Our past holds the keys to our future

Since its creation in 1907, the Anthropology Department has been researching and creating exhibits that look at the wondrous ways that we humans, both past and present, have been affected by our biology, societies, and cultures.

The department examines cultures all over the world, but the collections have a particular emphasis on the artifacts and culture of American Indians of the Plains and Upper Midwest and Hmong culture.

For more information, email or call (651) 221-9435.

Stewardship of Native American Objects

Museums don’t have a good track record when it comes to respecting the cultures of Indigenous communities, and there is still work to be done to address the deep harm that people have experienced through past museum practices. Complying with Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act regulations is one way that museums are reconciling some of these harms.

Science Museum of Minnesota staff have worked and will continue to work enthusiastically with Indigenous advisors on exhibit content to ensure that any items deemed sensitive or sacred by our partners are not put on display. With guidance from our community partners, staff also continually review what we hold in collections to identify items that should be returned, and to update collections practices to respectfully care for the items we steward. These relationships are critical for ethical stewardship, and the new NAGPRA guidelines do more to empower Native American communities in this process, remove some of the roadblocks to repatriation, and facilitate the return of items in museum collections.

Ultimately, we hope this will help make the future of museums more equitable, respectful, and welcoming than they were in the past.

Meet our staff

Ed Fleming, Curator of Archaeology
Ed’s research focuses on the archaeology and material culture of North America, specifically the Upper Midwest during Late Pre-Contact times (ca. 1000 - 1400 A.D.). He has been involved in archaeological research projects in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Montana, Ireland, and Belize. Current research projects include investigating the Late Woodland and Oneota presence at Spring Lake, and annual field work in the Red Wing Locality.