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Decolonizing Museum Collections: A Conversation between Colleagues in the Field (CSAAM)

Category: Collections Stewardship

Are you curious about the work surrounding Decolonizing museum collections? Presented by Collections Stewardship Professional Network (CSAAM) and the CSAAM Emerging Museum Professional (CSEMP) committee, this webinar hosts Darrell Jackson and Nicole Crawford, leaders of the Stealing Culture project; and Kara Vetter of the Museum of Us, whose Decolonization efforts are setting the standard for how museums can approach their Collections. You’ll learn about each of these important projects and what they mean for the museum field and listen as the panelists have an open dialogue about Decolonization. A question-and-answer portion from attendees closes out the program.

Transcript:

Michelle Lopez:

I have to get into our webinar. Currently our webinar is going to be recorded and it may be shared for AAM members in the future. That’s still kind of up in the air. This is the webinar for decolonizing museum collections a conversation between colleagues in the field. My name is Michelle Lopez, and I’m the collections stewardship PN Chair. Our speakers today are Kara Vetter. She is the director of cultural resources at the Museum of Us in San Diego, California, located on ancestral homelands of the Kumeyaay Nation. Kara’s currently working with the Kumeyaay nation on a documentation and consultation grant to review archeological holdings and consult over items eligible for repatriation. She’s also part of The ENRICH Cultural Institutions Network, an indigenous collections care working group. And they’re collaboratively writing guidelines around appropriate practices and standards for culturally sensitive stewardship of indigenous collections held at non-indigenous institutions.

We also have Darryl D. Jackson, aka DJ. And he’s at the University of Wyoming College of Law. DJ writes and speaks on critical race theory and criminal law. And we also have Nicole M. Crawford, who is the director and chief curator of the University of Wyoming Art Museum. She serves on the icon UMC board that is currently working on the guidance of restitution and return of items from the university museum and collections. Both DJ and Nicole are founding directors of the Stealing Culture Project. Their current projects include working with the National Museum of Natural History and Science at the University of Lisbon and their colonial collections and the digitization project with the Rapa Nui collections at the University of Wyoming.

So just to give you guys a little bit, some housekeeping with Zoom, so this is a webinar, so that means you could see the presenters, but we can’t see you. Please feel free to use the chat to say hi to one another and tell us where you’re from and then use the Q&A feature to ask presenter questions. And the webinar is being recorded and will be shared at a later date, as I mentioned earlier. And if you have any issues with the Zoom, you can go to the Zoom help center at this link. And as last resort, you could always send a message in the chatbox or to Leslie’s email. So with that, let’s get started. You want to go ahead and share your screen, Kara?

Kara Vetter:

Yes. And can everyone hear me okay? Awesome. All right. I’m going to share my screen now. All right, can everybody see that okay? Wonderful. Thank you. So thank you for having me, as I said, they said, my name is Kara Vetter. I’m the director of cultural resources, and I’ve been with the museum for about six and a half years now. And I’ve been in this current role for about two a half years. And before I share in the work that the museum is undertaking, I would like to begin with a Land Acknowledgement. The Museum of Us recognizes that we have the privilege to reside on the unceded ancestral Homeland of the Kumeyaay Nation, the indigenous peoples of this area. Kumeyaay peoples have lived in this area since time immemorial. The Kumeyaay nation maintain their political sovereignty and cultural traditions and are stewards of this land.

And so I just also want to say that for us, the declaration of an official land acknowledgment is one of many steps that we and other organizations are taking to build a more equitable, a more inclusive anti-colonial, and racially just space as a starting point into this work. We as an institution we’re founded as a cultural anthropology museum, and it was founded in 1915 for the Panama-California Exposition. And it was part of several attractions in what is now the purpose-built Balboa park. And if you can see from the photograph, you can kind of see the footprint of our institutions, beautiful, tall building. And we set on the edge of Balboa Park and are surrounded by several other institutions and cultural attractions.

And now I also will say that this park is a site of harm to the Kumeyaay community. As some of their community members were removed from the land in order to make way for the park. To add insult to that injury, they were not seen as being Indian enough. So some Southwestern indigenous community members were brought in by park organizers and placed as an attraction in the park in a specially built Indian village. This is pretty common practice at that time to have these other cultural attractions and having people on view like zoo animals. And this was just something that was accepted. It’s not okay today, obviously, but it’s part of the history and something that we like to be able to share with everyone.

So the original expo was where we collected from dozens of indigenous communities, both domestically and internationally. And during the following 100 years, we acquired even more cultural resources. And I thought I’d share a little bit about the footprint of our cultural resources to get some context of the conversations. So our holdings include more than 75,000 ethnographic items, 300,000 archeological cultural resources, more than 100,000 images and 300 linear feet of archives that key back into some of the ethnographic cultural resources and archeological cultural resources. And then we also steward over 7,500 ancestral human remains.

A small percentage of these are identified as being native American and are subject to federal knack for law that we are actively working to continue compliance with. And then there are others that are of indigenous Peruvian origin who were removed with permission of the Peruvian government at that time, but were taken without the consent of the indigenous communities that are within Peru now, or then. And while also a vast, many of these ancestral remains are from contemporary medical skeleton collections, and do require further review to understand their cultural context. So basically we have a lot of review and work to do to understand, who we hold from, where they’re situated, and who we need to be talking with in the future.

