Anthropology Now and Then in the American Museum of Natural History: An Alternative Museum

The action by Decolonize this Place on the steps of the AMNH included veiling the statue of Teddy Roosevelt. Photo courtesy Hrag Vartanian. https://hyperallergic.com/329225/decolonizethisplace-demands-removal-natural-history-museums-roosevelt-statue/

You know how they say in certain museums, history comes alive?

Yeah.

In this museum … it actually does.

What are you talking about?

Everything in this museum comes to life at night.

                                                       – Night at the Museum, 2006

The American Museum of Natural History’s Cultural Halls are in serious need of deep rethinking and renovation, as we argued in the December 2016 issue of Anthropology Now. They are outdated as exhibits, ranging in age from 30 to 116 years old, and their biggest audience is a captive one: New York City school children. It is precisely that audience that makes the collective message of the Halls so troubling and in need of urgent change. In its Cultural Halls, the AMNH erases the colonial contexts in which the artifacts were collected and exhibited, and thus implicitly sanctions that history. The content of the exhibits and the absence of any real collaboration with the non–Euro-American people on display have the representational effect of recolonizing these groups and reasserting the singular authority of Euro-America to define and represent its cultural others.

We did not have a chance to talk to the AMNH anthropology curators for our earlier review, so we promised a second installment based on interviews with them about the Halls and the prospects for seriously reforming the installations. At first, we were not certain we would be able to talk directly to curators because the museum does not have a reputation for openness to publicity it does not control. Then, just as we were about to request the interviews, we heard about the “Columbus Day” protest at the museum. Several hundred protestors from an artist/activist collective called “Decolonize This Place” (DTP) gathered in the lobby of the main entrance of the AMNH and made a series of demands they summarized as Rename, Remove, Respect. They wanted the city to rename the commemoration Indigenous Peoples’ Day. They asked the museum to remove the triumphal and imperious statue at its main entrance, which depicts Teddy Roosevelt on horseback flanked by an American Indian and an African-American on foot. They called on the museum to undertake a “serious renovation” of its Cultural and Natural Halls, directed by “a range of curators drawn from the populations featured in the Museum” [1]. We wondered if DTP’s action would foreclose whatever chance we might have had to speak with the curators of the Cultural Halls. As it turned out, the protest probably helped. At the least, it was clear that curators had received a green light from the AMNH administration to talk to us because they all agreed to our interview requests. We appreciate being allowed to record our conversations; as requested, we do not attribute quoted text to any individual museum employee. We also arranged to interview several of the DTP protest organizers, since some of their criticisms about the Cultural Halls echoed ours.

As we tacked back and forth last December, interviewing museum curators and organizers of the DTP protest, we felt as if we were being tossed between Weber and Marx. The curators and the organizers agreed that the halls were colonial legacies and that they needed to be reformed. Several of the curators even imagined “serious renovation” on the scale that DTP was calling for. But when it came time to account for the museum administration’s inaction over the past 30 years, they appealed to bureaucratic rationales. Protest organizers, on the other hand, saw the paralysis as evidence of the museum administration’s and board of trustees’ long-standing commitments to colonialism, the American empire and white supremacy. While the administration’s inaction was the main topic of all our interviews, we nevertheless gathered from the curators that some limited changes in the Cultural Halls were on the horizon. There was even a little hope that more substantive changes were possible, but as we will show, in light of what else the curators said, it is hard to imagine how a deep reform of any or all the Cultural Halls could come to pass without significant change at the top.

Material Constraints

The AMNH is an economic and political institution, dependent on donations — some small, some very large — on admission contributions and on state and federal funds. Several curators we spoke with helped us see how this dependence puts decisions about changing the Cultural Halls in the hands of administrators. The most common refrains we heard when we asked why the Halls had not been seriously updated in decades were: “Our administration isn’t willing to do it.” “It’s just not been a priority for the Administration.” “The answer we always get is that the funding just isn’t there to do it.”

