Naming and Claiming: Indigenous Language in Digital Repatriation

India Young, Princeton University Art Museum, USA

Digital Repatriation is an emerging effort from museums to conceptually return belongings, largely removed during colonial nation-building programs. It utilizes the tools of technology to make visible the deepest recesses of museum collections. The Princeton University Art Museum has begun one such undertaking to make a collection of Northwest Coast Indigenous belongings publically available. To center digital repatriation, in what could otherwise be a cataloging project, Princeton is working to create meaningful engagement with Northwest Coast communities so that communities themselves determine how their belongings are represented within physical and digital spaces. This talk focuses on the relationship between naming and claiming. Princeton’s online resource will name Indigenous belongings in their own language. To determine names, Princeton is creating a forum for Indigenous speakers and learners to collaborate and decide how objects should be titled. Naming is at the heart of concepts of truth, sovereignty, and belonging. Princeton’s Indigenous naming project will conceptually return belongings, and also make visible the colonial implications that tie removals of belongings to histories of language loss and language revitalization.

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