Contact: Maria Williams, 277-2286 or
Laurie Mellas-Ramirez, 277-5915

[PHOTO OPPORTUNITY: Hernandez and her class will tour UNM's Jonson Gallery on Thursday, April 27 at 1:30 p.m. Hernandez will grant interviews about the Museum Studies Program. The gallery is located at 1909 Las Lomas NE.]

March 28, 2001

UNM CREATING ONE-OF-A-KIND MUSEUM STUDIES PROGRAM WITH NATIVE AMERICAN EMPHASIS

As the number of tribal museums and cultural centers rises, so does the need for education and training for museum professionals that incorporates indigenous views in handling and caring for collections.

The University of New Mexico Arts of Americas Institute (AAI), a division of the College of Fine Arts, has received a two-year $150,000 grant from the Educational Foundation of America to develop a new Museum Studies Program with a strong Native American component.

"This will be the only program of its kind in the country," says Dr. Maria Williams, AAI associate director. "UNM is designing a curriculum grounded in Western scientific approach, but with a wonderful infusion of Native American perspective."
"The program reflects Native American philosophy and pedagogy in the physical, cultural, and spiritual care of collections, and other issues relating to Native American museum practices," Williams adds.

A minor will be offered for undergraduates and a certificate at the graduate level.

Non-degree courses will be provided on-site for employees at various tribal museums and cultural centers in New Mexico. The program also calls for a preservation/conservation laboratory to be developed and housed at UNM.

A curriculum committee will form this summer with representatives from UNM Native American Studies (NAS) and Art and Art History - including Dr. Joyce Szabo, who is co-creating the program with Williams and Hernandez - and local consultants in the museum field.

Rebecca S. Hernandez was recently appointed to begin coordinating the Museum Studies Program. Hernandez holds a joint faculty appointment at NAS and the Art and Art History Department. She earned a BA in Fine Art from the College of Santa Fe; MFA in Exhibition Design and Museum Studies from California State University-Fullerton; MA in American Indian Studies, University of California-Los Angeles; and is completing a Ph.D. in American Studies at UNM.

Hernandez, who is Mexican-American and Mescalero Apache, says sensitizing museum practitioners and the public to the proper care and preservation of cultural objects has a global reach: "The same issues affect all tribal cultures and indigenous arts of the world. The question is, 'how do we do this with sensitivity and with a level of savvy that has been missing?'"

She helped develop and, last week, began teaching the first course in the program, "Native American Museum Studies." The eight-week class is offered for undergraduate credit and examines the museum as an institution with a strong focus on introducing students to local offerings. "I hope to teach people how to walk through a museum, to introduce students to the experience of viewing and the 'how to' of reading a space. To have them ask themselves 'what is the curator trying to tell us?'" Hernandez says.

In the fall, she teaches "Representation and Accommodation: Native Americans and the Museum Cultural Center," a more extensive course offered for both undergraduate and graduate credit. Hernandez says the class will look at the historical process of museums and should appeal to a wide, cross-section of students -- from museum lovers to students in UNM's African American and Chicana/o Studies who have an interest in cultural identity.

"When you address the museum itself, it makes culture and identity easier to talk about. Art is a great communicator, so we can keep coming back to the objects," she says.

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[PHOTO OPPORTUNITY: Hernandez and her class will tour UNM's Jonson Gallery on Thursday, April 27 at 1:30 p.m. Hernandez will grant interviews about the Museum Studies Program. The gallery is located at 1909 Las Lomas NE.]


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