First Nations, Museums, Narrations
328 pages, 6 x 9
30 b&w photos, 1 map, 4 tables
Release Date:31 Jan 2015
Release Date:21 Apr 2014
Release Date:15 Apr 2014

First Nations, Museums, Narrations

Stories of the 1929 Franklin Motor Expedition to the Canadian Prairies

UBC Press

When the Franklin Motor Expedition set out across the Canadian Prairies to gather First Nations artifacts, it was with the assumption that they were collecting mementos of dying cultures. As brutal assimilation policies threatened to decimate First Nations cultures across Canada, an extensive program of ethnographic salvage was in place. Despite having only three members, the expedition amassed hundreds of items, which now comprise the largest single collection of materials from Prairie First Nations held in a British museum.

In the past two decades, the relationship between Canadian museums and First Nations has undergone a realignment of power and this shift is now beginning to transform curatorial practices at British museums. In this book, Alison K. Brown looks at the Franklin Motor Expedition from multiple perspectives, consulting descendants of the collectors and members of the affected First Nations and reviewing expedition images and the artifacts themselves. In doing so, she explores not only the intellectual and political contexts within which the collection was made but also the complex relationships between museums, anthropologists, and First Nations.

Accessibly written and vigorously researched, First Nations, Museums, Narrations raises important questions about the role and purpose of collections in the twenty-first century and considers the way forward for indigenous peoples and the museums that house their cultural treasures.

This book will be of interest to museum specialists, anthropologists, First Nations, and students in disciplines including museum and heritage studies, anthropology, film and visual culture studies, Native studies, and history.


  • 2015, Shortlisted - Aboriginal Book History Prize, Canadian Historical Association
First Nations, Museums, Narrations is a helpful and thought-provoking book that encourages the reader to explore not only museum collections but also how we describe the artifacts housed within. Coming out of more than a decade of field research, Brown’s book should be read by anyone involved in museums and Native collections. Jared Eberle, Oklahoma State University, Native American and Indigenous Studies
This well-crafted and compelling book contributes to a burgeoning field of literature on the roles of museums in forging productive social relationships in colonial, national, and international contexts. Cory Willmott, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Piecing together the story of a collection – its history, its lineage, and the people who animate it – Alison Brown has produced an excellent addition to the fields of museum studies, First Nations studies, and the history of anthropology on two continents. Julia Harrison, Professor of Anthropology, Trent University
Alison K. Brown is a lecturer in anthropology at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

A Note on Terminology


1 Community Contexts: Reserve Life in the 1920s

2 Collecting on the Prairies: “A Splendid Collecting Field”

3 Collecting in Action: The Franklin Motor Expedition

4 Representing Collecting: Images and Narratives

5 Reflecting on the Franklin Motor Expedition: First Nations Perspectives

6 Curating the Rymill Collection: The Prairies on Display

7 Building Relationships: British Museums and First Nations




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