An alternate history of found objects

Object AC36891, 2018


This unclassified jawbone is part of The Secret Life of an Artifact exhibit at the Northwest Museum of Arts + Culture, Spokane, Washington, a “behind-the-scenes exhibit” now open to the public where visitors may chat with Museum staff and volunteers as they study, catalog, number and photograph the thousands of unique objects in the museum’s working Collections Lab.

Although the provenance of the artifact is unknown, the history of its acquisition is credited to Shawna Hansen, a part-time TSA agent at Sea-Tac International Airport. Miss Hansen, who is also an Archeology student at Washington State University and a direct descendent of the Duwamish Tribe (native people who for a millennia before the arrival of Euro-American settlers occupied present-day Seattle and the region between Seattle and Tacoma), confiscated the item from Nelson Turner during a routine carry-on bag screening.

Citing the terms of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) that describes the rights of Native American lineal descendants with respect to objects of cultural patrimony, Miss Hansen took possession of the artifact despite Mr. Turner’s protests that he found the old bone under a seat at the airport and not on Native Lands.

Robin Armstrong

Next story:
Pieces of Wood, 2017

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