November 2021

Meet Holly Cusack-McVeigh

Professor Holly Cusack-McVeigh is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Museum Studies at IUPUI. She holds appointments as an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Native American & Indigenous Studies and as a Public Scholar of Collections and Community Curation. Professor Cusack-McVeigh also serves as a Research Associate in the Ethnology & History Department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Museum of the North. She has lived and worked in Alaska for over twenty years and continues to collaborate with Alaska Native communities on projects ranging from repatriation, oral history, cultural heritage research and tribal resource management. She has served as a liaison between museums and Native groups under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), and worked as a consultant for tribal water quality trainings and tribal marine science workshops with Native coastal villages.

Her current research agenda is grounded in an ongoing collaboration with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a major antiquities case that resulted in the recovery of several thousand objects. Her work with the FBI Art Crime Team exemplifies her broad scholarship on cultural heritage, the antiquities trade, looting, and repatriation with Indigenous partners worldwide. 

When not doing research, teaching or writing, Professor Cusack-McVeigh enjoys kayaking on the ocean and exploring remote beaches.

Image of Holly Cusack Mc Veigh

The thing I love most about my research are the opportunities for community collaboration and involving my students in these unique partnerships.

Professor Holly Cusack-McVeigh

Research Photos

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 Haiti Repatriation (February 2020)
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China Student Repatriation Team (2019)
Image of Soata Colombia Cultural Heritage Award
 Cultural Heritage Award (Soata, Columbia)
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 Repatriation Student Team (2014)
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 China Repatriation 
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 China Repatriation (2019)

Q and A with Professor Cusack-McVeigh

I was in the fifth grade when I first decided to become an anthropologist.  When I was a kid, I discovered a Native American burial ground in Canada.  This was a unique opportunity to work with local Indigenous community leaders and government agencies.  This early experience was a formative one that ultimately shaped my life’s path.    

My current research agenda is grounded in an ongoing collaboration with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a major antiquities case that resulted in the recovery of several thousand objects. My work with the FBI Art Crime Team exemplifies my broad scholarship on cultural heritage, the antiquities trade, looting, and repatriation with Indigenous partners worldwide. 

I am a Public Scholar who forges connections and fosters lasting community partnerships that bring about greater cultural understanding and social change on a local and global scale. I primarily work with and for Indigenous communities and, as a teacher, I bring critical human rights issues into my classroom and community-based scholarship. My community-based teaching, research, and civically engaged service activities directly align with IUPUI’s vision of contributing to the “well-being of the citizens of Indianapolis, the state of Indiana, and beyond.” I am an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Museum Studies in the IU School of Liberal Arts with an appointment in the Native American & Indigenous Studies Program whose work is deeply grounded in social justice.

The thing I love most about my research are the opportunities for community collaboration and involving my students in these unique partnerships.  Through these experiences, my students learn first-hand that there is a significant time investment in cultivating and maintaining relationships with community stakeholders.

As an IUPUI Public Scholar, my teaching activities are grounded within and across research and service. I pride myself on offering my students an active, community-student-centered curriculum. I work to create opportunities that allow them to become self-reflective and engaged leaders through experiences both in and out of the classroom.  A unique and ongoing teaching opportunity involves my students’ active involvement with a Federal Bureau of Investigation Antiquities Case (Art Crime Team). Since April of 2014, dozens of undergraduate and graduate students have assisted on the case, conducting research and participating in repatriation efforts to foreign and domestic partners. In spite of immense obstacles (students sign non-disclosure agreements in order to participate in the investigation), this learning experience is unparalleled.  

The kind of research I do involves community members as partners in the co-production of knowledge.   

There is still a lot of work to be done when it comes to educating the general public about the need for better protection of cultural heritage, sacred sites and graves.  Academicians need to seek new, equitable ways to engage community partners in all phases of research.

Conversation with Professor Cusack-McVeigh

On Friday, November 12, 2021 from 12 noon to 1:00 p.m. Professor Cusack-McVeigh gave a virtual presentation about her work on “Recovering the Past: A Collaborative Approach to Repatriation and Social Justice.” In this presentation, Professor Holly Cusack-McVeigh told the story of an FBI investigation that resulted in its largest single recovery of illegally looted cultural objects - and how she and her students are participating in the repatriation of thousands of these stolen objects.