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Supporting Repatriation Beyond the Confines of the Museum

Written by Joan Lester

Our shared understandings of the critical need for native control of representation in museums was most often only expressed in exhibits and programs that reached The Children's Museum audience. As Mike became more committed to this issue, he encouraged me to begin speaking out at the American Association of Museums, and he supported my participation both financially and intellectually. Over the years, I participated in panels that looked at the messages imbedded in Study Storage; the importance of collecting contemporary work, the critical role of Advisory Boards and the "rightness" and need for Repatriation. Perhaps the most memorable panel was "We Need Our Grandfathers Back Home," presented at AAM in 1985. At my invitation, Oren Lyons, Firekeeper for the Onondaga Nation, flew to San Diego and spoke to a filled and hushed room about the appropriation of the sacred Iroquois medicine masks and the essential need for their return home. Although more and more members of the museum profession were beginning to consider the question of repatriation, a well known museum director called AAM to say that I should be driven out of town for creating such a panel, and that, in protest, he would not be attending the meeting!

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