We’re arriving at the end of the Toolkit…this is the chapter before last. Happy reading!
Collections: How We Hold the Stuff We Hold in Trust
Authors: Joy Bivens, Ben Garcia, Porchia Moore, nikhil trivedi, Aletheia Wittman
The authors challenge traditional thinking about museum collecting practices, calling the field to shift from a focus on a museum’s claim of objective ownership of collections to collaboration and transparency with stakeholder communities. Their guiding principles are consent and access for the origin and descendant communities of museum collections, and telling suppressed histories. Working collaboratively and sharing decision-making power with communities is a major theme throughout. They explain this work as one step in purposefully dismantling the colonial ideologies upon which large, encyclopedic museums in the U.S. were founded. The chapter poses questions for museum self-reflection on collecting practices, suggests new practices, and offers tools for doing this work. The authors write of collecting as a form of storytelling and ask the field: which stories do we choose to tell? who do we allow to participate in telling stories? when we negotiate these stories with communities and original owners, what are the power dynamics, including economic factors? The authors explain that their work comes from a place of love for their museums and people. “Our overarching suggestion is that museums and cultural institutions create long-term visions for how their collections can foster equity, inclusion, and paradigms for shared authority and knowledge creation.”
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