Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version

Spring 4-26-2022

Thesis Advisor

Richard M. Leventhal


decolonization, museum, community museum, Maya, Belize, cultural heritage


By conducting research and a literature review of decolonization discourses and practices in museums, this research seeks to understand how a community-centered approach can contribute to the decolonization of encyclopedic museums. Decolonization practices such as transparency, collaboration, and repatriation were considered for how they hold museums accountable for their coloniality and how they centralize contemporary communities affected by colonialism. Two examples from the Penn Museum, the Africa Galleries and the Global Guides Program, were used to observe the nature of decolonial practices in encyclopedic museums. Through a literature review and interviews with curators and participants, these two examples show both the benefits and drawbacks of current decolonial practices. The second part of this research focuses on contemporary communities affected by colonization and the role of community museums as a method of centralization. An ongoing plan for a community museum in Indian Creek, Belize is utilized as a case study to exemplify this practice. A literature review about the importance of community museums in bringing marginalized groups out of the periphery contributes to the conclusion that a community-centered approach positively transforms the way identity and cultural heritage are represented in museums.

Included in

Anthropology Commons



Date Posted: 07 June 2022


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