Now, given that the majority of our holdings come from indigenous communities like I said, we’ve got a lot of work to do. And I want to say that we’ve got these guiding principles of decolonizing initiatives that we work through and we work with and under. And I have to say that this work is not something that we flipped into overnight. It really began as a long and deliberate process that really started with a reassessment of our work and compliance under federal NAGPRA law. And in particular, it was with us listening to and actively working with our home communities like the Kumeyaay nation, because they had been demanding the repatriation of their ancestors and belongings for decades from us and other institutions. But we had used the law in ways in order to not fulfill our obligation of the intent of the law. We use culturally unidentifiable as a way to get around that work.

This is not our practice now. And through that consultation and that process of talking with the community ceding authority over the cultural resources and the ancestors that we started to see how transformative this work can be for all involved. And it could not start until we repatriated their belongings and their ancestors. So taking it further because we realized we had so much more work that we needed to do, we began a really critical examination of our institution that starts with our cultural resources, what we hold, because that is where the core of our institutional rot resides. And I think where it resides for a lot of institutions that have large holdings of indigenous community, cultural resources, BIPOC community, cultural resources.

And this review and early work resulted in the creation of a framework of guiding principles that is grounded in the seminal work of decolonizing museums, which was written by a Ho-Chunk scholar, Amy Lonetree. Now I won’t read them all out because you all can read. But really the highlights are about truth-telling and accountability, rethinking what ownership really means. That includes tangible and intangible concepts of ownership, rethinking organizational cultural shifts that are supported by our policies, which I’ll talk about a little bit later. And then also around representation, making sure that we have BIPOC communities represented at all levels of decision-making within the institution. And then you’ll also see at the bottom that reciprocity is listed. And that’s a really big one. As it keys into this idea that we as a museum do not own indigenous knowledge even if we do hold their belongings and have learned much from them. It is not for us to share that information out without consent or use that information internally without consent.

So reciprocity is about ceding authority and recognizing that indigenous communities are sovereign nations, sovereign entities that have the right to control their information as they see fit. Oops, too far. There we go. So what we have here is something that I’m still gaining some comfort and language around. It’s a little bit new to me, but it is our theory of change model. And it stems from the guiding principles that we have, but it’s a different way to think of our guiding principles in action, but how they flow into an out of the various areas of the institution’s operations.

And so what we’re looking to do is to internalize positive, systemic change through the decolonizing initiatives that you see out the exterior on the outside of the circle, while simultaneously looking to understand and change the internal and external facing aspects of the museum, be they through the different departments like exhibits and finance, through the governance of our board and how the board is set up and even how our museum membership is structured. And of course, this all influences the cultural resources and how we steward and handle a deal with them as well.

This slide is good for those who like a good Venn diagram. And it illustrates our goal. You got to speak to everybody, you got to speak to your audience. And what it does is it illustrates our goal of creating a sustainable system of systemic change within our institution that comes from good policy and good practices. So what we’re hoping to achieve here is that no one decision or action is solely dependent upon a single staff member’s whims ideas, wishes, and wants. It’s about making sure that because stuff change people move on. Also, institutional memory can become faded and lost. So by marrying our practice into policy and pulling them together, what we’re hoping to get is sustainable change that is replicable moving forward. I know I’m talking a lot, but I want to make sure I get through it all so that DJ and Nicole have a great chance to talk as well.

So that’s one model that we have going. Here are some examples of some of the policies and the practices that we’re trying to marry together. And of course, I won’t read them, but some of the bigger ones are the colonial pathways policy, which I’ll talk about in a little bit. Some of our practices are around our trainings. We have new hire an intern orientation trainings, cultural stewardship trainings, and we even have cultural competency training. I’ve just sat in a really long cultural competency training the last day and a half that was really digging in deep about our history, what it means to be a decolonizing institution, and several other layers. And that was a training that’s been attended by not only staff, who are doing this part of the heavy lifting of the work, but by our forward-facing staff, our board members, our CEO, our leadership, everyone has to attend these trainings in order to have a followed foundation of understanding where the museum is within this work.

Now I’m going to dig into the meat of one of our policies. And this is what really is impactful for the cultural resources stewardship part of the institution. This policy focuses on what we steward and its foundation is in recognizing the various ways in which our museum has harmed indigenous communities by taking, keeping, and the unconsented use of their ancestors and belongings. This policy builds upon our previous policy for the creation of human remains. And it also outlines the various pathways that a cultural resource may have taken to get into our “possession.” It also outlines the ways in which we will accession or curate cultural resources by placing informed consent at the heart of our policy. We won’t do anything without the informed consent of the community. Additionally, it recognizes that a community’s needs change and that an item that may have been consented to be held at the museum at one point or now but has then maybe been determined to constitute some cultural matrimony or patrimony or any other instance that the community says, we need this back, then it can be repatriated full stop. No questions asked.

And this goes above and beyond NAGPRA because we realized that NAGPRA is deficient when it comes to the domestic native American communities within the United States. But this also applies to international communities where there is no NAGPRAesque like law. So this is us really trying to come to grips with since what we hold is so heavily focused on indigenous communities, that’s the space that we set in.

Now, most people ask, well, what is a colonial pathway? And for us, it is a list of criteria that comes from our own deep research into the collection and to the history of our collecting practices. And it really analyzes the historical context and timeframe from when each item came into our possession. So for example, we have several Aboriginal Australian objects that were procured by a member of a specific research expedition that Porteous, Stanley Porteous expedition, I believe. And their goal in that expedition was studying the communities there through a very racist lens that sought to prove racial hierarchy of intelligence through measuring cranium, through measuring all, all of this. So some really horrific, horrific ideas that they were trying to use Western science to perpetrate and support. And so these cultural resources were procured during a time of really heavy persecution of the Aboriginal Australian community, and are very likely the result of inequitable trade or removal without consent by the expedition team members.

