The Currency of Consultation and Collaboration

Ann McMullen


Since the 1980s, American museums have increasingly sought Native people’s assistance in exhibitions and other projects. While others often present their success stories, I draw on my museum experiences and examine how cultural misunderstandings about the issue of money and payments can undermine such consultations. Drawing on the literature of gifts, exchanges, and commodities, I suggest that better understanding of the dynamics of payments, reciprocity, and traditional knowledge, values, and exchanges can strengthen collaborative projects for both museums and communities. Simultaneously, I examine what is at stake for indigenous participants and museums, and what instrumental purposes their involvement serves.


Consultation; Collaboration; Economics; Exchange; Museum Authority

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