DENVER — The Denver Museum of Nature & Science (DMNS) announced it will close its North American Indian Cultures exhibit hall.
DMNS said in a letter to its members that it will close the hall this summer because it "reinforces harmful stereotypes and white, dominant culture."
"In the 1970s, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science created the North American Indian Cultures (NAIC) Hall," DMNS Vice President of Exhibitions Liz Davis wrote in the letter. "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. We understand that the Hall reinforces harmful stereotypes and white, dominant culture.
"This summer, we will be closing the Hall. 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.
"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," continued the letter.
Denver Museum of Nature & Science provided further detail about the exhibit hall on the museum's Instagram page:
"The human dioramas depict Indigenous cultures as if they only exist in the past. In doing so, we fail to highlight the historical and lived experiences of Indigenous people. Presenting Indigenous communities as objects of study, rather than living and vibrant cultures, perpetuates a long history of erasing the experience of Indigenous people.
"Additionally, throughout the Hall, we have inconsistently updated the language we use to identify the cultural affiliation of both the belongings and the individuals who made them. Language is important, and it is inappropriate to use terms imposed on communities instead of the ones they use for themselves. For instance, we use the term 'Iroquois' rather than Haudenosaunee. Throughout the space, the term 'Indian' is used to describe Indigenous peoples, which is another example of harmful language. Many belongings are displayed without any language or attribution at all, which undermines their cultural significance."
The museum said a healing statement has been installed at the front of the North American Indian Cultures exhibit hall and online.
"We also recognize the harm done and are committed to working with our partners to reimagine exhibition, curation, collecting, programming and conservation practices with respect to Indigenous cultural histories, heritage and belongings," the museum posted to Facebook. "We are always proud to be #yourMuseum, and we know that comes with responsibility. We are committed to doing the work to be a more inclusive and respectful Museum for all."
DMNS said members and the public can ask questions can give comments. The hall will close in early June 2023.
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