According to the curators, among the more specific reasons administrators cite for letting the Cultural Halls languish is the Museum’s educational mission. The administration does not want to update the Cultural Halls because a half-million New York public school children visit them each year as part of their social studies curriculum. This makes no sense to us. The institution’s educational obligation to the city’s children should require the renovation, not the stagnation, of the Cultural Halls. Nor could we understand why the administration lavishes funds on renovating natural and physical science exhibits, which students also visit, in order to keep them up to date, while it immiserates the Cultural Halls. One curator told us that for each of the past five or six years, the museum has had

… more than five million people come in here. The administrative perspective is we are trying to goose up attendance, and it’s working. Then some of us might say, “But you’ve got some halls that are real flat tires.” Well, our attendance is still going through the roof. We had more people than we could accommodate.

In other words, why bother fixing the at tires?

Anthropology curators at the museum experience their low administrative priority on a smaller scale when they submit requests to change a label or a case. Every item in every exhibit, including the infrastructure of the exhibit cases, is under the formal purview of the Conservation Department, which is charged “to preserve the collection for the future,” according to the curators. Nothing can be opened, moved, removed or changed without its approval. The curators cannot act directly on any exhibit; they must schedule time for the conservators to consult and then negotiate with them about preservation.

One might think that the cases would simply open from the rear to allow basic additions or changes. Not a chance! The cases do not open at all. Until the 1970s, the museum employed its own maintenance department; workers operated a powerful vacuum device that could be attached to the glass front of an exhibit case to pull it open. All museum maintenance functions were outsourced in the 1970s, and the vacuum device was discarded. Opening anything today requires hiring specialized craft workers; glass has to be cut out, removed and replaced with very large custom plates. Nor is totally replacing an exhibit case much of an option, as this would run into museum architectural standards as well as conservation standards. Further, the cost of new cases seems prohibitive; even small, open-stock exhibit cases cost more than $10,000 [2].

This is just the beginning of the problems. Visitors cannot help but notice the exhibits’ dim lighting; we were told that this is intentional, partly to protect artifacts from fading. Any simple fix to make artifacts more visible runs into seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Aside from the exorbitant cost of opening the cases, the existing light fixtures are not compatible with any contemporary light bulbs. Worse, the electrical wiring behind the cases is many decades old, insulated with asbestos, and would be phenomenally expensive to replace. “The funding just isn’t there” to improve the lighting, one curator told us. “Bring your own flashlight” is the best advice. But again, the museum has found funds to contend with outdated lighting and asbestos in the natural and physical science halls, so the problems are not really impossible to fix, just not “priorities” when it comes to the Cultural Halls.

We pressed curators for an explanation of the AMNH administration’s repeated refusals, large and small, to prioritize the renovation of the Cultural Halls over the past three decades. The privileging of the hard sciences over the human sciences seems less an explanation than a restatement of the problem. Nor do we accept the notion that it is harder to raise money for renovating the Cultural Halls than for the Natural Halls, but even if it were, that is no excuse for letting the Cultural Halls stagnate. If exhibits in the Natural Halls were found to be inaccurate and antiquated, would they be allowed to languish?

As we listened to the curators talk about their work and as we read more about the museum’s history, we began to see two larger rationales that helped us better understand the administration’s unwillingness to move ahead with serious reforms in the Cultural Halls. One was the way they responded to the Native American Graves Protection and Reparations Act (NAGPRA). The other was their embrace of a neoliberal logic in making decisions about what to fund and not fund. Both came into play around 1990, when serious work on the Cultural Halls faded to a halt.

The Native American Graves Protection and Reparations Act

In contrast to European colonialism, which was carried out “elsewhere” in Africa, India, North and South America and Asia, U.S. colonialism happened at home. The effects of those rapacious colonial forces are still visible in the lives of Native Peoples who live within the national borders of the U.S. today, perhaps making it painful for non-Native Americans to connect the dots between history and present conditions. But now, thanks to NAGPRA, anthropologists and the museums we work in must deal every day with the uncomfortable reality that our Native American exhibits display the history of internal colonialism, acknowledged or not.

