Cherokee youth reads syllabary
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Cherokee Language and Culture Exhibition - Understanding our Past, Shaping our Future

  • 01/12-02/27
  • Open during regular library hours
  • Ramsey Library - Blowers Gallery

The Blowers Gallery in UNC Asheville's Ramsey Library will host the touring exhibit, Understanding our Past, Shaping our Future, from Jan. 12-Feb. 27. The exhibition is free and open to everyone and will be on view during regular library hours.

A presentation and reception for the exhibit will take place in Ramsey Library’s Blowers Gallery on Tuesday, Feb. 13. The reception will be begin at 6:30 p.m. and be followed at 7 p.m. by an introductory talk by Barbara Duncan, education director at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and UNC Asheville adjunct instructor in Cherokee, and a performance by Aniyvwiyahi Analsgisgi, a traditional Cherokee children’s dance group.

The exhibit focuses on Cherokee language and culture, using sound recordings as the basis for presenting a coherent story in words and text. The exhibit was developed with the assumption that language shapes thinking. In creating the exhibit storyline, the project team foregrounded the Cherokee language, believed to reflect inherent community values.

Understanding our Past, Shaping our Future was conceived of and designed to include community input as a way to develop its content. Rather than present historical outcomes, the team favored a thematic approach. Major themes include Cherokee Homeland, Heritage Sites, Tourism, Family, and Community Celebrations.  The result is an exhibit that tells a more personal story and provides insight into Cherokee identity. 

Rather than translating from English into Cherokee, as is often done, much of the exhibit text was excerpted from conversations originally recorded in Cherokee. A Cherokee speakers group, organized in cooperation with the Cherokee Language Program at Western Carolina University, met weekly at the Kituwah Academy, the language immersion school on the Qualla Boundary. There, members were shown historic photographs and asked to comment on them. Their conversations were transcribed, translated, and included on the fifteen panels that make up the exhibit. 

Re-recorded by language instructor Tom Belt, these conversations are digitally archived.  The exhibit panels use smart phone technology and QR codes to link to conversations in the archive.  By hitting the on-screen play button, a visitor can listen to the Cherokee syllabary as it is spoken. 

The touring exhibit was funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to the Eastern Band of Cherokee in partnership with the Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural Arts Center at Cherokee Central Schools.

The exhibition is presented at UNC Asheville by its Center for Diversity Education and Ramsey Library.

Contact for this event:

  • Center for Diversity Education
  • dmiles@unca.edu
  • 828.232.5024