While working at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, university student Alyssa Logie notice that the exhibits were lacking content from a First Nations’ perspective and so she developed alternative text panels that, “Explore how relations between archaeological perspectives and Indigenous perspectives have evolved” over time. The panels, which were presented next to the pre-existing exhibits, traced the history of archaeology beginning in the 1800s where non-Indigenous people would collect artifacts belonging to First Nations to house in their ‘curiosity cabinets’. Logie says during this time, “First Nations had no say in the disposition of artifacts.” Sadly, even as archaeological practices evolved, First Nations were not consulted or included in these processes.
The exhibit highlights 1988 as a turning point in the relationship between archaeology and Indigenous communities when Indigenous peoples organized a boycott of an exhibit at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary as a result of claims that the exhibit’s sponsor was responsible for damaging the lifestyle of members of Lubicon First Nation. This event represented a shift as, “Museums were held more accountable for ensuring Indigenous voices were included in the exhibits.”
Logie’s research has opened her, “Eyes to the fact that there are multiple First Nations’ perspectives on issues around archaeology, such as whether or not certain artifacts should be shown to the public, who decides which are displayed, and whether artifacts collected in the past decades should be repatriated to First Nations.” The museum’s Executive Director is calling the exhibit, titled Contested Histories, a ‘breath of first air’. The museum is currently in the process of updating their exhibits and have plans for First Nations to be ‘fully involved’ in the revamp.