Research requires consultation

Contributed by Marla Taylor

The way the Peabody Institute is supporting collections-based research is changing. 

We are committed to involving Native American and Indigenous nations, communities, and groups in research efforts involving collections held by the Peabody (archives, photographs, and items), including decision-making about the appropriateness of research activities and analysis. As of November 2021, consultation with an authorized tribal representative is a required part of any application for access to collections. This is consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (September 13, 2007), specifically Article 11, which states that:

Indigenous peoples have the right to practice and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature.

This approach stems from the Peabody Institute’s commitment to practice ethical management in all aspects of the Peabody’s collection, and our response to the UN Declaration, which requires member states to:

provide redress through effective mechanisms, which may include restitution, developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples, with respect to their cultural, intellectual, religious and spiritual property taken without their free, prior and informed consent or in violation of their laws, traditions and customs.

Preference will be given to research projects that are conducted by descendant communities or at the written request of those communities. The Peabody encourages researchers to foster their own relationship with geographically and culturally affiliated descendant communities. In cases where relationships have not been, or cannot be, established, the Peabody may assist with limited guidance on consultation on a case by case basis.

Researchers must submit a completed Collections Research Request Form to the Curator of Collections for evaluation.  Non-invasive techniques including, but not limited to, 3D scanning, pXRF, and x-ray, as well as invasive techniques, including, but not limited to, radiocarbon dating, compositional analysis, DNA, and isotopic analysis require the completion of the Analysis Request Form.

An International Collections Addendum form is necessary for collections whose origin is outside of the United States.

Prior to consultation, the Peabody Institute is able to confirm or deny the presence of the requested information and respond to general questions about the proposed research material. In some cases, a list may be provided to the researcher to assist them in conducting an effective consultation. However, no direct access or detailed information will be shared without appropriate community authorization.

The Peabody Institute recognizes that this is a shift in traditional museum research access practices. Our goal is prioritize Indigenous voices in any use of Indigenous cultural heritage and to make certain that research is conducted collaboratively with descendant communities.  All questions or comments can be sent to the Curator of Collections.

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