In a post on the Textile Society of America website WUDPAC Class of 2022 Fellow Annabelle Camp explores the significance of objects to community and culture. From the "Member Monday" post:
As a researcher and a conservator, I feel it is my responsibility to understand and preserve not only the tangible aspects of an object, but also the intangible: how it was used, how it was made, and its significance within a community or culture. This is impossible without the community’s or culture’s input and constant involvement. I was thrilled to share my research on Native Mid-Atlantic Fishing Nets—completed in collaboration with the Lenape Tribe of Delaware–at this year’s symposium. I was further humbled for the presentation, “Casting a Wide Net: The Value of Collaboration and Outreach with Source Communities in the Analysis of Historic Native American Fishing Nets,” to be nominated for the Founding Presidents Award.
This research was inspired by the work of the last Lenape net-maker, Clem Carney. The Lenape Tribe of Delaware is one of two recognized tribes within the state of Delaware. Having only gained state recognition in 2016, the group is actively working to regain their ancestors’ ways of life, which have been lost in the aftermath of colonization. For the Lenape, net-making represents a connection to not only their ancestors but also their environment of the past, present, and future. My research aimed to examine extant examples of historic fishing nets to regain an understanding of their construction and use. While my presentation discussed the project and its components, I wanted to highlight the project as a model of community-driven research and the role of researchers and conservators in object-based decolonization and knowledge reclamation. Since the advent of museums, the choice of what has been displayed and which stories have been told has primarily been decided through the white, European lens, with many objects of everyday use being lost or neglected. Fishing nets, an object of everyday use crucial to the Lenape’s subsistence for millennia, were chosen by the community as paramount objects of study. My role was to serve as the facilitator for this project. The Tribe was involved in every step of the research project and engaged through sustained outreach events.
The project was successful in engaging the Lenape Tribe of Delaware in the study and preservation of their material culture, but it was just one step on the road to ensuring the prolonged and sustainable preservation of the Lenape Tribe’s cultural heritage. I am grateful to the Textile Society of America for highlighting my work and other similarly inclusive projects. However, much work is yet to be done. I encourage TSA and all of its members to seek out and highlight the voices of oppressed and marginalized peoples. Even though the symposium is behind us, there are many “untold stories” yet to tell.
To read the full post, visit the Textile Society of America website. More information about Camp's work with the Lenape Tribe appears in an earlier ARTC blog post.