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Exhibiting Kinship podcast looks to teach, learn and evole the old museum ways

Exhibiting Kinship host Felicia Garcia (Chumash) says something simple but powerful a few minutes into the new podcast's inaugural episode: "I'm willing to learn in public." Garcia's co-host Meranda Roberts (Northern Paiute) says roughly the same.

This openness sets the overall tone for the pair's newest collaborative project, and sidesteps one of the myriad conundrums for culture workers everywhere: They're not saying they know everything, but they are saying they'd like to learn more while using their own expertise, experience and education to color the ongoing conversation. Hence, the podcast—one rooted in, according to the official language of its website, "discussing the many ways Indigenous people are working to radically change the museum world."

Thus far, Kinship has released two episodes—the requisite getting-to-know-you pilot and a wildly interesting interview with an Apsáalooke curator. A third is hitting the usual podcast places on March 5. For anyone working within the museum field or simply interested in the cultural institutions both near and far, it's an absolute must-listen.

Garcia and Roberts founded Exhibiting Kinship after repeatedly running into each other in academic settings, conferences and the like. Garcia is the curator of education at local arts, research and education institution the School for Advanced Research, while Roberts holds a position as a postdoctoral research scientist at the Field Museum in Chicago. Together, they identified an alarming trend within the museum world (in its simplest form, a lack of Indigenous presence in meaningful museum positions). Having spent years fighting for a place at the table, they kicked off the podcast to discuss what's up with that, and how things might change.

Garcia and Roberts openly discuss their respective academic backgrounds as both privileged and fraught with a sort of Western bent. Garcia holds a master's in museum studies from New York University, while Roberts recently completed her doctorate at the University of California at Riverside.

"It's really challenging to exist in this space because my family isn't as educated as I am," Garcia says. "I'm the first person in my family to have a bachelor's or master's degree, so I can see a colonial and Western lens coming out with my family, and it sometimes creates this divide. It's important for me to be aware of that fact, but I don't think I ever wanted to get a master's until I realized I couldn't get a museum job."

For her part, Roberts says, higher education was also about access.

"I knew I wanted to work in these spaces, so I knew I had to get degrees," she tells SFR. "Now that I'm in the position I'm in, I'm able to see how valuable having the PhD is; I have a seat at the table, whereas a lot of people don't. And that's kind of sad to me, because there are so many people who can speak to important things, and institutions lose out when they silo knowledge as degree-oriented."

Ultimately, Exhibiting Kinship has a broad enough scope to dig into almost any cultural angle. In its second episode, for example, Nina Sanders, a Field Museum curator, senior research fellow at the University of Chicago and guest curator at Santa Fe's Ralph T. Coe Center for the Arts, identifies the old ways as problematic, not just for Native folks: Why, she asks, would the museum mucky-mucks in their 50s, 60s and 70s change how they operate when it's been done a certain way for so long, or they're nearing the end of their careers? There's a lesson in there about what's comfortable, but the idea that things can't or won't change in museums impacts everyone—though let's be honest, it's always going to be harder for PoC to navigate such issues than it is for white folks.

The divide is, perhaps, particularly noticeable in Santa Fe, where museums are so intertwined with our civic identity and pride that those who work within them become mini-celebrities of sorts. Many Indigenous voices have risen to prominent museum roles here (looking at much of the staff at the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts and Andrea Hanley, Navajo, at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian as personal faves)—but, according to Exhibiting Kinship, this is hardly the norm. Besides, Santa Fe is not the center of the arts universe, nor is it the center of this podcast.

Still, it can and will be valuable to museum workers, visitors and all points between. Maybe it'll sound clichéd, too, but they're just getting started. The third episode, which premieres March 5, delves into Black and Indigenous people in the arts with guests Robert Keith Collins (Choctaw) and Monica Rickert (Potowatami).

"While we believe in celebrating Black voices every day," Roberts says in the episode, "we wanted to use our platform to highlight how Native American and African American history converge."

And this is only three episodes in? Solid. I'm not in love with the phrase "required listening," but where Exhibiting Kinship goes next should be of interest to anyone working in the arts, especially white folks who—and the irony of my saying this at the end of a column written by a white guy isn't lost on me—should probably just shut up and listen now and then.

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