Treading through the past
Native American art collection comes out of storage for exhibit
June 23, 2005
When Kelly Bastone became curator at the Tread of Pioneers Museum, she offered a lecture about Navajo textile art. She was surprised by how many people showed up and how genuinely interested they seemed to be in the topic.
As Bastone was putting some of the textiles back in storage, she thought what a shame it was to keep the Tread’s large Native American art collection on the shelf if so many people seemed curious about the objects it contained.
Thus was born the exhibit, “Crafting the Earth: Masterpieces from the Richard Pleasant Collection of Native American Art” on display in the main gallery of the museum through 2006.
Many of the pieces on display in the new exhibit have been in storage since they were donated to the museum. One such piece is a Navajo woman’s shoulder blanket, dated circa 1880.
Before Western-style clothing caught on among Native Americans, they made blankets designed to be worn.
“The design elements in these blankets don’t make sense until you put them over a body,” Bastone said. “The diamond patterns are designed to accentuate the body.” Because the blanket is damaged, it has been kept rolled on an acid free tube, wrapped in Mylar and in the dark. In 2006, when the exhibit ends, it probably will go back in storage to ensure it is preserved.
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The blanket and the rest of the baskets, photographs, textiles and beadwork on display are part a collection put together by Richard and Johnny Pleasant of Maybell. The collection was inherited by Eunice Carpenter from her nephew, a member of the Pleasant family. It was donated to the museum in the 1960s.