CASE STUDY - Setting the record straight

C. Lamar
J. Enote

In 2008 the A:shiwi A:wan Museum at Zuni, New Mexico and the School for Advanced Research (SAR) in Santa Fe embarked on a collaborative partnership to “set the record straight” about Zuni items in SAR’s collection. The program had two major components: (1) Systematically review the entire Zuni collection held at SAR (over 1000 items); and (2) Provide SAR’s digital catalog records of Zuni items to Zuni. Jim Enote, A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center Director, and Cynthia Chavez Lamar, then the Indian Arts Research Center Director at SAR, led the initiative that incorporated the expertise of Octavius Seowtewa, head of the Zuni Cultural Resource Advisory Team, and SAR’s collections staff.

Octavius Seowtewa and Jim Enote at work

The intention of these collection reviews was to correct misinformation and provide relevant contextual information about Zuni items in SAR’s collection as well as provide instructions on care and handling practices. Establishing more accurate and complete information benefits SAR and future researchers because it provides them with a Zuni perspective. Zuni also benefits in that misinformation gets corrected and will not continue to circulate as misinformation. This is a point that Jim continually reiterates as a reason this type of work is important. He states, “Considering access to new information media, we want Zunis to have the right information about these things in the future. When young Zunis look at things in collections, and if the things in those collections are misidentified or lacking information, then those young Zunis are not learning about their heritage and their culture in the right way. We want to set the record straight.”* Controlling how knowledge about Zuni collections is documented and interpreted is a strong reason for Zuni’s collaboration with institutions stewarding Zuni collections.

* Cynthia’s personal communication with Jim, 2010.

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

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