The National Museum of the American Indian: Critical Conversations

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Overview


The first American national museum designed and run by indigenous peoples, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC opened in 2004. It represents both the United States as a singular nation and the myriad indigenous nations within its borders. Constructed with materials closely connected to Native communities across the continent, the museum contains more than 800,000 objects and three permanent galleries and routinely holds workshops and seminar series.

This first comprehensive look at the National Museum of the American Indian encompasses a variety of perspectives, including those of Natives and non-Natives, museum employees, and outside scholars across disciplines such as cultural studies and criticism, art history, history, museum studies, anthropology, ethnic studies, and Native American studies. The contributors engage in critical dialogues about key aspects of the museum’s origin, exhibits, significance, and the relationship between Native Americans and other related museums.

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Editorial Reviews

Nebraska History

“Certain to become a standard text in museum studies classes and programs. That the essays are well written and compelling, passionate and yet solidly scholarly, makes this volume suitable not just for the scholar in museum studies, anthropology, or Native culture but, remarkably, an exciting read even for the general reader. Reading through these pages would instruct anyone planning to make a visit to the National Museum of the American Indian but it will, without question, be of great value to anyone interested in observing or communicating the past to the general public.”—Roger Welsch, Nebraska History

— Roger Welsch

Western Historical Quarterly

"The goal of this excellent book is not to bring closure to these discussions but to make people think by conveying the complexity of the issues surrounding the NMAI and the unique perspectives of those who come in contact with it."—Nancy J. Parezo, Western Historical Quarterly

— Nancy J. Parezo

CHOICE

"A wide variety of significant topics offers readers an understanding of the cultural, academic, and political debates that have dominated the contemporary discourse. Themes from Indian sovereignty and historical truths regarding the struggles of the Indian nations since contact to museum exhibit design and cultural sensitivity give an exceptional balance to the framework of analysis presented by the work as a whole."—T. Maxwell-Long, CHOICE

— T. Maxwell-Long

American Quarterly

"The seventeen essays in the collection form a magnificent contribution to the field of American Indian studies. Indeed, along with their identification of a number of representational concerns within Native North America, the collective strength of these essays makes it among the most important anthologies in the field. Like the museum it so powerfully interrogates, its importance will endure."—Ned Blackhawk, American Quarterly

— Ned Blackhawk

Great Plains Quarterly

"Given the large quantity of Plains ethnographic and archaeological materials in the NMAI, this volume should be of interest to all scholars in the region. It is a useful volume for teaching about the history of anthropology and for Native American studies, it is terrific for teaching about museums, and it is just plain interesting to read."—Lynn Goldstein, Great Plains Quarterly

— Lynn Goldstein

SAIL

"Museum experts and museumgoers should read this volume. . . . The wealth of information contained within it will encourage those interested in and curious about the placement and holdings of this public museum to visit, because Natives now claim a place in this discussion and in one of the most important public spaces of this country—the National Mall."—Rebecca Bales, SAIL

— Rebecca Bales

CHOICE - T. Maxwell-Long

"A wide variety of significant topics offers readers an understanding of the cultural, academic, and political debates that have dominated the contemporary discourse. Themes from Indian sovereignty and historical truths regarding the struggles of the Indian nations since contact to museum exhibit design and cultural sensitivity give an exceptional balance to the framework of analysis presented by the work as a whole."—T. Maxwell-Long, CHOICE
Nebraska History - Roger Welsch

“Certain to become a standard text in museum studies classes and programs. That the essays are well written and compelling, passionate and yet solidly scholarly, makes this volume suitable not just for the scholar in museum studies, anthropology, or Native culture but, remarkably, an exciting read even for the general reader. Reading through these pages would instruct anyone planning to make a visit to the National Museum of the American Indian but it will, without question, be of great value to anyone interested in observing or communicating the past to the general public.”—Roger Welsch, Nebraska History

Western Historical Quarterly - Nancy J. Parezo

"The goal of this excellent book is not to bring closure to these discussions but to make people think by conveying the complexity of the issues surrounding the NMAI and the unique perspectives of those who come in contact with it."—Nancy J. Parezo, Western Historical Quarterly
American Quarterly - Ned Blackhawk

"The seventeen essays in the collection form a magnificent contribution to the field of American Indian studies. Indeed, along with their identification of a number of representational concerns within Native North America, the collective strength of these essays makes it among the most important anthologies in the field. Like the museum it so powerfully interrogates, its importance will endure."—Ned Blackhawk, American Quarterly
Great Plains Quarterly - Lynn Goldstein

