Louise Speaks: You all know how I feel about museums, but this one earned its own special category and its own page in Patricia’s book, “1000 Places To See Before You Die”. I remember coming to this museum as a kid, and the think I remember the most is no longer here. They used to have miniature rooms, like in a doll house…a room full of these small rooms, and now all they have are Indian artifacts and paintings.
The Heard Museum downtown was the only museum of its kind when I was in school. Now there are three different locations, throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area. The downtown location is still the largest but now there is an annex in Scottsdale and on the west side in Surprise. These two locations display rotating exhibits as they are much smaller than the main museum. Today we visited the main downtown location. It seems much bigger now than when I was younger and now has many art structures outside as well as the exhibits inside. A visit to the Heard Museum now includes 11 exhibition galleries, free guided tours, outdoor sculpture gardens, a renowned café, art gallery and trading-post style shopping. There is also a nice gift shop that sells many unusual indian souvenirs.
The Heard Museum is supposed to house the premier and largest collection of Native American art and culture in the country. The museum has grown to 130,000 square feet of exhibit space and is able to house a Navajo hogan. If you remember from previous posts, a hogan is an eight sided adobe structure used for ceremonies…although many Navajos lived in these hogans. There is also a huge collection of pottery, paintings, rugs and a huge collection of Hopi kachina dolls. These dolls are a true symbol of the Arizona tribes. The dolls serve as a symbol of the Hopi and Zuni religion.
Since its founding by Dwight and Maie Bartlett Heard in 1929 as a small museum in a small Southwestern town, the Heard has grown in size and statute. Today it is recognized internationally for the quality of its collections, its educational programming and its festivals. Phoenix has grown along with it, hence why there are now three locations. The Heard is a living museum, giving voice to a uniquely American people.
The Heard Museum opened with little fanfare in June 1929, several months after Dwight Heard died of a heart attack. Maie Heard acted as museum director, curator, custodian, lecturer and guide for more than 20 years. The Heard Museum underwent significant growth upon Maie Heard’s death in 1951. In 1958, the volunteers launched two aggressive fundraising projects, a museum Shop and a Fair. Both activities continue with great success today, thanks to the continuing support of Guild members who work in the Shop and plan the Indian Fair & Market, which today draws nearly 20,000 people. The Jacobson Gallery of Indian Art was added to the museum during the next big expansion in 1968 and ’69, which nearly doubled the original building. The Heard Museum experienced another significant expansion in 1983, when it nearly doubled in size again to 78,000 square feet. In February 1999, the Heard Museum added 50,000 more square feet. This expansion added several new structures including an expanded Museum Shop & Bookstore, Steele Auditorium, Dorrance Education Center, The Café at the Heard Museum, an artist studio and the Nina Mason Pulliam Pavilion. Also added were the Library and Archives, administrative space, collections storage facilities and exhibit preparation areas. The expansion also added three exhibit galleries, bringing the number of galleries at the Heard to 11.
Today being in the middle of summer and the middle of the week, there were still several visitors to the museum. Many were Native Americans with young children, probably showing them some of their heritage roots. I’m sure to them it was much more interesting than it was to me. That being said, I would give the Heard Museum a C rating. It’s great for a school field trip and maybe interesting to those studying Native American Cultures, but to this girl who just doesn’t like museums, I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to make the stop.