The following guidelines were developed over a three-year period of collaboration between Native and non-Native museum professionals, cultural leaders and artists. The guidelines are intended as a resource for community members who are working in collaboration with museums. This is not a set of rules; instead, it offers ideas to consider when working with museums.

Your work with a museum might consist of viewing the collections to learn what the museum has from your community; sharing information about items from your community that are part of a museum’s collection; helping to develop museum exhibits; or if you are an artist, you might use a museum’s collections for artistic inspiration. These are just a few of the ways you might engage with a museum.

Please note that the guidelines are not intended as a resource for Native American Graves Protection Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) consultations.

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NEW - Museum+Community Guidelines

Community+Museum Guidelines

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Museums can serve as valuable resources for communities, and many museums are collaborating with community members to improve their understanding of and care for collections through meaningful engagement. In recent years, some communities have established long-term relationships with museums that have provided opportunities for enhancing their own initiatives, while also providing guidance on collections stewardship. Ultimately, community members determine when and how they wish to interact with museums. Providing communities with access to collections is a fundamental responsibility of museums—and access to collections from your community is your right.

Some benefits of collaborating with a museum may include:

Reuniting collections with communities.

Establishing relationships and dialogue based on mutual respect.

Effecting change in museum policy.

Adding to and correcting museum collection records.


Depending on the community’s priorities, collaboration
with a museum can lead to various outcomes including:

Cultural revitalization

Bringing museum research back to the community.

Artistic inspiration
and arts revitalization

Taking parka patterns

Improving a museum’s information about its collections

Incorporating culturally appropriate care of collections

Collaborative conservation

Sharing expertise

Traditional repair

Loans for museum exhibits, community-based exhibits, programming, and cultural use of museum collections

Loans to tribal museums for exhibit and programming
Haakume Dyunni - The Painted Pottery of Acoma Pueblo. Haak’u Museum, Acoma Pueblo. Haak’u Museum staff in collaboration with the Haak’u Museum board of trustees, MIAC and SAR.

Bringing museum collections to communities

Long-term loans to tribal museums
Loan of Zuni ancestral pottery from the collections of the National Museum of Indian Arts and Culture to the A:Shiwi A:Wan Heritage Center and Museum, Zuni Pueblo

Providing guidance on exhibit development and planning

Exhibit preparation

MIAC: Here, Now, Always

NMAI: Opening Exhibits

Providing input to the museum’s public programs, including presentations and planning

A collections review as a public program


3D Printing

Using new technologies

About these guidelines

This project was funded by the Anne Ray Charitable Trust with additional support from the National Museum of the American Indian.

Guidelines Project Credits

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