DIGITAL FOUNDATIONS FOR PARTNERSHIP: A COLLABORATIVE MODEL FOR
INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES AND ETHNOGRAPHIC MUSEUM COLLECTIONS
SHAWNA M. PIES
GLENN WILLUMSON, CHAIR
WILLIAM MARQUARDT, MEMBER
A PROJECT IN LIEU OF THESIS PRESENTED TO THE COLLEGE OF FINE ARTS
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
� 2009 SHAWNA M. PIES
I would like to thank my committee chair, Dr. Glenn Willumson, and my
committee member, Dr. William Marquardt, for their support and guidance, and their
generosity of time and thoughtful feedback. Thanks go to Elise LeCompte for providing
access to collections resources, for her time, and for her kind support of my project.
Thanks also go to Darcie McMahon, Jeff Gage, and Eric Zamora in their assistance in
acquiring digital images of the collection.
I thank my colleague and friend, Dushanthi Jayawardena, for joining me in my
project travels to the Big Cypress Reservation. I am also grateful for her careful editing
skills and willingness to act as a sounding board through the entire project. I also thank
my soon-to-be-husband, Joe Meiser, for acting as a pillar of support and
encouragement during the six months I developed my thesis project. I also appreciate
his help in the meticulous revising of the many drafts of my paper. I thank my parents
for their encouraging words and for enthusiastically supporting my educational goals.
Thanks go to Tracy Pfaff, Molly Conley, and Jessica Belcoure for reviewing different
aspects of the project, report, and defense preparation.
I am grateful for the warm welcome I received from the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Musuem
staff at Big Cypress, especially Greg Palumbo, Saul Drake, and Jonathan MacMahon.
Their support and recommendations for the wiki project were immensely helpful. I also
appreciate the generous wiki feedback contributed by Pedro Zepeda and Everett
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOW LEDGMENTS.................................... ........... . 3
LIST O F FIG U R ES ............................................... ...... . .. ......... ............. 6
A B S T R A C T ......................................................... ..... ......................................... 7
1 IN T R O D U C T IO N ........... .................. . ................... .......... .......... . 10
2 HISTORICAL AND THEORETICAL OVERVIEW ........................ ...... .............. 12
In tro d u ctio n ......................... . ........ ... ........ .... ........ ...................... . . . 12
A Broader Ideological Shift for Museology: A Question of Societal
Relevance . ................................................. . ........... . 12
Cultural Representation in Exhibits.......................... ................ 13
Collections Accessibility .................................. .............. ..... ......... . 14
Native American-museum relationships ...... ................ ....................... 14
Museum Collections Practices Before the 1990s ........ ................................... 15
Collecting Practices for Ethnographic Collections................ ..... ............. 15
Problem s ............................ .. .... .. . ................. .......... . 16
History of Exhibition Practices Before the 1990s .............. ..... ................. 17
Issues of Representation .......................................... ...... ......... .......... 17
Public Protest: Values and Voice ....... ................ ...... ... .... .............. 19
Museum Collections Practices For Ethnographic Collections ca. 1990 to
Present.................. ............................................. 21
A Shift in Collections Practices ........... ......... . .... ..... ....... ...... 21
New Forms of Native Collections Accessibility .................................................. 22
Solutions to a Contested Past: Building Trust through Inclusive Collections
P ra c tic e s ............................ .. ............ ................ ................. .... . ..... . . 2 4
Exhibition and Issues of Representation Post-1990s.............. .................. 25
Issues of Representation......................................... .. ............... . 25
Partnership ........................................ . .......... . 26
R o le of T e chno log y ................................................... ...................... . ........... . 2 7
A Call for the Application of Technology in Museum Partnerships ............... 27
Public Expectations for Immediate Information Access ............... ........... 27
Online Collections Accessibility .............. ........ .... ........ ............... 29
Exhibition Practices through Technology.............................. .................... 31
C o n c lu s io n .............................................. ....... ......... . ....... 3 3
3 PROJECT GOALS AND METHODS ............. ................................ 34
In tro d u c tio n ................................................................................ 3 4
Project G oals ................................................................ ... ........ .................. 34
Museums and Community Co-Design ........................ .............. 35
Project M ethods ................................................. . . ........ ...... ............ . . 36
The Organization and Digitization of Records ........... .......... ..... ............. 37
"Florida M useum Project" W iki Overview ................................ .................... 39
Recruiting Participants, Building Partnerships ......... ...... .... ..... ............. 41
Project Applications......................................... ................... 43
4 DISCUSSION and CONCLUSION....................... .... ........................... 46
In tro d u c tio n ....................................................... ............ ...... 4 6
Benefits of the W iki M odel ............. .......................... .............. .............. . 46
Wiki Model Issues and Solutions ............................................ . 48
B building a P partnership ............................... .............. ........ .................. 48
Partnership-Building Recommendations ............ .................................. 49
Balancing Com m unity Agency ................................. .. ......................... 50
Recommended Considerations for Community Agency................................ 51
Verifying Native Identity of W iki Contributors............ ................................ 51
Conclusion ............................. . ..... ............ . . ........... . 52
Possibilities for Wikis as a Tool for Museum Partnerships.............................. 52
A W IK I SC R EENS H O TS .................................................... ........... 55
B PROJECT IMAG ES .............................................. ................ .............. . 62
C INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD CONSENT DOCUMNET .............................. 64
REFERENCES ................................. ........................... ....... ......... 66
B IO G R A P H IC A L S K ET C H ............................................ .. ................. ... ........ .... 70
LIST OF FIGURES
A -1 F ro n t P a g e ............. ......... .. .............. .. .. ....................................... 5 6
A-2 Interpretive Page ................................. .................... 57
A -3 M ain C collections Page.................................................................... ......... 58
A-4 Thumbnail Page ...... .......... ............ ... ............... 59
A-5 Object Page ........................... ........... .................... 60
A-6 Side Bar and "The Ask"............................................ 61
B-1 Sem inole Tribune A d ...................... .......................... .... ............................ 62
B-2 Collections Access Diagram ....... ............................... .................. . 63
Summary of Project in Lieu of Thesis
Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the
Degree of Master of Arts
DIGITAL FOUNDATIONS FOR PARTNERSHIP: A COLLABORATIVE MODEL FOR
INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES AND ETHNOGRAPHIC MUSEUM COLLECTIONS
Shawna M. Pies
Chair: Glenn Willumson
Museums in North America have made strides in incorporating indigenous opinions and
cultural knowledge when interpreting Native American collections. However, indigenous
groups continue to participate as subjects of exhibition instead of partners in explaining
their own heritage. Geographic distance and a shortage of time and funding create
barriers to museum collaboration with the indigenous communities they represent. My
study addressed these issues by developing a digital-collaboration platform to invite
collections feedback from a particular indigenous community. Information contributed
online was applied to a website-planning project, highlighting a collection of nearly 300
Native American artifacts, held at a state natural history museum.
Phase I required organizing museum records representing the Florida
Ethnographic Collection at the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH), to
contribute artifact information, images, and related resources in an online format.
Planning and implementing an online interpretation of the collection contributes
important ethnographic information that would otherwise require onsite research at the
museum. I researched and digitized collections information related to
Seminole/Miccosukee artifacts at FLMNH. This research and digitization addressed
catalog card information, digital images of the artifact, records of artifact exhibition and
publication, collector and donor information, and related anthropological research.
Phase II required planning and implementing a prototype for building web content
that would invite what museum consultant Nina Simon calls "community co-design," by
using a wiki, or online group planning tool. Staff at the Seminole Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki
Museum and other Seminole/Miccosukee community members were invited to join the
wiki as stakeholders in the project. Thus they were able to comment on text and
images, and recommend approaches to displaying and interpreting their historical
material culture in a digital format. At the end of the study, the prototype was presented
to the FLMNH web committee, who agreed that the contributions of the community co-
design wiki may potentially be added to the museum website as a long-term online
Because museums hold artifacts in the public trust, increasing digital access to
their collections could significantly enhance visible relevance to generations who came
of age in a knowledge economy, and expect immediate information retrieval.
Furthermore, greater public access to and indigenous participation in the expansion of
online indigenous museum collections information, in particular, may offer several
potential benefits: 1) increasing indigenous communities' agency in representing tribal
views of their cultural heritage in both tribal and public museums; and 2) expanding the
ability of non-native scholars to represent indigenous culture in a more informed manner
in publications, exhibits, and other works. My study contributes to the museum field by
demonstrating the potential of inexpensive, user-friendly digital platforms for
museum/Native community co-design; and by expanding public access to information
on Southeastern Native American museum collections, a cultural region that
comparatively lacks online resources.
The Florida Museum of Natural History cares for over 300 Seminole and
Miccosukee objects in its Florida Ethnographic Collection. Through my work with the
Native American objects at the museum, I saw a great potential in this collection for
creating public digital collections access. Digital collections access will foreground the
Florida Museum's role as a significant cultural resource for Seminoles and other
communities across the U.S.
For my project, I digitized information and images relating to 300 objects, built a
350-page wiki for collections feedback, and recruited Seminole/Miccosukee participants.
In short, a wiki is "online software that enables users to edit web pages" (Tapscott and
Williams 2006, 13). The participants in this project are submitting, through the wiki,
online feedback regarding artifacts in the museum's Seminole/Miccosukee Collections.
In this paper, I discuss the benefits and challenges of using an online workspace to
expand indigenous participation in the development of museum collections information.
