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Indigenous Collections Care Guide

The Indigenous Collections Care (ICC) Working Group grew out of an expanding interest in prioritizing and privileging decolonization practices on all levels of museum work. Group members represent both Indigenous and non-Indigenous museum professionals and academics, Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, collections staff, and NAGPRA coordinators.

The ICC Working Group is creating a Guide, which will be a reference tool for people who interact regularly with Native American collections, including those at all levels of experience and exposure. The Guide will offer scalable considerations and templates for implementation, advocacy, and creation of policies and procedures. All information will be presented in practical and accessible language and will be accompanied by a robust set of appendices with example policy statements and procedural forms.

The Guide is anticipated to be ready for tribal community review in early 2023.

Contact Information

Marla Taylor (facilitator), Curator of Collections, Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology at Phillips Academy in Andover,  Massachusetts

Laura Bryant (facilitator), Anthropology Collections Manager and NAGPRA Coordinator, Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma

Laura Elliff Cruz, Collections Manager, Indian Arts Research Center, School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Please email us at: iccguide.info@gmail.com


Values within the ICC Guide

1. Seek pathways to healing through establishing trust and collaboratively developing new practices. Recognize and acknowledge the colonial systems that led to the acquisition of collections and the ongoing practices that continue to affect their access and care.

The discomfort on all sides can be an opportunity for education, growth, and restorative justice. Recognition and healing can begin through nurturing relationships on any level. Respectful and meaningful collections stewardship, as suggested in this Guide, can be one pathway to healing.

2. Cede authority and shift the power dynamic so that tribes as sovereign nations have power and intellectual primacy over their cultural items.Actively seek, respect, and incorporate appropriate protocols and language from Tribes in collections care and access. Establish a baseline of care while one seeks to establish these relationships and individual care needs, which will often differ among communities.

3. Prioritize Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing and redefining the concept of “expert.” Acknowledge, invite, and welcome differences in perspective, values, and framework.This includes stories, oral histories, and oral traditions. Understand and respect that knowledge and access are privileges, not rights.

4. Consult, converse, and collaborate with communities in components of collections care and stewardship.Consultation is the first step to implementing any form of culturally appropriate care. Be transparent, open, educatable, and adaptable. Collections reviews offer opportunities for transparency and to discuss many of the topics throughout this Guide.

5. Focus on cultural continuity instead of preservation.Many existing best collections stewardship practices prioritize Western ways of knowing and caring for collections and items. This Guide will show what collections care looks like when Native ways of knowing are prioritized.


Main Topics to be Addressed in the Guide

  1. Introduction
  2. Values
  3. Shared Language
  4. Collections Management/Stewardship
  5. Associated Documentation and Records
  6. Image Protocols
  7. Reproductions and Imitations
  8. Research
  9. Indigenous Community Use and Access
  10. Advocacy
  11. Appendix


Under each of these larger topics will be subsections. We are writing short descriptions of each subsection. When the initial draft of these is complete, we will take the draft to tribal communities for feedback and to also develop and add statements and questions they want museums to ask and consider.

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