LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The University of Arkansas System has been awarded nearly $60,000 in federal funds to aid the study of at least 345 sets of American Indian human remains in its possession.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette ( ) reports that the National Park Service’s award was announced last week. The grant money will be used for documentation, consultation and repatriation of remains in the University of Arkansas Museums Collection. The university will also place them in “culturally appropriate storage,” the Park Service said.

While the University of Arkansas Museum closed its exhibit hall in 2003 to cut costs, it has retained its vast collection of items in storage.

According to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990, federally funded colleges and museums are required to conduct an inventory of any American Indian cultural items they possess, including human remains, funerary objects and sacred objects. Those inventories are then listed and tribes are entitled to reclaim items that belonged to their ancestors.

“We’ve been needing to do this project, and we’re really glad to get the funds so that we can,” said Curator of Collections Mary Suter.

University officials will consult with leaders of the Osage, the Caddo and the Quapaw tribes. The tribes are based in Oklahoma, but once lived in Arkansas. Osage officials declined to discuss the grant, and leaders from the other two tribes did not respond to requests for comment.

Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette,