Jennifer Shannon

CU Museum of Natural History

University of Colorado, 218 UCB

Boulder, CO  80309-0218


Office:    Henderson 218

Phone:    303-492-6276

Fax:       303-492-4195



CU Cultural Anthropology

CU Museum, Anthropology Section



Faculty Affiliate,

Center of the American West


Research Associate,

Department of Anthropology,

Denver Museum of Nature and Science




Journal of Museum Anthropology

And the Museum Anthropology blog



Member, CU Native Studies Group


Jen Shannon

Curator & Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology




Interests: Anthropology of Museums; Critical Museology; Indigenous Rights and Representation; Contemporary Indigeneity and Settler Colonialism; Anthropology of Media and Cultural Production; Ethics and Collaborative Methodologies; Repatriation; Collaborative Collections Research and Exhibit Making; Digital Cultural Heritage; Ethnohistory; Native North America and Caribbean. 



I joined the CU Department of Anthropology and the CU Museum of Natural History in August of 2009.  As an Assistant Professor and a Curator of Cultural Anthropology, I conduct ethnographic fieldwork as well as object collections research, work on exhibits and collaborative projects in the museum, and teach courses in the Museum and Field Studies program and in the Department of Anthropology.  I worked as a Lead Researcher in the Curatorial department at the National Museum of the American Indian before earning a PhD in Sociocultural Anthropology at Cornell University in 2008.


My dissertation documented the process of “community curating” at the NMAI from the museum professional and indigenous communities’ perspectives.  My interests further developed as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia’s department of Anthropology from 2008-09.  This department is associated with the UBC Museum of Anthropology— a public museum well know for its collaborative methods (in exhibits, repatriation, and online partnerships), student engagement, and experimental forms of display.


My research focuses on collaborative practice and connecting tribes to museum collections through NAGPRA consultations, co-directed research projects and exhibits, digitizing tangible and intangible heritage, the development of online access to collections, and oral history projects.  Through my research and professional work I have had the opportunity to work with diverse indigenous peoples, including the Chicago urban Indian community, the Navajo Nation, the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation, the Canadian Inuit community of Igloolik, the Australian Aboriginal community in Townsville, the Paiwan tribe on the island of Taiwan, and the Kalinago (or Island Caribs) of Dominica in the West Indies.


Selected Publications & Presentations




Forth.     An Ethnography of “Our Lives”: Collaboration, Native Voice, and the making of the National Museum of the American Indian. SAR Press.

Forth.      “ Sharing Our Past, Collecting for the Future.” Book chapter in Translating Knowledge: Global Perspectives on Museum and Community, edited by Ray Silverman. Volume to be published in the Routledge series Museum Meanings, edited by Richard Sandell and Christina Kreps.

2010       “Connecting Museums and Source Communities: Using anthropological methods to promote indigenous voices.” Co-authored for the Society for Applied Anthropology meetings.  Seattle, WA.  April 1. [Co-authored with Kendall Tallmadge, CU Anthropology graduate student, advisee and research assistant.]   

2011       “The ‘Professionalization of Indigeneity’ in the Carib Territory of Dominica.”  Presented at the American Anthropological Association  meetings, “Unsettled States: Indigenous Cultural Activism, Sovereignty, and The Unfinished Legacies of Settler Colonialism.” Montreal, QC. 




Research Methods in Cultural Anthropology

A graduate seminar in which students conduct fieldwork and produce ethnographic accounts.


Introduction to Museum Studies

The introductory course for incoming masters students in the Museum and Field Studies program at CU.


Introduction to Museum Anthropology

An upper level undergraduate cultural anthropology course about the history of relations among the discipline of anthropology, museums, and Native American peoples:  The Objective, then, is not simply to criticize museums but also to attempt to locate them (and the critiques) within their social, political, and economic contexts. 

- Michael Ames in Cannibal Tours and Glass Boxes: The Anthropology of Museums (1992:5)


Anthropology of Media and Cultural Production

Introduction to Problems in Methods and Theory in Anthropology

Thinking Outside the (Glass) Box: Representations of Native Americans in the museum and beyond

Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

Related Links


CU Museum of Natural History


CUMNH, Anthropology Section


CU Department of Anthropology


CU Cultural Anthropology


School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe (SAR) 


American Anthropological Association


Museum Anthropology Blog


American Association of Museums


Association of College & University Museums & Galleries


Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia


Isuma TV 

[Browse videos created by indigenous peoples; launched in January 2008 by Igloolik Isuma Productions]


Indigenous Politics: From Native New England and Beyond

[Browse radio interviews conducted by J. Kehaulani Kauanui, associate professor of anthropology and American studies at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.]






