The Photography Project

June 17, 2016

NEH Planning Grant Launches Third Major Storage Upgrade at ASM

By Darlene Lizarraga
July 2014

Arizona State Museum is among the beneficiaries of the round of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities announced July 21, 2014. The $48,962 grant will help conservators and curators consult on and plan for much-needed environmental upgrades for the museum’s photographic collection.

The ultimate goal is a climate-controlled storage area that will consolidate materials currently stored in five different areas of the museum’s north building. Such a facility will create a dynamic educational venue through which the museum can share this incomparable collection with the public as never before. It will be more immediately accessible to students, scholars, members of Native American communities, and the general public.

About the Collection

ASM’s photographic collection is highly valued—just one important and irreplaceable component of the museum’s vast holdings, held in trust for the people of the state of Arizona, and among the world’s most significant resources for research on, education about, and fostering appreciation of southwestern peoples.

“This is a visual record of the Native peoples and cultures of the southwestern U. S. and northern Mexico,” said Teresa Moreno, ASM associate conservator. “No other collection has the same depth and breadth in its coverage of the history of humanity in this region.” Moreno and ASM Photo Collections Curator Jannelle Weakly are the project’s co-directors and co-authors of the successful grant request.

In total, the collection contains more than 500,000 photographic prints, negatives and transparencies, and more than 250 motion pictures, illustrating the archaeology and ethnology of the region. The collection documents human occupation in the region from ancient times to the present. Individual images range from historic to modern, from documentary to fine art, and includes the work of early 20th century photographers Edward S. Curtis and Forman Hanna.

About the Project

The NEH grant enables ASM to assemble a top-notch team for this initial planning and design phase of the project. The skills and expertise of specialists from the Image Permanence Institute in Rochester, NY; architects and engineers from GLHN Architects & Engineering, Inc., in Tucson; and professionals from UA’s Facilities Management Renovation Services will be enlisted.

This is the third major storage renovation and environmental upgrade project that ASM conservators and curators have embarked on in recent years. The first, the museum’s renowned pottery vault completed in 2010, holds more than 20,000 whole vessels, the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of Southwest Indian pottery. The second, completed just this year, is a state-of-the-art visible vault holding more than 25,000 baskets and other items of woven fiber manufacture. It is the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of American Indian basketry. All three projects have been launched with significant federal funding. The first two also benefited from community support, grants from private foundations, and donations from members of the public. Fundraising will commence soon for this project.