Museum Anthropology Leaders: Sheila Goff, History Colorado, Denver, Part 1

Exclusive Museum Anthropology Blog Interview with Sheila Goff, History Colorado, Denver

This interview is the second installment in a new series, Museum Anthropology Leaders, where blog intern Lillia McEnaney will be interviewing various anthropological museum professionals. The first installment in the series was with Alaka Wali at the Field Museum. 

Sheila Goff is the NAGPRA Liaison/Assistant Curator of Culture and Community at History Colorado, where she has been for almost seven years. 

This is Part 1 of 2.

When in your education did you decide to pursue museum anthropology? Why?
I returned to school to train for a second career after teaching ESL for about 20 years. I had become interested in southwest archaeology and decided that working in a museum with anthropology collections rather than pursuing a career with a lot of field work away from home better fit with my lifestyle as a single mother. 

Could you provide the readers of the blog with a brief description of your day to day job as the NAGPRA Liaison/Assistant Curator of Culture and Community at History Colorado?
Every day is different and every day is filled with variety, which is why I enjoy my work. My work is split between coordinating implementation of NAGPRA on behalf of History Colorado and curatorial duties that broadly encompass caring for the archaeology and ethnographic collections, outreach and exhibit development. Here is an example of a recent day. I began by writing a cultural affiliation determination statement for three sets of Native American human remains in preparation for drafting a Notice of Inventory Completion. The consultation process, lasting several months, was complete. Next, I made a series of telephone calls to tribes with whom we are coordinating transfer and reburial of other repatriated remains later this fall in order to work on some of the logistics. I answered an inquiry from another tribe. In the afternoon of this particular day, I did some reading for an exhibit component that will be part of an exhibit to be completed in 2016. I put the finishing touches on a public talk I will give in later in the month on ancestral Pueblo food. I inventoried a box in a historic fort collection that we are in the midst of rehousing. 

Which project or exhibition that you worked on are you most proud of? 
I was recently on the exhibit team for the development of an exhibit entitled “Living West.” It is an environmental history of Colorado. One section is about the Ancestral Pueblo people from the Mesa Verde region. I was responsible for content and artifact and image selection in the section as well as the tribal consultation associated with exhibit development. The exhibit has been well received and recently won an AASLH Leadership in History Award of Merit. I strove to weave the Native voice throughout all components in the section and I was particularly happy when our tribal consultants saw and liked the final result.

What was the most challenging project or aspect of a project that you have worked on?

Sometimes it is difficult to find appropriate land for reburial of remains repatriated under NAGPRA. In 2012, I coordinated the transfer and reburial of 337 sets of remains and 439 associated funerary objects. The project involved three tribes from two states, our museum, and a federal agency. The project was challenging not only because of the number of people involved and the large number of remains and funerary objects but also because it had taken almost 8 years of effort to receive permission to rebury where the tribes wanted their ancestors laid to rest.   

Part 2 coming soon.