Heard Museum “grand” gallery, exhibit enhancements work to begin in May

Construction will start in May to create a “grand gallery” at the Heard Museum from two smaller existing ones, connect two formerly separate upstairs areas with a second-floor crosswalk and enhance and improve a popular exhibit about the federal Indian schools.

Natalie Vandeventer, the Heard Museum’s director of institutional advancement and a Paradise Valley resident, said improvements paid for through two trusts’ generosity will enhance each visitor’s experience as well as provide the museum the opportunity to present a variety of top-quality exhibits and programs.

Here is an outline of the two grants and what they will do:

  • A $1.25 million grant from Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust to create a new gallery within the existing structure.

Features of the “grand gallery,” the 6,500-square-foot Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust Gallery, will include energy-efficient, state-of-the-art technology, including digital communications platforms and interactive exhibit capabilities.

Once completed, this important project will further the Heard Museum’s ability to educate and inspire audiences about the indigenous cultures and peoples of the Southwest.

  • A $1.1 million grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust will fund improvements to the exhibit, “Remembering Our Indian School Days: The Boarding School Experience.”

The crosswalk will connect the two second-stories and provide direct access into the remodeled Boarding School exhibit.

“The crosswalk is an integral component of the Heard Museum’s revised way-finding plan,” stated John Bulla, the Heard Museum’s chief operating officer, in a press release.

The Heard has undergone several expansions over its 86-year history, which resulted in two unconnected second-story areas. This has long posed a challenge for visitors in navigating the spaces, especially visitors searching for the Boarding School Experience exhibit.

The Boarding School Experience exhibit has received much acclaim over its 15-year run for its groundbreaking retelling of one of the United States’ most tragic chapters, the establishment of off-reservation boarding schools for Indian children in a misguided attempt to “Americanize” them.

New materials will be added to the Boarding School exhibit will be added to update the story of the schools and the students who survived the experience. In addition, two smaller traveling exhibits will be created for use by smaller museums and institutions, the release stated.

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