My project has three phases (Appendix B-2) that employ exhibition, collections
management, and curatorial practices. During Phase One, I organized and digitized
museum records and photographed objects. These activities were a means of
extending researchers' capabilities for both off-site and on-site collections research. In
Phase Two, I developed a wiki to invite input from Tribal members about the Florida
Ethnographic Collection. This required building a partnership with the Florida Seminole
community and recruiting participants for the wiki. In Phase Three, the future wiki
comments will contribute to several databases: the Florida Museum of Natural History's
registrar database, the Florida Museum website, and the cross-institutional database
project, Southeastern Native American Collections Project. This project employs a
variety of museum practices in order to build and share a collection.
I argue that museums that create feedback wikis can effectively increase Native
and non-Native access to museum objects. I support the need for this type of project by
outlining historical and current Native/museum relationships, and I discuss the variety of
ways to apply Native wiki contributions. Secondly, I explore the benefits and limitations
of this type of partnership, and I consider the future possibilities for building museum
collaborations through digital platforms.
Chapter 2 explores the ideological shift that occurred c. 1990 in museum
practice; I discuss the differences in practice before and after this shift. This includes
museum collecting practices, collections management, and exhibition development.
Chapter 2 also explores the role of technology in collections and exhibitions practices
today. Chapter 3 provides a detailed account of how and why I implemented the wiki
project. Here, I first discuss the project goals as they relate to participatory design. I
outline the project methods, and I examine applications of the project. In chapter 4, I
explore benefits, issues, and solutions for employing the wiki model. I conclude by
addressing the possibilities for wikis as a tool for building museum partnerships. I
examine the wiki's intersection with the changing role of the museum in society and its
capacity for improving cultural understanding.
HISTORICAL AND THEORETICAL OVERVIEW
Do (museums) have a positive impact on the lives of other people? (If not
then) ...we are only servants to our collections and not of our fellow
humans. -Stephen Weil [1994, 32]
A Broader Ideological Shift for Museology: A Question of Societal Relevance
The museum field experienced an ideological shift during the 1990s; many
museums began revisiting their relationships with the public and integrated a new
approach as community stewards. Museums began as unquestioned sources of
authority, but New Museology proposed that the museum was obligated to act as a
facilitator of learning. While museums needed to maintain the integrity of their exhibits,
collections information, and research, they realized that the voices of diverse
communities could be integrated into these resources, as well as exhibits. The
museum's role in society has been debated repeatedly during this shift and continues to
be a pertinent issue today. New Museology recommended a modified museum
perspective: fostering civic engagement through accessibility, inclusion, and learner-
centeredness (Weil 1999). New Museology was introduced by Peter Vergo in 1989.
Proponents of New Museology advocated for integrating museums more closely with
the multicultural social groups which these critics believe museums should
represent and serve (Stam 2005). Stephen Weil (1999, 32) described the museum's
change in function to be "fundamentally driven-by-purpose rather than (only) devoted-
to-objects." Museums were hurled into the spotlight during the 1980s and 1990s by
cultural critics1 who applied a post-modern, post-colonialist lens to museum policy and
1 Examples of cultural critics include Ivan Karp (2006) and James Clifford (1988).
practice. Shepard Krech (1994, 3) describes this tumultuous process, "Before 1980
most museums were rather stodgy places where little happened but since then they
have become hotbeds of controversy and lightning rods for cultural critique."
Widespread criticism aimed at cultural institutions exhorted museums to realign their
missions away from expired colonialist ideologies and closer to "an ongoing historical,
political, moral relationship ..." with the cultures and communities the collections
represent (Clifford 1997, 192). Consequently, this new perspective led museums to
redefine their collections practices, exhibitions methods, and museum relationships with
indigenous communities and other populations represented in their collections.
Cultural Representation in Exhibits
The transformation of museum theory by New Museology resulted in some new
methods for representing cultures through museum exhibition. New Museology
proposes that display techniques should be addressed in three distinct areas: 1)
Museums should allow each population to decide how to represent themselves in
museum exhibitions and displays. 2) Exhibitions on heritage need to increase the level
and depth of interpretation on minorities' culture and history. 3) New Museology advises
that exhibits should present multiple perspectives in order to reduce biased
representations of cultural identity (Stam, 2005). As evidence of this museological
catharsis, "neighborhood museums," such as the Smithsonian Anacostia Museum,
emerged during the 1970s. Neighborhood museums arose in the U.S. as a
manifestation of diverse cultural expression after the Civil Rights movement. These
neighborhood institutions focused on diverse cultural content as opposed to the
predominantly Anglo-biased displays of older, larger museums at that time.
New Museology calls for information on collections to be made more accessible,
relevant, and inclusive. As the use of technology and the internet increases among
museum visitors, these tools are more commonly employed to make collections
accessible to both Native and non-Native communities. Collections practices today
acknowledge the complex past in ethnographic collections and generally honor Native
requests for special care or viewing restrictions for sensitive or spiritual objects.
Museums also began considering indigenous input for storing objects according to
cultural values and practices (Simpson 1996, 71). Museums have repositioned
collections management approaches from collections ownership to collections
Native American-museum relationships
Relationships between Native Americans2 and U.S. museums have developed
stronger rapport and enhanced collaboration strategies, since the field-wide ideological
shift in museum policy and practice at the end of the 20th century. During the 1990s,
museums began consulting Native groups about the identification of objects, the
manner in which Native objects were exhibited, and the negotiation of repatriating
culturally sensitive objects. Museums began to invite Native American input regarding
Native collections and display. Instead of speaking for Native Americans, museums
2 I would like to clarify the intent of the terminology used in this paper. It is presently accepted in the Humanities
fields, including Museum Studies and Anthropology, as well as by most U.S. indigenous communities, to use the
terms American Indian or Native American. The adjective "Native" is used to refer to institutions, practices, objects,
and other elements originating from a Native American group or which is predominantly produced or managed by
have become more open to collaborating with Native groups to achieve more nuanced
and culturally sensitive collections information and representations of Native culture and
To summarize, the museum field, and natural history museums in particular,
have witnessed an ideological shift that resulted in several important changes for
museum policy and practice: 1) Museums altered exhibition styles that promoted a
paternalistic perspective and adopted more collaborative exhibition methods. This
positioned the museum as a resource for all communities. 2) Museums promoted more
inclusive stewardship of Native American collections by inviting feedback on and
expanding Native access to sensitive cultural objects. This, in turn, enhanced Native
agency in maintaining cultural practices. 3) Museums and American Indian communities
began forming more mutually beneficial partnerships: these collaborations offered the
museum visitors a more informed presentation of Native culture, and American Indian
groups gained agency in representing their heritage.
Museum Collections Practices Before the 1990s
Collecting Practices for Ethnographic Collections
Museum collections practices of the late 1800s and early 1900s were
problematic for Native American communities, because the collectors' paternalistic
motives weakened 20th century Native American culture by separating the communities
from artifacts of their own recent past. Although these objects were collected in a
scientific spirit, and many ethnographers adhered to the collecting norms of the time,
certain practices of obtaining the objects were, by today's standards, unethical at best.
The Bureau of American Ethnology sponsored ethnographers such as Frank Hamilton
Gushing, William C. Sturtevant, and Franz Boas to conduct what was later termed
"salvage anthropology."3 Detailed field accounts of Native American lifeways were
produced according to region by this federal office. Past theories of cultural evolution
led the American public to believe that American Indian Tribes would be fully
assimilated into mainstream Anglo-American culture; therefore, Native ways of life
would eventually cease to exist.4 Household items, clothing, religious objects, tools, and
artworks were feverishly collected, documented, and deposited into what would become
the Smithsonian Office of Anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History.
Comprehensive Native American collections were amassed in public and university
anthropology museums such as Harvard's Peabody Museum and the Denver Museum
of Anthropology during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Even trickery and theft
were used by some of the scientists to gain certain artifacts related to burial or esoteric
activities. Ethnographers did not inform American Indian participants on how the
information and collected cultural objects would be reappropriated into the academic
and public spheres without further Native consultation.
Museum collecting practices for ethnographic collections removed significant
Native objects from Native communities, and over generations this resulted in the
deterioration of Native traditions. The prolific collection of Native American cultural
objects corresponded with the active attempt by the U.S. government to assimilate
3 Salvage Anthropology is a term used in anthropology to critique early anthropological practices of the 1800s.
These practices documented the language, music, arts, and cultural practices of populations that had been colonized
by or assimilated into mainstream Western society (Gruber 1970).
4 Cultural evolution, also associated with Social Darwinism, was a theory popular in the early 1900s that defined
Western society as the most evolved human society on a linear scale ranging from "primitive" to "civilized." Under
the tenets of cultural evolution, it was assumed all "primitive peoples" were destined to "evolve" into the "more
advanced" Western form of civilization.
American Indian groups into the mainstream culture. This combination of collection
practices and assimilation efforts resulted in the eventual weakening of traditional
cultural practices, thus diffusing Native American agency in retaining their own culture.
American Indian schools, run by missionaries or government associates, raised Native
children away from their families and Native lifeways. Traditional skills were forgotten
and objects from generations past had often been collected for museums or discarded
to promote assimilation. These new museum collections were housed in museums'
private storage areas or were displayed in urban centers far from most American Indian
communities. Geographic and socioeconomic distance created a barrier between
American Indians and access to valued "touchstones of memory" (Cooper 2008, 61).
Native groups had no legal recourse in the late 1800s and early 1900s, despite their
objections to collections activities. In time, museum collecting of Native American
human remains and burial objects eventually ignited a new movement toward
repatriation. By the 1980s, Native American groups criticized museum ownership of
certain cultural objects as destructive to the maintenance of Native cultural traditions;
these groups took a stand against museum collections practices through lobbying and
lawsuits (Cooper 2008).
