The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis has acquired what it calls a major collection of Native American art from the Great Lakes region. The museum says a $2.8 million grant from Indy-based Lilly Endowment Inc. made the acquisition possible. The collection includes more than 400 items from Native nations of the Great Lakes, including the Ho-Chunk, Meskwaki, Menominee, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi, among many others.
The museum says the collection will figure significantly into the renovation of its Native galleries, which are slated to open in late 2021. In a recently interview on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick, Chief Executive Officer of John Vanausdall said the effort is new for the museum.
"We’re the most significant museum of our kind in the Midwest and yet, our presentation of the Great Lakes cultures, the people who have always lived here, is probably the smallest part of our presentation," said Vanausdall. "We set out with a new five-year plan that says we’re going to become the leader in presenting the cultures of the Great Lakes. To do that, we needed to grow our collection of these kinds of materials."
The collection includes clothing and accessories, blankets with intricate beadwork and ribbonwork, beaded bandolier bags, sashes, garters and moccasins. It also includes examples of carved wooden bowls, ladles and war clubs, as well as hand-woven bags.
The museum acquired the collection from Richard Pohrt, Jr., an art dealer to collected the material for nearly 40 years. The majority of the collection was sold to the Eiteljorg, however Pohrt also donated additional objects.
As part of the museum’s five-year strategic plan, the Native American galleries are slated to be closed for renovation for most of 2021 and reopen that November. The remainder of the museum’s galleries will remain open to visitors.
The Eiteljorg Museum is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.