some of the oldest and most fragile photographs have already been scanned; however, nearly half the collection still needs to be digitized.
Curation of Artifacts
Regarding its curatorial responsibilities, M.A.R.I. must transfer update its catalogs and modernize its information retrieval system. All the information regarding M.A.R.I.’s extensive artifact collection is currently recorded on the 8x5in index cards. M.A.R.I. needs to render the collection catalog replicable, update the information by which objects of the Institute’s collection are catalogued and inventoried, and provide each object a unique barcode that will allow users to immediately draw up information from that object without the need to consult a physical card catalog.
Pedagogy and Outreach
M.A.R.I. just opened its inaugural exhibit Faces of the Maya. While complete, this exhibit still requires the completion of some supporting literature—such as an exhibit guide, a comprehensive website correlated with QR codes, and a fully equipped docent station. We also would like to supplement the exhibit with one more artifact case as well as the installation of a wall-mounted flat-panel video screen which will allow us to show video describing the exhibit and the Institute to visitors. The Institute is also planning to inaugurate its second exhibit in the Spring of 2014, titled Women in Maya Archaeology. This topic will allow the Institute to focus on important collections held by Tulane that are the fruits of important women such as Doris Z. Stone and Matilda Geddings Gray. In the next year and a half, the Institute will be designing this exhibit, including making plans for de-installing the current exhibit, refreshing and remodeling of the exhibit gallery, and then installing new artifacts and graphics.
In terms of publication, a Institute must dedicate resources to prepare a proper on-site publications facility that will contain the necessary equipment and software for in-house desktop publishing and sufficient storage to maintain a substantial portion of the Institute’s inventory on-site.
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