By Sandra Narva
Senior Program Officer, IMLS
On June 10, 2013, forty representatives of projects funded through the IMLS Native American/Native Hawaiian Museum Services (NANH) grant program gathered at Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico, to learn about each other’s projects, share their experiences, and meet one another in person. I had the honor to join them for this special event, which I look forward to every year. Grant funds from their individual awards made it possible for everyone to participate in this day of learning. We were situated about 20 minutes north of Albuquerque, and a stone’s throw from the Rio Grande, amidst beautiful Southwest scenery and a sunny (but dry) heat.
Opening comments focused on administering IMLS awards, but the majority of the day was dedicated to twenty-nine short presentations on funded project activities. The diverse topics covered made it an educational and extremely interesting day. For example, representatives from the Comanche Indian Tribe discussed the partnership between the Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center and the Museum of Texas Tech University to develop programs teaching the Comanche way of life to Texas school children. A representative from the Kaw Nation presented information about a traveling exhibition developed by the tribe’s Kanza Museum. Bishop Museum staff related their efforts to research and preserve all aspects of Hawaiian papale (hat) weaving. The Seldovia Village Tribe’s curator shared information on efforts to professionalize museum operations. There were twenty-five other fascinating projects presented, and I wish I could detail all of them here. One of the most important aspects of the day was that we learned not only about the successes that these tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations achieved, but also about the challenges they faced and lessons they learned that could be used to improve other projects and daily activities. Short descriptions of many projects discussed can be found here: www.imls.gov/news/nanh_museum_services_announcement_2012.aspx
The day was held as a preconference activity to the International Conference of Indigenous Archives, Libraries, and Museums, organized by the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums (ATALM and made possible in part by a Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian program award. NANH awardees also participated in conference sessions and activities, making it a full week of professional development and training centered on the needs of administering tribal museums and cultural centers.
Since 2005, the NANH program has offered grant opportunities to federally recognized tribes, Alaskan Native villages and corporations, and nonprofit organizations established to serve and represent Native Hawaiians. The reach of the program has been broad:199 awards, totaling $7.7 million, have been made to tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations in twenty-eight states over the past eight years. If you’re interesting in learning more about the program, please visit the NANH website: www.imls.gov/applicants/detail.aspx?GrantId=17