Reclaiming the intellectual property of our ancestors: Indigenous collections research

Wednesday, 22 March 2017
Dr Gretchen Stolte

This paper presents a case study of the Nez Perce National Historical Park’s museum and collection and the ways in which its structure of governance and philosophy of community engagement connects the Park with the local Nez Perce people. One of this conference’s themes is about how research into cultural collections can impact, engage and transform relationships between museums and Indigenous communities. This case study, located in Spalding, Idaho, USA, illustrates how important the attitudes are of the federal government employees working at the Park who are crafting two-way relationships with community members while making a safe and welcoming space in which to exhibit, learn about, and hold cultural objects. Of utmost importance is the Park’s emphasis on: the use of language within the exhibition spaces; the move away from ‘ethnographic’ displays by incorporating contemporary works and understandings; and creating a space that is welcoming for community members to research and store their cultural heritage. This paper hopes to showcase a model upon which other art centres and cultural institutions can be framed.