History of Exhibition Practices Before the 1990s
Issues of Representation
Many Museums, before the 1990s, depicted Native Americans as primitive and
exotic and this exhibition style failed to reveal their participation in contemporary
society. Museums displayed Native American objects and culture in a way that that has
been criticized as alienating Native American history from the grand narrative of
contemporary American society. These displays, some of which still exist today, often
consisted of static representations in miniature and life-sized dioramas of pre-Contact
camp life amidst flora and fauna. This exhibition in a natural history setting failed to
place Native American culture in an active role in human history (Cooper 2008).
Curators sometimes projected a social evolutionary perspective onto these
representations of Native history and culture. The American Indian voice was excluded
and replaced with that of the scientist speaking about a research subject, or the voice of
the heroic frontiersman claiming his land victory. Human remains and other sacred or
sensitive Native objects were displayed without considering Native sensibilities.
American Indian communities were not consulted about exhibiting their heritage and
contemporary American Indian life was not mentioned.
Over four million Americans identify as Native American; however, many of these
people believe they were widely misinterpreted in museums, because their historical
objects were reappropriated to project images of primitive humans, or "noble savages,"5
(Lawlor 2006). Native Americans expressed opposition to these representations during
the era of major museum growth throughout the 1920s-1950s (Cooper, 2008). Native
groups presented museums with corrections to misinterpreted events, and gave insights
on how to improve upon representation of their people; nonetheless, Native American
communities felt that a number of museum curators identified themselves and other
scientists as experts on the subject of Native cultures and that their pleas were often
ignored. Frustrations over the exclusion of Native American input continued to build up
5 The concept of "noble savage" was applied by Anglos to artistic imagery of American Indians beginning in the late
18t century. This societal fear and exoticism toward Native Americans "became fixed as an element in a set of
structurally opposed categories of nature and culture, heathen and Christian, hunter and farmer, and-in larger
terms-of savagery and civilization" (Phillips, 1998:120).
until the Civil Rights movement, where American Indians found a political platform.
During the 1960s through the 1980s, American Indians expressed their long-silenced
opinions through public protests directed toward specific museums and exhibits.
Museums responded with a range of reactions. Some museums recoiled at the
questioning of curatorial and scientific authority. Other museums began to recognize the
habitual absence of the Native voice and the insensitive manner in which museums
portrayed Native Americans (Cooper 2008). Televised demonstrations from the 1970s-
1980s reminded the public that Native Americans continue to participate in
contemporary society. The news coverage exposed non-Native citizens for the first
time to the collective grievances Native Americans had with museum practices
concerning Native collections (Cooper 2008).
Public Protest: Values and Voice
Native protests against exhibitions practices led museums to consider building
working partnerships with Native communities. Past exhibition practices focused on
American Indians became a catalyst for protests against museum policy and practice.
Lenore Keshig-Tobias (Ojibwa) (Cooper 2008, 1) poignantly explains, "When someone
else is telling your stories, in effect what they're doing is defining to the world, who you
are, what you are, and what they think you are and what they think you should be." A
keystone example of Native disapproval of museum policy and presentation emerged in
reaction to the Canadian Glenbow Museum's 1988 exhibition: The Spirit Sings: Artistic
Traditions of Canada's First Peoples. The exhibit was highly anticipated by museum-
goers because it promised to display some of Canada's First Nations objects that had
never been publically exhibited. First Nations opposition was ignited initially by an oil
company, who was involved in land claim disputes with the Lubicon Lake Band of Cree,
and was also a major sponsor of The Spirit Sings. The paradoxical sponsorship acted
as a catalyst for a major public protest during the exhibit opening and the associated
First Nations arts festival. Media coverage expanded across Canada and internationally
as the issue gained public sympathy (Cooper 2008). Respected associations including
the Canadian Ethnology Society and the Smithsonian Institution supported First Nations
resistance to the exhibit. The problems embedded in The Spirit Sings, according to
protesters, were as follows:
The museum borrowed First Nations artifacts without informing or involving
First Nations people. The museum used money from sources involved in
disputes with First Nations. The exhibition ignored contemporary issues.
Non-First Nations people were employed to curate the exhibition, and the
museum pleaded political neutrality, failing to see the role it had played in
supporting one side while repressing the other (Ames in Cooper 2008, 22).
Native protests brought to light the political nature of exhibiting culture and the need to
provide platforms for self-representation. The Glenbow museum failed to recognize that
a museum can own objects, but they do not own the culture those objects represent.
The First Nations groups believed that they should have had a stake in the display of
their own cultural heritage. The case of The Spirit Sings also reveals that museum
exhibitions which have been developed without careful consideration are not neutral
displays, but instead can become highly contentious political battlefields.
This widespread opposition to the Glenbow Museum's approach identified the
exhibit as a "watershed for North American Indian/ museum relationships" (Cooper
2008, 27). The Spirit Sings initiated debate and reflection on museum practice, which
eventually led the Canadian Museum Association Council to partner with the Assembly
of First Nations. These entities produced the 1992 report, Turning the Page: Forging
New Partnerships between Museums and the First Peoples, which established protocol
for Canadian museums and First Nations groups developing partnerships (Cooper
2008). This official reaction by the Canadian government marked a new recognition of
Native peoples as communities who demand to be informed and included when others
are representing their heritage. Summarizing this tumultuous time, Cooper (2008, 172)
states, "The protests can be seen as part of a movement seeking autonomy, self-
definition, respect, dignity, human rights, and protection of religious freedom-all
necessary ingredients for a people's cultural continuation."
Museum Collections Practices For Ethnographic Collections ca. 1990 to Present
A Shift in Collections Practices
Gradually during the 1990s, most American museums discarded the robe of
paternalism and adopted a pluralistic attitude. This became a driving philosophy for
collections policy and practice. This change in perspective concerning the collection and
care of cultural-heritage objects offered new agency for cultural groups who were
previously denied any voice concerning collections involving their heritage. In the early
1990s, issues of repatriation, cultural patrimony, and transparency of object provenance
came to the fore. In recent years, a new demand for digital access to collections has
emerged: this method has increased collections accessibility which proves beneficial for
both Native and non-Native users.
The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), passed
in 1990, became a turning point for museum collections practices. Before NAGPRA, the
active building of historic Native American museum collections slowed dramatically after
the 1960s, but collectors continued to purchase Native items and donate them to
museums. Looting of Native graves remained a problem, until the Archeological
Resources Protection Act (ARPA) was passed in 1979. This outlawed the unauthorized
collecting or transport of archeological materials obtained from Federal or Native land.
NAGPRA, however, opened a new era of dialogue between Native American groups
and museum collections departments. NAGPRA required all museums funded with
federal monies to abide by new collections standards. Museums were required to
inventory their collections and initiate a consultation with each tribe if the museum held
collections in one of the four categories of objects defined by NAGPRA: Native
American human remains, grave goods, ceremonial objects, and objects of cultural
patrimony. The museums then needed to consult with Tribal representatives to decide
the object's future care. Through NAGPRA, American Indians have reclaimed cultural
sovereignty over NAGPRA-defined objects. Once Native American groups were
informed of sacred objects in museum collections, a number of groups requested
access to collections storage to perform spiritual rites for the objects in the museum's
care. Registrars worked with Native groups to develop procedures for access while
maintaining the integrity of preserving conditions of the storage space. Additionally,
museums were required by the federal government to establish more transparent
collecting records which outlined the provenance of each object. After museums
regularly began to address NAGPRA's requirements involving Native collections,
cultural critics, Native groups, and the general public were reassured by additional
museum efforts to abide by more transparent and collaborative collections policies and
New Forms of Native Collections Accessibility
Museums are in the process of increasing Native collections accessibility as they
embrace their role as collections stewards; this increase in access to Native objects has
the potential to empower American Indians in reclaiming cultural practices. In the past
decade, the museum's increasing ability to share collections information in faster and
more comprehensive formats empowers both Native and non-Native members of the
public with more accessible information on Native collections. The development of
online collections access is essential for museums that wish to increase agency for
American Indians and remain relevant in a "tech-paced" society. Digitization is not a
process that can be executed overnight, but asset management systems and networks,
in addition to emerging software and freeware, such as wikis, are making it more
possible than ever to securely format collections information for public online
consumption. Museums have the opportunity to offer Native American communities
digital tools for researching and representing their cultural heritage. This expanded
collections accessibility also fosters cultural continuance in the face of historical
There is a particular need for Native American communities to gain the ability to
locate tangible pieces of their collective past, which have been scattered across the
U.S. in museum holdings and private collections. Despite the increased collections
accessibility initiated by NAGPRA, American Indian groups may continue to face
difficulty if they wish to research objects that fall outside of the NAGPRA categories.
The need to visit multiple museum sites to study artifacts from one's own heritage may
deter many American Indians from seeking access to this information. However, the
increase in development of online collections databases may ease this challenge for
Native communities. Online collections offer the opportunity for Native American
communities to conveniently browse through the objects to research which institutions
hold historic objects related to their heritage.
Increased collections accessibility benefits Native Americans because it
enhances their ability to learn about and carry on traditions. Collections have come into
use by indigenous groups as reference resources for reviving lost or waning traditional
arts (Simpson 1996). The well-known Northwest Coast artist, Bill Reid (Simpson 1996,
250), speaks to the relevance of museum collections for the revival of heritage
practices, "The museum (University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology) has
provided a training ground for native artists. I unlocked the secrets of traditional designs
by studying carefully the old carvings kept there." Moira Simpson (1996, 254) calls for
museums to "improve the physical accessibility of the collections and the storage of
data, in order to equip non-specialist visitors with the means to make better use of the
vast wealth of information that museums hold ... (it also) involves the evolution of the
methods of access which enable those who cannot physically visit the museum to
access the collections and databases from afar."
