News for Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Leading the Movement: Collaboration between Museums and Native American Communities

Guidelines for Collaboration SymposiumGuidelines for Collaboration SymposiumDobkin Boardroom, SAR. Photo by Jennifer DayGuidelines for Collaboration SymposiumDobkin Boardroom, SAR. Photo by Jennifer Day

Museums and Native American communities are increasingly engaging in collaborative work, both at the museum and in community-based initiatives. From arts revitalization to the documentation of collections, museum staff and community members are sharing expertise and perspectives, and creating a new movement in the field of museology. In response to a growing interest in this work, an online resource for collaborative work has been developed over a three-year period of critical discourse among Native and non-Native museum professionals, cultural leaders, artists, and scholars. An initiative of the Indian Arts Research Center (IARC) at SAR, with additional support from the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), the guidelines present principles and practical considerations for meaningful engagement between museums and Native American communities. The guidelines are comprised of two parts: Part 1: Community + Museum is intended for communities currently working with, or considering working with, museums. Part 2: Museum + Community, is geared toward conservators and other museum professionals interested in, or currently engaging in, collaborative work with Native American or other communities. In October, during the Annual Conference of the Association of Archives, Libraries, and Museums in Phoenix, AZ, the new on-line resource containing the downloadable Community + Museum: Guidelines for Collaboration was officially launched.

Guidelines for Collaboration participantsGuidelines for Collaboration participantsPhoto by Jennifer DayGuidelines for Collaboration participantsPhoto by Jennifer DayA primary goal of the guidelines is to help enable access by communities to museum collections and to help museum staff responsibly provide that access. In the guidelines for communities, the benefits of collaboration are organized per topic that include reuniting collections with communities, cultural and arts revitalization, incorporating culturally appropriate care of collections, correcting and enhancing museum records, and collaborative conservation. These topics are explored through the use of case studies illustrated with text, photos, and video. Information for community members about what to expect when working with museums—before, during and after their visit—is discussed with points to consider, from logistics to issues surrounding documentation and safeguarding information. In the guidelines for museums, information is given on topics such as building trust and long-term relationships with communities that are essential for true collaborative work. Such partnerships can lead to incorporation of cultural requirements into the long-term stewardship and conservation of collections, correcting and enhancing museum records, and bringing museum research back to communities. The IARC will commence its final series of seminars in December 2016 with a scheduled release of guidelines for museums in late summer 2017. Although the focus of the guidelines is Native American communities and collections, they can be broadly applied to any community or museum undertaking collaborative work. The Guidelines for Collaboration website and downloadable document can be found at

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