Guovtti ilmmi gaskkas. Balancing between two contested worlds
In this paper I’ll discuss the encounters of being an indigenous museum professional and the challenges and benefits I have faced when balancing between two contested worlds.
The idea of museum bases on European worldview and outlook. For indigenous peoples this means the role of the other. As a part of colonial system, museums had a role in suppressing and assimilating indigenous cultures. Museums still manage indigenous heritage and represent indigenous people’s culture as passive and inferior in exhibitions and publications. Still, the indigenous communities see museums as a possibility to present their story to themselves and the others.
The role reserved for the Sámi people in museums has been a study object or a resource for knowledge and research material. We are not involved on how our culture is interpreted or exhibited. The discussion what would be the Sámi way to work in a museum has just started.
Being an indigenous museum professional working with your own culture has many advantages. Communication with your own people is easy; you share a common language and cultural background. You also have authority and the knowledge to evaluate the knowledge shared with you. This provides you with a special insight, but is also the greatest challenge. As a Sámi you always represent a certain family, which strongly effect on how people interact with you.
Indigenous professionals can help to build understanding and collaboration. I see my work as a mediator in the process of indigenizing museums, so that our museums would exist for our indigenous community. Museums could give new experiences to indigenous community, be a benefit and even heal traumas caused by colonization.
Áile Aikio is a Sámi museum professional, working as a curator in the Sámi Museum Siida in Anár/Inari in Finland. She has a master’s degree on Ethnology. She is writing her PhD on University of Lapland on how to sámify a museum, what would be the Sámi way to work with exhibitions in a Sámi museum.
aile.aikio[at]samimuseum.fi / www.siida.fi