Collections

New NAGPRA Website Launched mmorris Mon, 04/12/2021 - 08:37

Chickasaw_berriesThe Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) has created a new website that prioritizes the repatriation of human remains and cultural items in the department’s archaeological collection. The website will inform the public about the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and serve as a virtual platform for consultation with the department’s federally-recognized Tribal partners.

The website features NAGPRA collections updates, policies and procedures, and links to more information about the department’s Tribal partners. An interactive map shows the status of ongoing repatriations in Mississippi counties across the state. MDAH completed its first repatriation earlier this year.

The Choctaw Nation, Chickasaw Nation, and Muscogee (Creek) Nation generously provided images featured on the website. The Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana provided additional content.

“Our goal is to engage the public in NAGPRA and to provide information about our collections in a way that hasn’t been done before,” says Meg Cook, director of archaeology collections. “The most important part is remembering that these remains are people, and their families want to see that they are reburied.”

The website will feature internship opportunities, Tribal stories, collections updates, and repatriation progress. For more information visit the website at http://nagpra.mdah.ms.gov/.

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State Archives Collects Items Related to COVID-19 Pandemic, Summer of Activism

MDAH is continuing to fulfill its mission of empowering people through Mississippi’s many stories by collecting artifacts that document today’s unprecedented times in our state’s history. Mississippi, like the nation, is currently in the midst of a global health pandemic, an economic recession, and a new movement for social justice. MDAH archivists and collections staff have taken on a new task to accumulate an assortment of memorabilia that will preserve the stories of this historic time in Mississippi.

“This is really a crucial change in how we look at collecting,” said Shane Keil, MDAH director of curatorial services. “Much of what we traditionally do involves searching for objects that represent an era in the past. Now we’re looking at current events and searching for objects that will represent this period of pandemic and societal change.”

 Local industries have transitioned to manufacture vital safety items such as sanitizers, face coverings, and disinfectant cleaners. MDAH has added several of these limited items to its collections to depict adapting to a pandemic in the state.

“In the early stages of the pandemic, we began to identify certain artifacts that we would like to collect such as homemade face masks and COVID-19 closure signs,” said Nan Prince, MDAH director of collections. “The Nissan plant in Canton began making face shields for healthcare workers, and we asked them for one to collect. When alcohol industries such as Cathead Distillery, Rich Grain Distillery, and Lazy Magnolia Brewery began making much-needed hand sanitizer, we reached out to collect samples of those bottles. These items are now on display in our Mississippi Distilled: Prohibition, Piety, and Politics exhibit.”

Mississippi has also seen a societal change in the wake of George Floyd’s death and other police brutality cases in the nation. A new wave of social activism among Mississippians stirred citywide protests and rallies against racial discrimination and on June 30, Governor Tate Reeves signed a historic bill to retire the 1894 state flag that contained the Confederate battle flag. MDAH now has the last state flag that flew over the state capitol and will soon have it on display at the Museum of Mississippi History.

“The material we’ve collected from the ongoing racial equality and social justice movements is really a continuation of the civil rights story told in the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum,” said Keil. “We’ve reached out to contacts in the social justice movement and collected ‘I Can’t Breathe’ face masks as well as various signs from protests at the State Capitol and Governor’s Mansion.”

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, MDAH has taken a new direction in utilizing digital content and online resources in its operations. Archives and records are available online for public research requests and museums are now featuring digital programming and social media to highlight collections and artifacts in galleries online.

“While we were closed due to the pandemic, we continued communicating via email with potential donors to give their collections to MDAH,” said Laura Heller, MDAH acquisitions and collections coordinator. “We have encouraged donors to communicate more through email and use smart phone pictures to show the artifacts they would like for us to consider accepting into our collections.”

By collecting these artifacts for historical interpretation and preservation, MDAH is preserving the stories of Mississippi during the COVID-19 pandemic for future generations to remember.

“Documenting these experiences during a pandemic brings a multi-layered story that people can use in the years to come,” said Heller. “The record of these times will show how Mississippians pulled together in a time of need.”

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MDAH Awarded NPS Grant to Ensure Return of Tribal Ancestors mmorris Tue, 09/08/2020 - 09:08

The National Park Service has awarded $88,822 to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) to support efforts to return the Native American human remains in its archaeological collections to present-day Tribes. MDAH will use the money to hire a new collections manager, provide paid internships for Tribal partners, purchase equipment, and provide staff training.

The Chickasaw Nation and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma supported the grant and will provide guidance as MDAH staff document the human remains and ceremonial objects from graves in northeast Mississippi. The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) requires consultation with Tribes whose ancestors lived on the land where graves were located.

“One of the department’s highest priorities is the proper care of its significant archaeological collection,” said MDAH director Katie Blount. “In keeping with our standards of excellence, we are embarking on this project with renewed dedication to collaborating with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and Chickasaw Nation while becoming fully compliant with NAGPRA.”

MDAH sought the grant after discovering that some of its collection had not been appropriately inventoried. “With this funding, we will properly catalog NAGPRA collections while strengthening our relationships with Tribal partners though a transparent dialogue,” said Meg Cook, director of MDAH archaeology collections. “The project allows us to honor and best care for these individuals through the purchase of culturally appropriate curation material. We do not lose sight of the fact that we are working with people—mothers, fathers, and children.”

“The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Historic Preservation Department congratulates the Mississippi Department of Archives and History as NAGPRA grant recipients,” said Deanna Byrd, NAGPRA liaison for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. “Our THPO and NAGPRA liaison look forward to working with all of our Tribal partners and MDAH’s compassionate professionals to help facilitate the return of our ancestors. We are committed to supporting MDAH in this collaborative process and know it will be rewarding. Our ancestors will finally know the peace we envisioned for them."

For more information email info@mdah.ms.gov.

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