The Art And Appropriation Of Native American Culture

796 Words 4 Pages
The interpretation and appropriation of culture within museums came under attack starting in the 1960’s. Native American groups raised questions about the biases and agendas of curators and museums and demanded that their voices be heard in the political arena. Many groups such as _______________ argued that White people were able to tell their cultural stories in museums with limited outside interference from other ethnic groups. However, in museums where Native American people and material culture was on display it was expected and accepted that Whites would interfere and construct their own narrative of Native American life. These groups explained that if Whites are interpreting and appropriating other cultures, then it is actually White …show more content…
Native Americans from all the major tribes of North America collaborated with the museum community in building design, landscaping and exhibit content. The National Mall location opened in September of 2004 with the largest known gathering of Native American communities in history. Moreover, the museum has one of the most extensive collections of Native American arts and artifacts in the world—approximately 266,000 catalog records (825,000 items) representing over 12,000 years of history and more than 1,200 indigenous cultures throughout the Americas (http://www.nmai.si.edu/explore/collections/). Unlike many of the other Smithsonian Institutions the NMAI consciously chooses to leave artifacts with no detailed labels, letting interpretations to be open and giving viewers the ability to construct a meaning for that …show more content…
Simpson, in terms of curatorial practices, the the NMAI is successful because the “exhibitions are organized in consultation with the communities represented, providing a means of counteracting many of the problematic aspects of whitewashed exhibitions which have drawn criticism in the past.” (Simpson 2001: 51). This involvement also includes participation in talks, research, and offering advice to the museum community from an advisory board position. In addition, people and tribes in the Indian community are offered guest curatorial positions for special exhibits. Paul Chaat Smith, a noted Comanche author and an associate curator at the NMAI, believes that the mission of the museums and its exhibits is to “generate, questions, discussion, and yes, argument. There is no safe space inside the museum: the museum is always part of the larger social forces in the world. For red people, that space is highly problematic. [The curatorial team] focused early on how to make the exhibit one where the anthropological gaze would be returned by Indian people.” (The National Museum of the American Indian: Critical Conversations 133). Moreover, each new exhibit and display within the NMAI encourages community involvement in the exhibition planning process, through participation in oral history recording, photographic documentation, and other forms of research (Simpson 2001: 51). This collaborative process has been collected data that otherwise would go undocumented

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