Resources for Tribal Museums

The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) seeks to support the museum practices of tribal museum professionals and tribal nations. Leaders of tribal nations and tribal museums often ask for resources and information in the areas of fundraising, exhibit design, collections management and conservation, and leadership development. Links to resources on these topics—as well newer topics including social media, security, and environmentally friendly practices—are provided below. These resources are intended to be useful to those who work or volunteer at a tribal museum, wish to build a tribal museum, or want to learn more about tribal museum history. (Note: The term “museum” is used in this context solely for brevity and may not be appropriate or adequately describe the purpose of your organization. Please substitute any word that best describes your organization, such as cultural center or research center.)

The NMAI also seeks to facilitate networking and communication between tribal museums, and welcomes opportunities to provide appropriate information about tribal nations and tribal museums to national and international museum communities. To facilitate those kinds of exchanges, the museum administers a tribal museum Listserv (emailing list); if you would like to be added please contact Jill Norwood at

The information on this page is a continuation of work begun many years ago at the NMAI by Alyce Sadongei (Kiowa/Tohono O’odham), Nicolasa Sandoval (Chumash), Susan Secakuku (Hopi), Karen Coody Cooper (Cherokee), and Jacquetta Swift (Comanche). The foresight, initiative, and wisdom of these women has contributed significantly to the museum field by providing ways for Native peoples to establish a place in a field that was historically off-limits. They helped lay the foundation for tribal museum professional training and exemplify commitment to education and public service.

—Jill Norwood (Tolowa/Yurok/Karuk)

How to Start a Tribal Museum

This presentation (pdf) provides basic information on starting a tribal museum, including why your community may wish to do so. It focuses on both creating a thoughtful and thought-provoking discussion (defining key terms, developing a mission statement, thinking about content) and beginning the planning phase of the project (defining key jobs, putting together a planning team). For information about the architectural phase, construction phase, developing exhibition design, and presenting public programs, contact Jill Norwood at


Foundation Center
IMLS Grant Opportunities
Canadian Heritage Guide to Special Events Fundraising (pdf)
Association of Fundraising Professionals

Event Planning

Ziibiwing Center: Community Event Planning & Implementation (video)

Exhibit Design

National Association for Museum Exhibition
Museum Planning Blog
Smithsonian Guide to Accessible Exhibition Design (pdf)

Staffing and Human Resources

Writing Position Descriptions
How to Write an Effective Position Description (pdf) 
Job Descriptions (pdf)

Professional Development
Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, & Museums
American Association for State and Local History
American Alliance of Museums
National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers

Leadership and Management

A Dozen Books Every Museums Should Own
Getty Institute Leadership
AAM Ethics, Standards, and Best Practices
AAM Characteristics of Excellence for U.S. Museums
AAM Code of Ethics for Museums

Conservation, Preservation and Emergency Preparedness

NPS Conserve O Grams—Collections care, security, disaster preparedness
NPS Museum Handbook, Part I: Museum Collections

Caring for Collections
M&GNSW: Collection Care
Te Papa Tongarewa: Collection Care
Getty Conservation Perspectives Newsletter

Managing and Digitizing Collections
Te Papa Tongarewa: Collection Management
M&GNSW: Collection Management
M&GNSW: Digital
CIDOC: Labeling and Marking Objects (pdf)


AZA: Sustainable Practices Toolbox
USGBC Green Building Certification
Archives for Greener Museums