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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Not Your Museum Indian: Frank Waln Discusses Symbolic Annihilation

We don't belong in natural history museums!

In natural history museums, you'll find everything from bugs to grizzly bears, and for some reason this often includes non-Western cultures. This is a problem for various reasons -- one being the assumed white, Western, imperialist perspective of looking at indigenous cultures in glass boxes. Another is the general ambience of death in natural history museums -- when those bugs and grizzly bears are corpses pinned to a board or stuffed and posed mid-roar, what does that say about the museum's view of the Native cultures exhibited in the next room? Furthermore, many of the items displayed are sacred to a living culture -- they're things that Natives, had they been asked by the museum, might not want there.