[Podcast] The Problem with Museums

Go Dig a Hole podcast

Episode 34 – The Problem with Museums

Since SoundCloud’s embedded player is still glitchy af, you can listen to it here, or on your favorite streaming service.


This episode is a collaboration between Heritage Voices, hosted by Lyle Balenquah and Jessica Yaquinto, and Go Dig a Hole. It features a panel of tribal members discussing the issues involving cultural sovereignty as it relates to museum collections. The primary issue here is that museums largely formed their collections during periods when imperialist endeavors were exploiting, displacing, or outright killing indigenous peoples. The drive to collect antiquities as a byproduct of these events not only tokenizes cultural heritage by displaying them as curiosities, but also presents items detached from context since building knowledge was not the goal when tribal items were collected. Descendant communities are tasked with the challenge of locating and identifying items that were taken from their tribes under questionable means, and museums are tasked with the challenge of properly attributing items in their collections that are missing essential cultural data and then repatriating them if necessary.

This panel discussion highlights some of the main problems, but also covers some positive examples of museums doing right by the tribes. Positive ways to move forward are suggested and, as Balenquah suggests, it is crucial to develop lasting and meaningful relationships between tribes and museums to serve to the mutual benefit of each group.


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