Solutions to a Contested Past: Building Trust through Inclusive Collections
NAGPRA's revision of museum collections practices has started to restore
Native Americans' confidence in the museum's role as collections steward. Today,
museums are assisting Native groups in regaining or strengthening their cultural
traditions by respecting requests for physical access to collections and by simplifying
information access through digitization of Native American collections records.
Accessible cultural information has the potential to instill pride in one's heritage, thus
encouraging cultural preservation. Secondly, museums have developed working
relationships with American Indian communities through the process of collections
consultation. This exchange of information informs the museum of Native preferences
for storage and handling of the objects. When museums adhere to these requests, they
discard their past role as "owner" of Native collections and instead adopt a stewardship
role. These changes in collections practices have the potential to act as a foundation for
more involved museum/Native collaboration.
Exhibition and Issues of Representation Post-1990s
Issues of Representation
Since Native protests erupted in reaction to past museum exhibition methods,
museums have increasingly sought out Native participation in exhibition planning. The
National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) has provided a valuable model of
Native representation for all museums. After Native American lobbying efforts were
aimed at the Smithsonian's exclusive exhibition and collections management policies, a
bill was signed to reposition the Smithsonian's Native artifacts, through the creation of
the National Museum of the American Indian. The first location opened in New York City
in 1994, and ten years later the NMAI opened on the National Mall in Washington D.C.
Its placement is powerful; one can view the Capitol dome from the north windows of the
museum resource center; likewise, the U.S. officials entering the Capitol Building have a
constant reminder that American Indians are an active part of the American
constituency. In addition, NMAI is a significant destination for the American people; it
legitimizes the Native American experience and gives Native voices agency and power
in the narrative of American history.
The post-1990 movement had a goal to include significant levels of Native input
in the exhibition of Native collections and culture. Such goals are embodied in NMAI.
These initiatives include providing a platform for Native self-representation, enhancing
Native agency in the articulation of objects, and addressing contemporary Native issues
and contributions. Moira Simpson (1996, 169) highlights the strides NMAI has made in
the spirit of Native/ museum partnership: "The National Museum of the American Indian
is forging links with tribal museums, native organizations, and individuals throughout the
Americas. This strategy has been called 'the fourth museum' and will extend the
Museum's work beyond its (east coast) facilities, into communities across the country
and throughout the continent." Other museums can follow NMAI's lead in developing
meaningful partnerships for more empowering exhibitions of Native collections.
Over the past twenty years, museums have increased Native voices in the
design of exhibitions and sought to expand Native access to collections. This is a result
of the previously discussed American Indian protests and legal suits, as well as the
ideological shift of New Museology. The passing of NAGPRA was an impetus for
museums to begin engaging Native groups. The law required partnership despite
resistant museum staff, limited time and resources, or other hurdles to improving Native/
non-Native museum relations. Media coverage of Native protests and cultural critiques
in academia placed public pressure on museums to redefine their relationship to the
communities they represent in exhibitions. Indigenous outcry against exclusive
interpretation practices has urged museums to "ensure that the collections and activities
of museums address the needs of the communities who have given so much in the
past" (Simpson 1996, 248). Common methods of promoting community authorship in
museum exhibitions include consultation, advisory boards, guest curatorship, and
Role of Technology
A Call for the Application of Technology in Museum Partnerships
Web 2.0 technology has the ability to enhance the museum/ Native partnerships
that have been developing over the past two decades. Very simply stated, Web 2.0 is a
form of internet communication that promotes user-generated content and "act(s) as a
content platform instead of content provider" (Simon 2009). Web 2.0 embraces online
communities, participation, and collaboration that are all developed through user-
friendly online tools. There are several tools museums commonly use, including
Facebook, Twitter, interactive online collections databases, and wikis. On-site
collaboration and consultations continue to benefit collections and exhibition projects;
however, the process requires a great deal of time and financial resources. The
increase in interactive web technologies leads some museum professionals to
anticipate growth of future digital collaborations. Ruth B. Phillips (2003, 160), director of
the Museum of Anthropology in British Columbia states, "It seems probable that new
electronic media will play a major role in sustaining these (museum/Native)
relationships." For example, the Royal Ontario Museum presented digital object images
to the First Nations Tr'ondek Hwech'in in Yukon Territory. The Tr'ondek Hwech'in
community, which had little previous knowledge of the museum's holdings, became
interested in a deeper study of historic clothing manufacture, and a loan agreement was
made between the museum and this First Nations community (Peers and Brown, 2003).
Public Expectations for Immediate Information Access
Museums are currently investigating how younger generations will interface with
museum information, considering the dramatic changes in communication technologies
and the corresponding tech-lifestyle that has developed since the 1990s. The
widespread use of online tools such as Wikipedia, Google, and Twitter has developed a
need for rapid information retrieval; simultaneously, museums care for some of the most
valued resources that represent human heritage. It is essential that museums insert
themselves into the digital equation in order to refute the notion of museums as dusty
showrooms of stuff. Paul F. Marty (2008, 33) observes one aspect of public
expectations for online content: "(There are) a growing number of museum visitors,
donors, researchers, and other constituents who now expect museums to provide
access to their collections in digital formats."
Vision 2030, a 2007 report produced by the Smithsonian Office of Policy and
Analysis, examines emerging generational needs and expectations which are
anticipated to increase in the next twenty years. The Millennial Generation (Millennials),
those who are currently ages 9-19 have come of age using cell phones, computerized
library catalogs, and wireless internet. Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet &
American Life Project, sums up the average "Millennials" and projects how these future
visitors will imagine themselves interacting with museums:
Millennials are immersed in a world of media and gadgets. They expect to
be able to gather and share information in multiple devices in multiple
places. Their information and communication needs are contextual and
contingent ... The way they approach learning and research tasks will be
shaped by their new techno-world-more self-directed and less dependent
on top-down instruction, better arrayed to capture new information inputs,
more reliant on feedback and response, more tied to group knowledge, and
more open to cross-discipline insights, creating its own "tagged"
taxonomies. (Rainie in Smithsonian 2007, 9-10)
A museum's ability to match the quickening pace of information exchange likely will
determine its level of societal relevance as an institution. Maxwell Anderson (2007, 328)
justifies this need by explaining his observations on visitor expectations: "The online
museumgoer promises to become more transactional than a traditional visitor. He or
she will expect that queries will be answered. ... He or she will not be patient with a
delay or a generic auto-reply. As public institutions, museums will have to develop
protocols and mechanisms to cope with increasing expectations on the part of end-
users worldwide." With museum critics condemning the museum's recent turn toward
"edu-tainment," it is essential for museums to redefine new ways for presenting their
institutions as indispensable tools for learning. As the museum is transforming its former
"voice of authority" to engage diverse audiences, providing online collections access is
one method of inviting a personal connection and demonstrating the utility of the
museum beyond its exhibit halls.
Online Collections Accessibility
Since the widespread use of computer collections databases in the late 1990s,
museums have increasingly offered online access to collections information and
images. Growing opportunities for access to information and chances to interact with
museum collections have the potential to impact public learning through emerging
technologies. Online databases most commonly appear in the form of a representative
sample of objects where web viewers can get a sense of the type and range of objects
in a museum collection. As resources become available and demand continues to grow,
museums are beginning to compile more comprehensive online collections databases,
such as the Smithsonian Collections Search Center (http://collections.si.edu/search/),
which includes over two million records.
Ivan Karp (2006, 13) describes the growth of online museum databases as a
"democratization of access," which reaches audiences who might not have the
capability to examine the collection otherwise. "Democratizing" museum collections on a
virtually universal scale offers significant implications for reaching underserved
audiences and instituting visual repatriation (Karp 2006). Online collections overcome
geographic distance and the limitations of museum business hours, thus opening the
door to 24-hour global collections access.
Indigenous cultures can benefit greatly from the opportunity to locate and
research culturally significant items to which their community no longer has physical
access. Non-Native museums can now utilize online technology, including wikis, to
invite Native feedback on museum collections information. Online collections may also
remedy some of the challenges that emerged as museums tried to address NAGPRA
requirements in communicating collections descriptions to distant communities.
Online collections accessibility opens collections review and research to a public
of all ages, education levels, and socioeconomic status. Some cultural institutions offer
web users the opportunity to manipulate online objects to create personal collections or
construct interactive projects such as collages or online exhibits.6 In the past, museums
typically invited only academic professionals to research collections in storage. This
required making an appointment with museum staff, and short research visits severely
limited the number of objects a researcher could peruse. Online collections have altered
previous barriers to collections information. Increased accessibility may potentially
attract unconventional users by offering free educational resources in the familiar format
of the web. This means schoolchildren, amateur collectors, low income web-users, and
other non-academics now have the ability to engage museum objects and information
despite their inability to visit a museum in person.
6 One example of interactive online collections is the National Archives Experience:
Increased collections accessibility directly supports broader institutional
relevance to both Native and non-Native members of the public. Maxwell Anderson
(2007, 296) argues, "A marginal investment in an online visitor could repay the museum
handsomely-not in immediate cash return, but in demonstrating the value of the
museum to a greater number of people." When museums offer online collections
databases, this reveals to the public the prolific number of objects museums continually
maintain and preserve. Additionally, a museum's website acts as the face of the
museum outside of the physical location; therefore, the more visitor interaction with
either physical or digital museum resources, the more likely the public will value and
Exhibition Practices through Technology
Technology has made it possible for museums to create exhibitions that are
highly interactive and inclusive of diverse communities. Exhibits are not only accessible
at the physical museum location, but also online. Online exhibitions appear in many
forms: blogs, wikis, and social media software; and some argue that online collections
can serve as web exhibitions. These exhibitions usually display images of museum
objects, object information, multimedia, and related contextual or historical information.
