The Heard Museum recently received a $300,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The grant will fund fellowships focused on preserving Navajo textiles.
The New York City foundation launched in 1969 to further the contributions of the arts and humanities to diverse and democratic societies.
“We’re excited because the grant gives us an opportunity to take a closer look at our textile collection,” says Diana Pardue, curator of collections for Heard Museum.
The museum’s collection currently includes approximately 1,500 Southwestern textiles, Pardue says. About 1,200 of those are Navajo textiles, which are typically created on a vertical loom.
“Navajo weavers have a long history of creating vibrant designs,” Pardue says.
The grant, which was awarded on June 1, will fund a new initiative called Opening a Window: The Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship Program.
In conservation circles, the phrase “opening a window” refers to finding a small sample site for testing.
Through the program, paid fellows will work with Navajo weavers, museum curatorial staff, conservators, and textile specialists. Together, they’ll be assessing and conserving Navajo textiles in the museum’s collection.
“We have a good, broad collection from different time periods, including many textiles woven as garments and some woven as rugs,” Pardue says.
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Conservation is important, she says, because dirt often gets embedded in textiles. And older, fragile fibers can break.
This approach to conservation is a first for the museum.
“We’ve never pulled these groups together for a project before,” Pardue says. “This will give us different views of the care and traditions of these textiles, including Native care.”
The Mellon grant will fund fellowships for three nine-month periods, each running from October to June. Applications for the first period, which you can find on the Heard Museum’s website, are open through Friday, September 8.