Skip to main content

Survivance Stories, Co-Creation, and a Participatory Model at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center

  • Kimberly Kasper (a1) and Russell G. Handsman (a2)

Since opening its doors in 1998, the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center (MPMRC) has had an identity as both a tribal center and a museum committed to challenging the public’s conventional understandings of Native history in New England. Over a 15-year period, museum staff and the tribal community learned to work more collaboratively in an effort to document and illuminate Pequot survivance—the histories of Mashantucket families living and working in and against the modern world. A review of recent museum projects clarifies the benefits of collaboration while revealing how new exhibits and programs are impacting visitor experiences and understandings. Another kind of museum space is envisioned in which visitors, staff, and tribal members actively co-create exhibits and programs centered on Pequot survivance, using content informed by ongoing archaeological studies. In that space, co-creation practices would encourage social interaction—a collaborative pushing-and-pulling of ideas and stories in a shared search for new understandings of survivance at Mashantucket and beyond.

Desde su apertura en 1998, el centro de investigaciones y museo Mashantucket Pequot (MPMRC) se ha identificado como un centro comunitario y museo comprometido a desafiar la visión convencional de la historia de los pueblos originarios de New England. En los últimos 15 años el personal del museo y la comunidad originaria han aprendido a trabajar en estrecha colaboración, en un esfuerzo por documentar y traer a la luz la experiencia Pequot—las historias de las familias Mashantucket que residen y trabajan por y en contra de un mundo moderno. Una revisión de los proyectos recientes del museo muestran los beneficios de la colaboración, al mismo tiempo que ilustran como las nuevas exhibiciones y programas tienen un impacto en las experiencias y conocimientos del visitante. Dentro del museo se ha visualizado otro espacio en el que los visitantes, el personal del museo y los miembros de los pueblos originarios de la zona puedan constantemente crear de forma conjunta exhibiciones y programas centrados en la experiencia Pequot, mediante el uso de contenidos generados por los estudios arqueológicos en curso. En ese espacio, las prácticas de creación en colaboración alentarían la interacción social— una colaboración dinámica y generadora de ideas e historias en una búsqueda compartida de nuevos entendimientos en torno a Mashantucket y mas allá de.