Viewers are often invited to share experiences, thoughts, or questions in comment
boxes, and are even encouraged to contribute their knowledge for the production of
upcoming online exhibitions.
Twenty-first century web technology also makes it possible for members of the
public to contribute to onsite museum exhibitions in new and mutually beneficial ways.
For example, in preparation for the 150-year celebration of Minnesota's statehood in
2008, the Minnesota Historical Society developed the visitor co-created exhibit, MN150.
The museum invited Minnesotans to submit both web and paper nominations for "the
people, places, things, and events that make Minnesota Minnesota" (Simon 2009).
Head exhibition facilitator, Kate Roberts (in Simon 2009), explains the drive for the
visitor co-created approach: "What made sense was to put out the public call and find
out: what does everyone think is interesting and important?" The exhibit facilitators
received thousands of entries from Minnesotans representing a wide variety of regions
and ethnic groups; the 150 winners were invited to contribute related artifacts for the
final exhibit. After the exhibit opened, the Minnesota Historical Society created a wiki
where all the entries could be viewed and members of the public could add their
comments on these topics.
Projects such as MN150 demonstrate how online forms of collections
accessibility and exhibitions create opportunities for collaboration among cultural
institutions and various communities that might not otherwise become engaged. Maria
Economou (2008, 150-151) discusses the impact technology has had on museum
collaboration: "The digital revolution has led to an increase in the number of
partnerships and joint projects ... and combating social exclusion and marginalization of
various groups." As museums employ inclusive, web-enabled methods, there is
potential to enhance Native American agency in the exhibition process. Current
technology allows museums to share potential exhibit content with Native groups using
a process that is faster and easier for both parties. For example, the Florida Museum
Project wiki asks Seminole and Miccosukee Tribal members which terminology they
prefer for the historic objects and whether they find any object inappropriate for public
display. Within a few minutes on their home computers, Native Americans can add their
voices to the museum's collections information and future projects that use this
In summary, this chapter illustrates the historic forces within the museum field
that drive the direction of my project. This chapter also identifies the problems the wiki is
trying to resolve, and highlights the growing potential for online collaborative platforms
in strengthening museum/Native partnerships. The description of New Museology
clarifies how relatively recent is the museum institution's shift in focus on diversity,
inclusion, and pluralism, and how much opportunity there is for engaging diverse
communities. The examples of Native protest in this chapter demonstrate the need for
improving relationships between museums and Native Americans. Finally, the
discussion of technology and museum partnerships demonstrates new opportunities for
Native agency in collections and exhibition methods.
My project contributes to several post-1990 museum goals: improving Native
American/ museum relationships, including Native-generated content, and increasing
information accessibility to Native and non-Native audiences. Museums' recent efforts
to engage Native communities in partnerships have carved a new path for both
exhibitions development and collections management practices. It is my hope that
museums with Native American collections implement additional online platforms to
increase Native agency in collections and exhibitions practice.
PROJECT GOALS AND METHODS
This project's central goals were to invite feedback from Seminole and
Miccosukee Tribal members and to increase public and Native American and non-
Native accessibility to the Florida Ethnographic Collection. The primary objective of "The
Florida Museum Project" wiki, was to provide an additional tool for museums to include
Native American voice in the interpretation of Native American collections. Typically,
Native American collaboration with museums is initiated by an exhibition plan, and
involves years of consultation; however, the wiki creates a platform for more immediate
feedback, where multiple perspectives are encouraged. Native American participants
have the opportunity to influence how their community and culture are displayed and
discussed. The project accomplishes this by expanding conventional on-site
museum/Native American collaboration methods into a digital format. This approach is
low in cost and requires relatively fewer resources than conventional onsite meetings.
My project uses a wiki, which offers simultaneous online viewing and commenting on
text and images by multiple parties. The wiki interaction is not intended to fully replace
in-person consultations and the rapport these meetings build between Tribal members
and museum staff. Instead, the wiki model can act as a supplemental tool for improved
Native American/ museum collaboration, while also providing online access to the
collections for American Indian groups. The inclusion of Native American feedback on
collection interpretation can lead to better informed exhibits, programs, and works of
scholarship. Additionally, enhancing the access Native Americans have to Native
collections is important because it can help overcome longstanding barriers between
Native peoples and the artifacts that embody their heritage.
The project's second goal is to increase the digital access for both Native and
non-Native researchers, because providing online access to Native American objects is
an important step in maintaining the museum's relevance to society. Museums prove
their relevance by providing services that meet the public demand. Studies show that
upcoming generations view technology and the internet as the central conduit for their
research needs; therefore, museums can demonstrate the effectiveness of their
collections information by making it available in the medium with which the public is
most connected (Smithsonian 2007).
Museums and Community Co-Design
Nina Simon, an active voice in the museum field, advocates for the application of
technology in museums with the goal of engaging the public in active participation in
informal learning. Simon writes her blog, Museum 2.0 to more than 5000 subscribers
(www.museumtwo.blogspot.com). Museum 2.0 encourages museums to question their
institutional methods and to embrace the tenets of Web 2.0. Simon proposes that
museums use a strategy she calls community co-design in program and exhibition
development. This strategy is a grass roots approach that embraces the perspectives,
ideas, ingenuity, and skills of the community it serves with the goal of producing
programs and exhibitions of a more inclusive and perhaps more authentic nature
(Simon 2009). The concept of community co-design is an exciting prospect because it
takes the standard process of collaboration and expands the perimeters of involvement.
Community co-design often challenges members of the public to perform real research,
and contribute to museum projects in a meaningful way. The work is viewed as
worthwhile by public contributors when their input is tangibly applied to an exhibition,
program, or online database. Museums gain user-content and the users experience a
sense of accomplishment and contribution to the larger community. Community co-
design is a symbiotic relationship between museums and the communities they serve. I
apply the notion of community co-design in my project goals and methods, because I
agree with Simon's belief that museums can better serve the communities they
represent by providing new platforms, digital or otherwise, for information sharing and
community contribution (Simon 2009).1
The Florida Museum Project wiki initially grew out of a budding partnership with a
larger collection database initiative titled The Southeastern Native American Collections
Project (SNACP), overseen by Dr. Jason Baird Jackson at Indiana University. Through
his research as a Folklorist and Material Cultural specialist, Jackson has identified an
absence of online representation of cultural materials from Southeastern Native
American groups, including the Florida Seminole and Miccosukee Tribes (Personal
Correspondence August 13, 2009). Simultaneous to Dr. Jackson's SNACP project, I
was working on several projects at the Florida Museum of Natural History, and I wanted
to create a thesis project that would increase access to the Florida Ethnographic
Collection (FEC) for Native and non-Native researchers alike. At the outset, I planned
to expand access to Florida Ethnographic Collection information by organizing
collections information that exists in the form of catalog cards, accession files, loan files,
1 This notion of engaging communities as museum partners was originally articulated in Mastering Civic
Engagement (1992); however community co-design fleshes out the general proposals set forth by the AAM
Museums and Community Initiative and discusses hands-on approaches to realizing successful community
unpublished research, publications, and archival materials. Then I planned to produce
an "ethnographic monograph" or comprehensive descriptive report on the Florida
Ethnographic Collection. The monograph would have acted as a research reference for
the Seminole/Miccosukee objects at the Florida Museum of Natural History. The report
would have also contributed information on the Florida Museum's holdings to Jackson's
SNACP project, a multi-institutional database. As I thought more about the issues of
accessibility and the need for inclusion of Native voices, it became clear that the project
would be best realized if it included an interactive, online component that could
simultaneously offer digital collections access, and invite Native input into the object
interpretation process. After I made this decision, I changed the project format from a
research paper to an interactive wiki.
The Organization and Digitization of Records
Before the Florida Museum Project wiki could be realized, the various sources of
object information needed to be researched, collected, organized, digitized, and
formatted for the web. The Florida Ethnographic Collection includes more than 300
objects, many of which are on exhibit or on loan to other museums. Different sources of
object information could be found by examining an array of separate museum
resources: the Registrar's Microsoft Access collections document, a paper catalog card
and accession card, an object inventory location document, a paper accession file, and
sometimes a paper loan file.
The objects had various forms of visual documentation. Approximately ten of the
objects had been professionally photographed for publication and had color prints.
Many of the catalog index cards had a small black and white reference photo glued to
the reverse side. Some of the index cards had pencil drawings or tracings of the
objects. There were also black and white slides of these photos in the collection records
in the Registrar's department. About half of the objects are on exhibit at FLMNH, in
Powell Hall. These objects had been documented in slide form for condition reports in
2001, and the slides were stored with the exhibits department at the exhibits building. I
am providing this information on the variety of locations for FEC information in detail,
because it highlights the difficulty a Native American or non-Native researcher might
face in trying to gather all the information on Seminole/Miccosukee objects at the
To organize the information, I created an Excel document to combine the various
facets of information a researcher may be interested in.2 The first step in gathering and
digitizing the FEC information was to scan 279 index catalog cards. The catalog cards
have the greatest amount of information on each object including descriptions,
materials, maker, donor, dimensions, place and date collected, history of provenance,
and some Native consultation comments. Next, I examined the accession files, entering
information on object collection and donor history to the Excel document. Then I verified
the objects that were out on loan, by referring to loan documents and physically
confirming their location in storage, so that the onsite objects could be identified and
professionally photographed. I examined the objects onsite for descriptions and
measurements, and arranged for the museum photographer to photograph the objects
in a high-resolution digital format, resulting in 169 new group and single-object photos.
