Americans Before Columbus: collections that help us think about collecting

October 7, 2021 by

In preparation for an event we’re helping with this weekend at the Museum of Art and Design, we’ve been digging through our newspaper collections — specifically, our collection of Indigenous newspapers. A special edition of Americans Before Columbus caught our eye because of an article of “Sacred Objects and Secular Laws,” which discusses repatriation of Navajo sacred objects by the Wheelwright Museum.

“Sacred Objects and Secular Laws,” Americans Before Columbus special edition pg. 4
“Sacred Objects and Secular Laws,” Americans Before Columbus special edition pg. 7

The museum explained that they “had collected the sacred objects when they sensed the whole culture was dying…But the Navajo culture did not die. It changed, it grew, it could not be locked up as artifacts.”

This kind of realization and repatriation is so important, and it’s an action we’re glad to see that more and more institutions have taken. But we’re also interested in thinking about how archives and museums can be places where collections are not just locked up, but are instead brought alive. We’re looking forward to having this conversation on Saturday at the event!

Click here to read this entire issue of Americans Before Columbus.

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