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Core Standards for Museums with Native American Collections

The Core Standards for Museums with Native American Collections (CSMNAC) is a comprehensive document for use by museums with Native collections for the purpose of clarifying their roles as stewards and ultimately to improve the museum field as it relates to Native American peoples, communities, and cultural items. The document will provide support for institutions to become true community partners, enabling them to connect collections with descendent communities for more meaningful, relevant and culturally sensitive interpretation and documentation. The CSMNAC document will serve to guide all aspects of work within museums holding Native collections, for the purpose of educating governing and executive boards and staff, collections and curatorial staff as well as education, development, security, facilities and volunteers. In addition, through aligning American Alliance of Museums Core Standards with culturally specific engagement and visitor experience, the document will set forth a set of tools that will enable museums to move confidently in the direction of decolonizing and sensitizing practices.

The CSMNAC is generously supported by the Anne Ray Foundation with additional support by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian



Tony Chavarria, Curator of Ethnology, Museum of Indian Arts & Culture

Cynthia Chavez Lamar, Director, Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian

Deana Dartt (Facilitator), Principal, Live Oak Consulting

Stacey Halfmoon, Senior Director, Choctaw Cultural Center

Elysia Poon (Facilitator), Indian Arts Research Center director, School for Advanced Research

Landis Smith, Conservator, Museum of New Mexico

Please email us at iarc@sarsf.org



Museums seeking meaningful engagement with Native peoples need examples that, at minimum, build a foundation of understanding of the issues and complexity of working with Native people. CSEMNAC meets the need for a shared set of standards and benchmarks that guide all facets of operation in museums charged with stewarding Native cultural belongings.

CSEMNAC will provide these standards as well as case studies from several institutions that exemplify meaningful collaboration and inclusion. At the end of the document is a list of resources for further exploration and research will be included. The specific goals of CSEMNAC are to:

  • Provide actionable recommendations for Native inclusion;
  • Motivate museums toward collaboration and partnership with Native communities;
  • Emphasize the responsibility and accountability inherent in the stewardship of Native collections and teaching cultural content;
  • Recognize the colonial legacy of museums and provide opportunities to educate about this history and its ongoing impact on Native people;
  • Address the need for cultural sensitivity and competency;
  • Provide support for Native American museum professionals, staff, board members, and volunteers;
  • Inform museums about the unique status of tribal governments and sovereignty;
  • Develop methodologies for working with Native communities



The CSMNAC document is currently in the vetting process, soon to enter the case studies development phase.  Please check back periodically for updates on the CSMNAC document.

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