Arizona State Museum Launches Databases to Share Southwest Textiles With World

The databases, available on the Arizona State Museum website, include nearly every Southwest textile in the museum's collection – about 600 – as well as more than 1,300 specimens from other public collections.
July 15, 2013
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One of the first two recipients of a PhD in anthropology at the UA, the late Joe Ben Wheat is the author of "Blanket Weaving in the Southwest," which retire Arizona State Museum curator Anne Lane Hedlund edited and published in 2003. Hedlund's books include "Reflections of the Weaver’s World," "Navajo Weaving in the Late 20th Century," "Navajo Weavings from the Andy Williams Collection, and Gloria F. Ross & Modern Tapestry." Hedlund also is curator of many textile exhibits and has presented countless public lectures around the world.


The state museum's new textile databases were engineered by state museum webmaster Laura LePere and applications programmer Michael Ornelas, with contributions by David Hayden of Museum Data Solutions and many other valuable participants who are acknowledged on each website.

The Arizona State Museum on the University of Arizona campus has launched two new, searchable, illustrated databases designed to share the artistry and study of Southwestern textiles with the world.

The Arizona State Museum Southwest Textile Database, available on the Arizona State Museum website, include nearly every Southwest textile in the museum's collection – about 600 of them. The separate Joe Ben Wheat Southwest Textile Database, also on the Arizona State Museum website, includes more than 1,300 specimens from other public collections, studied by the late Joe Ben Wheat textile authority at the University of Colorado at Boulder

Also available on the museum website is extensive background information and helpful guides for understanding the evolution of three cultural textile traditions in the American Southwest, amongst Navajo, Pueblo and Spanish-American cultures. Focused on the 19th and early 20th centuries, the information spans three major periods: from the time of Spanish governance to 1821, the Mexican era until 1846 and the American and early reservation period since then.

The new databases represent the culmination of decades of research by two world-renowned textile authorities – Wheat and Ann Lane Hedlund, who recently retired as curator at Arizona State Museum and UA anthropology professor.

"These tools can be used by anyone to create absolutely new knowledge about the Southwest's Native American and European-influenced textile traditions. Most importantly, as an anthropologist who studies both living and long past artists, I want artists of all stripes to have access to this wondrous visual and technical compilation," Hedlund said.

Those who might benefit from the databases include museum curators with Southwest textiles in their collections, scholars interested in Southwest history and material culture, hand weavers and artists seeking the roots of Southwest weaving, and collectors and others who appreciate worldwide crafts, folk art and art of all time, Hedlund said.

"And certainly students of all ages – I hope students will enjoy exploring the information and will get it to tell us things that we've never known before," she added.

Though other online databases of museum collections – such as ceramics and other media – exist, the new textile databases are unique in the amount of detail they offer, as well as their query-based interactivity functions, Hedlund said.

For example, users can easily search by keyword, culture, time period and more.

"It's also a first to have such stellar visual, technical, and historical selections from so many museum collections gathered in one place for comparisons," Hedlund said. "I know of nothing that allows visitors as much access and ability to query the data as this incredible store of information does. We included nearly every Southwest textile in our collection, some 600 examples, and just over 1,300 specimens studied by Wheat in 50 other public collections."