Gateway to the West: #OMAMAC

Spring is in the air and it’s the time of year for archivists across the Midwest to commiserate and share innovations and stories from their institutions. The Midwest Archives Conference occurred in Omaha, Nebraska last week, and I was fortunate enough to attend. Having never been to Omaha I was not sure what to expect of the city, but it is a lovely town with a rich history.

Chief Standing Bear
One of these rich histories is the impact of Chief Standing Bear of the Ponca tribe and the landmark court ruling in his favor. During the opening session of the conference journalist and historian Joe Starita and Nebraska Educational Television producer Christine Lesiak presented Standing Bear’s story. From the MAC program:

“…Ponca chief Standing Bear, who, in 1877, was forcibly removed along with his tribe from his Nebraska homeland and marched to what was then known as Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). In an attempt to honor his son’s dying wish to be returned to their traditional burying ground, Standing Bear gained access to the United States court system, and the ensuing landmark trial in 1879, held in Omaha, established the “personhood” of Native Americans under the Constitution.”

Starita and Lesiak passionately described the conditions of the forced march. They also showed clips of the trial reenactment from their PBS documentary Standing Bear’s Footsteps. The entire video is available on PBS’s website, and I encourage you to watch it.

Conferences are full of interesting sessions on a variety of topics, and this year I wanted to hear about unique projects and perspectives within my field. While completely different topics each touched on the outreach aspect of my job. I attended:
  • Cross Disciplinary Instruction: Course Engagement Beyond the History Major
  • Listen In: Podcasting in the Archives
  • It Takes a Village: Building Professional Capacity through Informal Peer Networks

Sculpture from the Kaneko's exhibit
Passion and Obsession: From the Collection
MAC also had a reception where we ate, drank, and mingled with our colleagues. In the Old Market of Omaha is the Kaneko, an institution intended to be a creative space for artists across the world. As a work place, exhibit space, educational center, and archives the Kaneko offers a lot to the people of Omaha.

Mission statement of the
Queer Omaha Archives
There is an important art scene in Omaha which was made clear to me on my historic walking tour. We stopped during the tour to warm up a little at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art and met the curator. He asked in an excited tone: “Are you guys archivists?” Turns out he worked for an Omaha archivist who established the Queer Omaha Archives

On display at the Bemis is a small selection of artwork donated to the archives and a large description of the mission of the archives. I found this visit extremely important because archives across the world should be working to include records of marginalized groups, such as the LGBTQI+ community.

Overall, MAC was wonderful and I look forward to attending next year in Chicago!


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