Statement of Purpose
To identify the issues around accessibility to anthropological collections that are based in the collections management lexicons.  To create a solution that will aid collections management professionals in sharing their data and increasing access to their collections.

The origins of this Task Force can be found in the archives of the RCAAM listserv when a question about classification terms for anthropology collections led to a conversation of thesauri development.  There was a general recognition that, lacking a standard list for ethnographic materials and cultural names, many museums develop their own independent thesauri, which can be counterproductive to the larger museum goals of improved data sharing. The discussion continued beyond the initial listserv posting and it was decided to launch a collaborative effort to develop a set of standardized terms for ethnographic collections. This led to the creation of the AAM Session “Developing an Ethnographic Lexicon,” which was presented at the 2015 Annual Meeting in order to raise this topic within the community at large.

A survey was developed in conjunction with the AAM session in order to gather information on general museum practices regarding standardized ethnographic terminology. The information includes:

  • museum size and governance

  • distribution of ethnographic and archaeological materials

  • type of database

  • type of terminology (internally developed vs. an established thesaurus or lexicon)

The survey is now closed, thank you for your response!

Task Force Final Report

In Fall of 2018, the Lexicon Task Force presented an initial report to survey and interview participants for comment and review. After 30 days of presentation, followed by additional edits and feedback, the final report was released to the CSAAM membership in November 2018 via the website and listserv.

Titled “Words Matter: Lexicon Usage and Indigenous Cultural Belongings,” this exploratory report incorporates survey results, interviews, and Task Force conversations together into an overall observation of the methods used by collections professionals at a range of museums (university, fine art, anthropology, cultural centers, and more) to address the issue of identifying and implementing Object Name and Cultural Group terms for indigenous belongings within their institutions. Based on these observations, the Task Force proposed a range of potential solutions with possible funding sources.  

This concludes the work of the Lexicon Task Force. Lexicon Task Force members recommend to the Collections Stewardship Leadership that a committee of collaborators from a range of Indigenous and non-Indigenous museums be formed to continue the work initiated by the Task Force. This committee would serve to liaise with such established lexicon developers as Nomenclature Affinity Group (AASLH) and Getty Research Institute, follow through on report recommendations, and respond to current issues facing the field.

You can find the final report here.

If you have any questions, please contact Task Force chair Amy Heggemeyer at heggemey@illinois.edu