Passed by Congress in 1990, NAGPRA ordered the nation’s museums and federal agencies to catalog and publish all the Indian human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects and objects of Indian patrimony in their possession and to negotiate with any tribes that requested their repatriation [3]. Since then, museums and government agencies have returned some remains and objects, but litigation, the long and cumbersome cataloging and negotiation process, the tribe’s burden of proof of membership for the remains, of prior possession and of illicit procurement of objects all enable museums to stonewall NAGPRA if they so choose. Often, remains and items are not labeled by museums, or are mislabeled, and museums vary widely in how proactively and positively they work with Indian groups on repatriation. Some, such as the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (including its New York City branch in Manhattan) and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, have taken the lead in the wake of NAGPRA and gone beyond its terms, engaging in wide-ranging and public collaborations between the mu- seum and Native Peoples. Some other museums have not.

The AMNH presents itself as working well with NAGPRA, but our review of the evidence suggests a more mixed record. For one thing, NAGPRA appears to be used as a meta-rationale for not changing the Cultural Halls. One curator told us that “NAGPRA scared off a lot of people on our board and our administration. If you [change] a Hall, we are going to deal with the stake-holding communities.” This is a problem, another curator explained, with which the installations dealing with biology, geology and paleontology do not have to contend. “Part of the reason the Museum has left these [Cultural] Halls in neglect is that they were scared. The dinosaurs don’t talk back.” Curators themselves, on the other hand, are more confident about their ability to deal appropriately and legally with stakeholder communities and, as we will show shortly, have done so on numerous occasions.

In 1990, the AMNH joined many of the nation’s largest museums to resist NAGPRA, stating in a joint letter to Congress that the law would “set up a ruinously expensive, adversarial, and lawyer-dominated process that would financially cripple the museums, remove uniquely valuable collections from the public domain, and deprive future generations, including Native Americans, of knowledge of an important part of human history” [4]. Since the act was passed, however, the museum has in many ways complied with NAGPRA. In a recent review, AMNH Director of Cultural Resources Nell Murphy and her co-author Martha Graham reported that the museum has returned 800 of the 3,500 remains of Native American individuals that it held, thousands of associated funerary objects and more than 400 cultural objects. They also reported that the Cultural Resources Office has had “more than 150 face-to-face consultations with more than 125 tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations,” and they described in detail three of the cases where objects and remains were restored to Native American communities [5]. This looks like a positive record, but what mystifies us is that it is entirely hidden from the larger public. The review is one of the few detailed references to the AMNH’s work with NAGPRA that we could find anywhere, and it was published in a journal for museologists. Nowhere in the museum itself or on the AMNH website could we find any mention of the consultations or the repatriated remains and objects [6], with one very small but telling exception, the False Face Masks.

The empty cases where the False Face Masks were exhibited before they were removed under NAGPRA provisions. (Photo courtesy of Susan Harding)

Tucked away in a PDF available on the AMNH website, “A Teacher’s Guide: The Hall of Eastern Woodlands Indians” [7], is mention of “an empty exhibition case” that once contained False Face Masks. The masks are “sacred ceremonial objects intended to be seen only by their creators” and have been “removed from display.” The text then refers the reader to “the NAGPRA box” below on the same page, which briefly describes the law, stating that “until NAGPRA, Native American bodily remains and other sacred items were officially regarded as archaeological resources available for disinterment and scientific study.” Since the law was passed, this primer continues, the museum has been “actively engaged in repatriation” and “intensely consulting with Native American communities.” One might assume from this that the masks were returned, but the text only says they were removed from display. A check of the museum’s online anthropology database reveals sixteen “False Face Masks” on digital display, with no mention of their private status. Moreover, and this is the most bizarre part, the “empty exhibition case” is huge, bears no label of any kind explaining what was in it or why it has been empty for nearly 30 years.

One curator told us about a label that is scheduled to be placed in another case in the Hall of Eastern Woodlands Indians, next to an empty spot where a Meskwaki necklace once hung. The necklace was returned to the tribe as an outcome of a NAGPRA consultation. The label will be the first mention of NAGPRA in the Native American halls, which the curator noted as quite an accomplishment. It is, relatively speaking, yet we are dumbfounded. The museum’s mission should include educating the public about NAGPRA and the changing relationships between museums and Native American communities [8]. The topic deserves more than a label. Even devoting the empty case to the topic, while a step in the right direction, would not be enough. It deserves a major exhibit area, one that would stage the new collaborations being undertaken with Native American communities as well as narrating the troubled history of reparations [9].

Better yet, all the Halls should be redesigned to function more as spaces of ongoing interaction between the AMNH and the peoples featured. Jim Enote, a Zuni leader who worked with the AMNH for a week in 2011 on a digital collection catalog project, noted that “museums are contact zones for mediating different knowledge systems ” [10]. The Zuni project exemplified that concept by combining Zuni and museum knowledge about items in the collection, but as far as the public is concerned, such a collaboration is the exception, not the rule, at the AMNH. There is not even any evidence of that particular collaboration in the AMNH digital database or the Native American Halls. Individually and together, the Cultural Halls as they stand now are monuments to old-style museum practices that tell one-sided, top-down, outdated stories.

The Ephemeral Museum

Only a fraction of the AMNH’s anthropology collections are on display in the Cultural Halls. Some significant exhibits have been taken down, including the Eskimo (Inuit) displays that Holden Caulfield cherished in The Catcher in the Rye. Others, such as the Museum’s “world-class collection” of Southwest artifacts, have never been on permanent display despite curators’ proposals to install them. Curators said they have presented numerous proposals over the past several decades to renovate one or another of the Cultural Halls, but the administration has declined to fund them. Two proposals have been submitted recently, and it is possible that the more modest one will be supported. The more ambitious proposal calls for reorganizing and combining the Asian Cultural and Natural Halls. The plan had been solicited by the administration itself, took two years to prepare and involved extensive consultations with Asian-American communities and Asian museums. Submitted in the summer of 2016, it has garnered no response as of this writing.

One way the anthropology curators deal with their stagnant Halls is by maximizing access to their collections through other means. They publish articles and monographs. They have created and curate a comprehensive digital database and archives. They invite researchers from around the world to consult their collections in person, and they provide internships and training programs for graduate students. They grant long-term or permanent loans to other institutions and deliver artifacts from their research directly to other museums. They also mount traveling exhibitions. As one curator explained, “Now the shows that are produced here over the last 10 or 15 years are of such high quality, they’re really in demand all over the world. Apparently financially it pays off, too. …Some of them are in such demand they’re cloned, where you have two or three of the same show in different parts of the world.”

Traveling, temporary and online exhibits are places where curators can show some of their never-seen-before collections and, at the same time, design the content of displays in collaboration with Native communities in ways that foreground and develop new thinking about cultures, peoples, histories and museums. In our 2016 article on the AMNH, we briefly discussed the traveling exhibit “Chiefly Feasts: The Enduring Kwakiutl Potlatch,” which was the outcome of — and publicly performed — a complex collaboration between the museum and Kwakiutl (Kwak’waka’wak) communities. Other traveling cultural exhibits include “Vietnam: Journeys of Body, Mind, and Spirit,” a collaboration with the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology [11], and “Totems to Turquoise: Native North American Jewelry Arts,” co-curated with two indigenous artists, one Haida, the other Navajo [12].

Absent the financial support to renovate their permanent installations, such ephemeral exhibits are the only updating opportunities open to anthropology curators. This reflects a policy shift by the administration toward a neoliberal logic of maximizing revenue, a shift that not only rationalizes letting the Cultural Halls lie fallow but favors funding science over cultural shows. According to one curator, after the last Cultural Hall was completed in 1987, the administration turned its attention to renovating other spaces — the Dinosaur Halls, the Planetarium, Planet Earth, Ocean Life, Meteorites. “Meanwhile,” the curator explained, “in terms of public outreach, they really stopped doing [new] cultural shows. And the big reason, the cosmic reason, I think, is the neo-liberal economy, the bottom-line-driven organization. You know, you’re successful if you show that you’re not just in the black, but you’re growing every year. And what do you do to do that? Well, you do away with extraneous labor, like the people who take the glass off the cases, and you look at your traveling exhibit program. And you want to go to science centers, and you are going to go here, there and everywhere. It’s so much cheaper to do a show where you can do straight science and fabricate [the objects on display] than if you have to do all the requirements for a [genuine cultural] object-driven show.”

