WOVEN BY THE GRANDMOTHERS: TWENTY-FOUR BLANKETS TRAVEL TO THE NAVAJO NATION
SUSAN HEALD, & KATHLEEN E. ASH-MILBY
Incorporating information and commentary gained from this event, Bonar developed the exhibition and publication, Woven by the Grandmothers: Nineteenth-Century Navajo Textiles from the National Museum of the American Indian, with three co-curators: D. Y. Begay, Wesley Thomas, and Kalley Musial Keams, all of whom are Navajo weavers. In the final exhibition design, the majority of the blankets were displayed on humanlike forms to show how they may have been worn. The exhibition opened in October 1996 at NMAI's George Gustav Heye Center in New York City. Later venues included the Navajo Nation Museum, Library, and Visitors Center, Window Rock, Arizona; the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.; and the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona.
Woven by the Grandmothers served as the inaugural exhibition for the opening of the new Navajo Nation Museum, Library, and Visitors Center in 1997. The exhibition was enthusiastically received by the Navajo community (Shebala 1997); the museum was booked every day with visiting groups from all over the reservation. An excerpt from a local newspaper article illustrates its impact: “These creations of the Navajo ancestors were displayed the way they were intended–as clothing. And as you walk through the softly lit exhibit you cannot help but see how magnificently beautiful and fiercely proud our people, the Navajo, looked” (Sunny Side 1997).
For their contributions and support, we thank Bruce Bernstein, Eulalie Bonar, Andrea Hanley, George Horse Capture, Marian Kaminitz, Emily Kaplan, Leslie Williamson, Cheryl Wilson, and Mary Jane Lenz. We thank all of the people who made this project a success, especially the Navajo weavers who participated in the workshop. NMAI Navajo staff involved with this project were Andrea Hanely, project manager; Kathleen Ash-Milby, assistant curator; Kenn Yazzie, collections handler; and Keevin Lewis, public outreach coordinator. Outside advisers to the project were Clarenda Begay, D. Y. Begay, Ann Lane Hedlund, Kalley Musial Keams, Bob and Ruth Roessel, Wesley Thomas, and Harry Walters. Hatathli Museum staff and volunteers were Edsel Brown (Diné College), Darren Wagoner, Bobby Yoe, and Winnifred Tsosie. Kathy Tabaha from the Hubbell Trading Post, National Park Service, was an additional volunteer handler for the workshop. We also wish to thank Jeanne Brako and Robert Mann of Art Conservation Services in Denver who treated many of the blankets.