As part of the Conflict Cultures team, I’ve been researching museums in the Caribbean. Upon beginning work, I already knew I enjoyed GIS work, but over the past weeks I’ve discovered a new facet of GIS that I hadn’t recognized previously: being a long-distance tourist. I have never been to the Caribbean and did not dedicate time to studying this region in university. I’m quite enjoying familiarizing myself with a new part of the world.
Much like a tourist, I spend most of my time traveling the islands of the Caribbean. Unlike a tourist, I never put down my map to look upon the museum I’ve just navigated to. Instead, I move over to my spread sheet and input coordinates. I do feel as though I’ve gotten to know the islands of Aruba, Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatias. Rincon, a town in Bonaire, is now particularly familiar to me. Three museums, Mangazina di Rei, Museum Kos Krioyo, and Museum Chichi’ ‘Tan are all within a quarter mile of each other. In my mind, I’ve started my morning at Mangazina di Rei, had lunch across the street at Kosbonso, stopped in at Museum Kos Krioyo down the block, seen the life-size dolls at Museum Chichi’ ‘Tan, and ended my day with some cactus liquor at the Cadushy Distillery just on the other side of the San Ludovico Bletran Catholic Church which stands in the center of town.
As much as I feel that I’ve come to know the layout of these islands and towns, I still feel very distant from the people. I know the names and locations of their museums, but very little about what they contain, or the people whose stories these buildings tell. Although every history museum I found exhibited “Amerindian” material, I had never heard of the term despite my Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. I assumed Amerindians were the native peoples of Caribbean islands. Upon further research, however, I learned that Amerindian is a synonym for Native American. Surprised and embarrassed by my ignorance, I decided to write my Smithsonian internship blog about the term in case others were confused as well.
I hope that as I continue research in the Caribbean, I will become more familiar with the residents as well. The Smithsonian blog post assignment gave me the impetus to research the cultures represented by the museums more closely, and I have decided to take this lesson to heart. I chose to join this project because I feel the pressure of crisis situations around the world threatening people’s lives and culture, not just because I am fascinated by geography.