Indian Affairs | Indian Affairs Museum Program

Indian Affairs Museum Program

Indian Affairs (IA) is steward to a substantial museum collection which reflects the history of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), and Native American culture. The collection of more than six million objects includes archeological artifacts from Indian and Federal lands, as well as artwork, ethnographic objects, and historic items. IA maintains this collection of objects and documents to further its mission by preserving the history of IA, Indian schools, and Native American culture for present and future generations. IA is responsible for the management of significant archaeological collections, removed from Indian reservation lands under Antiquities Act permits and the associated documentation, which are currently housed throughout the United States in IA facilities as well as in Federal, state, and university museums and other repositories. IA is also responsible for compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA) on human remains, funerary objects, objects of cultural patrimony, and sacred objects within IA’s collections.

The authority for IA’s responsibility for museum collections is defined in the Antiquities Act of 1906, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, and numerous Federal property and cultural resources statutes and regulations. Departmental policy requires that bureau heads support viable programs for managing museum collections. The IA Museum Program: 

- Oversees the management of more than six million museum objects;
- Provides field staff with technical assistance, training, and guidance to properly manage IA museum collections;
- Partners with museums and other repositories housing IA collections;
- Implements IA’s responsibilities under NAGPRA:
      •Establishes cultural affiliation through research and consultation;
      •Works with repositories to coordinate repatriation; and
      •Provides technical assistance to tribes in the care, preservation, use, and disposition of objects.
- Administers the IA museum collections management database;
- Oversees the inventory and condition assessments of museum collections;
- Assures the appropriate conservation and preservation of the collection; and
- Makes the collections available to the public for research and education.

IA Museum Collections on Exhibit and Virtual Exhibit

The IA museum collections are exhibited in visitor and administrative areas inside many IA regional and field office locations, and in BIE schools. The Haskell Cultural Center and Museum, located on the campus of Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, celebrates living Native culture with exhibits about Haskell’s history, its veterans, and changing exhibits to highlight the work of Haskell’s student artists. The Sherman Indian Museum in Riverside, California, housed within the Sherman Indian High School's administration building and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has changing exhibits documenting the school’s history. The Museum offers workshops and lectures. The IA Museum Program has an online exhibit of select collections. The virtual exhibit is available here.