The Museum of the Cherokee Indian is a leader in the museum Disruption movement, aiming to return art and cultural artifacts to its rightful place and people of origin. The Disruption exhibit features the contemporary work of tribal artists. These pieces replace the culturally sensitive and funerary objects previously on display.
Some of the removed objects have questionable origins. Many were donated to the museum by the public over the years. Unfortunately, it is apparent that a large number of these funerary pieces were unethically removed from Native burial sites.
The museum has also withdrawn culturally sensitive objects. Working with the Tribal Historic Preservation Office, they have identified ceremonial pieces that hold great significance to the tribe and should no longer be open to the general public’s interpretation of them.
The museum is planning to return the burial pieces to the earth where they belong with tribal ancestors. The culturally sensitive objects will remain in the museum’s collection, archived at a future off-site location where only tribal members may have access.
New Art Now on Display
Rather than leaving empty display cases, 36 artists from the Cherokee Nation and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian were invited to fill those cases with their contemporary creations. The result of this “art intervention” is an exhibition of modern ceramics, sculpture, paintings, carvings, and multimedia. Some of the new additions, such as Spearfinger by Toby McCoy and Matriarch by Lori Reed, both of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, will stay with you long after your visit.
The museum hasn’t seen changes in its 24 years, and the Disruption exhibit signals a change in how the museum wants people to perceive Native culture as a living entity deeply connected to the past. While no longer linear in time, the museum’s new display allows people to experience the vibrant culture of modern indigenous people.
Explore Cherokee Culture
Admission to Disruption is included with your general admission ticket to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. Tribal citizens are always granted free entry.
While exploring the culture of the Cherokee Indian, plan to spend a few hours at the nearby Oconaluftee Indian Village. You will be swept back in time to the 18th century and given a glimpse into what Cherokee life was like then.
Wander through the living-history section to meet historical Cherokee people, and then take a guided tour of the craft exhibits. Award-winning artists explain the unique Cherokee crafting techniques as they demonstrate them. Take a break and grab some refreshment from the concession stand. Oconaluftee natives may even join you at your picnic table!
If you are visiting the Smoky Mountains between May 27 and August 19, 2023, don’t miss the live production of Unto These Hills! The outdoor drama tells the heart-pounding story of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians from the time of first contact with Europeans to the infamous “Trail of Tears.” The show first debuted in 1950 and continues to enthrall and rivet audiences today.