The National Museum of the American Indian: Stewards of the Sacred

This lecture was the keynote address for "Stewards of the Sacred: Sacred Artifacts, Religious Culture, and the Museum as Social Institution," a gathering of leading museum directors from around the world. The conference examined issues surrounding sacred objects in museum collections, including the responses that such materials engender both within and outside their original religious communities, and how these relationships and responses affect longstanding ideas about artifact ownership, display, interpretation, conservation, and care.

W. Richard West, attorney and member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, is the founding director of the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), Smithsonian Institution. His talk demonstrated how the NMAI, which was developed in conversation with many American Indian communities, could serve as a new model for museum-community engagement.