"Museums Different" Day 1 - Anne Ray Interns' Report

On the first day of the CMA 2019 conference, Indigenous scholars and professionals presented work that contends with settler colonial histories, and shared stories of success, but also failures and the lessons learned. We started with a welcome from the local arrangements committee, and a land acknowledgement and blessing from John Garcia (Santa Clara Pueblo). This conference is taking place on the homelands of nineteen Pueblo communities and many other nations, specifically in O’gha Po’oge on Tewa land. We encourage conference goers to think and learn about these communities and their withstanding connections to this place as guests in this place.

The opening keynote given by Lucy Lippard focused on exploitative, colonial relationships between settlers and Indigenous peoples, and Indigenous responses to these historical and ongoing relationships, exploring the connections between people and land, tourism, and the ways museum representations intersect with these topics. One of the key takeaways she presented were questions for artists and anthropologists to ask themselves when and where they are working: “are you wanted here? By whom?” Drawing on knowledge created by Indigenous scholars and artists, she highlighted the ways that these individuals are resisting settler colonial logics.

Later on in the day, I attended three panels, each contending with steps forward amid colonial pasts, imaginings surrounding the dismantling of the museum, and potential futures. Scholars from the Nuxalk nation and the University of British Columbia discussed cataloguing, language, and collections projects as acts of Nuxalk sovereignty. Professionals from The Natural History Museum, the Field Museum, and The Red Nation shared their work in building more ethically responsible museum spaces, acknowledging successes, some instances where the mark was missed, and the great amount of work that still needs to be done to remake settler colonial structures. The last panel I attended, “Dealing with Colonial Legacies,” shared some critical and insightful thoughts about if museums as we know it can ever shed their colonial roots, taking land acknowledgements as a verbal commitment for further decolonial work and recognizing the amount of work that needs to be done to truly make museum practice ethically responsible.

We rounded out the evening at SAR’s Indian Arts Research Center, sharing food and conversation. Tomorrow’s panels will continue to examine issues of place, collaboration, and possibilities for more socially and ethically responsible museum spaces.

-Amanda Sorensen, Anne Ray Intern, Indian Arts Research Center, School for Advanced Research