The Heard Museum is a world class museum that is focussed on the art, history and cultures of the Native American peoples of the South West. Established in 1929, the museum has grown over the years with the most recent exhibition space being added in 2007. The museum is situated in downtown Phoenix close to the main business district.
The heart of the museum is the permanent exhibition “Native People in the South West“. This exhibition showcases numerous artefacts produced by the local Native American cultures over the course of history. Most importantly the displays are arranged in such a way as to lucidly explain the different peoples and their history. Informative narrative and video presentations guide you through the exhibition. A dedicated gallery explains the background and culture of the 21 Native American peoples still resident in Arizona.
If you are travelling further then Phoenix and in particular if you are planning to visit any historic sites or any of the Native American areas then this museum provides background context that will inform your exploration. Of particular note are the collection of Kachinas from the Hopi culture and the collection of ceramics.
The museum still actively acquires works of art and these also form part of the exhibits. Many of the works are produced by contemporary Native American artists and provide a contemporary link to the heritage that is explored elsewhere in the museum.
The museum hosts various temporary exhibitions and also hosts periodic events including the annual Indian Fair and Market. It is worth keeping an eye on the events section of the museum website to discover if anything will be happening when you are in town.
Last but not least the museum has a very good book and gift store. There is a good selection of books themed around the South West and Arizona some of which may prove to be useful companions as you travel further. Notable is the large selection of Native American crafts that are for sale. This includes Navajo rugs, Hopi Kachinas and jewellery. There are sourced directly from the producers by the museum hence the provenance of the items is assured. You can get a flavour of what is on offer by looking here, http://www.heardmuseumshop.com.
The museum now has a small off shoot in North Scottsdale that comprises of two galleries. One houses a permanent exhibit of contemporary Native American art and the second is home to temporary exhibitions. If you are in the neighbourhood it is worth a look.