Native American Voices: Come and Listen

The Penn Museum’s current exhibit Native American Voices: The People—Here and Now is a powerful celebration of contemporary indigenous cultures as living, breathing entities. Native American history as commonly recounted in the United States is a tale of woe and loss, framing Native groups as near extinct and struggling to survive. Post-contact Native history is […]

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Graffiti as History

Vandalism normally is bad for historic sites.  It is destructive and illegal, especially when done on federal property.  So why does the National Park Service protect Native American graffiti on Alcatraz Island? When Alcatraz Island became a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in 1972, the NPS assumed responsibility for preserving and interpreting […]

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When Authenticity Matters

As a woman in today’s culture, I can’t deny that I love a new piece of jewelry. Be it a gift from a special someone or window-shopping at the mall, I am attracted to the shiniest thing in the display case. Buying the most unique item in the store is often the goal, with hopes […]

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Awkward Understanding

I was an exceptionally awkward teenager. I typically had few, if any friends. I conversed more easily with adults twenty to thirty years my senior than I ever did with my compatriots. The only place I really felt like I belonged was on the football team, but even then, my tendency to read books in […]

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“Geronimo EKIA”

On May 1, Americans discovered that the United States military had killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden during a raid on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. As I watched CNN with my roommates, the television commentators announced that the military code name for the operation to capture bin Laden was “Geronimo.” When I heard the […]

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Bringing History Home

“How can you criticize our history? You did the same thing in America to the Indians.” I was on the Perth subway with several classmates two days after arriving in Australia. In a casual conversation with the stranger, a classmate had explained that we were spending time with members of the Noongar tribe in Western […]

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Creating the Future Through the Past

Is a museum a place where cultures go to die, or where they go to live?  According to James Clifford, the answer is increasingly the latter.  Museums are becoming places of cultural exchange, reciprocity, and contest.  They are becoming contact zones, where cultures enter into ongoing relationships.  According to Clifford, “When museums are seen as […]

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