Next, I scanned 170 slides to obtain digital images of the Seminole/ Miccosukee objects
2 The categories of information included in the Excel Spreadsheet: Catalog Number, Listed Provenience, Typology,
Basic Description, Full Description, Condition, Measurements, Materials, Date Made, Loan Status, Storage
Location, Donor, Additional Notes, Publications, Photography Sources.
on exhibit at the Florida Museum's exhibit building. Finally, the scanned image files for
the slides and catalog cards needed to be cropped and edited using Photoshop
software, and were resized from 6.8MB to 78.3KB for use on the web. The files were
then individually uploaded to the wiki website.
"Florida Museum Project" Wiki Overview
I was surprised by the length of time it took to compile and digitize the object
information from the various museum sources. This challenge reinforced my realization
of the wiki's importance, because it would organize the data in a central online location.
The central online location materialized as a Web 2.0 tool, a wiki, for inviting community
participation. While there are a number of sources for free, user-friendly website- or
wiki-building software, I chose to use www.pbworks.com because of its ease of use,
comparatively large amount of free storage (2GB), range of security, and adjustability of
contributor editing levels. With no prior experience in creating webpages, I researched
the approaches used by other museum websites for elements of attractive design and
intuitive organization. Two strategies I found helpful on other websites were color-
coding sections of the collection for easier way-finding, and displaying only a small
number of objects on each page to avoid overwhelming the viewer. The complete wiki
can be accessed at www.floridamuseumproject.pbworks.com.
I produced over 350 pages for the wiki, highlighting more than 300 Seminole/
Miccosukee artifacts in the Florida Ethnographic Collection. The following is a
description of the types of pages and site organization from specific objects to general
information. On the wiki, each artifact page (Figure A-5) includes a comment box at the
bottom, an image of the object and a datasheet displaying information organized into
* Object Name(s) * Dimensions
* Cultural Source * Date Created
* Location * Collection History
* Materials * Catalog Number
* Techniques * Additional Information
My main goal for designing this site was to achieve clarity and simplicity. In order
to keep the design simple, I tried to present links and information with intuitive
placement. Ease of navigation is key to maximizing participant contributions over
hundreds of wiki pages. The individual artifact pages can be accessed by clicking on
thumbnail-size photos categorized by object-type (Figure A-4) . In this form, viewers
can visually navigate a large number of artifacts and comment on objects that interest
them. The "Main Collections" page (Figure A-3) displays all eight object categories,
which link to the thumbnail pages.1 To assist navigation through the site, I also designed
a Side Bar (Figure A-6) with links to pages including the home page and the main
collections page, and links to other important resources for contributors. I organized the
Side Bar so it could present additional entry points to the collections information and
other page options.
Nina Simon emphasizes "The Ask" in her writings on successful collaborative
projects. "The Ask" concisely informs potential participants about what would be
required of them, how their contribution will be used, and why their input matters (Simon
2009). By developing a clear "ask," the project ought to not only entice more
participation, but should offer transparency on what the museum's ultimate objectives
are. In developing Native American/museum partnerships, it is especially important to
conduct the project in the most honest, ethical, and inviting manner possible. My wiki's
1 Categories include Silverwork, Basketry, Clothing & Adornment, Tools & Food Processing, Dolls, Woodcarvings,
Toys & Games, and Miscellaneous Objects
"ask" is articulated on the "How to Participate" page (Figure A-6). I focus on using
conversational wording so the site has a friendly and inviting tone, and the directives are
easily understood by a wide variety of community members. I offer clearly stated, open-
ended questions that invite a wide range of input, allowing every tribal member to feel
that his or her insights are valid and valuable to the museum. I also explicitly list how the
comments may be used by the museum. I provided this information with the intention of
letting the participants make an informed decision when choosing to contribute.
Recruiting Participants, Building Partnerships
The collaborative aspect of the wiki required me to introduce the project goals
and methods to cultural heritage advocates in the community and to initiate a
professional relationship with interested individuals. The input aspect of the project is
essential in order to provide accurate, culturally sensitive information on the Seminole
and Miccosukee objects in the collection. Each page of the wiki includes a comment
box, where Tribal members are encouraged to add corrections, additional information,
and personal stories related to the artifacts. To persuade Tribal members that the
project was beneficial to the community and worthwhile to contribute to, I needed to
recruit participants and build partnerships with individuals and the community at large.
My first interaction with the Seminole Tribe of Florida was through the staff at the
Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum at the Big Cypress Reservation in southern Florida. The Ah-
Tah-Thi-Ki Museum is a Tribal museum operated by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The
staff invited me to tour the museum and discuss my project with them in person. I met
with the Curator of Exhibits, Exhibits Manager, and Research Coordinator who all
demonstrated support for the wiki project. Each offered insights into recruiting
strategies, namely advertising in Facebook and the Seminole Tribune newspaper. The
Seminole and Miccosukee Tribes of Florida have a multitude of perspectives:
Seminoles and Miccosukees share material culture and most of their historical
background, but identify their groups by the different languages spoken, and the groups
have separate reservations. The Seminoles reside on six reservations that span both
coasts of the Florida peninsula as well as the Everglades. Within each Seminole
Reservation there are Members who embrace traditional practices more fundamentally,
and there are others who have adopted Christianity and hold different viewpoints on
how objects related to traditional cultural ceremonies should be addressed. For the
objects on the wiki, this means that one Seminole contributor may deem certain objects
as inappropriate to display to the public on the museum website. Simultaneously,
another contributor could comment that the same object needs to be displayed to
understand the past. If I came across this situation on the wiki, I would err on the side of
caution and respect, so would remove the object from display and note the comment in
the object's file. This multiplicity of perspective and voice is both a challenge and a
benefit to the wiki project. The challenge lies in recruiting participants and including
voices from each Tribe and each separate Reservation location. I chose to recruit
through The Seminole Tribune (Figure B-1), which is circulated on all Seminole
Reservations, and I also advertised through the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum's Facebook
page. Additionally, I made a second visit to Big Cypress during the annual American
Indian Arts Celebration, where I spoke with Seminole Tribal members about the project.
I was met with mixed responses at this event. Individuals under 35 seemed to be more
receptive to the project than Tribal members over 35. This is not surprising because the
under-35 age bracket across U.S. society shows more interest in Web 2.0 technologies
than older generations who did not grow up with computer technology.
One unexpected request by the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki staff was that I submit my project
protocol to the University of Florida Institutional Review Board for official University
approval.2 I believe the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki's request for this official paperwork reflects Native
distrust rooted in past hegemonic interactions with multiple non-Native institutions.
American Indian communities require explicit and transparent project goals and
methods as a means of protecting themselves. The request for the protocol approval
highlights that, despite the increasingly casual view by the general public of sharing
information in a Web 2.0 format, providing cultural information in the form of a wiki
comment may be approached with caution by Tribal members. Because cultural
information has been appropriated by museums in the past, wiki input is likely to be
viewed by Tribal members as both personal and political, and needs to be treated by
the museum with care and respect. In my protocol submission for the Institutional
Review Board, I developed an "informed consent" document outlining how the
participants' wiki comments would be used and explaining the overarching goals of the
Florida Museum Project (Appendix C).
In addition to the availability on the website, the digitized collections information
and images will be added to the Florida Museum collections files in the form of a CD
with all digital object images and catalog cards, as well as the complete Florida
Ethnographic Collection (FEC) Excel document. These files can be applied to a number
2 The Institutional Review Board is a University entity that inspects all methods used in research projects involving
human subjects. The purpose of the review is to prevent research subjects from harm.
of future projects to increase access to, and organization of, the FEC information. The
enhanced documentation of the FEC and increased access to this information will also
support current efforts to expand the FEC and to secure additional storage for existing
objects. To provide a productive length of time for feedback, I plan to monitor the
responses contributed to the Florida Museum Project website from October 30th, 2009
through December 31s, 2010. In this timeframe, I anticipate a variety of comments and
questions will be posted by Tribal members. After presenting my project to both the
Florida Museum Informatics Committee and the Anthropology Staff, it has been
determined that the Seminole/Miccosukee wiki comments will be directly applied in
multiple areas of the Florida Museum of Natural History. The new information gained
from the wiki will contribute to the records of the Florida Museum of Natural History's
Anthropology Department and the Office of Museum Technology, and will therefore add
information to the Florida Ethnographic Collection files and to the public online
collections database, which is presently under development at the Florida Museum.
Currently, there is a very brief treatment of the Florida Ethnographic Collection on
the Florida Museum website. The digitized images and information which I produced
during this project will make it possible for the public and Seminole/ Miccosukee Tribal
members alike to access more of the FEC information, and to research the holdings
despite geographic distance. The wiki project will have also allowed Tribal members to
become stakeholders in the information posted on the museum website. The wiki's
digital format for inviting input allows a broad group of Native Americans to invest their
knowledge in the collections records, therefore building their direct involvement. The
shared voice encouraged through the wiki's participatory platform has the potential to
build a partnership between the Florida Museum, the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, and the
Seminole and Miccosukee communities for future collaborative projects. Within the
broader platform for southeastern Native American collections, this wiki will allow the
Florida Museum of Natural History to share its collections with the future multi-
institutional database, the Southeastern Native American Collections Project, currently
being developed by Dr. Jason Baird Jackson at Indiana University.
