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May 17, 2019

International Museum Day 2019 reads | “Balancing Between Two Contested Worlds”

For International Museum Day 2019, we have selected for you a series of articles published in Museum International in connection with the theme “the future of tradition”.

Aikio, A. 2018. ‘Guovtti ilmmi gaskkas. Balancing Between Two Contested Worlds: The Challenges and Benefits of Being an Indigenous Museum Professional’, Museum International, Vol 70, No. 279-280, pp. 100-111. Finland

In this article, I discuss the challenges of being indigenous and a museum curator, and some of the benefits that I have found in balancing between these two worlds with their much‐contested relationship. In many parts of the world, museums play a role in managing indigenous heritage, though sometimes indigenous peoples are represented only passively in comparison to the place material culture holds in exhibitions and publications. Despite the difficult relationship between museums and indigenous peoples in the recent past, today indigenous communities tend to see museums as offering an opportunity to present their own story, and on their own terms.

In Finland, the role reserved for the Sámi people in museums has been that of a study object or a resource for knowledge and research on material culture. Historically, we have been little involved in determining how our culture is interpreted or exhibited. The Sámi Museum Siida was founded in 1959 and modelled on European museums. In the decades that followed, Sámi museum professionals have developed their own positions and practices, at the Sámi Museum and in other organisations. This article discusses some of these developments and the potential for indigenous professionals in museums to shape a common understanding and sustainable collaborations with indigenous communities. New encounters between museums and the indigenous community, I argue, can also foster opportunities for the work of reparation and healing of some of the traumas caused by colonisation.

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