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NYC natural history museum closes Native American exhibits!


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WWW.NYDAILYNEWS.COM

New York’s American Museum of Natural History and other institutions are shutting down exhibits of Native American artifacts.

 

 

I understand stolen objects must be returned and some folks dislike human remains displayed as objects but is this issue that important to shut down museums while conducting research on the matter...

 

 

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20 minutes ago, Km411 said:

True. But isn’t it more important to respect the values, perspectives, and shared humanity of Indigenous people?

Ah, keep them separate but equal.

If only we had treated the Natives as American citizens throughout the 1700s and 1800s, then their culture would be integrated into main stream culture and wouldn't be a separate group today.

I believe that's why the artifacts should be on display, so all visitors can view them as a shared heritage of this land we occupy.  By removing them and making patrons go someplace separate to view them, will yield a main-stream culture that perpetuates the notion that we are and should remain different and separate.

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14 hours ago, Vegas_Millennial said:

Ah, keep them separate but equal.

If only we had treated the Natives as American citizens throughout the 1700s and 1800s, then their culture would be integrated into main stream culture and wouldn't be a separate group today.

I believe that's why the artifacts should be on display, so all visitors can view them as a shared heritage of this land we occupy.  By removing them and making patrons go someplace separate to view them, will yield a main-stream culture that perpetuates the notion that we are and should remain different and separate.

This would be characterized today as a colonial attitude, which is being condemned these days by Indigenous groups and their supporters. This is a growing international movement and one needs to be aware of it and how it is transforming the discussion of race, human rights, civil rights, history and other spheres of human activity. 
 

Here in Canada, where we had a different experience with our native population when European settlement occurred than in the US, the movement is in full bore. The Americans are just now becoming more aware of it. 

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4 hours ago, Luv2play said:

 

Here in Canada, where we had a different experience with our native population when European settlement occurred than in the US, the movement is in full bore.

It would be great to learn about Canada's Indians when I visit Montreal and Toronto this summer.  Are there any good history museums in those cities you can recommend, or have their Native artificts been removed, too?

Edited by Vegas_Millennial
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3 hours ago, Vegas_Millennial said:

It would be great to learn about Canada's Indians when I visit Montreal and Toronto this summer.  Are there any good history museums in those cities you can recommend, or have their Native artificts been removed, too?

In Toronto the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) has the largest collection of native artifacts in Ontario and perhaps Canada. I was there a year ago specifically to look at their Indigenous exhibits and took some photos. Today I understand it is temporarily closed.

In Montreal there are several collections, in the Redpath Museum at McGill University and the McCord Museum nearby. I was at the Redpath two years ago but haven’t been to the McCord for years . Not sure what they have done with their Indigenous artifacts. 
 

There is a lot of turmoil in museums in Canada regarding this issue over the last several years. Incredibly it appears that the brunt of the controversy has affected the Indigenous curators and administrators who have either left or been terminated. 
 

This happened at the National Gallery in Ottawa where 4 senior people left and recently vat the ROM where the head of Indigenous art left. Ironically most or all of these people have been Indigenous people.

Stay tuned if you are interested in seeing what they have. Things keep changing. 

Edited by Luv2play
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On 1/28/2024 at 12:02 PM, pubic_assistance said:

If you'd return everything in every museum that was stolen you wouldn't have any museums.

So much of what's in most museums was plundered.

I’m of two minds about this issue. While it’s true many artifacts were acquired from in situ locations in the 19th and early 20th centuries from areas of the world where the locals had no idea of their value but the Victorians did, such actions actually saved these items from being irretrievably lost. Not talking about grave robbing though. 
 

Like in the case of the Lord Elgin marbles. The Ottomans had stored dynamite in the Parthenon on the Acropolis which accidentally blew the place up. Lord Elgin saw that the Greeks were incapable of protecting these precious antiquities. So he put them in a museum.

Similarly here in Canada the totem poles in the Pacific Northwest were exposed to the elements and any that were not taken and put in museums disappeared over the last century or so. Now the ones in Scotland and elsewhere are being repatriated but to museums now which have been built to accommodate them. 

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2 minutes ago, Luv2play said:

many artifacts were acquired from in situ locations in the 19th and early 20th centuries from areas of the world where the locals had no idea of their value but the Victorians did, such actions actually saved these items from being irretrievably lost.

Well put.

I completely agree.

It's a complicated issue, with various viewpoints that all can be supported.

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I agree. I don’t dispute the value of having preserved important artifacts in museums; it was the most utilitarian option. But now it’s become a question of rightful ownership and with it the dignity, respect and sovereignty of indigenous peoples. In my view, upholding those values is more important than museum access. And who better to teach us the cultural value and significance of those artifacts than Native Americans themselves?

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 1/28/2024 at 12:02 PM, pubic_assistance said:

If you'd return everything in every museum that was stolen you wouldn't have any museums.

So much of what's in most museums was plundered.

