Student Spotlights: The Presentation of Indigenous Heritage

Sarah is the last of our graduate student highlights this week. She researches collaboration as a practice for the development of indigenous museology.

Sarah Carr-Locke
PhD Student in Archaeology
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada
Supervisor: Dr. George Nicholas

PhD Dissertation: The Presentation of Indigenous Heritage in North American Museums

My PhD dissertation is entitled “The Presentation of Indigenous Heritage in Canadian and American Museums: Exploring Collaboration and Public Perception.” The issue of Indigenous sovereignty over heritage has come to the forefront in several related fields such as archaeology, museology and history as Indigenous peoples have asserted their rights to manage intellectual and physical aspects of their culture within non-Indigenous institutions worldwide. An overview of museological literature since the early 1990s demonstrates that theory and practice has changed in response to this dialogue.

My research will ask: How have the methodologies used to create museum exhibits about Indigenous heritage changed as a result of increased interactions with local Indigenous people in Canada and the United States? To what degree can these interactions be labeled collaborative? How effectively is the collaborative nature of exhibition creation communicated to museum visitors?

I will visit five museums in different corners of North America to conduct research on one collaboratively created exhibit at each. I will interview staff and Indigenous community collaborators/consultants to learn about the nature of the relationships and methods used to create the exhibit. To address the final question, I will also conduct visitor studies at each institution to assess the degree to which the public is cognizant of these methodologies. My research will focus on collaboration as a practice in exhibition creation and will contribute to the development of “Indigenous” museology.