Document Type


Date of Degree Completion

Winter 2024

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Cultural and Environmental Resource Management

Committee Chair

Dr. J. Hope Amason

Second Committee Member

Dr. Sterling Quinn

Third Committee Member

Mr. Miles Miller


Small museums are ethically obligated to reconnect collections to creator communities, even with the added difficulty of fewer resources. This thesis has developed and implemented a model for mutually beneficial and collaborative relationships between creator communities and small museums with the example of the Central Washington University Museum of Culture and Environment (MCE) and Indigenous communities of the Columbia Plateau, namely the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, in the Pacific Northwest relating to twenty-five beaded bags held in possession of the MCE. This thesis uses ethnographic interview methods, provenance research, and literature review to create a cultural biography of the beaded bags stewarded by the MCE, as well as creating a model for collaboration that other small museums and institutions may follow, as previous research into this topic has focused on mid to large size museums. Five Yakama Nation beadwork artists were interviewed to understand beadwork styles, symbolism, materials, contemporary patterns and methods, and the culture surrounding beadwork. Throughout this thesis, the MCE has continued to implement new care practices, information, and future exhibit designs into the cultural biographies of these beaded bags. The MCE has learned about their responsibilities towards the beaded bags and has expanded their understanding of the material culture they steward through this thesis project, as well as the imperative need to continue collaborative projects with creator communities.

Available for download on Wednesday, April 02, 2025