Reconstructing Indigenous Practices in Museum Settings: Perspectives and Approaches

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

Museum collections present rich resources for the recovery and reconstruction of indigenous technologies and practices that may have been partially or completely lost in recent centuries. Archaeologists in particular have frequently engaged with museum artifacts in attempts to reconstruct the lifeways, technologies, and histories of indigenous populations. Additionally, anthropologists, curators, conservators, historians, artisans and craftspeople, all of whom may be members or non-members of indigenous communities, have engaged and will continue to engage with the material legacy of indigenous populations in museums. Dialogue among members of these groups is essential to the enrichment and ethical practice of museum research within and beyond the field of archaeology, and we propose this session as an opportunity for the presentation and discussion of: methods and techniques of analysis in museum settings; the production, display, and dissemination of knowledge related to past and present indigenous practices in museum settings; the ethical and epistemological concerns that arise with native and non-native engagement with museum collections. The session draws on contributions from specialists in diverse fields and of diverse cultural backgrounds with the aim of furthering common goals in the area of indigenous material-culture studies as well as archaeological engagement with professional and public stakeholders.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-12 of 12)

  • Documents (12)

  • Cross-craft Overlaps in Materials and Symbolism: Insights from Legacy Crucibles from the Great Zimbabwe Archive (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Shadreck Chirikure.

    The legacy collections from Great Zimbabwe (CE1000-1700) emanated from uncontrolled treasure hunting expeditions of the late 19th and early 20th century and the sporadic professional digs conducted at various points throughout the twentieth century. As a result of this colorful history, most materials from the site are scattered in different archives where they are gathering dust with little or no research being performed. This contribution discusses a technological and typological analysis of...

  • Curating Indigenous Heritage: Addressing Intellectual Property and Material Culture Concerns (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only George Nicholas.

    Significant differences exist between Western and Indigenous societies, and their respective knowledge systems, worldviews, modes of explanation, conceptions of time, and nature of material culture. Acknowledging these is essential to making sense of contemporary claims around Indigenous cultural property, especially in museum settings. For many indigenous peoples, cultural property was and is defined and enacted in daily life (objects may be animate), with distinct expectations and...

  • Digging for Shells: Recovering Indigenous Wampum Technologies in Museum Collections (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Margaret Bruchac.

    During the salvage anthropology era, more than 400 wampum belts (woven with whelk and quahog shell beads) were removed from the hands of Native North American keepers and accessioned into museum collections. Despite the existence of a complex system of wampum diplomacy and ritual, museums often represented these belts as almost indecipherable colonial relics. The "Wampum Trail" research team (with assistance from Native knowledge-bearers and ethnographic curators) seeks to reconnect these...

  • Engaging Tribal Relations and Tribal Collections (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alyce Sadongei.

    The use of museum collections by tribal researchers began as a result of cultural and political efforts. The combined movement of cultural resurgence and political expression culminated in the passage of NAGPRA which provided entrée for a variety of tribal researchers and practitioners to engage with cultural objects and archival information. Since the passage of NAGPRA, tribal researchers have primarily been focused on the eligible categories of museum collections for repatriation. However,...

  • Ethnoarchaeological Analysis of Prehistoric Baskets from Central Japan and Basketry Techniques found at the Museum of Archaeological Research (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Naoto Yamamoto. Kumiko Horikawa. Takako Shimohama.

    Many ancient baskets have been excavated from the wetland sites of the Japan’s prehistoric period in the Hokuriku district, Central Japan. 65 baskets have been excavated from 10 prehistoric sites and date from c.3600 cal BC to c.250 cal AD. Also 14 impressions of basketry were found on the bottom of deep bowls from 8 prehistoric sites. Two points are clear from the analysis of these basketry materials: (1) in terms of construction materials, a Inugaya (in Japanese; Cephalotaxus harringtonia), a...

  • Indigenous Experimental Archaeology: A Community-Driven Remembering of Technique (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Matthew Magnani.

    Archaeologists rely heavily on experimentation to understand the past. Today, we are not the only ones. Indigenous peoples and members of the public are consulting ethnographic and archaeological museum collections, by trial and error investigating techniques of object production. Many of these individuals work with craft specialists, and others are craftspeople themselves. They seek to learn, remember, and reclaim lost or fading skills in an attempt to connect with their pasts. The process...

  • Museum archaeology and studying technology (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Patricia Capone.

    Increasing combinations of perspectives and epistemologies contribute knowledge and consciousness of practice to the study of technology. Museum archaeology is well situated to study and interpret technology through material culture, archives, and engaging partnerships. Partnerships through museum collections continue to build and contribute to a variety of interests. The interdisciplinary direction of technological studies continues to expand. Projects also increasingly relate to forward...

  • Re-Awakening a 2,000 Year Old Salish Sea Basketry Tradition and Sharing it Around the World: Master Salish Basketmaker and Wet Site Archaeologist Explore 100 Generations of Cultural Knowledge (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Dale Croes. Ed Carriere.

    Ed Carriere and I have been working with the U.W. Burke Museum to replicate 2,000 year old waterlogged archaeological basketry found in the early 1960s from along the Snoqualmie River near Seattle. Ed learned old style split cedar limb/root clam basket making from his Great Grandmother, Julia Jacobs, who raised him. Ed’s goal has always been to go back as many generations in his family to master their work. As a wet site archaeologist specializing in ancient basketry on the Northwest Coast, I...

  • Repositioning Habitus as Cultural Capital in Sami Museum Collections (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Natalia Magnani.

    Ethnographic museum collections are frequently presented as regional culture histories, portraying a timeless native past. In the Sámi regions of Finland, institutionalized courses and individuals seek to manufacture of museum objects anew, and exhibit this present revival in concert with the past. The recreated objects are not only shown in their present living contexts but removed from museums and used at local cultural events. These new forms of representation emphasize living use and...

  • The Resurgence of Geometric-patterned Regalia on the Northern Northwest Coast (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Steve Henrikson. Janice Criswell.

    Regalia woven using the "Chilkat" technique appeared on the northern Northwest Coast in the early 19th century, apparently replacing an older tradition of regalia decorated with geometric patterns. Only a dozen of these early robes (or archaeological fragments thereof) remain in museums. In the late 1980s, weaver and scholar Cheryl Samuel studied these survivals, documented them in great detail, and developed curriculum to teach these techniques to weavers, who since that time have created...

  • The revival of gut skin parka production among the Siberian Yupik (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Vera Solovyeva. Amy Tjong.

    The Siberian collections at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) are one of the world’s most important collections of cultural artifacts from Northeast Siberia. These artifacts were created as a result of the historic Jesup North Pacific Expedition (1897-1902) which sought to study the cultures framing the Bering Sea. In 2014, the Conservation Department at AMNH began a two-year project to stabilize and rehouse 100 items from this collection, including 14 gut skin parkas attributed to...

  • Tracing the Emergence of Pan-Indian Conventions of Dress in the Collections of the American Museum of Natural History (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Claire Heckel.

    During the late-19th and early- 20th centuries, professional ethnographers/archaeologists and amateur collectors amassed more than 3,000 artifacts of dress and adornment from 17 cultural groups that are now part of the "Plains" collections at the American Museum of Natural History. These objects constitute a material record of conventions of dress that were inconsistently recorded at the time of artifact collection. Drawing on archaeological and ethnographic records, historical documents, and...