I remember when Native Americans complained their art wasn't displayed next to Roman and Greek statues, now that it does, they want it NOT to be in museums. 

 

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9 minutes ago, marylander1940 said:

I remember when Native Americans complained their art wasn't displayed next to Roman and Greek statues, now that it does, they want it NOT to be in museums. 

 

This thread is about the Natural History museum and there is a category difference between displaying indigenous artefacts in such a museum and displaying indigenous art in gallery. Displaying art is more likely to give indigenous people agency in a way that treating them as part of 'nature' does not.

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33 minutes ago, mike carey said:

This thread is about the Natural History museum and there is a category difference between displaying indigenous artefacts in such a museum and displaying indigenous art in gallery. Displaying art is more likely to give indigenous people agency in a way that treating them as part of 'nature' does not.

Yes, I started the thread about a specific museum, but this also affects all museums. In this specific case objects were displayed in the Natural History Museum but in many others, they were in art museum next to pieces of all origins.

is it too late to change the name of this thread? 

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Some museums have either covered or taken down native American exhibits after an updated federal law about how Native American artifacts can be displayed.
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New regulations to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act affect local museums By Jesse Dolojan, Education and Enrichment Coordinator On Jan...

 

Edited by marylander1940
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11 hours ago, mike carey said:

This thread is about the Natural History museum and there is a category difference between displaying indigenous artefacts in such a museum and displaying indigenous art in gallery. Displaying art is more likely to give indigenous people agency in a way that treating them as part of 'nature' does not.

We had this debate in Canada years ago. In the 70s Indigenous art was not displayed in the National Gallery in Ottawa but rather in the Museum of Natural  History. At the time I was having an affair with a native artist. He had a job at the latter museum as a curator. He called a press conference one day and publicly condemned Canada’s policy on Indigenous art. He called me to tell me proudly he had just got fired!

Ten years later the policy had changed and now Canada’s Indigenous art hangs in the National Gallery, including his.
 

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On 1/29/2024 at 10:04 AM, Luv2play said:

Similarly here in Canada the totem poles in the Pacific Northwest were exposed to the elements and any that were not taken and put in museums disappeared over the last century or so. Now the ones in Scotland and elsewhere are being repatriated but to museums now which have been built to accommodate them. 

Unlike utilitarian items (like most clothing, utensils, bent boxes, etc.), totems were created to stay in situ, within the community until they naturally degraded in the elements.  They were not intended to last forever in an antiseptic, artificial space.  Many non-Indigenous people - myself included - have traditionally thought that museums served a purpose in preserving artifacts for the benefit of all society.  However, I've learned that in doing so, the proper attitude towards the created item has often been lost.  

 

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54 minutes ago, CuriousByNature said:

Unlike utilitarian items (like most clothing, utensils, bent boxes, etc.), totems were created to stay in situ, within the community until they naturally degraded in the elements.  They were not intended to last forever in an antiseptic, artificial space.  Many non-Indigenous people - myself included - have traditionally thought that museums served a purpose in preserving artifacts for the benefit of all society.  However, I've learned that in doing so, the proper attitude towards the created item has often been lost.  

 

This is where the clash of cultures occurs. In most cultures, artistic artifacts are treasured and preserved. In this seemingly isolated example the people creating the art conceived of it decomposing into nothing. Sort of like Banksy in slow motion. 

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He’s actions raise a few questions: if items are returned to their owners of origin, is there a way to properly preserve them there? Well, offering a due respect by not exhibiting the items without permission, is also valuable, education lost that could better influence the people that stole these items? Does this put a financial burden on museums that have exhibit rooms which can properly maintain historic items and predict them from lights, humidity, oils, dust, mold, and bacteria and fungi, etc.… and, Does it actually deter these provisional places from accepting vulnerable historic items thus leaving them open to degradation, vandalism, and decay? 
 Some museums are facing financial difficulty at this time, and even prior to Covid… Is closing exhibits like this way of using in place law to cut costs? I.e. conveniently using law to manage a dwindling budget at the cost of the integrity of the institution itself and the artifacts~
 It’s a bit surprising that somehow protecting these items, showing them to the public on behalf of whatever culture any particular item came from isn’t part of some trust agreement/contract.

 

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I think there are many good reasons for native peoples to entrust museums with their artifacts; most important, museums are an excellent platform for informing the broader public about their cultures and values. In my experience, the exhibits themselves are very respectful. I assume great care is taken to ensure they’re historically accurate. And who doesn’t come away from the experience with a greater appreciation and respect for these cultures? But, in my view, the decision is theirs alone. I do wonder whether every artifact can be linked to a recognized tribe; what becomes of the artifacts that can’t?

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On 1/29/2024 at 6:49 AM, Vegas_Millennial said:

It would be great to learn about Canada's Indians when I visit Montreal and Toronto this summer. 

I hope you say "Indians" if you speak with any of them or even with a museum employee. Let us know how that goes!

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