I had no idea that this discussion module for me would include repatriation again. I had heard of this museum, awhile ago.
The following is an overview of the Nunatta Katersugaasivia Allagaateqarfialu, Greenland National Museum & Archives. It is the country’s largest museum of cultural history. The National Museum held its first exhibition in 1965 at the site of the old (1714) Moravian Mission House. The museum’s inauguration occurred at this mission house in August 1966, as well. The museum is housed in distinctive storehouses of the Nuuk’s colonial harbor period. Subsequently, the museum outgrew itself after a repatriation program occurred between the National Museum of Denmark and the Museum of Greenland. “The repatriation program called Utimut-which means “Going Back,” meant that thousands of Inuit items that had been taken to Denmark by explorers, was returned to Greenland” (Nunatta Katersugaasivia Allagaateqarfialu, (NKA),2021).
“The first legislation on museums in Greenland was passed on January 1st 1981, and the first legislation on archives on November 1st 1982. The National Museum and National Archives were separate, independent institutions until they joined forces on January 1st 1991 under the name Greenland National Museum & Archives” (NKA, 2021).
Although, this museum will allow you to explore the entire historical collections of Greenland at your leisure, visitors can focus on individuals’ exhibitions as well, such as the prehistoric Greenland and the Stone Age People (the Arctic Small Tool Tradition). Other exhibitions include the ethnographic collections from Ammassalik and Avanersuaq between 1880-1920: Thule Culture-New People in Greenland. The museum contains an exhibition on Inuit methods of transport, which showcases skin boats and dogsleds.
However, I think, the one that stands out the most is the repatriation program that involved the National Museum of Denmark. Before the museum of law of 1981 was passed, the Danish National Musuem was responsible for all the activities at the Greenland Musuem, which held large collections. Both museums signed a repatriation agreement in 1983 regarding the Danish held collections of Greenlandic culture heritage. The returning of artifacts occurred in 1982, to date Greenland has received 35,000 artifacts (NKA,2021).
The museum provides a timeline for 4,500 years. There are at least 7 permanent exhibits. Exhibits currently indicated on their website include: The First People, Arctic Peasants-Norse Greenlanders, New People-The Thule Culture, Inuit Means of Transport, Lifestyles and Class Distinctions, Communications and Nation Building, the Cooper’s Workshop, and the Whale Oil Refinery.
The NKA (2021) continues:”In 2003 UNESCO adopted the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Greenland ratified the convention in 2009. Via the convention Greenland pledges to compile an inventory of living traditions and intangible cultural heritage in the country. The inventory – constantly expanding and updated – lists some of Greenland’s intangible cultural heritage.”
The second museum is the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Winnipeg, Manitoba. This museum is located on the ancestral lands on Treaty 1 Territory. The Red River Valley is also the birthplace of the Me’tis. There are no other museums like this in the world (MacGregor, 2019). The Canadian Museum for Human Rights focuses on respect, understanding and dialogue. The exhibits utilize innovative techniques for storytelling via art, movies, artifacts, missed media and much more. Visitors experiences and engagement include diverse accounts of survival, resistance, and resilience. Exhibits include the Witness Blanket: Preserving a Legacy, Artivism, Ododo Wa: Stories of Girls in War, Strength in Numbers: The Polish Solidarity Movement, Truth and Reconciliation, and Galleries. I chose the first one on Witness Blanket (Collective Rights).
“Witness Blanket: Preserving a Legacy explores a powerful art installation created by master carver Carey Newman. TheWitness Blanket bears witness to the truths of residential school Survivors to foster understanding among Indigenous and non‐Indigenous people. We invite you to bear witness, and to follow the Museum’s efforts to conserve this significant work for generations to come. It was created to honour the children who were forced into the Indian residential school system in Canada. It takes the form of a cedar “blanket,” and includes over 800 pieces of Indian residential school history” (Canadian Museum for Human Rights, 2021).
Mr. Newman and his team traveled 200,00 kilometers and visited seventy-seven communities. They met over 10,000 people and received thousands of artifacts. These individual objects along with their survivors’ narratives, tells a story about separation from families and enduring pain. This includes a 90-minute documentary called Picking up the Pieces: The making of the Witness Blanket. The stories and Newman’s journey are interwoven illustrating resilience and pain. The documentary is free online and shares storytelling and testimony, the painful histories of Indian residential school survivors. All the contributions were received from survivors.The museum allows its visitors to explore additional topics connected to this exhibit for example Childhood denied, Truth and reconciliation: What’s next? Why reconciliation: Why now? The nuts and bolts of reconciliation, Reconciliation: A move the hope a movement of guilt? and Picking up the Pieces.
Finally, both museums exhibitions share a past that illustrate timelines albeit painful and horrific in some instances. Each clearly shows cultures that are interwoven throughout their countries. They are rich and intimate. Both include objects from their respective country’s cultures, but tell much different stories: However, each reclaimed their artifacts one through repatriation, and the other through the Witness Blanket’s collection from the survivors of the Boarding School Era.
Question: Human rights issues are impactful to say the least. What human rights museum exhibit/s touched you?
MacGregor, S. (2019, Jul), Eight Canadian Museums You Have to Visit. Retrieved April 18, 2021 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/sandramacgregor/2019/07/14/eight-canadian-museums-you-have-to-visit/?sh=e50700b65f8b
Nunatta Katersugaasivia Allagaateqarfialu, Greenland National Museum & Archives (NKA). (2021). Nunatta Katersugaasivia Allagaateqarfialu, Greenland National Museum & Archives, Retrieved April 18, 2021 from https://en.nka.gl