Dome Talks series: Museums, ancestors and owning the past

IECN courtesy photo: Chip Colwell is 2018 Dome Talks series speaker on June 21.

Who owns the past and the objects that physically connect us to history? And who has the right to decide this ownership, particularly when the objects are sacred or, in the case of skeletal remains, human? Is it the museums that care for the objects or the communities whose ancestors made them? These questions are at the heart of Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits, an unflinching insider account by a leading museum curator who has spent years learning how to balance these controversial considerations.

The San Bernardino County Museum’s 2018 Dome Talks series concludes on Thursday, June 21, featuring author Chip Colwell. Colwell, curator of anthropology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, is the author of Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits: Inside the Fight to Reclaim Native America’s Culture, published in March 2017.

“Colwell explores the fraught project of repatriating Native American sacred objects in this moving and thoughtful work,” said Publishers Weekly. “Colwell’s book raises provocative questions about who owns the past, and is surely an important work for curators—or anyone—interested in America’s treatment of its cultural legacy.”

Museum Director Melissa Russo said, “The San Bernardino County Museum was partially founded with an important collection of Native American artifacts, so this is an exciting opportunity to have Chip Colwell help us examine our values, relationships and intentions as a cultural steward, and to include our community in the discussion. This incredibly timely and thought-provoking discussion is a marvelous close to our 2018 Dome Talks series.”

Dome Talks start with a light refreshment reception at 6:30 p.m. provided by the San Bernardino County Museum Association. The talk begins promptly at 7 p.m. with book sales and signing following.

Individual tickets for Dome Talks are $25 per evening; Museum members can purchase individual tickets for $18. Tickets may be purchased at the Museum’s welcome desk, by calling the Museum at (909) 798-8608, or on-line Advance ticket purchases are recommended because seating is limited.

These evening discussions feature leading authors and thought leaders discussing topics relevant to the past, present, and future of our Inland Southern California region. This year’s lineup emphasizes the seismic shifts, social changes and environmental forces that have affected the lives of Californians. The San Bernardino County Museum’s Dome Talks and other exciting events and programs reflect the effort by the Board of Supervisors to achieve the Countywide Vision by celebrating arts, culture, and education in the county, creating quality of life for residents and visitors.

The San Bernardino County Museum is at 2024 Orange Tree Lane, at the California Street exit from Interstate 10 in Redlands. Parking is free. For more information, visit The museum is accessible to persons with disabilities.