Arizona State Museum
University of Arizona, Tucson

Friends of the ASM Collections

Community Group helps museum fill gaps

(University of Arizona, Tucson) Everyone needs friends. You can never have too many. That’s especially true when you’re an inadequately funded state institution. Arizona State Museum (ASM) has recently formed a group called the Friends of the ASM Collections. A sub-set of the museum’s general membership, folks who join the Friends work together to promote and strengthen the museum’s world-class collections.
"The ethnological collections at ASM are indeed world class," notes curator Diane Dittemore. "However, for as long as I have been here we’ve been frustrated at our inability to actively collect important historic and contemporary works because we do not have a regular acquisitions budget.  Friends of the ASM Collections has opened up a whole new world for us."
As a group, Friends of the ASM Collections has:

  • raised tens of thousands of dollars through memberships and special fundraisers for an acquisitions budget that allows curators to selectively and strategically add pieces to the museum's permanent collections
  • sponsored a $3000 acquisition award at the museum’s Southwest Indian Art Fair last February

Individual Friends have purchased items for the museum such as the newly installed bronze statue that now adorns the front entrance of the museum’s north building on the University of Arizona campus. Arnold and Doris Roland are the generous donors of “Watercarrier” by Apache artist Craig Goseyun.

Another Friend, Richard Spivey, facilitated the acquisition of an important collection of contemporary Southwest Indian pottery from Tucsonans Milton and Anita Katz.
Most recently, Friends member and Indian art dealer Michael Higgins facilitated a most amazing reunion of two parts of an historic Navajo biil or woman's dress.
Beginning In the late 19th century and continuing to the present day, Navajo weavers create two identical rectangular fabrics that are stitched together over the shoulders and along the sides to form a dress (sometimes called a “rug dress”). For whatever reason, the two halves are sometimes separated.
One panel of this particular rug dress, already in the museum’s permanent collection, was recently exhibited as part of the hugely successful exhibition "Navajo Weaving: 19th century blankets, 20th century rugs, 21st century views."

The exhibit brought weaving enthusiasts from all over the country, including long-time collectors and dealers Lilian Black and Tyrone Campbell from Scottsdale. After seeing the exhibited piece and believing that she owned the matching panel (purchased in 2004), Black brought her half to exhibition co-curator Ann Lane Hedlund (and head of the Gloria F. Ross Center for Tapestry Studies at ASM) to verify the match. Sure enough, the size, proportions, yarns, dyes and band patterns convinced them both that Black’s panel was indeed the long lost twin of the museum specimen.
Convinced that these two important textiles should be permanently reunited, Michael Higgins took it upon himself to suggest to Black that she should donate her half to the museum. “When I learned that the missing dress half had been located and it belonged to a friend, I was pretty excited. I stayed in touch with Lilian about it.” Higgins’ cultivation eventually paid off as Black very generously donated her dress panel to ASM. 
“These are just a few examples of how important this group is to the museum and how big an impact a group can have when it consists of truly caring individuals dedicated to its mission,” says Friends steering committee co-chair Joan Oesterle. “We’ve accomplished quite a bit in just two years of existence. On a personal level, I have such a strong passion for Native American art that I consider being so closely involved with ASM’s amazing collections and its staff not only a pleasure but a privilege.”
In addition, as part of the group’s educational and social functions, the Friends have sponsored events, travel trips, and have even established The Arnold and Doris Roland Distinguished Speaker Series. “We have lots of fun together while helping to benefit the museum,” says Oesterle. “Join the Friends and join the fun!”
The Friends hope to increase interest in their group, and therefore increase their ranks, by hosting a number of events in the coming year. The kick off event for the 2007-08 season is:
Friday, October 26, 2007
Arnold and Doris Roland Distinguished Speaker Series   
The inaugural lecture of this distinguished speaker series features scholar and author J. J. Brody, professor emeritus of art history, University of New Mexico. Dr. Brody will speak on early 20th century Native American painting. Marriott University Park (880 E. Second St.). 6:30 p.m. reception, 7 p.m. lecture. Free and open to the public.

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Arizona State Museum (ASM)

Tucson, AZ 85721-0026
(520) 626-8381, pager (520) 489-9138
FAX (520) 621-2976

For events and programs sponsored by the Friends of the ASM Collections, and to join up, log on to AZ State Museum Home Page or call 520-626-8381.

For more information about Arizona State Museum in general, log on to or call 520-621-6302.

Arizona State Museum is located just inside the Main Gate on the University of Arizona campus at Park Avenue and University Boulevard in Tucson.

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