Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 347–354 | Cite as

Scientific research, museum collections, and the rights of ownership

  • Jeremy A. Sabloff


This article examines the question of how can museum professionals and the interested public resolve the competing claims of traditional ownership and continuing scientific research in relation to museum collections.


museums repatriation Native Americans and Native Hawaiians traditional ownership archaeology/anthropology research belief systems 


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  1. 1.
    See Messenger, P.M., ed. (1989) The Ethics of Collecting Property: Whose Culture? Whose Property?, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, for a very useful overview of this subject; also see Greenfield, J. (1995) The Return of Cultural Treasures, Second Edition, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, for a broad overview of the general question of repatriation.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See The New York Times, 5 February 1998.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Zimmerman, L. (1994) Sharing Control of the Past. Archaeology 47 (6): 65.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    The immense controversy over the “Kennewick Man” skeletal materials from the state of Washington in the U.S.A. is the most visible example today of such irreconciliability. See the Anthropology Newsletter (American Anthropological Association) (1999) 40 (4): 20–22 for recent comments on the problems in this case.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    See Swidler, N, Dongoske, K.E., Anyon, R., and Downer, A.S., eds. (1997) Native Americans and Archaeologists: Stepping Stones to Common Ground, Altamira Press, Walnut Creek, CA for some useful discussions of recent positive interactions, as well as potential pitfalls. The Society for American Archaeology (SAA) also has an active Committee on Native American Relations. Since its establishment in 1990, when I was President of the SAA, this committee has emerged as an important bridge builder between archaeologists and Native Americans. In addition, the SAA Bulletin has published a number of informative articles about interactions between archaeologists and Native Americans (see, for example, Mills, B. (1998) Working Together-The Archaeological Field School in the 1990s: Collaboration in Research and Training. SAA Bulletin 14 (5): 20–22).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Torrey, E.F. (1972) The Mind Game: Witchdoctors and Psychiatrists. Emerson Hall, New York.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Preucel, R. (in press) Making Pueblo Communities: Archaeological Discourse at Kotyiti, New Mexico, in: Yaeger, J. and Canuto, M. eds., An Archaeology of Communities in the Americas, Routledge, London.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    See Anyon, R. and Ferguson, T.J. (1995) Cultural Resources Management at the Pueblo of Zuni, New Mexico, USA, Antiquity 69: 913–930.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    See Ann Fienup-Riordan (1996) The Living Tradition of Yup’ik Masks: Agayuliyaraput (Our Way of Making Prayer), University of Washington Press, Seattle, in association with the Anchorage Museum of History and Art and the Anchorage Museum Association, for a useful example of cooperation between Native Americans and museums. The University of Pennsylvania Museum is currently working with the Inupiat Heritage Center Museum in Barrow, Alaska to loan them materials for the opening of this new museum. Other museums are engaged in similar cooperative projects.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Washburn, D.K. (1995) Living in Balance: The Universe of the Hopi, Zuni, Navaho, and Apache, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Preuccl, R. (1998) personal communication.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Opragen Publications 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeremy A. Sabloff
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and AnthropologyPhiladelphiaUSA

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