Increasing accessibility at the Valene L. Smith Museum of Anthropology: an online database featuring the North American basketry collection

The Valene L. Smith Museum of Anthropology at California State University, Chico, has a permanent collection that comprises over 2,000 ethnographic objects from around the world. The museum’s limited space results in the majority of the permanent collection remaining off-exhibit and inaccessible to the public. The growing momentum of the new museum theory has encouraged museums to address issues of accessibility in their museums. Facing criticism of collections growing stagnant in storage rooms, unavailable to the public and researchers alike, there is a growing trend in creating online databases to increase access to collections. The purpose of this thesis is to demonstrate that new museum theory can be a framework that supports the effort to engage with the community through the production of an online database. This thesis details the process of creating an online database of the North American basketry collection at the Valene L. Smith Museum of Anthropology. New museum theory was applied through collaboration with the local Native American community to create a database the makes the museum’s collections more accessible to the public. The project contributes to the field of anthropology and museum studies by facilitating anthropological research, using extant museum collections, and serves as an example for other small museums that are interested in making the best use of their collections.