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A Swift Death and Steady Resurrection: Salvage Anthropology and U.S. Museums

March 12, 2019 @ 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm

Presentation by Samuel J. Redman

What should museums do with stolen artifacts? Should the response be similar with stolen knowledge? This talk explores the history and legacy of salvage anthropology as it relates to museums in the United States. Salvage anthropology was a movement responding to the perceived threat of extinction faced by indigenous societies around the world. The movement brought millions of material culture objects to museums, inspired the creation of audio recordings by the thousands, and pushed artists to depict Native Americans in new ways. Museums in the United States even began collecting human remains, with over 500,000 individual sets of human remains ultimately ending up in museum storerooms. This talk examines the complex history and legacy of salvage anthropology, especially for indigenous communities in the United States today.


Samuel J. Redman teaches public history, oral history, and modern U.S. history at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Redman is the author of Bone Rooms: From Scientific Racism to Human Prehistory in Museums (Harvard, 2016). He earned a B.A. from the University of Minnesota, Morris and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. Before graduate school he worked in the Science Museum of Minnesota, Field Museum of Natural History, and Colorado History Museum. His recent articles include, “The Smithsonian at War: Museums in U.S. Society during World War II,” “Impossible Appraisals: Art, Anthropology, and the Limits of Evaluating Museum Collections in the Mid-Twentieth Century United States,” “Have Anthropology Museums Become History Museums?: A Visit to Museum für Völkerkunde in Hamburg, Germany,” and “The Hearst Museum of Anthropology, the New Deal, and a Reassessment of the ‘Dark Age’ of the Museum in the United States.”


March 12 at 6:30 pm

UM Museum of Art, Helmut Stern Auditorium


Co-sponsored by the Program in Science, Technology and Society (STS); Program in Science, Technology and Public Policy (STPP); Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies; UM Kelsey Museum of Archaeology; UM Museum of Anthropological Archaeology; UM Museum of Natural History


Redman lecture announcement


March 12, 2019
6:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Event Category:


U-M Museum of Art, Helmut Stern Auditorium
525 S. State St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109 United States
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