The Digital Totem that stands in the Hall of the Northwest Coast Indians. http://www.popsci.com/american-natural-history-museum-gets-touch-screen-exhibit

We suspect this maximize-the-bottom-line logic is also at work in one of the two innovations we saw in the Cultural Halls, which were designed to connect visitors with the communities on display and thus also to represent the enduring vitality of the communities and the museum’s collaboration with them. In our last piece, we mentioned a talking “robot,” a mobile interactive screen, in the Hall of the Northwest Coast Indians that enabled visitors to converse with Native curators. That’s gone now, but on our visit in December we saw the newly installed “digital totem,” a kiosk with a large touch screen that introduced visitors to individual First Nations people in the Pacific Northwest — their languages, natural surroundings, artifacts and soundscapes [13]. Unfortunately, the touchscreen was not responsive when we tried to interact with it, but we recognize it as a gesture toward enlivening collaboration with Native communities. Still, it seems a gesture more virtual — literally and figuratively — than real. And compared to the kinds of installations in the science and natural history halls, well, let’s call it aggressively cost-saving. And, of course, it makes no gesture at all toward the sense of reparations called for by NAGPRA and the new kinds of museum– community relations emerging elsewhere.

An Alternative Museum via Drumming

As part of its anti–Columbus Day protest, “Decolonize This Place” conducted a 10-stop tour through the AMNH’s Cultural and Natural Halls, enunciating their critiques along the way [14]. While the tour was taking place, an affinity group of Native Americans within DTP performed a ceremony that helped us think about what a deeper collaboration with “the populations featured in the Museum” might look like. The a affinity group member and protest organizer with whom we spoke also explained how vital such collaborations would be for Native American communities, both as a means of communicating with their ancestors and in renewing their traditions.

The Native American affinity group formed a drumming circle in front of the huge empty case where the False Face Masks were once displayed. At a right angle to this case was a large double case filled with artifacts from the Midewiwin society, objects the group felt also fell under the NAGPRA category of “ceremonial objects” and should never have been shown in the first place. The organizer/drummer we spoke with said, “We actually just sat down and drummed the entire time. We didn’t talk to anyone. I wanted it to be about talking directly to the ancestors and [saying] I know you are still here. I still want to talk to you and receive your wisdom. We still want to be in conversation and we are sorry you are still here and that we haven’t done enough to get you back. We just sat in there and we drummed.”

There are social and material relations in the museum, the drummer told us, “that have been violently severed, and I think there is a possibility to recover those in some way. In leaving the community — that journey — [our objects] took on a new kind of power. Sometimes in return they can bring something with them too, something different, but something useful.” As an example, she told us a story about what is happening to one of the tourist arts that her community on Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron relies on to survive. “Ash basketry is literally going to die as a practice in the next 20 years because of climate change [and] globalization,” she said. An invasive species, the emerald ash borer, is killing the black ash trees, which may all be dead in North America by 2030. The grandmothers who weave ash baskets will lose a source of community income and a way to relate to the land. But, she recalled, as one of the grandmothers said, “Well that’s dying, but it doesn’t mean we are dying.”

One of the ash basket weavers decided that she would make up for one lost weaving art by recovering another, the art of using basswood twine to make bags. The AMNH had a beautiful collection of such bags from her area, so she got a grant from her community and spent a couple days in the museum studying its collection. As the drummer explained, “I think it’s important to get the elders into the museum to physically be with the objects.” When elders saw photos of the bags, they could not tell much about how they were made. “They didn’t know where the relevant thread ends and starts. So [the weaver] sat down with [the bags in the museum] and said this is where she started, and here is where she changed the threads, and here is where she did this. Which is about looking for a person who was behind the bag and looking for a way to relate to that person. Putting your hands in the positions that that woman’s hands were in!” The weaver was able to go home and teach the lost tradition of making basswood bags. “For me repatriation is about a new practice,” the drummer told us. “It is important that we are able to make a living off the land because that is what indigeneity [is] — that’s what we are — our relationship to the land.”

The AMNH had resources to help the weaver and her community renew their relationship to the land. We wonder why the museum doesn’t tell this story, and stories like it, to the public in the form of exhibits and workshops with members of Native communities [15].

