Questions from visitors to the original exhibition in the museum from October 2004 through May 2005 with answers from Arizona State Museum curators.
Can someone identify an old rug for me?
Curator Ann Hedlund frequently meets with museum visitors to examine pieces from their collections. It requires an appointment in advance. The easiest way to arrange an appointment is to e-mail Dr. Hedlund directly. You can also send her mail at the address below. There are times when she will direct your questions to other curators or specialists. Many other experts can be located at museums around the country and southwestern Indian art galleries. Consult your local phone book, the World Wide Web, or advertisements in American Indian Art magazine and other related journals.
Ann Lane Hedlund, Ph.D.
Director, The Gloria F. Ross Center for Tapestry Studies
Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona
P.O. Box 210026
Tucson, AZ 85721-0026
What books are available about Navajo weaving?
The Gloria F. Ross Tapestry Center online bibliography contains an extensive list of books and articles about southwestern textile history.
Please advise me how to preserve Navajo wall hangings to prevent moths, light, deterioration, mold, etc.
Please check the article Some Comments on the Care of Navajo Textiles
If you have any other preservation questions, contact
Arizona State Museum
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721-0026
How are the museum's rugs stored when they are not on exhibit?
The museum's collection of flat weave Navajo textiles are rolled on inert metal tubes and stored in secured, high-quality museum cabinetry in secured, climate control rooms.
Conservator & Head of Preservation, ASM
How are two-sided rugs woven - separately or each side at once?
Almost all Navajo textiles have an identical appearance on both sides of the fabric. One significant exception to this is the two-faced rug, which has a different design on each side. (There are two two-faced rugs in the 20th Century Rugs gallery.) Whereas most Navajo rugs are woven with a simple under one/over one interlacing, two-faced rugs have an over one/under three, under one/over three interlacing. This allows a weaver to create one pattern on the front and another pattern on the back of her rug simultaneously, all while sitting in front of her loom.
Which ye’ii are male or female?
Generally the accepted format is that the square heads are male, and round heads are female in sand paintings. Sometimes it is difficult to tell, and that’s just the way it is—not all things can be defined by design traits. Navajo people are not always intent on a simple male/female division.
During the “Eye Dazzler” phase, approximately how many women were weaving? What percentage?
It is impossible to say. We don’t even know how many weavers there really are today, although my estimates run to several thousand at the very least.
If you mean what percentage of total weavers were making Eye Dazzlers, then I would guess that it was much less than half of them, perhaps a third or quarter or maybe even fewer who were making Eye Dazzlers, compared with many more generic blanket and rug designs in a mixture of materials including handspun Navajo wool.
Is there a link with the Eye Dazzlers and Peyote?
These are not things that I would connect. In the book “The Peyote Religion among the Navajo” (2nd edition, U of Oklahoma Press, 1966, 1982), David Aberle documents very clearly the beginnings of Peyote among Navajos to the 1930s. Eye Dazzlers, of course, occurred much earlier, beginning in the 1880s.
What is the difference between a sarape and a poncho?
Sarapes are rectangular blankets, woven longer than wide, usually with a fairly fancy design. Ponchos are a type of sarape with a center neckhole, so that the blanket may be worn draped in front and back (rather than wrapped around the body, as with other sarapes).
Is there a particular significance to the tassels left on the four corners?
There is no “symbolic” significance that I know of. Tassels are often mentioned as decorative devices, and also as ways to strengthen and protect the corners. They are usually formed from the twined end and side cords, and so represent a technical trait that varies with the types cords used. Sometimes additional yarn is used to make a fatter “augmented” tassel. Pueblo and Navajo weavers through time have used different cord systems and have tied their corners in different and culturally characteristic ways—see Joe Ben Wheat’s book for diagrams of many of the possible variations.
Are the Navajo ye’ii analogous or comparable to the Hopi katsinam?
I suppose someone might say so, but only in the same way that other religious figures such as Jesus Christ and Buddha might be compared to each other as central in their respective faiths. Navajo ye’ii are holy people with their own significance, history and set of associated rituals, quite distinct from the Hopi katsinam, who are considered to be messengers to the gods, with their own symbolism, histories and rituals.
Why don’t you have a catalogue or could you sell a CD of the program that’s on that learning computer in the museum lobby?
Catalogues, like all other worthy books, take a long time to develop and require special funding to produce and publish. Such time and money was not planned into this project. The original exhibit resulted, in fact, from two books that I just published in the two years preceding the opening of the museum exhibit in 2004 (and which were each in the works for MANY years before that). What you are viewing now is an online version of the entire exhibition—objects, text and labels. The computer database that’s now in the museum lobby will be added to our website soon. We are not in the business of marketing CD’s at this stage and prefer to make such items available free on our website instead.
What is the process of unraveling the trade cloth…. Wouldn’t it shred?
We know that entire bolts of fabric or lengths of cloth were provided to the Navajos during the late 19th century. We believe that this cloth was likely cut into strips and then the shorter threads were pulled out of the cloth, leaving the long threads that were then used singly or in groups. The short threads were likely the material that was carded together (and yes, essentially “shredded”) with homegrown white sheep’s wool to produce a “combed pink” yarn, or used alone, carded and re-spun into a new red yarn.