Addressing Objects in Limbo: Using Digital Resources to Increase Access to Native American Material Culture

Author(s): Liz Ale

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "SAA 2019: General Sessions" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Despite the passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act in 1990, a large amount of contested Native American material culture remains in archaeological collections across the country. Universities, museums, and government agencies may retain such objects due to issues with cultural identification, competing claims from multiple groups, or a lack of legal obligation. Although institutions might not be holding these items with malicious intent, their inability to grant access nevertheless serves to uphold colonialist ideals of ownership that deny Native groups control over their own narratives. This poster will examine how digital resources can increase the accessibility of these items stuck in limbo. To achieve this, the poster will provide analyses of multiple digital repatriation methods, including institutionally managed web pages, indigenous-centered online databases (such as the Mukurtu Collections Management System), and 3D-digitization technology. These analyses will place particular emphasis on the spiritual and political issues surrounding the digitization of Native American objects. After discussing the potential merits and limitations of each method, the poster will summarize the essential considerations researchers must make when implementing digital repatriation projects.

Cite this Record

Addressing Objects in Limbo: Using Digital Resources to Increase Access to Native American Material Culture. Liz Ale. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 449491)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -168.574; min lat: 7.014 ; max long: -54.844; max lat: 74.683 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 23359