"Usually, when anthropologists are looking to expand their collections, they go into a community, take an object, describe it using their own anthropological terms, put it in storage, and add the information into a database. It's a very one-way process," said Dr. Chip Colwell.
Creating Collaborative Catalogs: Using Digital Technologies to Expand Museums was a three-year project to develop an innovative open-source, online collaborative catalog system so museums can gather indigenous perspectives while maintaining the museum's existing data.
Unlike most museums catalogues that are "closed" to the very communities that created the objects, this new system will allow information from tribal members to be incorporated into the database. The goal of the project is to create a refined model that museums can use to include Native American perspectives within their community context.
The Denver Museum of Nature & Science will begin this project by focusing on approximately 550 objects in our collections from the Pueblo of Zuni, in New Mexico. The database will allow for a two-way flow of information, including the Museum's descriptions, as well as text, video, audio, and additional photos and drawings from the Pueblo of Zuni community.
"We're looking to work together to create a common understanding. It's the personal interpretations that give life and real value to objects," said Dr. Colwell.
UCLA is partnering with the Denver Art Museum, Museum of Northern Arizona, Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Cambridge Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, and A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center on this project.