And so we have, we have other examples were moved without consent, acquired through expedition, maintaining ownership when cultural revitalization is dependent upon repatriation. So those are the overarching pathways that we use as we are trying to determine when we need to be repatriating cultural resources. So now this work, it leads down some very dark paths. It uncovers a lot of dark histories, but I also wanted to share some examples of where doing the work has led to some really fantastic moments and opportunities for building better relationships with indigenous communities, with BIPOC communities. And so on this slide, you see Ambassador Ole Senkale he is Maasai. The Maasai community is located in the area of Tanzania and Kenya. Actually, that border crosses their traditional territories. They were there before there were those countries and they will be there afterwards. They are dealing with a lot of geopolitical forces dealing with the forces of climate change, and they are a community in crisis in some ways, because of forces outside of their control.

But there are moments of brightness and lightness that they are able to share in their building, their own community center. They’re in the process of doing that. And what you’re seeing here is when Ambassadors Senkale was doing a cultural tour a couple of years ago, and he was in our area and we were like, we believe we have some Maasai cultural resources, we can host you to come in and view. And he came in and he let us know what was, and what wasn’t Maasai. We were constantly asking, is it okay for us to have these? Should we be working through a repatriation process? And he kept saying, “No, no, no, this is perfectly fine. Everything you have here is not what we’re looking for.” He let us know what they were looking for, which we do not have at least that we know of at this time. And one of the more lighter moments with him gently chastising us because we had not been taking care of some of the items.

Specifically, there’s this two spears that you see at the bottom right? They’re called [ongerempe 00:17:56], they’re lions spears. And he got very excited when he saw them because they are old. He said, but you aren’t taught taking care of these correctly. And he told us that we needed to be using sheep fat to rub onto the metal into the wood in order to make sure that they’re being cared for properly.

And I know most concert conservators shutter at that. That is not what you do and in the museum sphere. But part of our institutional practice decolonizing initiatives is to incorporate appropriate cultural care, what the community designates as appropriate, not what we designate as appropriate, what they designate as appropriate. And so that meant I went and I procured some sheep fat from a local butcher, and I was proudly able to be able to provide that cultural care. And after doing that, and it’s an hour of my time to do that. The spears came to life. They are glowing, they are beautiful. They have a resonance about them. And I am not trying to wax poetically about it, but it was one of the more… what’s the word I’m looking for. It was one of the more impressive experiences that I’ve had within decolonizing initiatives that by providing this care and seeing a cultural resource come back and not be dead any longer, so to speak was one of the more important things that I’ve done in my career, honestly, to this point.

That’s just one of the ways in which, when we practice appropriate cultural care when we do what the community says, that needs to be done, good things can happen. And then also we are continuing to have good relationships with the community. We have conversations with them on the regular. We haven’t heard from them for a hot minute because of COVID, but we are seeking to make sure that we are continuing to speak with them on a regular basis. So what you see here is in what is our exhibit, and I’m so sorry for the tiny pictures, but you know, it is what it is. This is our exhibit on the Mayan community called Maya heart of the sky, heart of the earth. I may have flipped those two words. This is a super old exhibit that we have outgrown as an institution and is not really reflective of the very vibrant and thriving, contemporary mind community that exists both within their homeland and within their diaspora. This exhibit was very much frozen in time.

But through some wonderful efforts, and we’ve got some support from the Moxie Foundation through a grant, we have been able to support having Mayan community consultants come in, have many consultations over Zoom since we’re in the time of COVID around what cultural resources are present in the space, what needs to come off of display for a variety of reasons, what can people get back on display? What needs to be recontextualized and have a different content associated with these cultural resources so that the community is in charge of telling their own story. And what you’re seeing here is the old exhibit at the top left and at the bottom left is us actively working in changing the exhibit. So we’re in the process of doing that now construction is underway. And then what you see at the right is the signage that we have posted outside the exhibit, talking about what our goals are, what our decolonizing initiatives are in action.

And I’m so sorry, it’s so tiny. It’s a big sign, but it’s tiny, tiny print. But it talks about the Maya people still being here. I talks about the grant a little bit in the work that we’re doing. And it also speaks to the museum’s commitment to doing this work. And by having this publicly posted, we are now held accountable in order to do this work. So that’s why it’s really incredibly important that we talk about it a lot so that we continue to be held accountable for the work that we’re doing.

I’m coming to the end, but I want it to also shout out our senior director of decolonizing initiatives, Brandie MacDonald. She did a great deal of work on this next set of slides. Well, she did a lot of work for this presentation in general, but she is the one who really dug in deep and created the Google Arts and Culture slide deck that is online exhibit. That is all about the colonial legacy of our facade. Our facade is one of the most photographically appealing parts of our building. And it is literally covered in colonial iconography and has about nine colonizers cast and immortalized in concrete on our front. So it’s no small wonder that a lot of indigenous community members don’t even want to set foot in our building because of who is on the front. And the fact that it looks like a church, the building looks like a church.

So through the Google Arts and Culture slides and exhibition, they take a really deep dive into the history of these men and their really hugely outsized impact on the colonial legacy of not only the country, but a particular the Pacific coast, but in particular, California and Mexico through the exploitation, the genocide and the enslavement of the indigenous peoples of these lands. So that’s a lot of heavy content and a lot of heavy lifting done by a lot of our staff members by a lot of the indigenous community partners that we have. And by everyone who is involved, we’re very appreciative of the work that they do.

