Chicago’s Field Museum has covered displays of cultural artifacts linked to Native tribes following a change in federal regulations issued last month that requires museums to gain consent from tribal leaders before showcasing objects held in their collections that have ties to their ancestral heritage.
The policy change, first announced in early December, will force U.S. museums who oversee curatorial departments and staff involved in preserving and exhibiting Indigenous artifacts to quickly get in compliance with the new rules, administered by the U.S. Interior Department, which go into effect on Friday. The new rules require museums, including art institutions and university collections, to update inventories of human remains and associated funerary objects within the next five years.
Ongoing tensions between institutions overseeing holdings of Native American remains and tribal officials in the U.S. over repatriation procedures have persisted for decades. The latest update is a change to a more than 30-year-old law established in the 1990s aimed at expediting the return of Native American remains and cultural artifacts.
In recent years, tribal officials and repatriation advocates have criticized enforcement of the 1990s regulations, arguing that U.S. museums and universities have long relied on internal bureaucracy to obfuscate communications with tribal officials, delaying the repatriation process.
The updated policy also stipulates that institutions can no longer categorize some remains in their holdings as “culturally unidentifiable,” a label that native officials have said made pursuing legal returns more complicated.
In a statement to The New York Times, a representative of the Illinois museum said they covered select displays they believe contain cultural items that could be subject to the new regulations, but that the exhibit does not include Native remains.
The Chicago museum is one of the twenty institutions with the largest holdings of Native remains in the country, according to federal data reported in 2023. The impact of the new standards on other museums across the U.S. with significant holdings of Native remains, among them the American Museum of Natural History in New York, as well as collections at Harvard University and U.C. Berkeley, is still unclear.
The post “Chicago’s Field Museum Alters Native Displays in Response to New Regulations” by Angelica Villa was published on 01/12/2024 by www.artnews.com