The museum's display will close this summer. (via Denver Museum of Nature and Science on Facebook)

The Denver Museum of Science & Nature (DMSN) will close its 45-year-old North American Indian Cultures exhibition this summer, citing concerns that the display contains harmful stereotypes, centers White culture, inaccurately names sovereign nations, and displays Native objects without proper attribution or consent. The museum said it will work with Native communities to design a new exhibition in its place, although no opening date has been set for the forthcoming display.

The dioramas in the North American Indian Cultures exhibition, constructed in 1978, are situated firmly in the past. The museum explains that these historical depictions “perpetuate racist stereotypes.” The displays include a reconstructed “Inuit snow house, a Northwest Coast clan house, a Navajo hogan, and a Cheyenne tipi.”

Discussion of the exhibition’s closure picked up over the past year. DMSN invited members of the Denver American Indian Commission, a body of Native appointees who consult with the city government, to share their thoughts on the removal of the display.

“Indigenous people’s experiences are contemporary and diverse,” commission co-chair Joshua Emerson, a Navajo comedian and writer based in Denver, told Hyperallergic. “We still exist, we still live on the land that our ancestors lived on since time immemorial.”

The museum announced the decision in an email to members and in a May 18 tweet and added a “healing statement” online and in the physical exhibition hall.

“Museum staff and Indigenous community partners are working to respectfully close this Hall and to reimagine its exhibition, curation, collecting, programming, and conservation practices with respect to Indigenous cultural histories, heritage, and belongings,” the notice reads. It also includes a general list of the problems with the display and a QR code link to a survey where visitors members can input their thoughts.

In New York, Albany’s New York State Museum still has historical dioramas and reconstructed homes in its First Peoples exhibition. Manhattan’s Museum of Natural History also houses a particularly problematic diorama — a 1939 depiction of Lenape people meeting with Dutch colonists in the 17th century. The museum has opted to add contextual information rather than remove the display.

DMSN’s decision comes as collections of Native objects across the country have faced increasing scrutiny. A ProPublica report last month found that around 85% of the works in a prized 139-object gift of Native objects to the Metropolitan Museum of Art had incomplete provenance information. United States institutions also hold an estimated over 100,000 human remains of Native people. Last year, it came to light that Harvard University alone held the remains of 7,000 Native individuals and hair samples of 700 Native students.

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.