And so what we also do is we are also constantly asking ourselves in this journey, how can we do better? How can we be better? How can we be our best selves when working with communities? So some questions we are asked is how do we continue to benefit from the displacement dispossession and a ratio of indigenous peoples? What actions do we take now, as well as in the past? And it’s because it’s not just what we did in the past because we can cause harm here now and today. So we’re always asking ourselves these questions with everything we do at every level, and we don’t always get it right. We often stumble, we often make mistakes, but the point is to make sure we’re asking these questions and we are picking ourselves up and trying to do better as we move forward.

So I know that was a lot of information that I dumped at you guys, thank you for listening to me talk for 15 or 20 minutes, and I just wanted to say thank you. And if you ever need to get in contact, please feel free to do so. Thanks.

Michelle Lopez:

Thank you so much, Kara. That was so interesting. I’m so intrigued about that sheep fat. Okay, DJ and Nicole, you can go ahead and start.

Nicole M. Crawford:

Okay. Can you see our screen? Okay. So we’re going to go ahead and talk about the project that we work on. We call it Stealing Culture. And DJ is a professor in the law school here at the University of Wyoming, and he’s criminal law and I’m the director and chief curator at the University Art Museum. So it’s a interdisciplinary project when you wouldn’t think a lawyer and a curator and director working together. So we’re going to just go over the history a little bit.

Darryl D. Jackson:

So we give a lot of accolades to professor Carolyn McCrackin Flesher who created a concept of creating interdisciplinary space at the University of Wyoming. And to do it she took a cohort of professors, we were included in the initial cohort in 2017 to a castle. And you see the picture of the castle in front of you. And she basically put us in the castle for a week with the idea of if you leave them long enough in a castle by themselves, they will figure out how to make their studies interdisciplinary. And we did. It’s a long story about how we got there, but ultimately through some disagreement, some arguments that space gave us the time to think in an interdepartmental, interdisciplinary lens and come up with our own method, our own style, our own research project that we think has taken us to brand new places.

Nicole M. Crawford:

And who’s going to say no to spending a week in a castle, right? So I just want to show these two images just to talk about university campuses. We all work in our own pillars in our own departments. And that’s one of the things that we’re trying to break down is this work, you really need to work with the resources you have. So the Art Museum is literally across the street from the law school. You can see built buildings from our entrances. We didn’t know each other until we went on that trip to Scotland. So that just shows that we live in our little silos on campus. Even though we say we’re not, we’re still doing that.

Darryl D. Jackson:

And a lot of what we’ll recommend as we get towards the end of our discussion, is that folks who were saying, what can we do? It’s largely like Nicole is saying, try and think outside your silo, who can you partner with? Who might have not only financial resources but intellectual resources, right? And part of that intellectual resources is how we got into this idea of how we might think about this intersection between art, Nicole strain, and criminal law, my strain, and where has the research already taken us? And the research when we started into it was really revealing that art crime is the third most serious transnational crime, right? You don’t see a lot of that in the news. You don’t see a lot in that press. But once we did the research, this is a huge financial issue for the United States, for the nation, for the world.

And we were seeing that the profits for this illegal act were running $6 billion a year. So we realized that there was some investments, some incentive for governments to actually be thinking about what we’re talking about and how we’re thinking about it. And so, as we delved into what types of art crime we wanted to think about research, dive deeper into, we got the whole gambit that you see on the list from stolen art, to forgeries, to counterfeit, to fraud, to vandalism, to looting. And we thought about that in the micro sense. Those are the instances that you can see it, you’ll see it in the newspaper, you’ll see it on the news, but we also wanted our products to be about the macro sense. And I think we just heard a good discussion from the Museum of Us about the macro sense. How are cultures literally being stolen through these acts and processes?

Nicole M. Crawford:

And I should add too when we say art crime, we also mean cultural objects. It just, when you say art crime, it’s much more sexy than art and artifacts and objects and culture. So when we say art crime, it’s a bit of everything.

Darryl D. Jackson:

So one of the things that we decided we need to think about before we dove into this project 2017 was, is there any traction, right? And thank God we now have webinars like today being hosted, but there wasn’t as much going on when we first opened this. And one of the things that led us to believe this is a research project that we should spend significant time on is we saw social perspectives on this changing. And I think one of the other things we’ll talk about as we get toward the end is, how do things change? Because society is going to make it. So society is going to cry out, society’s going to claim these changes have to happen. And we looked at how this activity was being perceived in the 1970s through Indiana Jones.

Nicole M. Crawford:

’80s.

Darryl D. Jackson:

Is that the ’80s?

Nicole M. Crawford:

You’re dating yourself.

Darryl D. Jackson:

Well, I’m so old. ’70s and ’80s, Indiana Jones was the way society perceived stealing culture. And if you watch the movie again, for those of you hadn’t seen in a while, take a look at it. You don’t have to watch the whole thing. But watch this clip that you see right there and listen to the music, listen to the drama. You can quickly recognize who society through very rich filmmakers sees as the hero and who they see as the villain, right? Who’s the good guy? Who’s the bad guy? That changes today, recent movies. And this is where we started picking up. And this is where our dialect started. If you look at that scene in the black Panther, when he’s in, what’s supposed to be the British Museum, but we know as the High Museum, there’s a different perspective on who’s right, and who’s wrong. Who’s the good guy and who’s the villain. And in that bottom picture, it’s from a movie called The Mummy, which is so problematic in so many ways and so bad in so many more ways.

Darryl D. Jackson:

But the thing you have to notice is even for a bad movie, look at the actor in the lower left, that’s Tom Cruise, how much money do you think they had to pay Tom Cruise to be in this movie, which is a statement about how big blockbuster films feel about this issue? How important is it to pay somebody that kind of money to be in the movie? Because the movie has a line in it that we are not the… we’re not looters we are the liberators of something antiquities.

