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Alexandria Black History Museum
Alexandria,  VA
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Institute of American Indian Arts Museum
Santa Fe, NM

In 1971 the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA), then located on the Santa Fe Indian School campus, formed the IAIA Museum with a two-fold objective: first, as a museum studies teaching facility; and second, as a public venue to promote the understanding of its educational endeavors. The modest origins of the first student exhibitions were in gallery spaces converted from the School’s old Bath House. Time has revealed the Institute and her students to be significant players in the historical development of contemporary Native art. Correspondingly, the Museum’s role has taken on an additional importance as well. This center of cultural and artistic activity exposes IAIA students and the public to some of the most innovative and interesting works being produced today.

In 1991, an Act of Congress transferred to the Institute a Federal building, constructed in the Pueblo Revival style and listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The IAIA Museum relocated to its new permanent home in downtown Santa Fe, one block from the historic Santa Fe Plaza and the Palace of the Governors. The Museum’s collection has grown to house over 7,000 works of art and has been referred to as the “National Collection of Contemporary Native American Art.”

The IAIA Museum continues to operate primarily as an experiential learning environment that prepares students for careers as museum professionals. Each department; Exhibitions, Collections and Education is structured so that students actively participate in various aspects of those Museum environments, working under the supervision of the professional staff. Over the years, hundreds of IAIA students have contributed to the operations of the Museum through supervised projects as part of their museum studies curriculum. Courses and special projects conducted at the Museum are an integral part of the student’s training. It is at the Museum that the student is exposed to the demands, standards and real-life situations of the professional museum world.

The IAIA Museum is a vital space for contemporary Native American arts and culture. Its interpretive approach is to design programs based on the Museum’s exhibitions and collections. The viewer can be exposed to the multiple environments in which Indian artists live and create. With this view, the Museum hopes to cut through the conventional discourse of “Contemporary v.s. Traditional” or the “Two Worlds” concepts which tends to sterilize and oversimplify studies in Native American fine art. The IAIA Museum strives to offer the public, instead, a more complex view of contemporary Native art that reflects its diverse cross-cultural influences and explores its complicated historical development through its educational programming.

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