[KNOXVILLE, TN, NOVEMBER, 21, 2023] — The McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture is pleased to announce that the temporary exhibition, Repatriation of Archaeology & the Native Peoples of Tennessee, was recognized with the 2023 Southeastern Museums Conference (SEMC) Gold Award for an exhibition with a budget of $10,000. The SEMC Exhibition Competition showcases the best in the museum field and provides benchmarks for regional exhibition efforts in southeastern museums.

Repatriation of Archaeology & the Native Peoples of Tennessee reimagined the Native Peoples of Tennessee gallery, which stood for 22 years, to highlight the vital role of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), center Native voices, and emphasize the museum's desire to educate the public about the important and sensitive work of Repatriation.

Enacted by Congress in 1990, NAGPRA mandates that institutions receiving federal funds provide federally recognized Tribes with a comprehensive inventory of Native American Ancestral Remains, burial artifacts, sacred objects, and other culturally significant items for potential Repatriation, or return. Through educational panels and didactics, the exhibition explores the legal and ethical principles of the law and showcases how museums can move beyond NAGPRA compliance to strengthen relationships with Native Nations.

“We are honored to receive the Gold Award from the SEMC in recognition of the Repatriation exhibition. And while we celebrate this milestone, we acknowledge that there is still much work ahead,” said McClung Museum Executive Director Claudio Gómez. “This exhibition is just one of many steps as we continue our commitment to Repatriation and building enduring relationships with our Native Nations partners.”

The exhibition, which opened in August of 2022, was created in collaboration with Cherokee Nation, Chickasaw Nation, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, and the University of Tennessee Office of Repatriation. Sponsorship for the exhibition was provided by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Visitors interested in learning more about Repatriation and NAGPRA can plan a trip to see the exhibition before it closes on December 21, 2023 by visiting: McClungMuseum.utk.edu/visit. Those unable to see the exhibition can learn more at https://tiny.utk.edu/RepatriationExhibition.

The SEMC Exhibition Competition received a record-breaking number of applications from a wide variety of museums across the southeast, making expectations and standards exceptionally high for this year’s applicants.

The competition recognizes exhibitions for overall excellence or for stretching the limits of content and design through innovation. Winning entries were well-designed exhibitions of merit with educational value and demonstrated, respectful treatment of objects. Recipients of the awards were judged by an appointed jury of museum professionals across the region who specialize in curatorial studies and exhibition design.

Award winners were celebrated at the 2023 Annual Meeting Awards Luncheon on November 15, 2023, in Louisville, Kentucky, and in the Fall 2023 Edition of INSIDE SEMC, a digital publication of the Southeastern Museums Conference. This designation recognizes the McClung Museum’s contribution to professional standards in Southeastern museums.

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.


Emily Reichard
McClung Museum Communications & Annual Giving Professional