Nicole M. Crawford:

Precious antiquities.

Darryl D. Jackson:

Precious antiquities. So it’s this idea perspective on what you’re doing, right? And Hollywood said we’re going to put that out there for you to think about. What’s the difference between a looter and a collector, right? We’re going to make you think about this by putting Tom Cruise in a movie that I’m sure they thought a lot of people would go see.

Nicole M. Crawford:

And it’s not just about cultural items, either, Thomas Crown Affair, it’s a very sexy movie about stealing it’s Pierce Brosnan. But then American Animals came out in the last couple of years and this one does not glorify stealing art. And it actually is more of a documentary and has interviews with the actual people who were involved in it. So we’re seeing this dichotomy between the old and the new perspectives that are happening. And then, of course, there’s the Nazi-looted artwork. We’re seeing movies about those Monuments Men and the Woman in Gold. So all this stuff is just out there in the popular media. And what we’re trying to do is distill it down because it’s all there and thrown at you so quickly.

Darryl D. Jackson:

And the most recent one as we start to think about… And I see now that I’m starting to live in the museum world more, we see museums trying to reach out to new groups, to new communities. Well, when you get Jay Z and Beyonce buying into museums are important. They’re so important, they’re going to be the lead in our videos. We’re going to talk at them. We’re going to be involved in… all of a sudden, you have a completely new demographic, both in age and race and ethnicity. Who’s now thinking about what roles do museums play? So this is the perfect time for museums to step forward and declare to the world, to the public. This is the role we’re going to play.

Nicole M. Crawford:

And you can actually do the Beyonce and Jay Z tour at the Louvre. We haven’t done it yet, but the next time we go we’re definitely going to do.

Darryl D. Jackson:

My part of this is to really think about how the law engages this. And we talk about the law from a variety of different entrees. So those are just a quick list of ways that you can access how the law is thinking about this. Whether it’s a treaty, whether it’s an Act, whether it’s statute, whether it’s regulations, the court has a lot of opinions out. All these are different ways that we are saying the law is speaking to this issue. We’ve chosen to primarily focus on criminal law instead of corporate, commercial type of law because there’s a lot of research already out there on intellectual property. There’s already a lot of research on civil actions. But one of the things that we took a position on at the beginning is when society really abhors an act they make it criminal. They want somebody to be punished for that. So that’s our entree into this discussion and his dialogue is okay, how can we think about that abhorrence for people engaging the activities that his webinar’s all about and what can we contribute to how the laws might look to support that abhorrence?

So from a federal law, right, from the United States perspective, two of the statutes that are pretty well-known, we already had a discussion about NAGPRA. Another one is the Theft of Major Artworks Act. In any of our criminal statutes, you’re going to find in the United States code, that’s the USC, United States code annotated that the A, but title 18s, you’re going to find all those things in there. And why is that important? Because the code tells you how much we abhor it through the punishments, right? Potential for up to five years under NAGPRA, potential for up to 10 years under Theft of Major Artwork. And part of what we’re arguing and we’re going to talk more about is how we think the Mens Rea part of it. What’s the mental aspect people enter into when they’re doing these acts, how that might be adjusted, and how it might go a little bit more along the lines of what we’re working on today, instead of it just being knowingly or knowing what you see under the Mens Rea in the first two.

And that would be to use something like chapter three of title 18, which is intentional towards hate crime. But the applicability is really going towards the kind of thing we’re talking about today during this webinar. And what they say in the hate crimes is essentially somebody who knew or should have known. And I think when we talk a lot about these items that are part of the discussion we’ve been having today is, the pushback is well, they didn’t know. And part of my argument, part of our discussion, part of our presentations have been, what if we modified that art? What if we modified the regulation? What if we modified the statutes? So that we include this idea of, you should have known. And how will that change the idea of we can keep these collections because we didn’t know.

Moving from the domestic or national law here to the international law, we see that as another way to stamp in these different perspectives, these progressive ideas. And one of the international laws that’s really helpful. That is the convention for the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural property. And what we see for these international conventions is really a groundwork, a thoughtful process on what each nation-state can then take and create their own law that they can then put into effect. So CPIA, Cultural Property, and Implementation Act is the one that the US implemented off of UNESCO. And that then gives teeth to it because the act or the regulation or convention really doesn’t do much until you can actually act on it. You can actually punish it. So the goal is to create the foundations, at least at the international level, have it thought through on an international perspective, and then let’s get the nation-states to buy-in.

Nicole M. Crawford:

So we all know about repatriation and there’s no guidelines. We have some here and some there, there’s no like you have something in your collection from Kenya, I’m going to use our collection as an example. You can’t just call Kenya on the phone and say, do you want these back? Or how are we supposed to care for these? So this is what we’re looking at is, who decides what goes back or even how the things go back. And then deaccessioning, it’s dictated by each state in the United States, which is not something we really learn about when we’re taking museum studies classes. So I think it’s good to be reminded of those things that we have to follow our state rules as well as federal law. And then think about who can claim these things. So with that in mind, we’ve done some work with the Tibet museum.

So the Tibetan government is in exile in Northern India. Tibet proper is controlled by China. So the Tibet Museum working with them, we were at the Manchester Museum in England and Tashi who you see on the bottom right there is the director of the museum. They have a lot of Tibetan objects in the Manchester Museum. And he said, “Well, can you just give these to me and I’ll take them back.” And we were like, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. We have to talk about these things. You can’t just put them in your backpack and go back to India with these things,” because there’s a question of ownership in the essence, China has government control over Tibet. So does China own those objects or does the government in exile, in India own those objects. So becomes more sticky on who really, who really owns the objects. Does the museum own them? You want to add anything?