Hide All
Anthes, Bill 2008 Learning from Foxwoods. Visualizing the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. American Indian Quarterly 32:204218.
Atalay, Sonya 2006 No Sense of Struggle: Creating a Context for Survivance at the NMAI. The American Indian Quarterly 30: 597618.
Boast, Robin 2011 Neocolonial Collaboration: Museum as Contact Zone Revisited. Museum Anthropology 34(1):5670.
de Uriarte, Bodinger, John, J. 2007 Casino and Museum. Representing Mashantucket Pequot Identity. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.
Bruchac, Margaret M., Hart, Siobhan M., and Wobst, H. Martin (editors) 2010 Indigenous Archaeologies. A Reader on Decolonization. Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, California.
Calloway, Colin G. (editor) 1997 After King Philip’s War: Presence and Persistence in Indian New England. University Press of New England, Hanover.
Cipolla, Craig N. 2013a Becoming Brothertown. Native American Ethnogenesis and Endurance in the Modern World. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.
Cipolla, Craig N. 2013b Native American Historical Archaeology and the Trope of Authenticity. Historical Archaeology 47(3):1222.
Clifford, James 1997 Museums as Contact Zones. In Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century, edited by Clifford, James, pp. 188219. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.
Clifford, James 2004 Looking Several Ways. Anthropology and Native Heritage in Alaska. Current Anthropology 45:523.
Clifford, James 2007 Varieties of Indigenous Experience: Diasporas, Homelands, Sovereignties. In Indigenous Experience Today, edited by de la Cadena, Marisol and Starn, Orin, pp. 197223. Berg and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Oxford.
Colwell-Chanthaphonh, Chip, and Ferguson, T. J. 2008 Introduction: The Collaborative Continuum. In Collaboration in Archaeological Practice. Engaging Descendant Communities, edited by Colwell-Chanthaphonh, Chip and Ferguson, T. J., pp. 132. AltaMira Press, Lanham, Maryland.
Cronon, William 1983 Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England. Hill and Wang, New York.
Deloria, Philip J. 2004 Indians in Unexpected Places. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence.
Den Ouden, Amy E. 2005 Beyond Conquest: Native Peoples and the Struggle for History in New England. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln.
Digital Public Library of America 2015 History of Survivance: Upper Midwest 19th-Century Native American Narratives. Electronic document,, accessed March 21, 2015.
DMCD Incorporated 1993 The Mashantucket Pequot Museum Project. Bound copy of a design and concept booklet on file in the Mashantucket Pequot Museum Archive.
Erikson, Patricia 2002 Voices of a Thousand People: The Makah Cultural and Research Center. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln.
Handsman, Russell G. 2010a Pathways through Pequot History: Proposed Concept and Design Plan. Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center. Mashantucket, Connecticut.
Handsman, Russell G. 2010b First Whalers: Wampanoag Indian Communities and the New Bedford Whaling Industry. Research report on file at the New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park and the Northeast Regional Office, National Park Service, Boston, Massachusetts.
Handsman, Russell G. 2011 “Almost Vanished,” New Explorations of Pequot Indian History. Final Narrative Report submitted to the Institute for Museum and Library Services (MA-04-10-0296-10). On file at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center. Mashantucket, Connecticut.
Handsman, Russell G. 2012a Mashantucket Pequot Lives, after the Land Sale of 1855–1856. Cross Paths 12(1):4, 1215.
Handsman, Russell G. 2012b Enriching Visitor Experiences at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center: Key Findings from 2012 Studies. Research Report on file at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center.
Handsman, Russell G. 2013a Landscape Ecology, Social Exchange, and an Archaeology of Mashantucket Pequot Lives, A.D. 1715–1760. Journal of Middle Atlantic Archaeology 29:159170.
Handsman, Russell G. 2013b Tapping into Pequot History: A Formative Evaluation of Technology-Assisted Explorations at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum. Research Report on file at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center.
Handsman, Russell G. 2015 Race-Based Differences and Historical Archaeologies in Indian New England. In The Archaeology of Race in the Northeast, edited by Matthews, Christopher N. and McGovern, Allison Manfra, pp. 232251. University Press of Florida and the Society for Historical Archaeology, Gainesville, Florida.
Kasper, Kimberly 2012 Seeds for the Future: The Materialities of Traditional Ecological Knowledge. Archaeologies: Journal of the World Archaeological Congress 8(3):269292.
Kasper, Kimberly 2013 Continuity in the Face of Change: Mashantucket Pequot Plant Use from 16751800. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Anthropology Department, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Lawlor, Mary 2005 Identity in Mashantucket. American Quarterly 57(1):153177.
Leone, Mark P. 2007 The Foundations of Archaeology. In Ethnographic Archaeologies: Reflections on Stakeholders and Archaeological Practices, edited by Castañeda, Quetzil E. and Matthews, Christopher N., pp. 119137. Altamira Press, Lanham, Maryland.
Lester, Joan A. 1993 History of Birchbark. The Art of Tomah Joseph, Passamaquoddy. Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, Brown University, Bristol, Rhode Island.
Little, Barbara 2007 Archaeology and Civic Engagement. In Archaeology as a Tool of Civic Engagement, edited by Little, Barbara J. and Paul, Shackel, pp. 122. AltaMira Press, Lanham, Maryland.
Lonetree, Amy 2012 Decolonizing Museums: Representing Native America in National and Tribal Museums. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.
McBride, Kevin A. 2005 Transformation by Degree: Eighteenth Century Native American Land Use. In Eighteenth Century Native Communities of Southern New England in the Colonial Context, edited by Campisi, Jack, pp. 3556. Occasional Papers No. 1, Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center.
McBride, Kevin A., and Grumet, Robert S. 1996 The Mashantucket Pequot Indian Archaeological District: A National Historic Landmark. Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of Connecticut 59:1526.
Mancini, Jason 2012 Living between Termination and Recognition: An Indian Neighborhood in Westerly, Rhode Island, 1870–1950. Cross Paths 12(1):5, 1620.
Moyer, Teresa S. 2007 Learning through Visitors: Exhibits as a Tool for Encouraging Civic Engagement through Archaeology. In Archaeology as a Tool of Civic Engagement, edited by Little, Barbara J. and Shackel, Paul, pp. 263277. AltaMira Press, Lanham, Maryland.
Panich, Lee M. 2013 Archaeologies of Persistence: Reconsidering the Legacies of Colonialism in Native North America. American Antiquity 78:105122.
Phillips, Ruth B. 1998 Trading Identities: The Souvenir in Native North American Art from the Northeast, 17001900. University of Washington Press, Seattle.
Phillips, Ruth B., and Phillips, Marl Salber 2005 Double Take: Contesting Time, Place, and Nation in the First Peoples Hall of the Canadian Museum of Civilization. American Anthropologist 107:694704.
Raibmon, Paige 2005 Authentic Indians: Episodes of Encounter from the Late-Nineteenth Century Northwest Coast. Duke University Press, Durham, North Carolina.
Rubino, Irene 2011 iPads for Museums: Serving Visitors and Professional Communities. Electronic document,, accessed January 15, 2014.
Shackel, Paul 2005 Memory, Civic Engagement, and the Public Meaning of Archaeological Heritage. SAA Archaeological Record 5(2):2427.
Silliman, Stephen W. 2009 Change and Continuity, Practice and Memory: Native American Persistence in Colonial New England. American Antiquity 74:211230.
Silliman, Stephen W. 2010 Indigenous Traces in Colonial Spaces: Archaeologies of Ambiguity, Origin, and Practice. Journal of Social Archaeology 10:2858.
Silliman, Stephen W. 2012 Between the Longue Durée and the Short Purée: Postcolonial Archaeologies of Indigenous History in Colonial North America. In Decolonizing Indigenous Histories. Exploring Prehistoric/Colonial Transitions in Archaeology. Edited by Oland, Maxine, Hart, Siobhan M., and Frink, Liam, pp.113131. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.
Simon, Nina 2010a Visitor Participation: Opportunities and Challenges. Exhibitionist 29(1):7072.
Simon, Nina 2010b The Participatory Museum. Museum 2.0. Electronic document,, acccessed January 21, 2014.
Thrush, Coll 2007 Native Seattle: Histories from the Crossing-Over Place. University of Washington Press, Seattle.
Vizenor, Gerald 1984 The People Named The Chippewa: Narrative Histories. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.
Vizenor, Gerald 1990 Interior Landscapes: Autobiographical Myths and Metaphors. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.
Vizenor, Gerald 2008 Survivance: Narratives of Native Presence. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln.
Watkins, Joe 2000 Indigenous Archaeology: American Indian Values and Scientific Practice. AltaMira Press, Walnut Creek, California.
Weiser, M. Elizabeth 2009 Who Are We? Museums Telling the Nation’s Story. The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum 2:2938.
Yalowitz, Steven S., and Bronnenkant, Kerry 2009 Timing and Tracking: Unlocking Visitor Behavior. Visitor Studies 12(1):4764.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Advances in Archaeological Practice
  • ISSN: -
  • EISSN: 2326-3768
  • URL: /core/journals/advances-in-archaeological-practice
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed