The University of Arizona


“Because the Navajo reservation is so big, our stories are similar but each is a little different. For what people know in New Mexico, people in Arizona have a different version. So, it's really hard to pinpoint the true meaning behind any particular rug. Rugs are like a verse in the Bible—there are 365 ways of interpreting one verse; Navajo weaving is like that, too.” —Barbara Ornelas

Conversations with Curators

Arizona State Museum invited three weavers and one scholar to organize this exhibition, which was open to the public from October 2004 through May 2005 in the museum’s galleries. The exhibition now exists only in a virtual form on this website, which presents:

Two virtual galleries—

19th Century Blankets
from the museum's permanent collections

20th Century Rugs
from two private collections on loan to ASM


21st Century Views
about designs, materials, culture, and history are found in the comments by the curators throughout the virtual galleries.

Sierra, Barbara and Michael OrnelasBarbara, Sierra and Michael Ornelas represent three artists at different stages of their careers, linked by their mutual respect and dynamic sharing of ideas. All three are award-winning weavers of fine tapestries in the Two Grey Hills style. In this creative family, traditional Navajo values combine with fresh outlooks and contemporary approaches to art and life.

Ann Lane Hedlund

Ann Lane Hedlund is a cultural anthropologist and well-known author who has worked with southwestern weavers and museum collections for three decades. She and the Ornelas family have known each other since the 1980s.

Together, these four experts chose and organized the exhibited textiles from over five hundred objects and organized them in these two galleries.

Join the curators, as they comment on their selections and the state of Navajo weaving, past and present!

“Every rug here is completely different and made by an individual, but they all fall under one category—Navajo weaving. This is just like people—we are all Navajo, but we are each different. Our weaving reflects individual differences, too.” —Barbara Ornelas

Choose a virtual gallery:
19th Century Blankets | 20th Century Rugs