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Developing Ethnobotany: Creative Collaboration and Indigenous Stories

San Bernardino County, CA
Program Year: 2021

Abstract:
In 2018, the San Bernardino County Museum’s Anthropology Division embarked on a project to collaborate with native people and their telling of indigenous stories in order to more effectively connect the public to the Museum’s ethnobotany spaces. The Museum’s Curator of Anthropology, in partnership with several southern California indigenous organizations, collaborated to develop content that engaged visitors in the Museum’s Ethnobotany Garden to (1) apply traditional ecological knowledge, (2) develop native food programs, and (3) brainstorm with the Museum in creating physical signs and interpretation while maintaining an honoring and reflective space. This partnership allowed indigenous groups to tell traditional stories and share traditional ecological knowledge pertaining to the utilitarian and ceremonial use of native plants that is essentially excluded from traditional museum interpretation. With this information, the Museum and tribes identified and created interpretation that was appropriate within cultural contexts. With their help, the San Bernardino County Museum imagined programming to better interpret the living plant collection and to create unique ways of engaging with plants in the museum space that were traditionally silent and untouchable. This collaborative process actively engaged museum visitors and tribal partners to produce more impactful, intentional, and insightful experiences.

Contact:
Ms. Melissa Russo
Museum Director