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The Grand Canyon

by James Nottage, vice president and chief curatorial officer | Mar 12, 2016

The Grand Canyon is a place of extraordinary natural beauty, carved by the Colorado River over the last 6 million years. Diverse communities of indigenous people have called it home for thousands of years. It has also inspired generations of tourists, explorers and artists who have traveled to it from points across the globe.

Grand Canyon

The exhibit, The Grand Canyon, is a multidisciplinary presentation that uses art, history and culture to help visitors understand the interaction of people with this important area over time. Three primary themes are explored throughout the exhibit: the Grand Canyon as environment, the Canyon as a place of experience, and the Canyon as a place of expression through many art forms. The exhibit, media and public programs will work in concert to inspire and instill a sense of wonder in visitors, and allow them to explore the interwoven natural and human histories of the Grand Canyon.

50000yearoldgoatskull

A 50,000-year-old Harrington Mountain Goat skull.
Courtesy Grand Canyon Park Service Collection.

What will you see in the gallery? To learn about the environment, you will view fossils and other geological evidence of the natural history and formation of the region. Throughout the show, there will be Native American objects representing the 4,000-year history of a number of tribes that have called the space home and who still live there today.

4000yearoldtwig

4,000-year-old twig figures of deer.
Courtesy of the Grand Canyon National Park Museum Collection.

Through a wide range of artifacts, visitors will learn about the experiences of Native peoples and those of the people who followed, including Spanish and American explorers, railroaders, artists, photographers, waitresses and a multitude of tourists. You will see great paintings commissioned by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway to promote the Southwest and the Grand Canyon. Throughout, museum guests will experience film and still images that go even further in expressing the experiences and creativity of people trying to grasp the magnitude, beauty and astonishing realities of the Grand Canyon, a World Heritage site. On the lighter side, visitors will have photo opportunities to picture themselves in Canyon settings. You will also become aware of the threats that make preservation of the park a pressing challenge.

npsuniform

National Park Service Park Ranger uniform jacket and Stetson hat, 1930s-1950s.
Loan courtesy of the Grand Canyon National Park Museum Collection.
Photograph by Hadley Fruits.

The year 2016 happens to be the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. Included in The Grand Canyon are early uniforms and hats of NPS personnel who serve to protect and to interpret the park. We are especially grateful that the National Park Service has made it possible to borrow many special items from the Grand Canyon collection to feature in the exhibition. Other special loans from the Museum of Northern Arizona, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, the Capital Group and Foundation, the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma, and many other museums and private collectors make the exhibition possible. The Eli Lilly & Company Foundation is the presenting sponsor.

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