May 12: Tushingham to receive Libraries’ Excellence Award

By Nella Letizia, WSU Libraries

Shannon-Tushingham-mugPULLMAN, Wash. – Shannon Tushingham, assistant director of the Washington State University Museum of Anthropology, will receive the 2015 WSU Libraries’ Excellence Award during an 11 a.m. reception Tuesday, May 12, in the Terrell Library Atrium.

The award recognizes a non-library WSU faculty or staff member who has shown consistent support for the WSU Libraries.

Recipients are chosen based on personal use of the libraries; encouraging students to use the libraries; personal support of or contributions to the libraries’ collections or services; interaction and cooperation with library faculty; and service on library-related committees.

Forging connections

2015 WSU Libraries’ Excellence Award winner Shannon Tushingham with her favorite photo from the “Memories of Celilo Falls” exhibit. (Photos by Nella Letizia, WSU Libraries)

Since coming to WSU in 2013, Tushingham has been an active collaborator with WSU Libraries and others on several initiatives, said award nominator Trevor Bond, head of Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections. Key to her efforts is making connections with local communities and perspectives.

“She initiated a program of museum interns who helped organize tours of more than 200 Lincoln Middle School students to MASC and the Museum of Anthropology,” Bond said. “In her teaching, she regularly engages her students in undertaking archival research and learning more about library collections.

“Dr. Tushingham also collaborated with MASC on an exhibit in College Hall of glass slides taken at Celilo Falls, a major Native American fishing grounds on the Columbia River submerged with the construction of The Dalles Dam in 1957,” he added. “As part of this exhibit planning, Dr. Tushingham arranged for (Nez Perce cultural resources ethnographer) Josiah Pinkham to come to campus and work with students to provide a Nez Perce perspective on the photographs held in MASC.”

Anthropological, archival discovery for middle-schoolers

In 2014, Tushingham, Bond, faculty, staff and graduate students invited the LMS eighth-grade class to campus for the first tour of anthropological and archival research at WSU.

Eighth-grade students from Lincoln Middle School examine bird skeletons during a tour of the WSU Museum of Anthropology in 2014.

At the anthropology museum, students learned how animal and plant remains can tell archaeologists about the diet and environment of humans living at a particular time. Tushingham organized graduate student presenters to talk with the middle-schoolers at several stations.

They also saw some of the WSU Libraries’ older artifacts—including a fragile film shot at the 1931 Rose Bowl and the Space Shuttle Challenger checklist from 1983 used by American astronauts John Fabian and Sally Ride.

The tour was given again this spring, with the addition of the WSU Museum of Art as one of the campus stops.

Celilo Falls in its glory

Posters lining the main corridor walls of College Hall show Native American men and women fishing on the Columbia River at Celilo Falls during the 1940s, before The Dalles Dam flooded the traditional fishing area and nearby village.

The images are part of the “Memories of Celilo Falls” exhibit held this spring, one of several research projects led by Tushingham that pairs undergraduate students from various disciplines with Nez Perce tribal mentor Pinkham.

Tushingham and the students worked with Bond to scan images from the MASC collection of Chet Ullin, an avid amateur photographer who took 29 glass slides of Celilo Falls fishermen. The collection is an educational resource that shows the region, people, fishing activities and structures that existed at the Columbia River site before The Dalles Dam was constructed.

Changing the cultural conversation

But Ullin’s photo descriptions lacked details about who might have been pictured and the cultural significance the place held for the Native Americans who fished there.

“One of the greatest needs is to develop engaging materials that incorporate information about local tribal communities that is both historically accurate and culturally sensitive,” Tushingham said.

Shay Workman, a WSU environmental sciences student and member of the Cowlitz Tribe, interviewed Pinkham as part of her work to research past and present Native American fishing practices and to develop updated text for the exhibit and other media.

A slide shows a Native American boy holding the chinook salmon he caught at Celilo Falls in the 1940s. (Photo from the Chet Ullin Collection, courtesy of WSU’s Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections)

From the interviews, Workman and other students learned that one of Ullin’s photos of a Native American boy, possibly holding the first salmon he had caught himself, would have recorded a significant rite of passage. Any first fish or animal was cause for celebration, and the boy would have given away the fish, his clothing and any tools used as a symbol of gratitude.

Another of Ullin’s images shows a Native American woman wearing a traditional wing dress—combined with PF Flyers sneakers. Tushingham’s favorite photo in the exhibit, it offers a poignant portrait of a woman bridging both modern and ancient cultures. The woman shared something else in common with many other Americans at the time: She had three sons in the service during World War II, according to Ullin’s description.

“Students have access to these amazing resources and learn about the history firsthand,” Tushingham said. “All this work is bringing new energy to the museum.”


Shannon Tushingham, WSU Museum of Anthropology, 509-335-4314,
Trevor Bond, WSU Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections, 509-335-6693,
Nella Letizia, WSU Libraries public relations/communication coordinator, 509-335-6744,