Case Studies

Cultural Revitalization

Bringing Museum Research Home

Sven Haakanson, Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, U of Washington, Seattle

When we are talking about cultural revitalization it is important to keep in mind we are working with losses and tragedies that continue to impact our communities health.

Artistic Inspiration and Arts Revitalization

Artistic Inspiration in Model Canoes

Janine Ledford, Makah Cultural and Research Center
Alex McCarty, Makah Artist and instructor

We are very fortunate that we have access to preserved objects such as these model canoes because it helps us understand where we come from and how important the ocean is to our cultural health and well-being.

Artistic Inspiration and Ongoing Relationships

Landis Smith, National Museum of Natural History

One of the goals of this project was to form long-term partnerships between the museum and community members, in contrast to short consultations. Such partnerships depend on trust and mutual respect, and encourage sharing, creativity and exchange of ideas and expertise.

Improving Museum Information

Record Keeping for a Long-Term Collaborative Project

Jennifer Day, School for Advanced Research

Since 2015, staff at the Indian Arts Research Center (IARC) at the School for Advanced Research (SAR) have been working with representatives from Acoma Pueblo to comprehensively review each object in nproject are to improve the records for each piece by adding new information (as approved by the community representatives), correcting inaccuracies, and sharing the newly improved records with Acoma Pueblo’s Haak’u Museum so community members can have access to them.

Setting the Record Straight

Cynthia Chavez Lamar and Jim Enote
School for Advanced Research and A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center

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.

Community Experts

“Pinerrluirturluki Kesianek/Always Preparing Our Men for Success”
Yup’ik elders visit to the National Museum of the American Indian, October 27-November 4, 2012
Ann Fienup-Riordan, Independant Scholar

During the last week of October 2012, three Yup’ik seamstresses – Albertina Dull (age 94), Elsie Tommy (age 90), and Martina John (age 74) traveled with Ruth Jimmie, Calista Elders Council (CEC) director Mark John, University of Alaska Fairbanks student Abby Moses, and anthropologist Ann Fienup-Riordan to Washington, DC to work in collections at both the NMAI and NMNH.

Culturally Appropriate Care

Building a new Collections Center: Native Collaboration with the Museum of Northern Arizona

Robert G. Breunig, President Emeritus, Museum of Northern Arizona

The team discussed the principles that should be exemplified in the building. There was agreement on the following concepts: the entrance should face east, there should be some circularity of form, the building should be in tune with the cycle of the seasons, there should be a visual connection to the San Francisco Peaks, the building should have some natural light, the building should feel “as if it belongs here”, the building should be sustainable and the building should be “alive”.

Collaborative Conservation

NMAI Long-Term Collaborating with Tlingit Weaver Teri Rofkar

Landis Smith, National Museum of the American Indian

What began as an individual Native artist accessing, researching and learning from the Tlingit items in the NMAI (and other museum) collections, grew into larger collaborative experiences of sharing and exploring western and indigenous science together with conservators from the NMAI and other museums.

Traditional Gutskin Repair

Kelly McHugh, National Museum of the American Indian

Needing to talk with someone more familiar with the properties of gutskin in order to come up with the best way to repair the tears, the conservator was given the name of artist Elaine Kingeekuk. who comes from a family of skin sewers and uses gutskin in her own work.

Zuni Basket Project
Collaborative Conservation and Revitalization of Basketry in Community

Jim Enote and Nancy Odegaard
A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center and Arizona State Museum

In 2010 the Arizona State Museum shared detailed images of the Zuni basketry objects from the collections and loan for use in a basketry weaving workshop held at the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center. Only two elder basketry weavers were known to have practical knowledge of traditional basket weaving.

Loans for Museum Exhibits, Community-based Exhibits, Programming, and Cultural Use of Museum Collections

In-Community Program with Ramah Navajo Weavers Association

Landis Smith, Museums of New Mexico Conservation Unit

As part of the 2012 In-Community Program organized for the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) by Landis Smith, Cathy Notarnicola and Valerie Verzuh from the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (MIAC) in Santa Fe, traveled to the Ramah Navajo Weavers Association in Pine Hill, New Mexico. They carried with them several nineteenth- and twentieth-century Navajo textiles from MIAC’s collection.

Cahuilla Continuum

Sean Milanovich, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians
Brenda Buller Focht, Ph. D., Museum Curator, Riverside Metropolitan Museum

A RMM goal of this project was to bring the Cahuilla heritage back to the Cahuilla people through a loan from NMAI. In conversations with NMAI staff three Cahuilla objects with known makers were selected. A loan of these objects was approved.

Providing Guidance on Exhibit Development and Planning

Exhibit Preparation
  • MIAC: Here, Now, Always
  • NMAI: Opening Exhibits

Providing Input to Museum’s Public Programs, including Presentations and Planning

Collaborative Public Programming

Landis Smith, National Museum of Natural History

In conjunction with the 2010 opening of Yup’ik science exhibit, Dr. William Fitzhugh and Landis Smith implemented a project to review, with Yup’ik partners, Chuna McIntyre and Mark John (then president of the Calista Elders Association in Bethel, AK), collections at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History made by Edward Nelson in Yup’ik lands circa 1885.

Using New Technologies

3D Replication: Emerging Technologies for Communities

Eric Hollinger, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Anthropology Dept.

Museums themselves sometimes made reproductions by casting with plaster and later with epoxies and resins. Now, advances in computing technology have allowed the creation of digital techniques for digitally documenting and reproducing objects in 3D.