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Museums to close exhibits featuring Native American artifacts, as new federal regulations take effect

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The south entrance to the American Museum of Natural History is shown in this photo, in New York, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017. (Photo: Richard Drew/AP/FILE)

(CNN) — Museums across the United States will begin closing or adapting exhibits featuring cultural artifacts from Native American tribes, in response to new regulations from the Biden administration.

The regulations, which went into effect on January 12, require “museums and Federal agencies to consult, collaborate, and, in the case of scientific study or research, obtain consent” from descendants of Indian Tribes or Native Hawaiian Organizations, according to the Department of the Interior.

The goal is to speed up the process of returning Native American remains, objects of cultural patrimony, funerary objects and other sacred items to tribes, the Department of the Interior said.

In response to the regulations, the American Museum of Natural History in New York said it will be closing two halls that featured Native American objects this weekend.

Sean Decatur, president of the museum, told museum staff in a letter obtained by CNN that the Eastern Woodlands and Great Plains Halls will be closing because they contain artificats that, under the new regulations, could require consent to exhibit.

“The number of cultural objects on display in these Halls is significant, and because these exhibits are also severely outdated, we have decided that rather than just covering or removing specific items, we will close the Halls,” Decatur wrote in the letter.

He also acknowledged that the Halls and exhibits ”are vestiges of an era when museums such as ours did not respect the values, perspectives, and indeed shared humanity of Indigenous peoples.”

“While the actions we are taking this week may seem sudden, they reflect a growing urgency among all museums to change their relationships to, and representation of, Indigenous cultures.”

This story is developing and will be updated.

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