One more pic.

The sign says “At the request of the Hopi Tribe of Arizona, the material in this exhibit has been removed”

I took a couple of classes that focused on museum studies and the culture of display when I was in grad school. I find that I am very conflicted about the display of cultural artifacts (not so much taxidermy, obviously). While these artifacts do provide valuable information and learning experiences, that often comes at the expense of marginalizing already “othered” people. Displaying some of these pieces is incredibly disrespectful when you consider the original intent of the pieces on display. 

So when I saw this sign, my curiosity was immediately piqued. I ask a museum docent about the removal of the display. She was initially defensive; I think she thought that I felt cheated out of an exhibit, which was hardly the case. I explained I was just curious about the why. She said that the Kachina masks are used in very specific ceremonies, where they are considered awake.  The rest of the time, these masks are stored and considered to asleep. By having the masks on display for such a long time, the Hopi believed that they had been awake for too long and had asked that they be put into storage so that they could recover. I asked if the Hopi had asked that the masks be returned to them, but the docent said that they merely wanted them to be put into storage until they had had time to recover.

I am happy that the museum complied with this request, but I wish that there were more transparency about the politics with cultural pieces when it comes to museum display. Museum patrons need to at least be informed of the circumstances under which the museum acquired these pieces, and the proper context of said pieces.