Decolonizing Museums: Reclaiming Cultural Heritage and Challenging Colonial Legacies


Lauren Porras

Date of Award


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First Advisor

Rebecca Overmyer-Velázquez


Museums for a very long time have been acknowledged as trusted institutions that harbor and shape our understanding of history, culture, and identity. However, racism and colonialism have influenced how museums historically gathered, interpreted, and, displayed cultural artifacts and objects. As a result, Indigenous peoples and other oppressed groups' viewpoints and experiences have been marginalized and stories- erased. In recent years, there has been a rising realization of the need to decolonize museums and more truly represent and honor the viewpoints and experiences of these individuals. This research focuses on how and what museums are doing to successfully decolonize their collections and exhibitions to more fully represent and honor the perspectives and experiences of Indigenous peoples and other marginalized groups, while also addressing the legacies of colonialism and racism that have historically shaped museums as institutions. The purpose of this paper is to add to the continuing discussions about what actions museums can take to create inclusive and socially just institutions to foster understanding and constructive social change. I aim to add to the continuing discussions about museum decolonization and the necessary actions and solutions they can take by reviewing a few case studies of museums that re-developing themselves into more inclusive and socially just institutions.

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