Native Empowerment, the New Museology, and the National Museum of the American Indian

July 1st, 2014 | RESEARCH

The National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC--the first national museum devoted solely to the presentation and support of the indigenous cultures of the Americas--opened its doors to the public on 21 September 2004. This paper reviews the first, second, and third waves of critical response to the museum, in order to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the New Museology in an indigenous museum context. Two distinct tales emerge from these critical responses: one of Native empowerment, and one that centers on the museum's display practices that are informed by the New Museology. These seemingly distinct tales are, in fact, tightly intertwined due to the impossibility of contradiction-free museum praxis when dealing with indigenous materials, as the case of the NMAI makes clear. I argue that embracing such contradictions could point to the next step in advancing indigenous-based museum practice, and in radicalizing museology in general.


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Team Members

Kristine Ronan, Author, University of Michigan


Publication: Museums & Society
Volume: 12
Number: 2
Page(s): 132

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Audience: Evaluators | General Public | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Education and learning science | Social science and psychology
Resource Type: Peer-reviewed article | Research Products
Environment Type: Exhibitions | Museum and Science Center Exhibits