In conclusion, it is my hope that the Florida Museum Project wiki offers a
contributory model that can be applied by other museums holding Native American
collections. Many museums strive to increase online collections accessibility and
inclusiveness, but they are met with limited resources to realize their goals. By applying
Web 2.0 technology to the challenges experienced by museums, the wiki model offers
an inexpensive and user-friendly tool to meet these demands. Additionally, the wiki
model encourages Native American communities to rejoin their voices with their
culture's historic objects, and share the story of their own heritage with the community
and the public.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
Museums that apply wikis to their Native collections are likely to experience new
benefits and meet complex issues in pursuing the museums' collaborative goals. The
collaborative wiki platform presents a number of opportunities for enhanced information
exchange not as readily available through conventional museum methods. With
increased information exchange, there are several issues museums should proactively
address to actualize museum goals through the wiki model.
Benefits of the Wiki Model
Collaborative museum wiki projects can benefit multiple groups: American
Indians, museums, and members of the Native and non-Native public. Each group
benefits from the creation of new platforms for free, fast, and user-friendly information
sharing. This is a mutually beneficial partnership that increases each group's access to
new information concerning Native collections.
In the application of this wiki model, American Indian groups benefit from
enhanced digital access to Native objects and collections information. This increased
access to Native collections provides potential resources for Native Americans to
research Native cultural practices. After discovering which Native objects the museum
holds, Native communities may also form object loan agreements with a museum, so
that Native American communities can gain further understanding from viewing the
objects in person.
Wikis can assist museums in building more culturally informed collections
records. Information received from wiki consultation is also less resource-intensive than
conventional consultation, which gives museums the opportunity to foster more Native
partnerships. Because the wiki brings a digital replica of the objects to the community, it
increases access to the objects, without causing additional object deterioration through
repeated handling of the materials. This approach to museum-Native collaboration
allows the museum to embrace its role as facilitator by sharing Native voices with its
museum visitors and audiences on the web.
In the case of my project, the public benefits from the three end-user applications
that the wiki information contributes to: the registrar's database, the museum's public
collections database, and the multi-institutional Southeastern Native American
database. The wiki information added to the registrar's database will assist researchers
with the sorting of collections information, and the wiki contributions will provide
valuable primary source material for their collections research. On the museum website,
the public can gain a more comprehensive understanding of Native cultures by
accessing Tribal members' input. The Southeastern Native American database will offer
both Native and non-Native scholars access to Native collections information from
multiple museum repositories. The wiki could also potentially add Native input to be
applied to public programs and future exhibits. Consequently, the wiki provides
collections information that can benefit the public for generations.
Overall, the wiki model provides a valuable supplemental tool for museums that
seek to include Native input in their collections records, but which have not previously
been able to initiate a conventional collections consultation. This additional platform for
building partnerships is important because it may allow museums to pursue
collaborative goals with limited resources. The wiki may also provide valuable resources
to Native communities at a much faster rate than the time frame of a typical consultation
end-product, such as an exhibition or publication.
Wiki Model Issues and Solutions
As with any form of technology, there are issues in the wiki's approach to
communication, and its corresponding ability to facilitate collaborative projects. While
implementing my project, I recognized that partnerships are, first and foremost, about
developing professional relationships. Several issues arose during the project that
derived from different aspects of museum/Native community relationships. The project
clarified the limitations of digital communication for building partnerships. It also
highlighted the challenges of balancing increased community agency with maintaining
the integrity of existing museum records. Another issue in the project is the verification
of the wiki contributor's Native background, in order to prevent non-Native contributors
from adding erroneous information to the wiki. Lastly, there is the question of how
multiple community voices should be represented in the end-product databases. All of
these issues need careful consideration by museums that may consider using the wiki
model for building collections partnerships.
Building a Partnership
It became clear to me throughout this project that wiki technology cannot replace
face-to-face human interaction. Web 2.0 tools assist in faster communication, but offer
very little for building initial rapport with Native communities. Forming professional
relationships and developing trust are both key to building partnerships. Museum
collaboration with Native communities initially requires more personal interaction than
exchanging email messages. Initial on-site visits to the Seminole reservation and
telephone conversations with the staff of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki became essential forms of
communication for building rapport with the community. In recruiting participants for the
wiki, I placed newspaper advertisements in the Seminole Tribune and visited one of the
Seminole Reservations and the Seminole Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. I expected that these
efforts would provide enough valuable Tribal contacts to form a pilot group for
participation. Yet, this progress emerged at a much slower pace than I anticipated. The
five-hour commute to the Big Cypress Reservation prevented frequent visits on my part.
There are staff policies at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum that restrict the dissemination of
Tribal member contact information without project approval by senior Tribal member
museum staff; therefore, I had to recruit individuals on my own. However, I found that
by spending the day with staff members at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum I was able to
explain my objectives for the project and convey my respect for the cultural knowledge
which the Seminoles would share on the wiki. On my second visit, during the American
Indian Arts Celebration, I had the opportunity to speak with one wiki contributor and to
meet other community members and artisans. These visits proved essential for
encouraging community buy-in for the wiki project.
In retrospect, I can see that more face-to-face interaction would have provided
the chance to develop stronger rapport with a wider range of community members, thus
enhancing participation in the wiki project. To offset the limited amount of on-site
contact I had with the Seminole community, I decided to extend the length of the wiki
comment tool from two months to fourteen months. I anticipate that the extended
timeframe will allow for richer feedback, because of word-of-mouth advertisement
through the community. I recommend that future wiki administrators initiate contact with
the community early in the project. I also propose that frequent interaction, either
through phone conversations or visits, may allow for the most productive partnerships.
Balancing Community Agency
As a museum attempts to increase community agency while simultaneously
"gate-keeping" museum records, there are a number of issues a museum must consider
to promote a healthy relationship with contributing communities. Daniel Spock (2009,
10), Director of the Minnesota History Center Museum, explains, "Museums will still
have to negotiate thorny mergers and challenging relationships, in effect balancing the
desire to engage a wider community while maintaining some core sense of institutional
selfhood." Throughout the project, I have continued to struggle with this seeming
paradox between the facilitation of power-sharing and the maintenance of the
museum's informational integrity. While inviting participants to share their knowledge,
questions arose concerning how much agency I should foster in the wiki. I needed to
consider the preservation of the Florida Museum's records and the technical integrity of
the wiki site. I originally planned to assign "writer" wiki access to each participant. This
would have allowed participants to not only make comments, but also to add and delete
images and information on each page. Instead, participants do not have editing
capabilities, but are invited to comment on the page content by typing into a comment
box. While one objective of the wiki was to increase Native agency in defining the
collection, I feared that the hundreds of hours I had invested in formatting the wiki pages
would be altered or erased. This issue underlines the need for trust and relationship-
building not only for Native contributors, but for wiki administrators as well. Had I
established a relationship with a small group of community members who I felt would
take the time to heed specific editing procedures, I may have increased editing
privileges. Collaboration is a popular buzzword in museum work and many other fields;
however, this project revealed practical aspects of risk-taking involved in facilitating
outside communities' contributions.
Recommended Considerations for Community Agency
I learned through this project that museums should approach wiki partnerships
with a clear and pragmatic strategy for inviting participation. The museum needs to
identify what level of compromise they are willing to embrace. Some of the questions
museums need to ask themselves when initiating this type of project are as follows:
What form will the participation take? How will the museum deal with requests for
additional editing privileges? How will the comments be used? Which information will
be given precedence in the final form: the comments or the original museum records?
Native contributors will appreciate transparent project expectations and outcomes,
making the partnership stronger for future projects; therefore, it is important for
museums to try to anticipate collaboration issues and form thoughtful strategies to
Verifying Native Identity of Wiki Contributors
The Florida Museum Project wiki strives to include a wide range of community
voices, but this inclusive strategy opens the project to contributions from potentially
erroneous sources. The wiki software offers several levels of privacy for viewing and
participating in the site, and I chose to open the site to be completely "public," removing
all viewing restrictions. This choice opens the wiki to anyone with internet access so that
they can view the pages and sign up for an account to make comments. Since the site
is public, individuals are able to view it, become interested on their own terms, and this
in turn will hopefully lead them to participate. Because of the public settings in my
project, it is difficult to have absolute certainty that the comments come from a
Seminole/Miccosukee source; therefore, verification of a contributor's identity is an
important issue to be addressed.
There are several ways to gauge the validity of the comment source. For
example, each comment is sent regularly to each site member's email and can be
viewed by many other Seminoles and Miccosukees on the site. This may lend itself to
self-regulation because other participants who are invested in the project will likely feel
compelled to challenge any questionable comments (Saul Drake, Personal
Correspondence October 28, 2009). Secondly, if a person was very active in adding
questionable comments, the wiki administrator may engage them in email conversation
or, in extreme situations, delete their comments. Museums need to verify the sources of
the wiki contributions when deciding how to apply the information to collections records
or exhibits. In light of these issues, I would recommend that future museum wiki
managers contact the Tribal Government Office or other official community hub in order
to recruit participants by invitation only, on a members-only site. This option is likely to
require more time and relationship building with the community, and may reduce the
range of participation. Limiting access in this way also risks the exclusion of Tribal
members who are not on Tribal government list-serves.