Darryl D. Jackson:

No, it’s good.

Nicole M. Crawford:

We’ve also done some work in Cambodia. I had some students who worked on doing provenance research for a bunch of objects in Cambodia or objects in museums in the United States. And they actually identified a few objects that may have been loaded during the Khmer Rouge period. So they did their research here. There was an object in the Denver Art Museum that actually got repatriated back to Cambodia. So they got to see it in the museum in Denver. And it was this beautiful display in Denver. Then we went to Cambodia as a study abroad program and you can see the objects are just in these warehouses outdoors. And so we got to see the objects that had been repatriated and they’re sitting outside in the elements, not the same displays had been done in Denver. So then we started to think, maybe we just can’t repatriate objects, there has to be something behind it to help for the care of the objects, either training or money. How does this process work?

So it was great for the students to think deeper into this process because first they’d be like, oh, send everything back. We should send it back. But this helped them think deeper through that process. So one of the projects we’re working on here at the University of Wyoming is we have a large collection of objects from Rapa Nui, which you may know by the colonial name of Easter Island. They were donated to us. One of the professors here did a lot of work on Rapa Nui. So this is an example of using the resources at your fingertips here. So our collections manager and our preparator are the ones who are helping digitize and 3D scan each of our objects here. The students are helping them with it.

The UW libraries are doing… digital libraries are doing the work or the scanning for us. So it’ll give us the ability to 3D print them in the future. So it’s a way to think of a first step of repatriating these objects because here’s another one that’s sticky because Rapa Nui is under rule of Chile. So do they go back to Chile first and then go back to Rapa Nui? So it’s another question of ownership. So one of the things we’re doing is working with the museum on the island to do a simultaneous exhibition. They’re 3D scanning their objects and we’re 3D scanning ours. And then we can show the same objects at the same time, thousands of miles apart. So the objects in their museum will be 3D scans in ours, and our objects will be 3D scans or printouts in their museum. So we’re also working with one of the heirs. This is a project that involves so many different people.

And then what we’re doing is looking at the legal side because when we start to digitize collections, cultural collections is this another form of colonialism. So those are the questions we’re asking with that project.

Another project we’re working on is with the University of Lisbon, their National Museum of Natural History and Science is on their campus. And we were approached by the director of the museum. She heard about our project and Portugal is clearly a colonial country. So they have so many examples of problematic… They call them problematic collections. One of them is these photographs from Angola that anthropologists took at one point. A lot of them are very sexualized images of indigenous people. And because they are a public university, they’re putting their collections online, but they’re not comfortable putting these ones online. So they’re asking, how do we work with this? What is the solution for this?

One of the other things that we’re asking is, again, the ownership question. We’re teaching and talking about provenance research because that’s not something that’s easy. We don’t have time to do it. We’re not really trained at it when we’re in school, it’s a new process. And we’re talking about cultural sensitivity. Europeans think very differently than we do about colonialism. I’ve been working on these guidelines, excuse me, with UMAC. And the way we define colonialism is a little different than they think about it there because it’s more part of their history and that’s who they are.

So something else we’re doing is making the connections between Portugal and the Angola. We’re that neutral base there that we can start these conversations between the two, instead of just calling up and go look, we’ve got your stuff. What do you want to do with it? So it’s starting those conversations and we have the ability to do that.

Darryl D. Jackson:

No. It’s fine. So this is a great example of the interdisciplinary and departmental that we were talking about earlier. We just got back from Athens and spent some time with what we call the Parthenon marbles. But what I think more normal in society you often hear, as the Elgin marbles. Because one of the things that we are planning to do is a study abroad class. We’ve been planning it since 2000. We were initially supposed to go in-

Nicole M. Crawford:

2020.

Darryl D. Jackson:

2020, sorry. 2020 and then 2021. And COVID keeps pushing it back another year. But we’ve run this class inside the university. And when we run it, we run it with both law students and non-law students, whether they be graduate students or undergrad students. And that way we get this diversity of perspectives, these diversity of disciplines, this diversity of ways we might think about this progressive idea of how do we decolonize? How do we deaccessioning? How do we do all this work that we’re talking about? And so we’ll be taking students with us, hopefully, if COVID acts right, right, we’ll be over there this summer, summer 2022, taking them first to Scotland, to the castle that you already saw, where they will do more of the classroom time thinking through this. But then we’ll move to London where we’ll visit the British Museum and other museums as Nicole guides us through. So they can see where things sit now.

Darryl D. Jackson:

But then we’ll head to Athens so they can see where things sat then, and they can see the contrast in how they were originally intended and how they’re being demonstrated and shown now. And they can think about what kind of story is being told? What kind of story is not being told? And what type of laws and regulations in the US and in the UK are allowing for this to occur.

Nicole M. Crawford:

This maybe it sparks some law student who will be down the road, a legislator who can actually make actual laws and make the change. So we’re thinking beyond this point in time. We’re looking at the 360 view and 13 steps ahead with this project and how we can affect change down the road. Just very quickly, just since we’ve started this project, the last four years, we’ve done 21 presentations, we’re providing articles, book chapters, we’ve taught classes, we’ve done interviews. So there’s a lot of momentum behind this. But one thing that is the biggest hardship for us is the money side of things. When we want to decolonize, we talk about processes and space, time, and money, and those things we just don’t have. So it’s really making all of those things work but we’ve been… we were talking about grants earlier and how difficult it is to get grants, to do this work, and those types of things. We were tired.

Darryl D. Jackson:

And broke.

