Grant Supports New Training Program for Native Americans Interested in Museum Careers

For immediate release

Release dated: 
February 7, 2019
Media contacts: 

Jessica Kohen, 651-259-3148, or Lauren Peck, 651-259-3137,

Grant Supports New Training Program for Native Americans Interested in Museum Careers

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant for $650,000 will help fill a need for Native museum professionals.

For much of the 20th century, Native Americans viewed modern museums as places where their cultural objects were displayed and interpreted by voices that were not their own. Times are changing and today more and more museums across the country are including Native American history and culture in their presentations.

Through a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for $650,000, MNHS will pilot a new Native American Undergraduate Museum Fellowship for Native American students interested in pursuing careers in cultural heritage fields.

“The support from The Mellon Foundation will allow the Minnesota Historical Society to further our work in Native communities while providing the opportunity to train Native students who are interested in working in museums or other cultural institutions,” said Joe Horse Capture, MNHS director of Native American Initiatives. “We need to ensure that qualified Native people have a strong voice in places that often hold or display the works of their Ancestors; it’s essential. This generous grant significantly contributes to this effort.”

The new training and internship program will build on the work done through the existing American Indian Museum Fellows program, which began in 2011. The program will also incorporate the expertise of MNHS collections staff who have been working over the past decade with tribal community members on the preservation and transfer of intergenerational knowledge through the care of Native American material culture.

The goal is for participants to have meaningful experiences through learning cohorts, internships and hands-on museum experiences, making them better positioned to participate in national museum programs and setting them on the track for a career in public history including working at museums and other cultural heritage organizations.

“We need Native Americans to take on museum roles, whether it is being part of a governing board or as staff creating exhibits and programs or building collections,” said Kent Whitworth, MNHS director and CEO. “It is to everyone's benefit for museums and historical organizations to support Native Americans by hiring them as professionals to pursue shared educational goals.”

MNHS will seek to recruit additional Native staff early this year to implement the program. These staff members will partner with community members to select Native items from the MNHS collections to share, develop related educational materials and identify participants for the fellowship. In this way, MNHS will build on its outreach efforts with Native communities while introducing future Native American leaders to work in the cultural heritage sector.

Focused outreach and recruitment visits will happen with Native communities throughout Minnesota and the Upper Midwest, as well as with displaced Indigenous communities. Recruited students will then apply for a Native American fellowship that includes a two-week seminar and eight-week internship, held at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul and other historic sites. Five fellowships will be awarded each year to Native students enrolled in an undergraduate or a nontraditional educational program.

About the Minnesota Historical Society
The Minnesota Historical Society is a nonprofit educational and cultural institution established in 1849. MNHS collects, preserves and tells the story of Minnesota’s past through museum exhibits, libraries and collections, historic sites, educational programs and book publishing. Using the power of history to transform lives, MNHS preserves our past, shares our state’s stories and connects people with history.

The Minnesota Historical Society is supported in part by its Premier Partners: Xcel Energy and Explore Minnesota Tourism.