Conclusion

We think the AMNH administration has shelved proposals to renovate the Cultural Halls for 30 years because it is reluctant to take on the task of changing how the museum relates to the communities featured in them, combined with its free-market fixation with maximizing the bottom line. Another factor at work, as one curator put it, is that “the museum is not good about its history.” Reforming the Cultural Halls would require it to be better about its history. Not all curators are on the same page about how to address this issue. However, they do all agree that the Halls need substantial renovation and that it needs to be done in light of the remarkable new thinking over the past three decades about what anthropology museums are, how they should relate to the communities whose objects and knowledge they have collected and what counts as “educating the public” about the world’s diverse peoples. Needless to say, we agree with them.

One of the organizers of “Decolonize This Place” told us his personal stake in the protest was that his children are among the many thousands of students who visit the museum on field trips. He did not like the education they were getting when they faced, for example, the imperial statue of Teddy Roosevelt at the entrance. The museum is proud of its educational mission but does not seem to question whose history, whose culture, is being taught. We think they should deal with these questions and that they should deal with them in a way that is seriously and thoroughly collaborative, reparative and creative for all the communities concerned. Many other museums are doing so, and the AMNH, one of the flagship anthropological museums in the country, should join them. The notion that “the funding just isn’t there” doesn’t wash. Again, too many other museums are way ahead of the AMNH in this regard, and raising large amounts of money for renovations like this is, after all, the administration’s job.

We are not writing here as museologists or as historians. We write as members of the public responding to what the AMNH is, in effect, teaching us. We also write as social-cultural anthropologists who want the most current insights in our field to inform the Cultural Halls, not concepts that reigned 50 or 100 years ago. We had the privilege of hearing from our colleagues, the anthropology curators and our fellow critics from DTP about what they have done and hope to do. There is plenty of energy in the air. We echo this sentiment from DTP: “We really need people on the inside who are willing to work with us and open up the process to indigenous voices, to indigenous curators and experts.” We think that the anthropology curators can and want to renovate the Cultural Halls, but they must be empowered to do so, financially and politically, by the AMNH administration and board of trustees.

The 2006 movie Night at the Museum enthralled audiences (and greatly increased attendance at the AMNH) by saying “in certain museums history comes alive … everything in this museum comes to life at night.” We hope the AMNH administration will draw on the innovative ideas of curators at the AMNH and elsewhere to bring the Cultural Halls to life during the day.

Acknowledgments

We are grateful to all of the present or former curators of the AMNH and the members of DTP who spoke with us or granted us an interview: Nitasha Dhillon, Laurel Kendall, Jacklyn Lacey, Crystal Migwans, Andrew Ross, Enid Schildkraut, David Thomas and Peter Whiteley. Thanks for editorial help to Kathy Chetkovich, Maria Vesperi and Anya Urcuyo.

Notes

1. For more details about “Decolonize This Place,” see http://www.decolonizethisplace.org/. The quotes here were drawn from the AMNH protest announcement: http://www.decolonizethisplace.org/post/rename-the-day-remove-the-statue-decolonize-this-museum.

2. http://www.gaylord.com/c/Museum-Quality?viewMode=List&sort=price-desc&pageSize=20&q=%3Anewest&show=Page#.

3. For the NAGPA law, regulations and history, see https://www.nps.gov/nagpra/mandates/INDEX.HTM.

4. C. Colwell, Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits: Inside the Fight to Reclaim Native America’s Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017), 104–105.

5. Martha Graham and Nell Murphy, “NAGPRA at 20: Museum collections and reconnections,” Museum Anthropology 33, no. 2 (2010):105–124.

6. The AMNH Research Policy webpage refers those seeking a NAGPRA consultation to Nell Murphy in the Office of Cultural Resources http://www.amnh.org/our-research/anthropology/policies-links/research-policy.

7. The guide referenced here was published in 2002 and was available online as a pdf on the AMNH webpage for the Hall of Eastern Woodland Indians until May 2017, when it was replaced by a new “Educator’s Guide to Eastern Woodland Indians,” http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/permanent-exhibitions/human-origins-and-cultural-halls/hall-of-eastern-woodlands-indians/promos/for-educators/. The new guide makes no reference to the empty exhibition case, the False Face Masks, or NAGPRA. The old guide may still be accessed at www.amnh.org/content/download/1785/24849/le/ewindians.pdf.