Possibilities for Wikis as a Tool for Museum Partnerships
Through implementing my project, I have come to realize that wikis offer wide-
reaching possibilities for museums in collaborative projects. As museums continue to
work in more participatory ways, the wiki model can serve as an effective tool for
partnership. It seems likely, considering recent growth in public use of social media, that
museums and a tech-savvy public will find the wiki format familiar and attractive. It may
soon become easier to gain meaningful contributions from older generations as well,
especially as Web 2.0 software becomes increasingly user-friendly. Currently, wikis are
used by museum professionals to connect multiple institutions or facilitate
However, there is an emerging trend in building wikis to invite community-
contributed heritage content.2 For example, Now & Then,3 an Australian heritage wiki
produced by the Mallala Museum, was recently launched in September 2009. Now &
Then invites community members to submit photos and stories of objects they view as
important to Mallala's community heritage.
Using wikis for museum collaboration is a strategy consistent with the changing
role of the museum in society, and leads to improved cultural understanding. It is also
important to consider the institutional implications for museums that embrace
participatory projects and the wiki's intersection with the museum's changing role.
These issues that my project raises are currently gaining momentum in the museum
field today. The Fall 2009 issue of the AAM exhibits journal, The Exhibitionist, focuses
its content entirely on "Visitor-Generated Content and Design." In this issue, Daniel
Spock revisits some of the questions raised nearly a decade ago by Stephen Weil.4
Spock (2009, 10) extends Weil's arguments for civic engagement, and proposes that
1 One example is www.museums.wikia.com
2 MN150 is a recent example of this contributory trend
3 This heritage wiki Now & Then can be viewed at
4 Weil, Stephen."From Being about Something to Being for Somebody. "Daedalus 128 (1999):3.
museums embrace Web 2.0 platforms as a tool for shifting from a position of authority
to that of "mediator." Regarding specifically indigenous participatory projects, he points
What any museum professional involved in such a collaboration will tell you
is that these projects challenge all sorts of conscious and unconscious
institutional assumptions, sometimes about the meaning of things, but also
just what the facts really are and what kinds of documentation have real
validity. What takes place is a new, negotiated meaning, or a multiplicity of
meanings in contrast to one another. (Spock 2009, 9)
Daniel Spock posits that the application of Web 2.0 technology in museum/Native
collaborations is necessary for museums to grow in their effort toward embracing the
role of community stewards. I see collaborative wikis as a supportive tool for assisting
museums in their enhancement of their civic engagement.
As I conclude this project, I am left with many questions regarding the future
implications of wiki projects, especially regarding the wiki's influence on the alteration of
museum authority, its impact on the museum's Native relationships, and effects on the
museum's relationship with the public. What would it mean for the museum's role in
society if these institutions maintained active wiki conversations with each indigenous
community that their collections represent? How would this affect the role of the curator
and the registrar? Will this approach prove useful for end-users as they access the
information online, or at on-site exhibitions? The museums' use of wikis can enhance
the public's participation in the preservation of their own cultural heritage, and is a
potentially promising means of increasing indigenous voice in the museum. The wiki's
contribution in turn helps position the museum to become more clearly recognized by
the public as integral to the continuity of cultural heritage.
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The Florida Ethnographic Collection holds nearly two hundred pieces of Seminole
silverwork. The categories of work include: cold chiseled silver pendants, bodice pieces, a
bracelet, a turban band, a comb back, and silver finger rings. The types of Seminole
silverwork not represented are silver crescent gorgets, armbands, and earrings. Most of the
silverwork was collected in south central Florida during the 1920s to the 1950s by John M.
Goggin, Curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History and Anthropology Faculty at the
University of Florida, and by William F. Stiles, Curator at the Museum of the American
Seminoles produced silverwork during a period of about 150 years, but archaeological
evidence from the Mississippian Culture in the form of copper discs, personal ornaments,
and ritual objects, points to broader native metalworking traditions prior to European
contact. These pre-contact artifacts are also decorated in the same manner as 18th and
19th century Seminole silverwork: pierced, embossed, or incised. Silver was relatively
uncommon to Seminoles before Spanish importation during the 1500s.l]The Calusa, a
Floridian indigenous group present during early Seminole migration to Florida, produced
silverwork including pendants, gorgets, and beads with Spanish coin silver in 1700s.[21
a View Silverwork
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Cow Creek Seminole
Brighton Reservation, Florida
Silver, glass, twine
hammered silver, cold-chisel
5cm diameter, 5.5cm long with beads
Early 20th century
Collected by John M. Goagin at Brighton Reservation in 1944. Purchased by the Florida Museum in 1955.
92880 View Catalog Card
On Exhibit at the Florida Museum of Natural History, in the South Florida Peoples Hall, 2001-Present.
Figure A-5 Object Page
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1. Look for the comment box at the bottom
of each page.
2. Add yourfeedback thoughts, or questions
in the comment box.
3. Click ADD COMMENT in bottom left corner.
Take Me To:
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How to Participate
About the Proiec
About the Collection
R -c. Achivity
Figure A-6 Side Bar and "The Ask"
The Florida Museum of Natural History
holds over 300 Seminole/ Miccosukee I
historic artifacts. We are interested in
getting YOUR feedback on artifact ,
descriptions and preferred terminology
before the information is made avail-
able on the museum's website. Your
contribution will increase collections
accuracy and offer a Seminole/
Input is invited from all Seminole/
Miccosukee Tribal Members.
Comment as little or as much as you I
like. It's easy to participate, just go to:
Figure B-1 Seminole Tribune Ad
*Add Wiki Feedback to:
1. Florida Museum Website
2. Florida Museum Collections Records
3. S.E. Native American Collections Project
Increased Collections Access
* Creates More Informed Scholarship
* Increases Public Access to Collections
Information and Seminole Contributions
* Build Wiki Pages
PHASE 2 * Initiate Partnership with Seminole Community
* Recruit Seminole Wildki Participants
PHASE 1 *
Organize Collections Information
Digitize Collections Information
Photograph Objects & Scan Slides
* Enhances Native Agency in Context and
Terminology for FEC Objects /
* Creats Online Access for Seminoles
* Simplifies file searches
and transfer of info ion
Corresponding Collections Access in Each Project Phase
Figure B-2 Collections Access Diagram
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD CONSENT DOCUMNET
University of Florida Institutional Review Board Required Document for Proiect Protocol
Certification of Informed Consent (Online Participants)
My name is Shawna Pies and I am a graduate student in Museum Studies at the
University of Florida. I am conducting a thesis project titled Digital Foundations for
Partnership: A Collaborative Model for Indigenous Communities and Ethnographic
Museum Collections. Geographic distance and a shortage of time and funding create
barriers to museum collaboration with the indigenous communities they represent. This
thesis project addresses these issues by using an online workspace. This project invites
Florida Seminole and Miccosukee Tribal Members to share information and
perspectives relating to the collection of nearly 300 Seminole/ Miccosukee artifacts held
at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Baskets, palmetto dolls, silverwork, wood
carvings, and patchwork are some of the object types represented in the collection. The
participants in this project will help to expand the descriptive and contextual information
regarding artifacts in the museum's Seminole/Miccosukee Collections by contributing
online feedback. Through this project, I plan to discuss the benefits and challenges of
using an online workspace to expand indigenous participation in the development of
online indigenous museum collections information.
If you choose to participate in the online workspace, you will have the option to
comment at the bottom of each webpage where images of Seminole objects with
related information will appear on each page. During the months of October and
November, 2009 participants are invited to add their knowledge about such topics as
the history, use, community importance of the object, or other comments. The
information that you share in the comment box will be public. You are free to comment
on as many pages on the website as you choose, or choose not to comment at all. The
administrator of the site (Shawna Pies) has the right to delete offensive or inappropriate
comments. Shawna may also initiate unstructured interviews with Seminole and
Miccosukee museum staff and their associates on the general topic of museum
collaboration and methods of artifact consultation. There is no compensation for
participating, and there are no risks associated with participation in this project. There
are no direct benefits to you for participating in the study. Your participation is voluntary
and may withdraw your consent at anytime without consequence.
Participants will aid in producing more accurate and culturally sensitive
collections information. The information that the comments provide may potentially be
added to the museum's records, and the museum website. These records are
sometimes shared with researchers and members of the public who make requests to
the museum for information. The comments submitted on the website may also be used
in my master's thesis paper and future publications. The thesis paper will be available
(in pdf format) on the University of Florida website and on the "floridamuseumproject"
website in January, 2009. The project website is
My faculty advisor is Glenn Willumson. He can be contacted with questions or concerns
at email@example.com or 352-273-3062. I can be contacted at
firstname.lastname@example.org with questions about the project.
By clicking "I ACCEPT" you are agreeing that you are at least 18 years old and
that you read, understand, and accept the above information.
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Brown, Michael F. 2003. Who Owns Native Culture? Cambridge, MA: Harvard
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Shawna Pies was born in Cincinnati, OH. She attended Ohio University in Athens,
OH, where she earned her B.A. in cultural anthropology (2007). While at studying at
Ohio University, Shawna worked as a curatorial research assistant at the Kennedy
Museum of Art in Athens, OH, where she researched Southwestern Native American
art. She conducted a senior honors thesis titled, Silver Strategies: Implications of
Advocacy and Authenticity of Zuni Artists. In 2007, Shawna joined the museum studies
graduate program at the University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. While working toward her
master's degree, she worked at the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH) in the
Anthropology and Ethnology Division. She also planned the annual juried student art
show as Vice President of the Fine Arts College Council. As Vice Chair of Programs for
Museum Nights, Shawna organized monthly public museum events at the FLMNH. In
2008, Shawna interned in the curatorial department of the Smithsonian Center for
Folklife and Cultural Heritage in Washington, D.C., where she helped evaluate the
Bhutan Program at the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Upon graduation, Shawna
plans to continue exploring topics of digital access to museum collections and Native
American/ museum relationships