Green museums waking up the world: indigenous and mainstream approaches to exploring sustainability
Medicine Horse, Jennifer Neso'eoo'e
MetadataShow full item record
Mainstream and Indigenous Museums are ideally situated, both geographically and culturally, to educate the public about complex twenty-first century environmental issues. The most effective approaches to understanding, addressing, and adapting to these climate changes can be conveyed by museums, incorporating a holistic methodology utilizing the knowledge, observations and ideas of both Western and Indigenous peoples, and directed toward the young people of the world most impacted by climate disruption. This qualitative research was conceptualized iteratively within an Indigenous research methodology, using a combination of Western and Indigenous research approaches to create a hybrid methodology that would satisfy academic requirements, yet foster the community required to successfully answer the research question. Although a formal list of interview questions was developed, the qualitative interviews were primarily conducted in an informal conversational manner, allowing the respondents to tell their stories and include what they felt was relevant. A snowball strategy was employed to generate the potential interviews, as well as scouting potential interviews at the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and Association of Tribal Archives Libraries and Museums (ATALM) annual conferences during the years 2011-2015. One hundred and three interviews were conducted at ten institutions; all interviews were conducted in-person on-site at the home institutions. Approximately half of the interviews were conducted at the Smithsonian Institution as the result of a Smithsonian Research Fellowship. The interview respondents were forthcoming about their experiences and observations regarding sustainability initiatives at their institutions. The interviews suggest that it is indeed possible for museums to address issues of climate disruption and sustainability efficaciously, utilizing both Western and Indigenous scientific knowledges to educate and engage the public. However, few American museums are currently attempting this task fraught with challenges, although museums are uniquely able to undertake this crucial work. The collaborative work catalyzed by the Cosmic Serpent and Native Universe NSF-funded research projects serves as a tested model to inspire museums to design their own initiatives. Citizen Science initiatives, engaging museums with their constituent youth, provide a promising way of conveying complex environmental information in a palatable manner to youth of various ages and cultural backgrounds.