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February 9, 2006

The University of Colorado at Boulder Museum of Natural History is teaming up with volunteers to upgrade conservation efforts for what is considered to be one of the finest Southwest textile collections in the world.

CU Museum faculty and staff and more than two dozen volunteers led by Boulder conservator Terri Schindel will be working in teams of four-hour shifts the week Feb. 13 to assess the condition of the collection containing roughly 850 weavings, said CU Museum Anthropology Curator Steve Lekson. The CU Museum is working to raise money through federal grants and private donations to improve the collection, including developing climate-controlled storage areas with new cabinets to store the rarest and most valuable pieces.

The weavings are part of the Joe Ben Wheat Textile collection at the CU Museum, named for Joe Ben Wheat, anthropology curator at the museum for more than 40 years who spearheaded the development of the collection. It contains a number of rare pieces, including Navajo weavings collected by explorer John Wesley Powell during his trips through the west in the 1870s, Lekson said.

Schindel was brought into the project thanks to a successful $5,000 grant proposal to the National Endowment to the Humanities developed by the CU-Boulder student Sheila Goff. Schindel is a specialist in textile conservation.

“This is one of the best collections of Southwest textiles anywhere, and it is time to upgrade our facilities for storing and protecting these materials,” said Lekson, an associate professor in the Anthropology department. He said such textiles provide anthropologists with information about the history, art, and traditions of the Navajo and Pueblo peoples of the Southwest.

A new CU Museum exhibit, “A Legacy From Navajo Looms,” will be on display in the McKenna Gallery on campus beginning March 9 and running until March 2007.

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