Museology Master of Arts Program

June 12, 2015

Entrusting Collections: Exploring a Process for Held in Trust Collections

Thesis by Kelly Matson (2015)

This study focused on the process of returning held-in-trust collections to their affiliated tribes. This is a topic that has yet to be written about but is crucial to the museum field as it incorporates the importance of non-NAGPRA repatriation and has impacts on both the stewardship of collections and on museum and tribal relationships. Literature on Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), stewardship and ethics, and Native interpretation was reviewed to explore the history of repatriation, a process model for repatriation, how museums can be ethical stewards of collections, and how the trend towards the opening of Native repositories can be beneficial. The goal of this study was to describe the held-in-trust process from various perspectives of individuals involved.

Information for this research was collected in semi-structured interviews with museum, agency, and tribal professionals. The individuals were selected based on their experience with this process. The data received from these interviews demonstrated that each held in- trust case is different and should be approached and treated to fit the situation, and that processes involving multiple institutions do not come without their challenges. It also illustrated the importance of communication and dialog, as well as the importance of building relationships over time, which aided in the fluidity of the process.


Keywords: research, collections, repatriation


Matson, K. R. P. (2015). Entrusting collections: Exploring a process for held-in-trust collections (Order No. 1599865). Available from Dissertations & Theses @ University of Washington WCLP; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1720832410). Retrieved from