Hello, readers. It’s been a while since I have contributed to the Museum’s blog, but alas here I find myself pounding away at the keyboard yet again, this time with a request. You may have noticed recently that we have been making a concerted effort in the Collections Office to engage our readers in conversations that will benefit us and hopefully, by default, make it easier for us to record the Tribe’s history. This time I am in need of some advice from the museum professionals who may be reading about policies (I can already feel your eyes glazing over and ready to open another tab).
Lately, I’ve been working on a project that will hopefully establish a more meaningful relationship between the Collections Office of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and the diverse and disparate Seminole communities that we serve. We are trying to establish a sustainable dialog with Tribal Members to gather opinions and suggestions on how they would like to utilize our collections. In other words, we are trying to find ways of making our collections more accessible to the Tribe, which is challenging considering the distances between all the reservations (we are in Big Cypress).
We’ve received some good feedback from other museums and cultural centers in the field and we already deal with broader museum/community related topics by other internal means. For example we have recently formed a Museum Advisory Council (MAC), composed entirely of Tribal Members of varying backgrounds and ages, whom we ask for advice on a number of general museological and ethical issues. Eventually our goal is to create a task force similar to the MAC but whose focus will be on advising us strictly on collection matters.
So here is where I need a little help. If you have had any experience with community collaboration involving Native people and collections departments, in any context, either positive or negative, please let us know. In our ongoing mission of serving our host community we are always looking for new ideas and thoughts from our readers. If you have anything to add to the dialogue please chime in below or you can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.