Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Exhibit features Native American dioramas in transition

For more information on:
The decision to remove the dioramas
The LSA theme semester

Exhibit Museum of Natural History

Museums around the world are wrestling with questions about the representation of indigenous people in museum exhibits. Who decides how a culture is portrayed? Does context matter? What happens when members of the community speak out against museum exhibits?

“Native American Dioramas in Transition” is an overlay exhibit placed on and around the Exhibit Museum of Natural History’s well-known Native American dioramas, explaining why they will be taken off display and moved into storage in January 2010. It runs through Jan. 4.

Scholarship and museum practices have changed since the dioramas were made almost 50 years ago. Issues of concern include their context in a natural history museum and the stereotyping and oversimplification inherent in the diorama as a display technique.

The decision to move the dioramas was guided by the university and Exhibit Museum’s dedication to advancing scholarship and best practices, collaboration and support of a diverse community.

Numerous public educational events to explore issues around the representation of indigenous peoples in museums will be offered as part of the 2009-10 LSA Theme Year, “Meaningful Objects:  Museums in the Academy.”

One event is the 10th annual William R. Farrand Public Lecture, which will take place at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 30 in the Helmut Stern Auditorium located at the U-M Museum of Art. The lecture, “National Museum of the American Indian: Reflections on American History and 21st Century Museology,” will be presented by W. Richard West Jr., founding director emeritus of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian.