McClung Museum To Close Native Peoples Gallery And Repatriation Exhibition

  • Thursday, December 7, 2023

The McClung Museum is set to undergo a major transformation as it announces the closure of the Native Peoples of Tennessee Gallery, paving the way for the 2025 exhibition, tentatively titled A Sense of Indigenous Place. The gallery and current exhibition, Repatriation of... Archaeology & the Native Peoples of Tennessee, will remain free and open to the public through December 21.

Originally opening in 2000, the gallery displayed the exhibition Archaeology & the Native Peoples of Tennessee for nearly 22 years. In 2022, the space was reimagined as the current exhibition, Repatriation of... Archaeology & the Native Peoples of Tennessee, to highlight the legal and ethical principles of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) as they relate to the McClung Museum. The current exhibition, which was created in collaboration with Native Nation partners and the University of Tennessee Office of Repatriation, explains the critical and sensitive work of returning Ancestral Remains and cultural items to their proper cultural environment.

After the gallery closes, the space will take on a new life as it prepares for its first major renovation in more than 24 years. Beginning Dec. 22, the gallery will be temporarily closed to the public for a year-long renovation in preparation for the upcoming exhibition, A Sense of Indigenous Place, set to open in January 2025.

Featuring interpretation from Native co-curators and artworks by 17 Native artists, A Sense of Indigenous Place will explore connections to Ancestral homelands, placemaking, and sacred spaces such as mounds. This two-year showcase will center perspectives from four Native Nations connected to Knox County: Cherokee Nation, Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

"With this gallery closure, the museum will be able to transform a space that historically showcased an exhibition about Native people into a space that features an exhibition co-curated with Native people," said Executive Director Claudio Gómez. "It is a pivotal step toward a more inclusive and collaborative future with our Native Nation partners and allows the McClung to bring a dynamic, culturally significant exhibition to both the campus and the Knoxville community."

Building on the momentum of substantial backing, which includes a $300,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation and a $145,000 grant from the Terra Foundation for American Art, the museum invites prospective partners and sponsors to join in supporting the upcoming A Sense of Indigenous Place exhibition. Contact Cat Shteynberg at Cat@utk.edu or 865-974-6921 to explore partnership opportunities.

Explore the Repatriation of... Archaeology & the Native Peoples of Tennessee exhibition and current gallery before they close by visiting the McClung Museum before 5 pm on December 21. Admission to the museum is free, and walk-ins are welcome. Guests can schedule their visit in advance by visiting mcclungmuseum.utk.edu/visit.

About the McClung Museum

The McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture is at 1327 Circle Park Drive. Museum admission is free, and visiting hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday and 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. Visitors should register at tiny.utk.edu/visitmcclung and review the visitor guidelines, parking information, and check-in process.

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