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Chip Colwell
Denver Museum of Nature and Science (Denver, CO 80205-5732)
Museums, Native America, and the Repatriation Debate

I am seeking a NEH Fellowship to complete a book on one of the most important debates for museums and Native America over the last century: who owns Indian bodies and the sacred objects of Native American cultures? This book examines the repatriation debate through the lens of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, as it collected and then returned cultural objects and human remains from the Tlingit of Alaska, Zuni of New Mexico, Arapaho of Oklahoma, and Seminole of Florida. Based on a funded 12-month ethnographic research project, this book reveals how different social actors construct and negotiate concepts of heritage, property, law, ethics, science, and justice. Written for an academic and popular audience, Opening the Skeleton Closet goes beyond the polemical, legal, and anecdotal analyses that predominate the current literature to address how both museums and Native Americans are struggling to come to terms with history and find a common future.

[Grant products][Media coverage]

Project fields:

Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars

Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2013 – 5/31/2014