Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Museum and Field Studies

First Advisor

Jennifer Shannon

Second Advisor

Stephen Lekson

Third Advisor

Christina Cain


The objects and collections held in museums have larger histories, contexts, and meanings outside of their stewardship within these institutions. They have life histories, which can be traced and documented by creating biographies spanning from their creation and use to museum acquisition and life within the museum. As a type of restorative justice, the life history approach illustrates an example of decolonizing museum practice and the changing responsibilities of best practice standards. Creating a full life history for museum artifacts is much more than recuperating facts and events or filling archives with object documentation. Creating an object biography is about responsible stewardship and curation, engaging communities and creating new contacts, and ultimately connecting objects, stories, and people. The following biographies of four ethnographic objects in Anthropology Section of the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History illustrate changing practices of museum collections acquisition and care and emphasize the utility of the life history approach in contributing to current best practices of museum stewardship.