Publication Date

January 24, 2019

Perspectives Section

Member Spotlight, Perspectives Daily

Tara A. Chadwick is curator of exhibits at Fort Lauderdale Historical Society. A current resident of the Sistrunk Neighborhood of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Tara is a new member of the AHA this year.


Tara A. ChadwickTwitter: @wabigun


Alma maters: BA (sociocultural anthropology), York University, 1996; First Degree Midewiwin, Three Fires Culture and Education Society, 1999; Restorative Justice Trainer, Minnesota Restorative Services Coalition, 2006; Second Degree Midewiwin, Three Fires Culture and Education Society, 2010; Certificate of Adult and Continuing Studies (aboriginal worldviews in education), University of Toronto, 2013

Fields of interest: anthropology, archaeology, cultural studies, ethnography, indigenous knowledge, decolonization, ways of knowing, museum studies, evaluation, experimental archaeology, data informed exhibit design, experiential education, inquiry-based learning

Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today? My interest in identifying and exploring personal perspectives on culture, expression, and the role of museums in representing cultural heritage began at the age of four when I wrote my first poem, published in the preschool newsletter.

My aunt worked at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto at the time, and I remember, when she took me to work with her, I fell in love with the museum’s ability to inspire what I would now call self-directed learning. Simultaneously, my mother was instilling in me a connection to and appreciation of the values, customs, and culture of her homeland in Belize, including visits to newly created archaeological parks providing a glimpse into the incredible technological and architectural achievements of our family’s Maya ancestors. As a high school student, I returned to the ROM as a part-time employee. I also served two years on the Saint Catharines Museum capital campaign committee as a community engagement volunteer.

After relocating to Miramar in Broward County, Florida, I took a social studies class with a semester in cultural anthropology. Again, I fell in love with the notion that I could pursue a course of postsecondary study propelling me to delve deeper into learning more about my own diverse cultural heritage. Back in Toronto, in 1992, after Oka and before the death of Dudley George, the Native Canadian community celebrated 500 years of resistance and survival commemorating Columbus’s sesquicentennial. This bridged the gap that existed in my brain regarding the continued existence of indigenous people in America, our connection to each other and to our ancestral roots. In the quarter century since then, I have worked continuously to pursue paths that allow me to share the wisdom, perspectives and experiences that have so graciously been shared with me.

What do you like the most about where you live and work? Living in the middle of the most densely populated region of Florida’s tourism paradise has its own ebb and flow. The best part of where I live is being able to take a five-minute ride to work or a ten-minute ride to one of the most beautiful metropolitan beaches in the world.

Working at a cultural tourism institution here means that our facilities receive our share of the state’s 116 million visitors per year, while operating with funding determined by state legislators, who are elected by less than 75 percent of our state’s 21 million residents. The Fort Lauderdale Historical Society is one of the only operating archives of Fort Lauderdale’s history and has incredible potential to inspire residents and tourists alike with the colorful tapestry of stories with which our shared story is woven.

What projects are you currently working on? In September, we opened a new cameo within our permanent galleries, Juliette Lange: Portrait of a Mezzo Soprano. In October we conducted a repatriation ceremony for an 800-year-old copper bell, collected by a local school teacher and bell aficionado in the early to mid-1900s and donated to the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society soon after its formation in 1961. After 50 years in storage, this symbol of liberty, justice, and self-determination will be returned to the descendants of the people who created it in the Gulf region of Mexico on the eve of a new era in the political realm of our Mesoamerican neighbor to the south. In November we hosted Seminole Art Scene from the Frontlines, a full spectrum of contemporary works by Seminole artists Elgin Jumper, Jimmy Osceola, Gordon Oliver Wareham, Stephanie Hall, and Erica Deitz on view through January 28.

Why is membership in the AHA important to you? I am excited to be part of the American History Association because membership gives me access to the latest scholarly research and insights. I also enjoy being able to network with colleagues across the country who are delving into related topics, methods, and issues. History is our story and I am so glad we are in this together!

AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, Perspectives Dailyfeatures a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.

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