Some days I feel like I’ve already landed myself a dream job at a museum. I currently work the front desk / store at the Anchorage Museum as a Visitor Service Assistant. I enjoy the job a lot (especially since at the Museum I have a chair to sit in vs my other job as a Barista haha) but, I know there is more I want to do in my life in the realm of museums.

In an ideal setting I would actually work in collections and or archives for a museum. I’m currently looking into after getting my BA in Anthropology going for a masters in Library Sciences or a some other secondary degree in Museumology. I enjoy the thought of working behind the scenes and in the thick of the reference materials and items.

Image result for museum archives

(Image of the Heard Museums Archives,  Phoenix, Arizona. retrieved from their website at: https://heard.org/library/archives/ )

Last year when I was at the little triple A in Fairbanks (the Alaska Anthropology Association annual conference) I went to as many panels as I could that were related to Cultural Resource Management and Artifact Storage. I was absolutely captivated with one panel in particular that was about Museums working with Indigenous groups using facets of Cultural Resource Management, such as NAGPRA to start talks with Museums not only about where their collections are from but also foster relationships with local tribal groups through archival means and respectful storage. One example given was that there are museums who have partnerships with local tribal organization for storage of sensitive items from things that are sensitive to the elements that could only be optimally preserved professionally to items such as Shaman materials that a tribe would like to be preserved but, not on display and instead was stored by the organization in a respectful way where it was labeled properly and handled a certain way. Another part of the discussion was about letting Indigenous groups perform dances and host potlaches in museum spaces so that the spirits that reside in those cultural items know their decedents know where they are and still care for them. Helping keep that connection.
Honestly my dream is to be someone who specifically works in Collections and Archives for a museum who is also a lesion between collections and Indigenous groups, governments, and tribes/clans. I want to bridge the gap and have those conversations about storing tribal items that maybe a tribal group doesn’t have the facilities or space to store. I want to help foster connections and help plan out repatriation of a museums collections of human remains. I want to be on a board or have the ability to suggest and help plan events that a museum could co-host for an Indigenous gatherings. There is a disconnect between the items on display/archived and the people who are living that culture those items came from…
Just Ideally I would work in collections and archiving but also be a type of cultural resource management lesion between the museum collections / archives and local Indigenous groups.

 

Question: In What ways do you think Museums could foster better relations with Indigenous Groups?

2 Thoughts to “Jobs Discussion – My Ideal Museum Job”

  1. Tony Thompson

    Hi Elizabeth,

    I love that you are already working in a museum and loving it! That is great to hear! I also used to barista (as well as bartend and other various hospitality gigs) which I think gives folks great diversity of experience and can lend itself well to many facets within the academic world (and beyond!). It was also fun to hear about your interest in Master’s degrees. I’m just about to finish my B.S. and I’ve also been considering a masters in Library Sciences or some other museology-related field! I love natural history collections, so that’s probably the field I would love to go into.

    To answer your question, I commend museums and folks who work in museums today for having these conversations. I think representation absolutely matters so it takes more than a brief interview or email with an indigenous person. I think they should be actively placing indigenous people in (paid!) positions to ensure that the artifacts and other cultural objects are being handled and maintained properly. This would also ensure that their stories are being told in a correct and respectful manner.

    Great post this week! Very introspective!

  2. Erin Gingrich

    Hello Elizabeth,
    Thank you for that insights and the examples of some of the work that is being done to work with tribes and Indigenous peoples by Alaska museums. In response to the question you posed; there are many things that can be done by museums and one very important one is to hold a space for Indigenous professionals in their staffing, on their collections committees, through their research partners, internship positions and in their leadership. NAGPRA was a good start to try to stop damage being done to native peoples and cultures but it falls short in many ways, one of which is correcting imbalances of power represented within museums themselves. Acts of tokenism, performative activism and the silencing of Indigenous voices are still occurring in museums both inside and out. There can also be problems that occur when institutions are working with indigenous individuals who may be problematic themselves and without multiple indigenous perspectives and voices present harm can be done without foresight. Providing more space and power for cultural sovereignty in museums is very much needed. Quyana!

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