This article reports on an early project exploring the possibilities of collaborative description of Indigenous belongings held in museums. The authors conducted a collaborative research project on how multiple local expert communities interacted with and reacted to objects held within multiple museums. The ethnographic research conducted in this study demonstrates the need for museums to collaborate with local communities as well as a method for implementing this collaboration. The study showed a disconnect between how objects were presented and recorded and the local experts’ experience and knowledge about the objects (this disconnect is visualized on page 753); the two main disconnects were found in the narrative the Zuni communities and museums constructed about these objects as well as an absence of the use and practice of these objects in the museums. The authors advocate for working within this disconnect to find better ways of representing objects, or viewing museums as “contact zones” in which multiple experts – not only the traditional museum “Expert” – can collaborate. One method for negotiating this disconnect is to make visible the different meaning objects have in different contexts; designing digital spaces to host digital objects allow for this visibility.
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Srinivasan, Ramesh, Katherine M. Becvar, Robin Boast, and Jim Enote. 2010. “Diverse Knowledges and Contact Zones within the Digital Museum.” Science, Technology, & Human Values 35 (5): 735–68. https://doi.org/10.1177/0162243909357755.