For our repatriation manual, I wrote about inventories today. Inventories/summaries are very important to the repatriation process, so important, the topic of inventories receives its own chapter. Without an accurate inventory, a tribe will never know what a museum has in its collections. Without knowing this basic information, a claim may never be submitted. It’s very simple and basic, but over looked many times. We have had multiple requests to museums about inventories, because they were just not sending them. Inventories are the foundation of any claim, as well as summaries. We realize not all the possible information may be available for a specific item, but we appreciate any and all information the museum has. At least with an inventory, we can identify an object and though consultation, possibly have the item returned.
This is just one of the many steps in a repatriation. It’s much more then a tribe simply requesting an item. I have had some good discussions recently, with a museum we currently have a claim to, on many NAGPRA topics, one of which is actual claims. There is no right or wrong way to write a claim, but more information on some areas makes the process go more quickly. It’s arriving at a middle ground with the museum, providing enough information, while at the same time, not giving too much.