A Denver museum said it will close a section devoted to Native Americans because the decades-old exhibit is problematic and “reinforces harmful stereotypes.”
The Denver Museum of Nature & Science shared a letter shared with members that said the North American Indian Cultures Hall perpetuates a “white, dominant culture” and will be shuttered this summer.
The hall was created in the 1970s in collaboration with Indigenous representatives, the museum’s vice president of exhibitions wrote in the letter, according to 9News.
Even though Indigenous people helped create the hall, museum officials say it still fails to rise above “harmful stereotypes.”
“Despite collaboration with Indigenous representatives during its creation and ongoing efforts by curators, conservators, and others to update and improve various parts of the Hall, we acknowledge that it remains problematic,” the vice president, Liz Davis, wrote.
“We understand that the Hall reinforces harmful stereotypes and white, dominant culture.”
A description of the exhibit says visitors were able to view “authentic reconstructed dwellings, including an Inuit snow house, a Northwest Coast clan house, a Navajo hogan, and a Cheyenne tipi,” as well as craft weavings, baskets, beadwork and pottery.
Museum-goers were also able to listen to audio stories and view videos while wandering through the exhibit.
“To acknowledge the harm we have caused, we have developed and agreed upon a healing statement in collaboration with Indigenous consultants, and with input and guidance from conversations with community members. The statement was crafted after taking into account the concerns expressed by the community, and in direct response to those concerns,” Davis said in the letter.
The healing statement has been installed at the start of the North American Indian Cultures exhibit hall, as well as online.
“Together with Indigenous community members, we will reimagine exhibition curation, collecting, programming and conservation practices with respect to Indigenous culture, heritage and belongings. We recognize that there is more work to be done, and we are committed to working with, and for, community members as we move forward in reimagining our practices,” the letter continued.
The news was met with mixed feedback by Museum-goers online, leaving some wondering why the whole exhibit has to be scrapped instead of just re-imagined.
Others applauded the Museum, noting the news made them happy to hear.
“Will you reimagine this exhibit? I’ve always enjoyed looking at this exhibit because I loved the craftmanship of the textiles etc. I’d love to see this come back in a new and exciting way!” one Facebook user wrote.
Others questioned whether items inside the hall would be returned to Indigenous families or reservations.
“Has the museum considered returning the collections to the tribes to which they belong?” one person wrote.
Some on social media lamented seeing a favorite museum attraction go, commenting under the Museum’s Facebook post, “I love this exhibit and am sad to see it go.” Others chimed in saying it was “fantastic news.”
While the hall will be closing at some point this summer, the museum has not said when a redesigned exhibit can be expected to be unveiled.
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