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Contextualizing “Old” Museum Collections: The Case of Obsidian “Mirrors” at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian
Anthropological museum collections are an important resource for academic and community-centered research. However, many museum collections have minimal or even lack contextual information. This study exhibits some of the protocols for consulting Indigenous heritage in museum settings and overcomes the challenges related to collections-based research. Recent studies of rectangular polished obsidian items found within museum collections have indicated that these objects were made by Mexican Indigenous artisans during the colonial period for European consumption. Nev¬ertheless, much of this research was not well-grounded within the discipline of anthro¬pology and therefore did not fully address the potential cultures or communities that manufactured these items and the Indigenous and colonial intersections under which they were produced and consumed. We interweave archaeological analytical techniques, provenance and techno-morphological analysis, including experimental archaeology with pre-Columbian archaeological studies, Mesoamerican art and iconogra¬phy, and historical sources to identify the culture(s) that manufactured rectangular obsidian tablets in the context of Indigenous and colonial entanglements in Mexico. This study in collections-based research contributes to the restoration of ancestral intel¬lectual knowledge and labor to Indigenous peoples that were erased through the process of coloniality, including museum practices of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

This free online program is sponsored by Desert Diamond Casinos.

Aug 6, 2022 11:00 AM in Arizona

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