"Given the large quantity of Plains ethnographic and archaeological materials in the NMAI, this volume should be of interest to all scholars in the region. It is a useful volume for teaching about the history of anthropology and for Native American studies, it is terrific for teaching about museums, and it is just plain interesting to read."—Lynn Goldstein, Great Plains Quarterly
SAIL - Rebecca Bales

"Museum experts and museumgoers should read this volume. . . . The wealth of information contained within it will encourage those interested in and curious about the placement and holdings of this public museum to visit, because Natives now claim a place in this discussion and in one of the most important public spaces of this country—the National Mall."—Rebecca Bales, SAIL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803211117
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 518
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


Amy Lonetree (Ho-Chunk) is an assistant professor of American studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has conducted research on the representation of Indigenous peoples in both national and tribal museums and published articles in the American Indian Quarterly and the Public Historian.
 
Amanda J. Cobb (Chickasaw), an associate professor of American studies at the University of New Mexico, oversees the Chickasaw Nation’s division of history and culture and serves as the editor of American Indian Quarterly. Cobb’s book, Listening to Our Grandmothers’ Stories: The Bloomfield Academy for Chickasaw Females, 1852–1949, won the North American Indian Prose Award and the American Book Award, and is available in a Bison Books edition.

Contributors: Elizabeth Archuleta, Sonya Atalay, Janet Berlo, Mario Caro, Myla Vicenti Carpio, Cynthia Chavez, Amanda J. Cobb, Robin Maria Delugan, Patricia Pierce Erikson, Gwyneira Isaac, Ira Jacknis, Aldona Jonaitis, Amy Lonetree, Judith Ostrowitz, Ruth B. Phillips, Beverly Singer, Paul Chaat Smith, and Pauline Wakeham.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction Amy Lonetree Lonetree, Amy Amanda J. Cobb Cobb, Amanda J.

Conversation 1: History and Development

1 A New Thing?

The National Museum of the American Indian in Historical and Institutional Context Ira Jacknis Jacknis, Ira 3

2 Decolonizing the "Nation's Attic"

The National Museum of the American Indian and the Politics of Knowledge-Making in a National Space Patricia Pierce Erikson Erikson, Patricia Pierce 43

3 Concourse and Periphery

Planning the National Museum of the American Indian Judith Ostrowitz Ostrowitz, Judith 84

Conversation 2: Indigenous Methodology and Community Collaboration

4 Critical Reflections on the Our Peoples Exhibit

A Curator's Perspective Paul Chaat Smith Smith, Paul Chaat 131

5 Collaborative Exhibit Development at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian Cynthia Chavez Lamar Lamar, Cynthia Chavez 144

6 The Making of Who We Are

Now Showing at the National Museum of the American Indian Lelawi Theater Beverly R. Singer Singer, Beverly R. 165

Conversation 3: Interpretations and Response

7 Gym Shoes, Maps, and Passports, Oh My!

Creating Community or Creating Chaos at the National Museum of the American Indian? Elizabeth Archuleta Archuleta, Elizabeth 181

8 "Indian Country" on the National Mall

The Mainstream Press versus the National Museum of the American Indian Aldona Jonaitis Jonaitis, Aldona Janet Catherine Berlo Berlo, Janet Catherine 208

9 What Are Our Expectations Telling Us?

Encounters with the National Museum of the American Indian Gwyneira Isaac Isaac, Gwyneira 241

10 No Sense of the Struggle

Creating a Context for Survivance at the National Museum of the AmericanIndian Sonya Atalay Atalay, Sonya 267

11 (Un)disturbing Exhibitions

Indigenous Historical Memory at the National Museum of the American Indian Myla Vicenti Carpio Carpio, Myla Vicenti 290

12 "Acknowledging the Truth of History"

Missed Opportunities at the National Museum of the American Indian Amy Lonetree Lonetree, Amy 305

Conversation 4: Questions of Nation and Identity

13 The National Museum of the American Indian as Cultural Sovereignty Amanda J. Cobb Cobb, Amanda J. 331

14 Performing Reconciliation at the National Museum of the American Indian

Postcolonial Rapprochement and the Politics of Historical Closure Pauline Wakeham Wakeham, Pauline 353

15 "South of the Border" at the National Museum of the American Indian Robin Maria DeLugan DeLugan, Robin Maria 384

16 Inside Out and Outside In

Re-presenting Native North America at the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the National Museum of the American Indian Ruth B. Phillips Phillips, Ruth B. 405

17 The National Museum of the American Indian and the Siting of Identity Mario A. Caro Caro, Mario A. 431

The Contributors 449

Index 455

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