Arizona State Museum's Woven Wonders of American Heritage Nationally Recognized
Assortment of historic American Indian baskets (1890s-1950s), photo by Jannelle Weakly.
$400,000 grant jump-starts fund-raising effort for new storage and exhibition spaces
With the award of a $400,000 grant from the federal preservation competition Save America’s Treasures, Arizona State Museum (ASM) is in the midst of a fund-raising campaign for an additional $500,000 to construct a climate-controlled storeroom and a new interpretive space for its vast collection of southwestern basketry and other “woven wonders” of American heritage.
Arizona State Museum cares for some of the world’s most significant collections representing the peoples of the American Southwest and northern Mexico. Among the museum’s vast and varied collections is a comprehensive assemblage of American Indian basketry. With more than 25,000 specimens, the collection includes not only baskets, but cradleboards, sandals, mats, cordage, and preserved fibers representing every indigenous basket-making group in North America from 6,000 years ago to the present.
“Receiving this grant is an honor because it recognizes the national importance of the collection, but it is also testimony that the collection faces imminent danger of deterioration caused by inadequate environmental controls within the museum's two historic buildings," said Dr. Nancy Odegaard, the museum’s head conservator. "All measures have been taken to ensure responsible stewardship; now the only step left is placing the objects into a renovated space.”
Up to now the museum’s baskets have been stored in cramped rooms such as this, without environmental controls or fire suppression systems. Photo by ASM staff.
According to Odegaard, an upgraded “visible vault” for this collection will mitigate threats from light, temperature, humidity, insects, and abrasion. Not only will the upgrades provide the vital atmospheric controls, they will create a living exhibit and a dynamic educational venue through which the museum can share this incomparable collection with the public as never before.
Presently, the collection is housed in several rooms in two buildings, out of public view. This project will make the extensive collection of “woven wonders” accessible to students, scholars, members of Native American communities, and the general public. The target completion date is 2013.
This is the second such award earned by Arizona State Museum from Save America’s Treasures. The first grant came in the year 2000 for the museum’s pottery collection, which, at 20,000+ whole vessels, is the largest and most comprehensive collection of its kind in the world. Through that grant and through generous contributions from members, friends, and tribal communities the collection is now accessible to the public through a climate-controlled display wall, a visible storage vault, and a dedicated exhibition gallery.
Established by the Arizona territorial legislature in 1893, Arizona State Museum is the oldest and largest anthropology museum in the region, is the nation’s largest and busiest state-run archaeological repository, and is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.
ASM occupies two historic buildings, both on the National Register of Historic Places, just inside the University of Arizona’s Main Gate. While the buildings’ exteriors are beautiful, their interiors are not up to 21st century standards of climate control and exhibition space. This project is part of the museum’s ongoing efforts to retrofit its facilities.
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