Stewards of the Sacred

Stewards of the Sacred book

Stewards of the Sacred. Sullivan and Alison Edwards, eds. American Association of Museums Press, 2004.

The Peabody Museum is committed to working with descendant and other communities to provide appropriate housing and care of sensitive collections. In an era of increased collaboration with indigenous groups, largely as a result of NAGPRA, the Museum has taken a leadership role in exploring this issue. The 2004 article “Stewardship of Sensitive Collections: Policies, Procedures, and the Process of their Development at the Peabody Museum” by associate curators, Patricia Capone and Diana Loren, detailed the Peabody Museum's approach to the care and treatment of sensitive collections through specific policies and procedures that draw both from the Peabody's mission and the spirit of NAGPRA to emphasize cooperation between the institution and descendant communities toward a common goal of preservation and study of humanity through research, teaching, and public programs. "Culturally Sensitive Collections: A Museum Perspective," by Rubie Watson, Peabody director, in the same volume addresses planning, consultation, and procedures for stewardship of culturally sensitive collections at the Peabody.

Increased consultation with native groups has brought about many changes to the Peabody's operations over the past ten years, including how we store and exhibit Native American objects. Many Native American groups believe that attaching the pipe bowl to the pipe stem, enlivens or activates the pipe's power. The Museum now takes care to store and display these items separately.

Calumet, Upper Missouri River, early 19th century. PM 99-12-10/53101.2; pipe bowl, Lakota. PM 99-12-10/53138.2. Photos by Hillel Burger.