Diné College Museum Receives Excellence Award

Sep 16th, 2015 | By | Category: Online TC News, Tribal College News, Web Exclusive
By Lori Tapahonso
MUSEUM CURATOR NONABAH SAM

Museum curator Nonabah Sam displays the award Diné College received from the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums.

The Ned A. Hatathli Cultural Center Museum at Diné College received the Museum Excellence Award from the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums (ATALM). Presented at the ATALM 2015 Guardians of Culture and Lifeways International Awards in Washington, DC, the award recognizes those who serve as outstanding examples of how Indigenous archives, libraries, museums, and individuals contribute to the vitality and cultural sovereignty of Native nations. Nonabah Sam, the museum’s curator, accepted the award on behalf of the college.

Sam was an influential factor in the awards selection. Since joining Diné College as the museum curator in 2012, she has revitalized the facility and its collections. Under her direction, the museum collections moved to the newly constructed Ruth and Bob Roessel Archive Building for proper storage, preservation, and cataloging. Sam also played a key role in the design and remodeling of the Ned A. Hatathli Cultural Center Museum. The existing museum was identified for renovation by the Capital Investment and Improvement Planning Committee at the college. Sam’s design of the museum space integrates traditional Navajo learning areas and provides for ample space for the display of southwestern Native American objects.

“The idea of having a museum that represents our traditional way of life and integrating a Diné Bizaad Tééyah (Navajo Speaking Zone), is what makes our museum very unique. Each of the areas located in the museum have Navajo names, beginning with the center as Hooghan Nímazí (permanent gallery). Moving around the gallery there is the workspace known as Chaha’oh; the Dibé bighan (Children’s Interactive Corner); the ‘Dá ák’eh (Book Shelves); and we have our Táchééh Theater (Sweat Lodge),” explains Sam. “Each one of these areas plays a vital role in the museum and is dedicated to teaching and learning about Navajo life ways.”

To date, the museum has exhibited three unique shows, the grand re-opening show entitled, “Celebrating Nitsáhákees, Nahat’á, Iina, Siihasin: From Traditional Aesthetics to Contemporary Navajo Art,” “To Feel the Earth: Moccasins of the Southwest,” and the current show, “Hwééldi Baa Hane: Our Truth, Our Stories.” The current show is dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Long Walk of the Navajos. The success of the shows have made the Ned A. Hatathli Museum one of the top museums to visit in the Southwest and a key destination of the Navajo Nation Tourism Industry and other travel related agencies in the region.

For her part, Sam works countless hours to make the museum a success. The award speaks to her exemplary knowledge of museum layouts and displays. “I cannot take all the credit for how far we have come to make this museum outstanding, especially in such a short period of time,” says Sam. “It takes a good team to win at the end of the day and I thank each of you, who have supported the museum and my staff, including Leon Jackson, Rudy Dixon and Dixon Preferred Services, Ed Yazzie Construction, and also Pueblo Mechanical.”

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