Nicole M. Crawford:

So if you want to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, we post a lot of articles, and please feel free to share them with us. Whenever I see anything come across, I put it up there. And it’s just for reference of things that are going on in our community relating to these ideas. We want to continue this dialogue with everybody because I think it’s important if we stop the dialogue, this work stops.

Darryl D. Jackson:

Please post comments, post quotes, post anything. If you got some other links you want us to look at, please go on and let us know, because as much as we want to be out there, traveling, meeting with you all, and being out there that’s not possible now. And even when it is possible, we can’t afford to do it all. But this way we can hear from more people and get more ideas and share this dialogue as Nicole said.

Nicole M. Crawford:

Thank you.

Michelle Lopez:

Thank you so much guys. That’s so amazing. Definitely I’m going to take that study abroad course. So we have a few questions. First one is from Christina Hodge. She said, Kara, thank you for sharing MoU exceptional stewardship. Question, how are you tackling and making transparent to communities in public the long and sometimes frustrating work of researching and exposing provenances, which is such a concern to communities and core to your pathways model? Thank you.

Kara Vetter:

That’s an excellent question. And one way that we’re tackling this issue is through transparency. Is letting everyone know that it does take time and that we do not know everything. And that also we are quite transparent about our lack of information. So we may have documentation that just says Southern California, Indian on it. And then that means that if this item says that and it doesn’t have any markers that may indicate a specific community that we may end up having to have consultations with every Southern California native American community in order to determine, does this cultural resource belong or should it stay or go? So it’s really making sure that we’re being fully transparent with anyone who asks, doing presentations like this, so that we’re sharing out that information. Also, it’s on our website, we’re working towards updating our website.

We’ve got a few areas where it’s, this page is under construction and it’s something that we’re working on. But there’s only a handful of us trying to move a mountain, one rock at a time. But really it’s that full transparency of where we are in the process, where we hope to get to. We don’t try to set any firm and hard timelines for this because things change, needs change, and we have to also be nimble to what the community is needing. So hopefully that answers the question, but yeah, we just speak it loud and proud and be as loud about it as we can, whenever we can.

Michelle Lopez:

Great. This one’s from an anonymous attendee. Any thoughts on repatriations of human remains that are currently buried at a historical site, a place of internment of indigenous people, or a boarding school?

Kara Vetter:

You guys want to answer that one since I took the last one?

Nicole M. Crawford:

I’m sorry, we couldn’t hear it. It broke up on our end.

Michelle Lopez:

I’m sorry. Let me say it again. So this coming from an anonymous attendee. Any thoughts on repatriations of human remains that are currently buried at a historical site, like a place of internment of indigenous people or a boarding school?

Darryl D. Jackson:

My first thought about remains that are buried on a historical site, which is how I understand you’re conceptualizing this, is, and this goes back to our earlier presentation, right? Where Carol was saying, the designation of a historical site is a colonial act in and of itself, right? This is being done by most colonizers. Most indigenous folks aren’t the ones saying this is a historic site. And so I would start from that premise that because you’re calling it a historical site does not necessarily make it relevant to the community from which those remains are coming. And if you start from that point, then you can start dialoguing about whether the remains should be removed. And before the people who call it the historic sites start to decide whether it should be removed the community from which they came should be consulted with, discussed, talked about, they should be guiding, leading the discussion about what to do with those remains, as opposed to those that are defining it as a historic cultural site.

Kara Vetter:

And I’d also like to chime in. And when you say they’re guiding and leading it, and that there are no timeframes associated with how long they need to figure out what they need to do within their own communities. Because as we’ve learned through NAGPRA and other laws that are about repatriation of ancestral remains, a lot of these communities don’t have ceremony or processes in place to take these individuals back because they were never meant to leave in the first place. There’s a lot of discussion and conversation and consultation that has to happen internally within their own communities before they can even begin to have some of those conversations about what to do while also simultaneously processing the pain, the very recent pain.

There are still individuals who are living today, who were part of the school systems, these systems. So that’s something to also keep in mind.

Darryl D. Jackson:

Also, for the person that asked the question, one of the other things that I would strongly urge them to consider, and this was one of the… I consider what we do a case study looking at other case studies. And one of the case studies that we looked at in Wyoming involved something similar to what your anonymous person is asking. And the indigenous communities respond to this particular instance was essentially, look, these were never meant to be touched. You touching them will bring bad things. It is not right to do. Don’t ask us to be involved in it. That’s on you now, right? They were where they were for a reason now whatever you do to disturb them, that’s a problem. And it’s a problem that you need to deal with. And so when they talk… this anonymous person asked this question, I think, again, the other voice has to be the guiding voice, not the people who declared this site.

Michelle Lopez:

Great. Thank you, guys. Next question, Kara, is there also a special process you have for external reproduction or research requests for community and or indigenous collections? This is coming from Melissa.

Kara Vetter:

Sure. Thank you, Melissa, for the question. Yes, we do have some processes in place. They’re very basic in some regards. So we basically have settled on a standard of if an external researcher is wanting to come in and do research because we have a history of allowing unfettered access. That’s just what we did. But we now have a standard in place where if you want to do access and you want to have research, you need to go to the community that is affiliated and you need to ask them. We can help you a little bit with figuring out who to talk to if you don’t know who to talk to. But you are the one that has to go to the community, do your research proposal, do all of that stuff. It doesn’t matter if you’re educational institution review board has already said, yeah, it’s great.

