ELKINS - Davis & Elkins College has received a Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) grant from the National Park Service to help further determine the origins of items housed in The Stirrup Gallery. The $11,275 award will provide funding to hire a research consultant with expertise in Native American collections.
Approximately 1,100 items contained in The Darby Collection are believed to be affiliated with Native American culture. However, since no official documentation is available for many of the items, their cultural origin is unverifiable by museum standards. The items are among the nearly 10,000 artifacts dating from the Stone Age through the early 20th century collector Hosea M. Darby donated to the College. Darby obtained the pieces through mail order between 1896 and 1942, and many of them are accompanied by letters from the sellers.
“We want to adhere to not only the NAGPRA law, but do what is correct regarding Native American ancestral heritage,” said Mark Lanham, coordinator of Special Collections at Davis & Elkins. “Some of the artifacts in the Gallery could be part of their religious beliefs or funerary rites, and if they are, they could be repatriated.”
Lanham will serve as project director working with a research consultant who will use existing records, inventories, relevant studies and other data to determine the geographical origin and cultural affiliation of the items. The information, including digital images, will be compiled into a database and made accessible to Native American tribes who may be consulted for additional insight.
Lanham says the project will increase the museum’s ability to successfully consult with tribes and build partnerships through the NAGPRA process, and increase the number of successful repatriations by allowing tribes remote access to view items in the collection.
Lanham and the consultant will present the result of the project at the annual West Virginia State Museum Conference and to other interested organizations.
Enacted in 1990, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act requires museums and federal agencies to inventory and identify Native American human remains and cultural items in their collections, and to consult with Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations regarding repatriation. Section 10 of the Act authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to award grants to assist in implementing provisions of the Act.
In addition to The Darby Collection, The Stirrup Gallery in Myles Center for the Arts houses collections representing more than 14,000 years of history and culture: The Lincoln Collection, Howard-Sudbrink Collection, Eleanor Gay Collection, Foster Collection, Senator Davis Collection, Swezy Collection, Gary North Collection and J. Richard and Dotty S. Kendig Collection. Hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., and evenings and weekends by appointment. For additional information, call Lanham at 304-637-1980 or visit www.dewv.edu/arts-entertainment/stirrup-gallery.
Related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Davis & Elkins College is located in Elkins, 2 hours east of Charleston, 3 hours south of Pittsburgh and 4 hours west of Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit the College website at www.dewv.edu or call 304-637-1243.
Photo Caption: Various types of mortar and pestle sets are among Native American artifacts on display in The Stirrup Gallery at Davis & Elkins College.