So concludes my first week at the Cultural Resources Center of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian! I’ll make sure to take some pictures that I can post next week. I have my own little cubicle in the Repatriation Department and access to all manner of really interesting office files and archives. At the start of my week, I felt a little overwhelmed at the scope of my project, but the more I dig, the more excited I get!
I’m here through August 11, and by the end of my internship, I am expected to produce a report to the Board of Trustees on the department’s policy and case history. I am looking at how discussions have evolved around topics concerning human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony, as well as conclusions and debates surrounding cultural affiliation, stewardship, Native American identity and state, federal, and institutional recognition, author, jurisdiction, etc. As you can see, it’s a huge amount of information I’m trying to extra from Board of Trustees agendas, minutes, transcripts (if they exist!), and correspondence.
I find it fascinating because I’m getting a really detailed look at how the bureaucracy of an institution like the Smithsonian works as well as how policymakers can influence the course of debate and understanding on very important issues. It helps that I’ve been interested in this subject and have already done a little research on repatriation and cultural stewardship prior to my internship here. I only hope I can conclude my work here before I have to leave!