Museum Exhibitions

I have contributed to the development of these exhibitions:


Moccasins exhibit from our collection to accompany To Feel the Earth traveling exhibit from the School for Advanced Research (CUMNH, Boulder CO 2013, CUMNH portion curated by graduate student Kendall Tallmadge)


iShare: Connecting Museums and Communities East and West  (CUMNH, Boulder CO 2011)


Shelley Niro: Borders

 (CUMNH, Boulder CO 2010)

Contemporary Pueblo Pottery

 (CUMNH, Boulder CO 2010)

*   Igloolik Exhibit, Our Lives Gallery

    (NMAI, Washington DC 2004)


Our Lives: Contemporary Life and Identities

 (NMAI, Washington DC 2004)

Our Peoples: Giving Voice to Our Histories  

 (NMAI, Washington DC 2004)

CU Projects… More info coming soon!


Digitizing the Anthropology Collection

Building a digital archive of our ethnographic collection to better facilitate working with and providing access to Native American communities and professional and student researchers.  Providing the technology and materials for students to build their skills in contemporary museum practice.



Connecting Museums and Communities East and West



         National Taiwan Museum                        Navajo Nation Museum








    CU Museum of Natural History                      Laiyi Indigenous Museum


We were awarded a $90,500 grant to work with the Navajo Nation Museum, the National Taiwan Museum, and the Laiyi Indigenous Museum of Taiwan to create an online collaborative web application and public website.  The project is ongoing since Summer 2010.  For more information about the iShare project and our quarterly reports to AAM, designed as newsletters for our partners, see


For more information about this grant, see




Building Collaborative Partnerships

Working with Native American communities to learn about, properly display, and better care for our collections.  Encouraging reciprocal, long term relationships with source communities.  Providing opportunities for students to learn collaborative practices.


Oral History Project and Documentary in collaboration with the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation and the Case family (Rev. Harold Case donated the MHA collection at the CU Museum of Natural History).


NAGPRA Consultation and Documentation Grants.  Currently working on two separate grants with two tribes to document and consult on ethnographic collections.  Grant-funded registrar is inventorying tribes’ materials in our collection and working with NAGPRA liaisons to provide more accurate information for the museum catalogue and to identify which items should be considered under the Native Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (1990).  For more information about NAGPRA grants see


University Museums: Challenges and Opportunities

Thinking critically and creatively about the unique institution of the university museum.



2010       Museum Ethnography: Methods and Perspectives.” Presented at the American Anthropological Association meetings. New Orleans, LA.  November 18.

2009       “The Carib Liberation Movement: The Legacy of American Indian Activism in Dominica” in Visions and Voices: American Indian Activism in the Sixties.  Edited by Terry Straus and Kurt Peters (Chicago: Albatross Press). [Coauthored with Garnette Joseph, former Chief of the Carib Territory, Dominica]

2007       “Informed Consent: Documenting the intersection of bureaucratic regulation and ethnographic practice.”  Political and Legal Anthropology Review 30(2): 229-248.

2007       “Artifacts of Collaboration: The Our Lives exhibition at the National Museum of the American Indian.”  Presented at the American Anthropological Association. Washington, DC.  November 29.  Session Chair: Christina Krepps, “Thinking Outside the Glass Box: The Legacy of Michael Ames.”

2007       “Exhibiting Indians: How the indigenous and the cosmopolitan come together at the National Museum of the American Indian.”  Presented at the American Ethnological Society / Canadian Anthropological Society Joint Conference. Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

2002       “Research in Igloolik, Nunavut.”  Arctic Studies Center Newsletter.  10:14. Washington, DC: National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.

2002       “Mr. Okalik, the First Premier of Nunavut, Visits the Smithsonian.” Arctic Studies Center Newsletter.  10:22-24. Washington, DC: NMNH, Smithsonian Institution. [Coauthored with Stephen Loring, NMNH]

1999       “Venetie Goes to Court: Inherent Sovereignty and Indian Country in Alaska.”  M.A., Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences (Anthropology) at University of Chicago.

1999       “The History and Significance of the Indian Child Welfare Act in Alaska.”  Presented at the Central States Anthropological Society Conference.  Chicago, IL.

2009       “The construction of Native Voice at the National Museum of the American Indian” in Contesting Knowledge: Museums and Indigenous Perspectives. Edited by Susan Sleeper-Smith. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press).


Unrelated Links


PhD Comics


Grass Roots Ultimate Frisbee Association


Ultimate Players Association


Hubble Telescope Photos of our Universe


CU Fiske Planetarium  Events


Job Resources for Students

By no means a complete list, just a place to begin your search...


Museum Jobs

Getting a Job in a Museum

[Good advice from the Florida State University Museum Studies Program]

Smithsonian List of Museum Employment Opportunities

ACUMG Job List

AAM Career Center

AAM Emerging Museum Professionals Resources

[Includes a link for Fellowships]

Global Museum, Click on Museum Jobs

Museum Jobs


Anthropology Jobs

AAA Career Center

National Association for the Practice of Anthropology Job List



USA Jobs—Federal Job Opportunities

[Search for museum, anthropology, heritage management, etc.— includes Smithsonian museums and National Park Service]


If you have found additional useful links, please email them to me and I will post them here.

Thank you!

Photo by Jason Ordaz 2011