Our work began with a study of academic literature on early collectors, their relationship to the emerging discipline of anthropology, their museums, and case studies of recent curatorial attempts to work more collaboratively and compassionately with source communities, to address colonial legacies within their hallowed institutions, and to move museums from temples to forums.
We then visited nine museum sites in the U.S. and Taiwan, four affiliated with universities, three run directly by the national government, and one run entirely by an Indigenous community. We engaged deeply with these sites, closely reading labels, analyzing the arrangements and contexts of objects and the categories used to define them for the public. We spoke with curators, anthropologists, guides, and directors—and we listened to Native voices.
Finally, we returned from fieldwork to construct this website, which for us best gestures toward an anti-colonial approach* to representing the personal belongings bought, “gifted,” or stolen from Native American communities with the purpose of educating a White public. In what follows we have each chosen a living artifact within Brown’s Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology to “listen to.” ~ Caroline Frank
(Image: Tohono O'odham Plaque with man-in-the-maze design.)