The McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, received a $300,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to support the exhibition, a related website, educational outreach, and programming for A Sense of Indigenous Place: Native American Voices and the Mound at University of Tennessee. The exhibition will be presented at the museum during the 2024 academic year.
“The University of Tennessee is honored to receive support from the Henry Luce Foundation,” said Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor John Zomchick. “The grant will help the McClung Museum, in partnership with tribal representatives, tell an important story. Working with communities, providing educational opportunities, and honoring diversity are part of UT’s culture and vision. I am excited about the exhibition. It provides a wonderful opportunity to bring visitors to campus to learn about its history and the history of Indigenous peoples.”
The Luce Foundation’s American Art Program supports innovative museum projects that advance the role of visual arts of the United States. Funding from this program helps museums serve as forums for art-centered conversations that celebrate creativity, explore difference, and seek common ground.
The exhibition is part of an effort to change perceptions and educate audiences about the Native American mound on our campus—the oldest human-made structure at the University of Tennessee, dated 600–1000 CE.
While UT sits on Indigenous lands, most people are not aware of the mound’s significance. The two-year exhibition will reimagine the museum’s 20-year-old exhibition, Archaeology and the Native Peoples of Tennessee, to bring forward Native voices and contemporary art exploring mounds and placemaking.
McClung Museum Jefferson Chapman Executive Director Claudio Gómez said, “This grant will help us redefine the way we work with Native communities and explore and apply new ideas regarding museum practices and Native art and heritage.”
A Sense of Indigenous Place is led by Lisa King, associate professor of English, a recognized expert whose research has extensively analyzed museums and Indigenous representation.
“I see this exhibition as a new opportunity for UT and the McClung Museum to work on how they understand their relationships and responsibilities to Indigenous lands, peoples, and Nations,” King said. “It is my hope that by reorienting the story of this place anew with the mound and the perspectives of our Tribal collaborators, we can learn to do better.”
King, a recent recipient of a UT Humanities Center Digital Humanities Research Fellowship for the project, will work with museum staff; Ellen Lofaro, director of UT’s Office of Repatriation; and Tribal representatives on the exhibition and website. Five Tribes with historic ties to Knox County have agreed to collaborate on the exhibition: the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, Cherokee Nation, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, and Muscogee Nation.
The McClung Museum’s mission is to foster community and engagement as well as interdisciplinary research through its exhibitions, collections, and outreach. By building indigenous curation into the McClung’s exhibition program and practices, UT can be a leader in recognizing and valuing diversity on our campus and within the larger museum world.
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 through Saturday. Visitors should register at tiny.utk.edu/visitmcclung and review the visitor guidelines, parking information, and check-in process.
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