8. Chip Colwell ends his Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits, a largely depressing account of the history of reparation in the U.S. before and after NAGPRA, on a remarkably upbeat note: “Repatriation extinguished the old idea the museums could preserve and present Native American culture without input from Native Americans themselves. In the last 40 years, the far majority of museums have changed from institutions that resisted repatriation, to regretting their complicity in many of the collections unjustly taken, to reluctantly complying with repatriation laws, to respecting Native spiritual and cultural beliefs about their ancestors and cultural treasures.” 264

9. The Met recently managed such a ground-breaking shift when it installed its exhibition of Native American Art not in the Hall of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, but in “the American Wing, among paintings and sculpture by Gilbert Stuart, John Singer Sargent, Frederic Remington and Augustus Saint-Gaudens.” Randy Kennedy, “Native American Treasures Head to the Met, This Time as American Art,” New York Times, April 6, 2017.

10. James Clifford and Mary Louise Pratt have developed the idea of “contact zones”: http:// www.amnh.org/our-research/anthropology/news-events/zuni-delegation-visits-amnh/

11. Michael Michael, “Museum Exhibit Review,” Asian Anthropology 3, no. 1 (2004):153– 163, and http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/vietnam/.

12. http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/totems-to-turquoise/

13. http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/permanent-exhibitions/human-origins-and-cultural-halls/hall-of-northwest-coast-indians/digital-totem.

14. The DTP protest organizers whom we interviewed told us about the tour, and the critiques enunciated along the way are included in the pamphlet distributed at the event, http://www.decolonizethisplace.org/brochures/161010_AMNH%20 map%20final.pdf.

15. http://www.amnh.org/our-research/anthropology/news-events/zuni-delegation-visits-amnh.

Suggestions for Further Reading

Ames, Michael M. “Biculturalism in Exhibitions.” Museum Anthropology 15, no. 2 (1991): 7–15.

Anderson, J., and H. Geismar. The Routledge Companion to Cultural Property. Abington, Oxon: Routledge, Chapman & Hall, 2016.

Bennett, T., F. Cameron, N. Dias, B. Dibley, R. Harrison, I. Jacknis, and C. McCarthy. Collecting, Ordering, Governing: Anthropology, Museums, and Liberal Government. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016.

Clifford, James. Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late 20th Century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1997.

Colwell-Chanthaphonh, Chip. “The Incorporation of the Native American Past: Cultural Extermination, Archaeological Protection, and the Antiquities Act of 1906.” International Journal of Cultural Property 12, no. 03 (2005): 375–391.

Freed, S.A. Anthropology Unmasked: Museums, Science, and Politics in New York City. Wilmington, OH: Orange Frazer Press, 2012.

McKeown, C. Timothy. In the Smaller Scope of Conscience: The Struggle for National Repatriation Legislation, 1986-1990. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 2012.

Newell, J., L. Robin, and K. Wehner. Curating the Future: Museums, Communities and Climate Change. London: Taylor & Francis. 2016.

Pratt, Mary Louise. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculuration. London: Routledge, 1992.

Susan, Roy. “Visualizing Culture and Nature: William Taylor’s Murals in the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians, American Museum of Natural History.” In Nature and Antiquities: The Making of Archaeology in the Americas, edited by P.L. Kohl, I. Podgorny and S. Gänger, 145–166. Tucson, AR: University of Arizona Press, 2014.

Thomas, N. The Return of Curiosity: What Museums are Good For in the 21st Century. London: Reaktion Books, 2016.

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Emily Martin teaches anthropology at New York University. She is the author most recently of Bipolar Expeditions: Mania and Depression in American Culture. She is currently working on an historical ethnography of experimental psychology in the context of early anthropological expeditions that laid the groundwork for ethnographic methods.

Susan Harding is retired from teaching at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her most recent volume is The Book of Jerry Falwell: Fundamentalist Narrative and Politics. She is currently working on a book exploring secular worlds and world-making in 20th century America.

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