May 10, 2010

Burke Museum Professionals Contribute to Tribal Museum Program

Museums are multi-purpose institutions, and there is no doubt that displaying cultural identities is one of the most important reasons museums exist. Many Washington state tribes run their own museums, but have unique needs to accommodate each tribe’s vision and cultural beliefs.

In order to address the specializations of tribal museums, Dr. James Nason, curator emeritus at the Burke Museum, collaborated with the Tulalip Tribes Native American Career and Educational Program to create a Tribal Museum Program at the Northwest Indian College. The program is a three-course series in collections management, administration and exhibitions/education. All of these courses focus on the specific issues tribal museums face.

Students from the program's tribal administration course. Photo courtesy of A&S Perspectives

Megon Noble, assistant collections manager of archaeology at the Burke, taught the collections management course. Others from the Suquamish Museum and Cultural Center and the Wing Luke Museum are professors for the program as well.

One example of specific collections management needs in a tribal museum is how a museum should handle its sacred objects. Discussions about whether an object should be on display, or whether burial objects should be put back into graves or housed in the museum are few issues analyzed in the Tribal Museum Program.

Nason summed up the importance of museum collaboration perfectly in a UW Arts and Sciences Perspectives article. “As the Washington state museum, the Burke is inherently committed to ensuring that every museum in our community is up to snuff, because our state is best served by every museum being better,” he says. “We have an obligation to help other museums be as effective as they can be.”

To read the full A & S article, click here.

Posted By: Andrea Barber, Communications