If the community has not said, it’s okay, we are not going to do it. We also have some policies in place that are around research for indigenous communities that want to do research with their own cultural resources. Now there’s different layers of that because we, of course, I’ve not spoken to every indigenous community in the world, or at least what is represented by what we hold. But we have a standard level of if the community comes in and wants to have access, generally they are allowed to have access. The only time that they are not allowed to have access is when we do have a standard policy in place that was put together by the community. Some communities are like, everyone can have access no matter what. Some communities are like, nope, we need layers. Some are like if the person wants to come in and do genealogical research that says great. But if they want to do research through the archives, that’s fine. But if they want to do research with something that may be sacred or special, or have some other connotation, it’s not okay.

They need to go to this level of the communities review board essentially, their review council, and have that conversation. And then this is something that we have in place with the Kumeyaay nation because they are 12 bands of independent nations that are federally recognized that work together as a collaborative, larger community. And so there is a lot of questions about research between the bands. There are a lot of family members and a lot of crossover, but there was a lot of conversation that’s been had about, well, if this person from this community wants to do research on this community, we need to have a conversation and make sure that what they’re doing is okay by the community that’s being asked of.

So there’s a lot of different layers that go with that, but we do have some of those processes in place. And I will say, I’ve had to turn people down who have said, well, I built my entire research proposal around this and I’ve had to say, I’m sorry, but you did not do… You did not take that first step of talking with the community first and we cannot say yes to this because they did not say yes. It doesn’t happen very often. And I’ve found that it is getting easier, especially the more that museums are changing, the more than institutions are starting to change and recognize their place within the colonial engine and that they need to change and reform their practices. Things are getting better, but we still do have a lot of people coming in who just want access. And we can’t give it to them because they didn’t ask first. At least, they’ll ask the right community the right way. I hope that answers the question,

Michelle Lopez:

Yes, Kara. So the next question is from another anonymous attendee. This may be a good question for you Nicole and DJ. Do museums have the right to dictate what communities do with returned repatriated collection items? They came back to the Tibet example on the hesitation to return items back to the community. They are the authority and legally the owner once you get through.

Nicole M. Crawford:

Yeah, definitely thinking of the Cambodia model, right. That made the students start to think about how we repatriate objects. DJ always gives a really good example about ownership of objects, if you want it.

Darryl D. Jackson:

You do it. I’m thinking about something else I want to say and I don’t want to lose this thread.

Nicole M. Crawford:

So he thinks about it. Like if somebody comes into your house and takes your child and says, well, I can take better care of your child than you can. That’s what kind of essentially the museum is doing. So from his perspective, it’s their ownership. They can do what they want with it. If they want to destroy it, if they want to do anything, if they want to leave it outside, we can’t dictate what somebody else is going to do with their own object.

Darryl D. Jackson:

I wanted Nicole to talk because I got locked on. When you asked that question, Michelle, the first few words are the ones that I locked in on, does the museum have the right? I think that’s how you started the question. And from that moment on the rest of it to me was kind of a blur because, from a legal standpoint, the rest of the question all goes back to what do you have a right to do? The way the question was framed, right. And I think I say this all the time whenever we’re doing presentations, is museums have a right to do anything they want to do that the law hasn’t told them they can or cannot do, right. And that’s what we have to continue to remind folks about is… And I think this is the biggest part of our project when we go to public speaking, is that part of what we want to happen is that museums get out in front of this.

Darryl D. Jackson:

The museums take a position and start to advocate and get ahead of this because if society like we saw through those movies, starts to take a position that is against museums and then a bunch of lawyers get involved. They’re going to write laws and rules and regulations that are going to then, they’ll tell the Museums, going back to your question. This is your right. This is the only right you have. This is the only thing you could do. And they aren’t going to have your training or your background or your knowledge. They’re going to tell you what you have a right to do. So if museums get ahead of this, then to answer your question again, do museums have the right? Yeah. So long as there isn’t a law saying you can’t do that. You have the right to do it and should do it if it’s something that you think will progress, push forward the agenda that we’re talking about because I think that’s what’s going to keep museums in good stead.

Nicole M. Crawford:

And trust me, we don’t want lawyers involved in our business because they ask way too many questions.

Michelle Lopez:

Darn lawyers.

Nicole M. Crawford:

Just to follow up quickly on that. One of the questions the lawyer did ask was how do you solve this problem when everybody’s doing all this work everywhere? And I said, well, maybe we need to put together a conference that’s just about these ideas. Like we have AAM and we have sessions on these things, but if we just had one conference where all of us could get together and share these ideas. This webinar is fantastic. I hope we continue doing things like this because I feel like some of us are working in a vacuum when it comes to this work. And it’s so great to hear what Kara’s doing because I wrote down a ton of ideas from what she’s doing, which we wouldn’t have had this opportunity without this webinars. So I think for us to continue these conversations so we can block out the lawyers is the best thing we can do.

Michelle Lopez:

Thank you all. Unfortunately, we reached time and I know we had like 10 more questions. But everyone who put in questions in please feel free to contact DJ, Nicole, and Kara with your questions. Both presentations were so amazing, so enlightening. I know my co-chair and I and Nicole, we really thought about this webinar a while back. And we had a little bit of a scheduling thing, but I’m so glad we were able to get it all worked out and you guys did such an amazing job. And so glad that this came into fruition. So important topics, such important questions.

We just want to thank everyone for your time for coming to our webinar. Again, if you have any questions for the presenters, feel free to reach out to them or to myself. I will be more than gladly to share that with them. We hope for you guys to come back to our next AAM webinar. Thanks, guys. Bye.

Nicole M. Crawford:

Thank you.

Darryl D. Jackson:

Thank you so much. Fantastic. Thank you.

Kara Vetter:

Wonderful, wonderful.

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